Roasted Apple and Cranberry Scones

When I started baking scones in college, I was armed with only a few baking tools and some leftover flour and sugar that were sitting the cupboard from who knows when.  I had no clue what a pastry blender was (and still don't own one) and usually ended up standing in the kitchen with two butter knives in my hands, trying to "cut in" the butter and knowing that my scones were never going to taste like the ones at Starbucks.  I actually think that I first started making scones as a way to cut down on my Starbucks spending in college, and I (somewhat naively) figured that my version would taste about the same as theirs as long as I put those cinnamon chips in the batter.  

The truth is that a good scone (like a good man?) is hard to find, and even harder to make.  I've had some really wonderful scones, like the ones they make at Stone Oven in Cleveland, and some, including a few failed attempts of my own, that were dry, flavorless, and completely lacking in texture.

My early scone-baking attempts were mostly executed in desperation for something sweet and usually consisted of a loosely-followed recipe with some chocolate chips and nuts thrown in.  I even turned to Irish Soda Scones when I didn't have any eggs or butter, and I'll admit that I was never quite pleased with the results.  Granted, I hadn't quite learned the art of substitution yet, and I was substituting for lack of resources rather than for any health reasons.  But even so, scones have the potential to be really dry and flavorless.  

When I started thinking about making a healthy scone, I knew that the biggest challenge was going to be working around the butter.  Most scone recipes start with at least one stick of butter, and so if you want to cut out some of the fat, you have to add both richness and flavor to the recipe using other ingredients.  For this recipe, I turned to reduced-fat cream cheese to substitute for some of the butter and used a mixture of almond milk and Greek yogurt to substitute for heavy cream.  

In addition, while some of my favorite scones are loaded with dark chocolate chunks and pecans, I tried to think of some fruit-based ways to add flavor and texture to the recipe and decided on a combination of apple, cranberry and orange.  I roasted the apple slices first with orange juice, maple syrup, and spices to bring out their flavor and sweetness, and I added some orange zest to the batter to give the scones a fresh flavor that would complement the flavor of the dried cranberries.  

Let's break down what these substitutions actually mean in terms of calories and fat:
1 stick of butter (8 Tbsp) = approximately 800 calories, 92 grams of fat
2 Tbsp butter + 3 Tbsp reduced-fat cream cheese = 305 calories, 29 grams of fat
You save approximately 55 calories and 7 grams of fat per scone from this substitution 

2/3 cup heavy cream = 542 calories, 58 grams of fat (yes, you read that correctly)
1/3 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt + 1/3 cup almond milk = 60 calories, <1 gram of fat
You save approximately 53 calories and 6 grams of fat from this substitution 

4 oz. chocolate chips (about 1/3 of a bag) = approximately 600 calories, 33 grams of fat
1 Granny Smith Apple + 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup + 1/2 Tbsp OJ = 112 calories, <1 gram of fat
You save approximately 54 calories and 3.5 grams of fat from this substitution

Now, my goal isn't to destroy the fun of baking and eating scones by getting caught up in the calorie and fat count.  The goal is to realize that ingredients carry nutritional consequences - some that are beneficial and some that should really make you rethink what you're putting into your food.  By making the 3 substitutions that I listed above, you can save 162 calories and 16.5 grams of fat (per scone!).  Now these substitutions were based on a collection of scone recipes that I found, rather than just one, and many of them included a whole cup of heavy cream or more than one stick of butter.  Such substitutions could hypothetically be applied to pretty much any scone recipe.  

Now you might be wondering how many calories are actually in those Starbucks scones that we all know and love, but I'll save you some of the suspense and let you know that one of those cinnamon chip scones carries 480 calories and 18 grams of fat.  A raspberry scone from Starbucks, which you might think would be healthier since it's fruit-flavored, is even worse, packing 500 calories and 26 grams of fat.  

After outing myself as a complete math geek, I'll get back to the point and tell you that I'm not substituting ingredients in recipes because I don't have them in my pantry (though to be honest, I don't keep white flour or refined sugar in the house anymore).  Substitutions are deliberate choices that I make in order to make my cooking and baking recipes healthier for me and my family and friends.  

These scones are delicious, but not because you're eating 1-2 Tablespoons of butter in each one.  They taste good because they're packed with flavor, and they'll make you feel good because they contain whole grains, protein, and fruit.  

Roasted Apple and Cranberry Scones (Makes about 9 scones)
1 Granny Smith apple, roasted*
½ Tablespoon maple syrup
½ Tablespoon orange juice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt

1 ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats (plus a bit more to sprinkle on the top of the scones)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons cold reduced-fat cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup almond milk
1/3 cup nonfat yogurt
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 Tablespoon light agave nectar or honey
Zest of one orange
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp vanilla
3 Tablespoons dried cranberries, finely chopped

1 egg lightly beaten with 2 Tablespoons of milk for egg wash

Turbinado and oats for sprinkling on top of the scones (let's make them look pretty)
*The first grouping of ingredients is for the roasted apples.  I came up with the idea of roasting apples in maple syrup, orange juice, and spices because I wanted the apples to be infused with these flavors and to consequently flavor the scones.  

To roast the apples, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Toss the apples in the maple syrup, OJ, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Spread them out on a pan lined with parchment and bake them for about 15-20 minutes, until they are fragrant and browned, but still somewhat firm.
 Let the apples cool for a few minutes on the pan, and then transfer them to a cutting board to roughly chop them.  Your house will smell pretty amazing right about now.  

1.  After your apples are roasted, turn the oven up to 400 degrees.  

2.  Add the flour, oats, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon to the bowl of your stand mixer (I am not going to tell you to use a pastry blender or two knives to mix these ingredients).  Mix the dry ingredients for about 30 seconds on low to combine.

3.  Add the cold diced butter and cream cheese to the mixer, and run on medium speed until the butter and cream cheese are incorporated.  The mixture will be rough, and there will be little pieces of butter and cream cheese about the size of peas (or smaller).
4.  In a measuring cup or medium mixing bowl, combine the milk, yogurt, syrup, agave nectar, orange zest, eggs, and vanilla and whisk until smooth.

5.  With the mixer on low, slowly pour the liquid mixture into the bowl of the mixer with the dry ingredients.  Wait about 30 seconds, add the apples and cranberries, and then turn off the mixer as soon as the apples and cranberries are incorporated.  Don't over-mix the dough, or you'll lose the light texture of the scones.

6.    Transfer the dough to a floured board (I use my cutting board), and flour the top and sides of the dough.  Use your hands to press the dough into a disc that is about 3/4-inch thick.  You could use a rolling pin to do this, but you probably won't need it.  Just don't handle the dough too much or the butter will start to melt.

7.  At this point, if you'd like to just cut the dough into 8 triangular pieces (like a pizza) and throw them in the oven, I'm cool with that.

I wanted to change things up and make circular scones, and since I don't own a cookie cutter (seriously), I used a juice glass that I dipped in flour as an impromptu cookie cutter.  Spoiler alert: it worked just as well.

I was able to cut out about 7 scones this way, and then with the remaining dough remnants, I made one smaller disc and cut it in half.

8.  Place the scones on a pan lined with parchment.  You could bake them this way, but if you really want to put the finishing touch on these scones, use the egg wash, turbinado sugar, and some extra oats.

Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash, sprinkle the sugar on top (the big granules of the turbinado sugar make the tops look almost sparkly when they're baked), and throw a few oats on the top.

9.  Bake the scones at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes until the tops are brown and the center of the scones are firm to the touch.

10.  Transfer the scones to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Enjoy one warm, or wait for them to cool.

These are great on their own, or with a little bit of raspberry preserves spread on top.  Your choice!    

Serving Size 
1 scone (107.1 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 204, Calories from Fat 47
Total Fat 5.2g, 8%
Saturated Fat 2.4g, 12%
Cholesterol 56mg, 19%
Sodium 126mg, 5%
Total Carbohydrates 32.6g, 11%
Dietary Fiber 3.8g, 15%
Sugars 9.8
Protein 5.8g
Vitamin A 4%Vitamin C 5%
Calcium 4%Iron 6%

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