I’m an enthusiastic fan of eating seasonally, and support the incoming/outgoing nature of fresh produce as the year progresses. Even my cherished heirloom tomatoes: I desperately long for their arrival in July, but by November, fully caprese-salad-and-fresh-salsa sated, I wave a loving adieu to the bounty of summer, eager for the cranberries and chestnuts and butternut squash of late autumn.
But there’s one — no, two — crops whose late-spring/early-summer departure from the land makes me sad and a bit grumpy: strawberries and blueberries. Their seasons are unbearably short — unlike the tomato, who sets up camp for a good three to four months of the year, and then lives on through the winter in the form of delicious sauce — and it’s proven impossible to overuse or tire of either berry before their demise.
Blueberries are not quite incoming yet, but strawberry fields are in full swing here in the Queen City, and I’m already feeling a bit of a panic about their exit.
I dropped the ball last year. Big time. Lousy spring weather cut the already-short season even shorter, and I was left without any to freeze. No one to blame but myself, as there were plenty for the having during their brief time on this earth. I was too intent on using them up in strawberry cakes and tarts and smoothies to remember to reserve some for the freezer. My lack of forethought weighed on me every time I purchased the grocery store shadow-of-a-strawberry strawberries shipped from where-the-hell-ever for mid-summer shortcakes.
This year, I’m doing better, but I still have big plans: jams and gelatos and spiked strawberry lemonade. This weekend will find me shoving quarts (plural) into my bag at the farmers’ markets.
Why don’t you grow your own strawberries, one might ask. Oh, I do. But I’m outnumbered by an army of furry, nimble critters with wily fingers and a haughty disrespect for netting and fencing, who love my gardens as much as I and prize the strawberry above all other garden treats.
Three or four mostly-ripe berries to call my own is a successful year. A pint — unheard of. But I plant them, year after year, ever the foolish optimist.
Last weekend’s cache of farmers’ market strawberries went into these scones, along with basil from my garden, and a good dose of whole wheat flour.
You might come to notice that I’m hooked on scones this spring. Their easy prep and rustic charm are too much for me to resist.
And in keeping with the spirit of National Food Allergy Awareness Week, these scones are dairy-free. Coconut oil and coconut milk steps in readily for their butter and heavy cream counterparts, and wow the result is fantastic.
Strawberry Basil Scones
adapted from Heat Oven to 350
This recipe is dairy-free, thanks to the wonders of the coconut (subbing coconut oil for butter and coconut milk for heavy cream). Yes, there is a very faint flavor of coconut, but otherwise you would be hard-pressed to distinguish between these and a dairy-baked version.
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 1/2 cups all-purpose and 1 cup white whole wheat), plus extra as needed
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 heaping cup chopped fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup coconut milk, plus more for brushing
Coarse sugar, for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F
2. Measure out the coconut oil onto a piece of wax paper or parchment paper and place in the freezer for 15 minutes (see notes below).
3. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Gently stir in the strawberries and basil.
4. When the coconut oil is nice and cold, use a sharp knife to cut it into small pieces. Try not to the touch the oil with your fingers as you cut (the warmth of your fingers will melt the oil; in fact, placing the knife in the freezer along with the oil is a good idea). Add the coconut oil pieces to the flour mixture and use a pastry cutter or large fork to incorporate them into the dough. You’ll have some pea-sized pieces — that’s okay. Create a well in the center.
5. Beat the eggs and coconut milk in a small bowl until just combined. Pour the egg mixture in the well you created in the flour mixture. Use a large spatula or spoon to gently stir everything together — folding motions work well here — until just combined (don’t overmix).
6. Generously flour a work surface and turn out the dough — it might be a shaggy mass, but it will come together. Gently knead the dough several times, turning after each knead. If the dough is very sticky, sprinkle some flour over the dough and knead several times to incorporate. Pat the dough into a disk about 1″ thick.
7. Line a dinner plate with parchment paper and center the dough on the plate. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
8. Transfer the dough and parchment paper to a baking sheet. Slice the disk into 8 wedges and pull them apart slightly. Brush with coconut milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if using.
9. Bake 16-18 minutes, or until the tops are a light golden brown and a toothpick inserted through the center of one wedge comes out clean. The scones’ interior edges might look a little wet, but they’ll set when cool. Transfer the scones and parchment paper to a cooling rack to rest. Serve warm or at room temperature.
You’ll want the coconut oil to be solid before you place it in the freezer. Coconut oil is solid at temps under 76°F, but if your kitchen is warm and your oil has liquefied, just place the jar in the fridge for 15 minutes prior to prep. (The purpose of freezing the oil is the same as using cold, cold butter — you want the chunks to remain solid within the dough for as long as possible during the bake, which will yield a tender, fluffy scone.)