Lavender is blooming in abundance and this can only mean one thing: it’s time to bake lemon and lavender scones!
Scones are my favourite sweet treats to make for sudden cravings or unexpected guests. For all their crumbly deliciousness they’re quick and easy to whip up. They’re wonderful simply flavoured with sugar and vanilla, but they welcome any addition you might like to make to give them a personal touch and turn them into something truly special. By adding fresh berries, compote and tender herbs in summer, orange zest and chopped rosemary in winter and of course chocolate all year long, you can enjoy your personalised scone in every season of the year.
And now that lavender season is here, nothing spells elegant munching like lemon and lavender scones. Add a spoonful of soft white chocolate cream and prepare for summer bliss.
Adding lavender to sweet treats tends to raise some eyebrows among my friends and relatives. It’s not hard to see why: having bitten in a lavender soap flavoured biscuit once can put you off for life – and I speak from personal experience. By completely giving up on cooking with lavender because of it, you’d be missing out, though. When added in small amounts, lavender adds a subtle floral and herby touch and accentuates the flavour of fruits, without being soapy or overpowering.
If you want to use lavender in your baking, just look out for two things. The first one is to use culinary lavender. When shop-bought, this refers to the dried buds of Lavandula angustifolia that are sieved and processed especially for culinary use. If you want to use fresh lavender flowers, Lavandula angustifolia cultivars are also the plants to look for. All lavender flowers are edible, but not all are equally pleasant. The flowers of Lavandin cultivars, for example, smell wonderfully, but can make your baked goods taste bitter. The different types of Lavandula angustifolia on the other hand, each add their own, softer flavour, ranging from sweet and floral to cinnamony and peppery. Make sure to use plants that haven’t been treated with pesticides and for best flavour, pick buds that have just begun to bloom.
Secondly, remember that a little goes a long way. I personally like my lavender bakes with just a slight floral hint in them. Then, if you prefer a more pronounced lavender flavour, you can always add more.
As said above, scones are incredibly easy to make. Yet there are a few things to pay attention to, to make sure they turn out as tender and crumbly as you’ll want them to.
The key to beautifully light and risen scones is to handle the dough as little as possible – so no rubbing, kneading or rolling in the process. You want to make a crumbly dough that’s just holding together, with moist floury bits interspersed with small lumps of cold butter. Once in the oven, the butter crumbs will create steam, allowing the scones to rise properly. At the same time, the butter prevents the gluten in the dough to form too many gluten strands, which could otherwise cause the scones to turn out tough and compact.
Because of this, you’ll get the best result if you start making the dough with your milk and butter straight from the fridge. Chopping the butter into the flour with a food processor or pair of knives rather than rubbing it in with your fingers will get you the small, cold buttery lumps you’re after. Then, mixing in the cold plant milk with a pair of knives will make sure the butter doesn’t melt and the dough stays as crumbly as possible. After mixing in the lavender, gently pat down the dough and cut it into the desired shape with a knife or a floured round cutter.
After baking, leave the lavender scones to cool and enjoy them at their freshest. They’re delicious as they are and even better when topped with a spoonful of yogurt or whipped cream. And for an extra special treat, try serving them with this white chocolate cream. This is a topping I make when I’m feeling lush and in the mood for a delicately flavoured alternative to whipped cream. Yet it’s a simple two-ingredient mixture, made by stirring melted white chocolate into soured oat cream. White chocolate pairs deliciously with lavender, while the oat fraîche balances its sweetness and makes the resulting cream fresh and light-flavoured.
Stored in an airtight container, your scones will keep for a few days, but they are at their best when eaten on the day of baking. Fortunately, they freeze well, both baked and unbaked. Baked scones are best frozen as soon as they have cooled down. After defrosting, refresh them in a low (160°C/320°F/Gas 3) oven for a few minutes. If you freeze your unbaked, cut-out pieces of scone dough individually, you can bake them straight from the freezer whenever you want them. Simply increase your baking time with a few minutes and be assured of freshly baked scones every time.
Happy summer baking!
Vegan lemon and lavender scones with white chocolate cream – makes 6-8
for the white chocolate cream
- 100 g vegan white chocolate, diced
- 360 g oat crème fraîche
for the scones
- 350 g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 40 g raw cane sugar
- seeds from 1 vanilla pod, or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
- 100 g cold plant-based butter (from a block, not a tub), diced
- 150-170 ml cold plant milk
- 1 tsp. fresh lavender blooms or dried culinary lavender
Heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7.
To make the cream, put the white chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of just simmering water (ensure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Stirring well, let the chocolate melt until completely smooth.
Put the oat fraîche in a mixing bowl and stir to loosen. In portions, add the melted white chocolate. Stir until well incorporated before adding the next portion. You may want to taste before adding the last bit; the proportions above yield a cream that’s just the right amount of sweet and tangy to my taste, but if you prefer it less sweet, simply add less of the white chocolate. Chill the white chocolate cream for at least an hour before using.
To make the scones, tip the flour, baking powder, sugar, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and diced cold butter in the mixing bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles small crumbs and the buttter is chopped to pea-sized lumps. Alternatively, cut the butter into the flour mixture manually, using a pair of knives or a pastry cutter.
Tranfer the flour mixture to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle over the lavender blooms. A little at a time, add the milk and mix until the crumbs just start to hold together and there’s no dry flour left (you may not need all of the milk). I use two knives to cut the milk into the flour mixture, to ensure I don’t overwork the dough.
When just combined, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently pat it down with your hands, to a thickness of about 3 cm. Using a floured ∅ 7 cm cutter, cut out 6-8 circles; gently combine the remaining pieces of dough to cut out the last ones. Press down the cutter without twisting it, to ensure the scones will rise evenly during baking. Alternatively, use a knife to cut the dough into triangles or squares.
Transfer the shaped pieces of dough to a lined baking sheet, leaving enough room between them for the dough to expand. Bake for 12-16 minutes until golden and risen. Check one for doneness: the scones are ready when they sound hollow when you tap the bottom.
Leave to cool, then enjoy topped with the white chocolate cream.