Christmas follows so closely on Thanksgiving’s coat-tails, I sometimes wish it came a little later in the year. I love the time spent getting ready for the holiday – decorating the tree, baking, carols, wrapping gifts, and keeping little secrets. Like all good things, the fun’s in the anticipation, the quest, the waiting, and the wanting.
And then suddenly it’s over.
And you find yourself in January, crossing over into a new year. The month of resolutions and possibilities.
I almost always make one or two New Years resolutions; nothing too serious, more a shift of focus. As much as I love the holidays, I secretly like January a little too. Like a deep breath after the November-December holiday marathon, it’s the only time of year when exercising, saving money, and eating well feels like a refreshing change of scenery.
In this spirit, I revisited Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain the other night. I was in the mood to bake, and I wanted something a little healthier and a little different. If you haven’t already discovered this book, it’s a great read. Every chapter focuses on a different whole grain flour with recipes that compliment each unique taste. The book’s more about exploring the world of flours and flavors beyond All Purpose than healthier baking per se, though the health factor is a welcome side effect.
The scones here are an adaptation of a recipe in Good to the Grain for a barley and strawberry scone that calls for part barely and part all purpose flour. I kept things quite close to the original here, save for the flour which was simply inspired by a bag of Four Star Farms spelt flour I found in my pantry. Four Stars grows and mills several different grains in Northfield, MA. The flavor of spelt is very similar to wheat (they are close relatives) but more sweet and nutty – think faro, but in powdered form. As much as I love the spelt in these scones, if you can’t find spelt flour don’t sweat it. Take a nod from Good to the Grain and explore whatever unique flours you come across.
The scones were a bit of a revelation for me. Safe to say this is the first 100% whole grain baked good I’ve made and with which I’ve been completely satisfied. Mostly I make something with whole grain flour and think it would have probably tasted better with All Purpose. Not these. The charm here is in the play between the toasted malty flavor of the grain and the jammy ripeness of the fruit. I know they don’t look like much in the photos, but warmed with a mug of tea, this is the perfect winter afternoon pick-me-up. John declared them “better than pop tarts.” The recipe makes 8-10 which disappear fast. The scones are best the day they are made, but leftovers taste great warmed in the oven or toaster.
For the Scones
- 1 ½ cups spelt flour plus more for sprinkling
- ½ cup millet flour (can substitute all purpose)
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ½ cup good quality jam*
- Coarse sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flours, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Pour back any bits of grain that are left in the sifter. Add the butter to the bowl and, using your hands, break it into the flour mixture until crumbly. Do this quickly to keep the butter cold. You’ll want to leave several pea sized pieces of butter.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Add this to the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
Generously flour a clean work surface and place the dough on the counter. Flour the top of the dough well and then pat it into a rectangle roughly 13 inches by 4.5 inches. With the long side of the rectangle facing you, spread the jam over the bottom half of the dough, and then, using a bench knife or metal spatula, carefully flip the top half of the dough over the bottom half and pat gently to seal. Cut into 8-10 triangles using a chef’s knife. Again, using a bench knife or metal spatula, carefully transfer the scones to a baking sheets lined with parchment paper and sprinkle generously with coarse sugar. If there is a lot of excess flour on your scones, you may want to gently brush them off with a dry pastry brush before applying the coarse sugar. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Cool slightly and enjoy.
*The jam is a big part of these scones, so be sure to use something good. Just incase you’re not lucky enough to have a jar of homemade jam handy, here’s an easy recipe:
Quick Winter Jam
- 1 10oz bag frozen berries of your choice
- ¼ to 1/3 cup sweetener – try sugar, agave, maple syrup, or even store bought jam
Combine the berries and sweetener in a small pot over medium-low heat and simmer until thickened and slightly reduced. This will take 15-25 minutes depending on your fruit. To test for doneness, put a small spoonful in the freezer – the jam should be nicely thick when cold. Remove from the heat and cool completely before using in the scones. A quick way to cool the jam is to scrape it onto a sheet pan and freeze for 5 to 10 minutes.