Have I mentioned that my child is obsessed with “magical” fairies, princesses, butterflies, and ballerinas? Even though we’ve tried to be as gender-neutral (and non-pink) as possible in raising Ella, she’s a total girly-girl. I’ve given up trying to influence her with tool kits and mud pies. Last month, as part of an early birthday celebration, we took her to the New York City ballet then lunch at Alice’s Tea Cup, a little spot known for its “high tea” service and fairy-friendly decor. When we arrived, we learned that there was a two-hour wait (seriously?!), but, through a serious stroke of luck, the hostess said she could slip us right in (we still have no idea what we did to please her). Ella was dusted with pixie dust (I’m not kidding) then given a pair of fairy wings to don during lunch—they sure know how to charm four-year-olds. She was on cloud nine, especially after walking past the display case of mammoth cookies, scones, towering layer cakes and pudgy muffins. She and James happily devoured tea sandwiches and baked goods, including a chocolate scone and a cupcake the size of Battery Park. I (jealously, I admit) salivated into my green tea, trying (unsuccessfully) to enjoy a breadless sandwich and a side of potatoes—groan. It’s decidedly not a restaurant for the gluten-adverse.
After that trip, I wasn’t able to get scones out of my mind. They’re all craggy, buttery and cute in a Walter Matthau kind of way, and I hadn’t had one since I forsook gluten two years ago. To make matters worse, my friend Jennifer recently started selling her exquisite homemade marmalades and jams, which are now (cheer!) available online!. What goes better with homemade marmalade than a scone? I needed a fix, and, after some experimenting, came up with this gluten-free version using quinoa and rice flours as the base. I use a technique that I learned from my friend Annie, who grates cold butter right into the batter using a cheese grater. The flakes of cold butter create a superbly tender, moist crumb. The dough gets patted into a disk (no rolling pin required), then cut into wedges and dusted with sugar, helping the edges to crisp up. Quinoa’s nutty flavor provides a compelling contrast to the sweetness of honey, orange and currants, and the result is sophisticated and yet utterly addicting. My craving has finally been kicked, and my little fairy princess has been begging me to make more.
After lunch at Alice’s Tea Cup we decided on a whim to visit the Museum of Natural History, where we discovered that the Butterfly Conservatory was on exhibit, featuring 500 live, fluttering butterflies. Ella was ecstatic. Luck was on our side again when the guard let us in for free even though we didn’t have the right tickets. It was just that kind of day—an Ella kind of day. I’d even call it magical.
Orange Currant Quinoa Scones
- 1 cup (125 g) brown rice flour, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 cup (100 g) quinoa flakes
- 1/3 cup (35 g) quinoa flour
- 1/3 cup (40 g) arrowroot starch
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk (well shaken), divided
- 2 teaspoons orange zest (from 1 small orange)
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup dried currants
- 1 tablespoon demerara or turbinado sugar
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- In a large bowl, whisk together the brown rice flour, quinoa flour, quinoa flakes, arrowroot starch, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt. Using a cheese grater, grate the butter over the flour mixture. Place the bowl in the refrigerator or freezer (opt for the freezer if it’s hot in your kitchen) for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, whisk together ½ cup coconut milk with the orange zest, orange juice, honey and egg.
- Take the dry ingredients out of the fridge or freezer and toss in the currants (use your fingers to help break up any clumps of butter). Add the wet ingredients and stir until the mixture comes together and everything is well incorporated. Transfer the dough to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Rub your hands with a bit of brown rice flour, then gently pat the dough into a 1-inch thick disk, about 8 ½ - 9 inches in diameter. Using a pastry cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges.
- Brush the scones with the remaining tablespoon of coconut milk. Sprinkle each with demerara or turbinado sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then cut the scones (along the lines) using a pastry cutter or sharp knife. Carefully transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool completely. Do Ahead: The scones can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to a month.