{grains brains challenge} A Scone of One’s Own

Grains Brains Challenge 1

Grain Brains Challenge:
A recipe challenge to help you get whole grains into your mouth, not just your kitchen.

I never had a scone until I was in college. First week of school the Dean of Students sent out hand-written invitations to the freshmen class, instructing us, in groups of 25 or so, to attend an afternoon tea in the Rose Parlor of Main Building. We were the second class of men entering Vassar, previously an all woman’s college. We gathered in our hippie-ish denim, tees, and beards, and deposited ourselves on the tiny velvet sofas and carved side chairs. In nervous silence we perched clumsily on our fragile seats, careful not to crush the Gift of the Class of 1922. It was a long awkward walk across the patterned parlor carpet just to get a tiny cup of tea and a dainty scone, especially in front of utter strangers who were supposed to eventually become my peers. Even if those scones had been terrific, and based on the cafeteria meals of the next years I doubt they were, I don’t think they could have overcome my shaky feelings of teen inadequacy. In fact I think I was traumatized by that first encounter. Ever since I have been somewhat scone-averse, a real sconephobe.

Of course I’ve eaten scones since. And I guess some were enjoyable. But scones remained something of a dis-comfort food to me. If given a choice at a breakfast buffet, I have always opted for a biscuit or toast or muffin over a scone, even muesli. But this grain challenge has me thinking it is time to mend some fences. And what is a scone anyway, but a cousin to my Southern friend, the biscuit. So I’ve decided that with a little whole grain know-how, I’m going to create a scone of my own.

Finding the right flour (whole wheat flour vs whole wheat pastry flour):

Pastry flour is milled from soft wheat and as a result has a lower protein (gluten) content than regular whole wheat. I’ve read that anything baked with it will be more tender, less gluten holding it together. What that should mean is that while pastry flour would not be a good idea for bread, it is perfect for cookies, pastries, pie crusts, and I’m hoping, scones. I’ve wanted a side by side test drive of whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour for a while. Working them into a dough for scones, they seemed to handle about the same. The pastry dough was just a little more moist and a little lighter in color. But once baked I could really see the difference. The whole wheat flour scones had the great whole wheat taste I love, but they were dense, a bit tough, and certainly not pretty. On the other hand the ww pastry flour made softer scones with a lighter crumb. The outer color was more golden and they had risen a bit more. The whole wheat flavor was also milder, letting the sweetness come through. Happy that I had a clear choice of flour for the base of my scones, I set out to discover the scone that would cure me.

Alan's oatmeal raisin scones


These are a whole wheat version of classic oat scones. They are light, slightly tangy from the buttermilk, and with a little sweetness from the brown sugar and raisins. For even more oat goodness sprinkle them with raw rolled oats before baking.

Makes 18 scones


  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tblsp (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup (plus 1 tblsp for sprinkling) rolled oats, steel cut
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 tblsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl and stir to mix well. Add 1 cup oats and stir to mix. Add the raisins and stir to distribute well.

2. Beat the egg with 3 tblsp butter and milk to blend. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry. Stir to combine just until dry ingredients are incorporated, do not over mix. The batter will be a bit wet and soft.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a serving spoon, place scoops of the batter at least 1 inch apart on the parchment paper. Sprinkle the tops with the additional oats.

4. Place the scones in the center rack of the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, turning once during baking. They are done when they are lightly golden on the tops.

Alan's cranberry rye scones


These are rich scones made with goat cheese, dried cranberries, and rye flour. They are tart and hearty. Sour is probably my favorite flavor, so this is the scone that cured my sconephobia.


  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tblsp sugar plus 2 tsp for sprinkling
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream plus 1 tblsp for brushing tops
  • 3.5 ounces goat cheese


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place dry ingredients in a bowl, stir to mix well. Add in cranberries and stir to distribute well.

2. Place the goat cheese and cream in a small bowl and whisk together to eliminate any lumps.

3. Add wet ingredients to dry, and stir to combine, do not over mix.

4. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and split into two equal mounds. Shape each into a round. Press the round to about 1 inch thickness.

5. Transfer each round to a baking sheet.  Using a large knife, cut the round three times to make six triangles. Brush the tops with the additional cream and sprinkle with sugar.

6. Place in oven and bake for about 25 minutes.


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