I’ve steered clear of biscuit-making ever since I mixed up a crumbly mess of dry ingredients with butter and buttermilk years ago. The end result, inedible hockey pucks, came after a very frustrating baking experience. The wanna-be biscuits wound up in the garbage. That was when I decided I just didn’t need to ever, ever be making biscuits. And that’s why, when Katie Novotny, owner of St. Paul Classic Cookie Co. said that scones are simply a biscuit, I got nervous.
Katie Novotny offered to show members of my Bemidji Cookbook Club how to make the perfect scone. We gathered in her bitty bakery with an enormous menu of sweet treats in the south St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul on a recent Friday morning.
She sliced small chunks of butter into a bowl holding her measured dry ingredients, emphasizing the fact the butter must be well-chilled. I use the same technique when I make my favorite recipe for scones — the ones I plop onto a baking sheet using a measuring cup. That technique keeps my hands off the dough, convincing me that I am making scones, not biscuits.
With a gentle touch, the experienced baker used her fingers to quickly work the butter into the flour mixture in her large, metal mixing bowl.
“Never over-handle the dough,” said Novotny as she mixed cold milk into the bowl. “Less is more.”
She patted the soft dough into a rectangle on her work surface and speckled the top of it with chunks of frozen strawberries and rhubarb. She explained that frozen fruit will hold its shape while baking.
Each long side of fruit-embedded dough got folded into the center, sealing the fruit inside. Novotny expertly cut the dough into four equal squares. She created triangle-shaped scones by cutting diagonally through each square.
I was still doubtful about my own scone-making skills. Novotny reassured me that it just takes practice with really good recipes. She suggested I watch other experienced scone-makers in action.
Could I really make scones as good as the ones created by the hands of Katie Novotny?
My first attempt didn’t work. I used my tried-and-true drop scones. With Novotny’s flatten, fill and fold method, my soft, moist dough flattened in the oven. The scones did not hold their triangular shape.
I called Novotny for help. She went over my recipe and suggested some changes. My next try ended with a batch of moist, light triangles of fruit-studded biscuit dough. Katie Novotny is not just a great baker — she is an excellent teacher. My flatten, fill and fold-friendly scone recipe is in my column this week. Click here to get to that recipe.
I became so confident, I was ready to experiment with a dairy-free scone. Why dairy-free? Less fat, less calories, less cholesterol. But, I still wanted moist, delicious scones. And that is just what I got.
The dairy-free scones are made with organic coconut spread rather than butter and unsweetened flax milk. My local natural food co-op carries Good Karma Flax Milk. You can try another non-dairy milk, such as almond or soy.
Coconut spread melts very quickly, so I measured it and put it in the freezer while I organized the remaining ingredients. Because I was using quick-melting coconut spread, I did not use my fingers for mixing. I put my pastry cutter into the freezer to chill and used that for cutting the butter into the dry ingredients.
I made Dairy-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Scones over the weekend. When my husband came home from the golf course on Sunday, he was blown away by these moist, not-too-sweet, fluffy and light scones topped with honey-sweet crunch.
And, I’m blown away by the fact I can now make “really just a biscuit” scones that are the real deal. Thanks to Katie Novotny.
Katie Novotny’s St. Paul Classic Cookie Co. is located at:
2386 Territorial Rd, Saint Paul, MN 55114
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup organic coconut spread
- 2/3 cup unsweetened flax milk
- 1/2 cup frozen strawberry chunks
- 1/2 up frozen rhubarb chunks
- 2 tablespoons local honey, for brushing
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Use a whisk to mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar, nutmeg and lemon zest together in a large mixing bowl. Add cold coconut spread by small chunks to the bowl. Use chilled pastry cutter to mix coconut spread into flour mixture until it resembles coarse sand. Pour in cold flax milk. With a gentle touch, use a spoon to mix until just combined.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Working quickly, pat the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Evenly distribute the frozen chunks of fruit over the dough. Press the fruit to embed the chunks into the dough. Fold one long side into the middle. Fold the other long side over to cover the fruit. Pat to seal.
Cut the rectangle into 4 squares. Cut each square in half diagonally to form 8 triangles. Place triangles on parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the top of each one with honey. Bake scones in preheated 425-degree oven for about 15 minutes, until done. Remove from oven. Transfer scones to wire rack to cool slightly before serving. Makes 8 scones.