I found it quite amusing that it is #AfternoonTeaWeek. I recently got a full-time job at an established tea room in my home town. I am ‘in between jobs’ at the moment, applying for posts afar, and dreaming of regular income flowing to my bank account. Last week, I jokingly suggested the idea of creating a dairy-free/vegan-friendly tea room in the future, as I hated missing out on all the wonderful cakes and macarons on offer (speaking of which, my sister got me some from Budapest. Tears were wiped as I gave the box back).
Thus, #AfternonTeaWeek is the perfect time to begin. I never seem to follow these faddy themed days or weeks. However, graduate life means free time is in abundance since forever. Veganising British classics may be a no-no for some, but I would argue otherwise.
This summer, my obsession for tomatoes seem to have heightened. My recent trip to Florence took it to a new level, and my Instagram feed, and my dinners for that matter, seem to be tomato-based these days. I am unapologetic, however. If crates and crates of tomatoes, of the fresh and sun-dried varieties, greeted you on a daily basis, you will be in a similar predicament.
My family and I transported kilograms of sun-dried tomatoes from Mercato Centrale. Vacuum-packaging is available upon request, perfect for those pesky baggage allowances. We got two varieties of pomodori secchi, with added tips and tricks from the seller; from preserves to risotto add-ins, the lady at the stall briefly taught us how to incorporate the red jewels into everyday cooking.
I was more than thrilled to experiment with these to make some afternoon tea essentials: scones. Savoury scones are a recent favourite of mine, but dairy-free or vegan options are hard to come-by. Thus, I dedicated day 12 of veganism to baking scones. I wanted to use a simple pairing, such as that with basil; I came across this delicious recipe by Lisa’s Vegetarian Kitchen. However, this needed modifying to accommodate my vegan needs.
Many of the recipe adjustments I undertake are due to my lack of ingredients. This was apparent today. The majority of vegan recipes I came across required the use of margarine; my family and I are not big fans of vegetable-based spreads, so I opted for a base recipe which used olive oil (any excuse to use my Tuscan souvenirs) and is vegan-friendly, too.
In true Bake Off style, I wanted to stick to the traditional round exterior of the scones, instead of the triangular varieties presented by the two writers above. Seeking help from the master baker and Mrs. #GBBO herself, I borrowed some of Mary Berry’s tips and techniques to create a seemingly English savoury scone with an Italian twist.
Try these out for yourself; it’s almost like pizza. Almost.
Sun-dried tomato and basil olive oil scones.
Makes 20 scones of the small-medium size.
3 cups plain flour
1 1/3 cup non-dairy milk (I used soya)
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (dry or in oil)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp baking powder
1 ½ tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp fresh basil leaves
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
½ tsp pepper
- Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in warm water for about 30 minutes.
- Once softened, drain the water from the tomatoes. Pat with some kitchen paper to dry, and chop into small pieces; small enough to be visible and provide colour for the scones, but not too large that they might be too chewy.
- Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 5/ 200 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine the olive oil, non-dairy milk and apple cider in a bowl and whisk together.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, pepper, paprika, cayenne baking powder and dried basil. Mix together.
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredient mix, and add the olive oil mixture. Stir until combined with a wooden spoon.
- Mix in the sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. Stir carefully. Careful to not overmix; it does not matter if there are floury patches present. Mixture must be slightly sticky.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough using your hands or a rolling pin into 1 – 2 cm thickness. Using a 3 cm diameter cutter, cut into disks – pushing your cutter into the dough instead of twisting it. Push it out onto the prepared baking tray (As Mary Berry says, this helps hold their shape and evenness of their surface!).
- Evenly space the disks, and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden on top and the scones have fully-risen. Enjoy!
I took tips from both Lisa and the seller from Mercato Centrale regarding the softening of the sun-dried tomatoes (here’s the difference between using dry and oil-packed tomatoes if you are interested). I used Your Daily Vegan’s adaptation for my base. Lastly, I used aspects of this Mary Berry recipe to create a fully-risen, (mostly) visually-pleasing batch of scones.
I baked the scones in two batches of ten; the first came out a bit more floury and less golden (see first picture) than the second, seemingly-perfect set. I probably took the writers’ “don’t overmix” and “floury patches are okay” advice too literally, echoing the problems faced by contestants in the Technical Challenge of GBBO.
Anyway. I hope you enjoy this recipe – look out for more Italian-inspired work in the future. I do have bags and bags of tomatoes sitting at home after all.
Peace and love, Julia.