After a week on the slopes and a rather long drive home thanks to heavy snowfall, Alessandro and I were pretty exhausted by the time we walked through the door of our apartment in Rome last Sunday afternoon. I managed to squeeze in a 30 minute run (huffing and puffing all the way through it) but other than doing 2 loads of laundry (unavoidable as I spent the latter part of this week in Brussels for work) domestic chores were mostly ignored that day. I overslept just long enough on Monday to be too late for the gym (rather convenient I must admit), but woke up early enough to make a batch of scones which I put in the oven before heading into the shower.
While I am planning a few bigger baking projects in preparation for various birthdays and celebrations coming up (dreaming about chestnut pastry cream and toasted rice creme patissiere), I also have a list of smaller projects I want to tackle, one of which is to better understand how to substitute different ingredients (different types of flour, liquid and solid sweeteners as well as different types of fat). One substitution I have been experimenting with for a while is substituting olive oil for other fats.
I am not the first person (nor will I be the last) to go on about the health benefits of olive oil. Neither am I a nutrionist. As such, suffice it to say that by now we all know that unsatured fats are better for us (and for our hearts) than sticks of butter. Leaving aside the obvious health benefits I also like the long shelf life of olive oil. I hate wasting or throwing away food but, with a busy job and busy travel schedule thanks to family in Germany and Belgium it’s sometimes unavoidable. Equally, I sometimes come home from trips and am eager to get baking only to find an empty fridge staring back at me. But, I always have several types of flour, different types of sugar as well as olive oil to hand.
Depending on the recipe, using olive oil instead of butter isn’t always a success. First, using olive oil changes the taste of cakes, muffins and cookies and, depending on the type of oil you use it can result in an overpowering grassy taste which does not work with everything. Also, olive oil has a higher fat content than butter (ca. 99% versus ca. 83%) so you cannot replace butter with olive oil 1:1 – you will have to adjust the liquid ingredients to make up for the difference (so 100g butter should be replaced with 83g olive oil and 17g liquid, e.g. milk). Last but not least, olive oil is liquid at room temperature … making it quite tricky ro “rub” olive oil into flour the way some recipes require. Nonetheless, olive oil can be used to great effects in many recipes, whether it is these scones, brownies, muffins or even a home-made chocolate spread for slathering on freshly baked bread.
This was the first time I made scones with olive oil. A quick search on foodgawker gave me comfort that others had gone there before me and had succeeded. I used my own scone recipe and the dough was initially much wetter than when I had used butter in the past given the higher percentage of liquid ingredients. I therefore added extra flour to make up for this. The result was a light and, dare I say, buttery, scone – so good fresh out of the oven that I immediately abandoned my plans of cutting my scone in half and slathering some blueberry jam on both sides and just ate it as it was, paired with a shot of strong espresso.
Wholemeal Spelt Cocoa Olive Oil Scones
Ingredients, makes 8 small scones
200g wholemeal spelt flour
50g cocoa powder
60g brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
110ml olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt flakes
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl until the cocoa powder is evenly distributed.
3. Mix the milk with the olive oil and pour over the dry ingredients.
4. Using a spoon or a fork stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a round ball of dough. Don’t worry, the dough will be a bit sticky.
5. Carefully lift the ball of dough onto the baking tray and roll into a circle ca. 3cm in height. Using a knife cut circle into 8 wedges. Scatter the fleur de sel on top.
6. Place the baking tray in the oven and bake scones for ca. 25 minutes. Leave to cool for at least 5 minutes (during this time the scones will firm up slightly, allowing you to lift them off the tray without the scones crumbling).
As ever, scones are best eaten when freshly made and I had one, still warm from the oven, with a strong espresso on the side, the perfect accompaniment for these dark scones for breakast the other day. Even after a day or two these scones are still great, ideally cut in half and lightly toasted before spreading on some salted butter and jam (apricot or raspberry would be nice I reckon).