Recently, I tested a new product for baking: Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend sticks. These sticks are a combination of 50% Smart Balance spread and 50% butter. The benefit to baking with Smart Balance sticks is that they contain 28% less saturated fat and 50% less cholesterol than butter (according to the Smart Balance web site).
My first test was to use the Smart Balance sticks in cookies which called for room temperature butter. When creaming the butter into the cookie dough, the Smart Balance sticks held up well in comparison to butter. (Read all about it here!)
For my next test, I decided to try the Smart Balance sticks in a recipe that calls for fat in a cold, solid form. The sticks tend to be a bit softer than butter in general (whether cold or room temperature), so I wondered whether they would work as effectively as butter when a recipe requires the fat to be cold and solid?
I should explain that when using fat in a cold, solid form, it must be cut into the dry ingredients until the pieces are small (such as in a pie dough). As the pieces of fat melt during the baking process, they create steam between the layers of dough, making it rise in light, flaky layers.
My concern, then, with using the Smart Balance sticks in a cold, solid form was that they might be too soft to cut into the dry ingredients in small pieces that would produce a light, flaky texture. Could they hold up to the test?
To test the Smart Balance sticks, I decided to make my own recipe for chocolate chip scones. But first, I have to digress to tell you the story about THOSE:
When I was a student in cooking school at Johnson & Wales University, I did an internship at a bakery in the Outer Banks of N.C. My pastry chef decided that he wanted to start offering scones on his menu, and he asked me to test some recipes for him.
I researched scone recipes in several cookbooks. But rather than testing each recipe individually, I decided to combine my favorite ingredients from each recipe into one. Ignoring the fact that traditional scones are typically dry and hard, I chose to include lots of butter and heavy cream in my recipe instead, thus producing a scone which is very tender and flaky. The recipe turned out successfully the first time, so there was no need to make any adjustments. Talk about beginner’s luck! And that recipe remains my most-requested recipe to this day. (And, lucky readers, I’m going to share it with you here!)
Now back to the test.
I was rather surprised and quite impressed to find that there was virtually no difference between the scones made with Smart Balance sticks vs. those made with butter. As I predicted, the Smart Balance scones didn’t rise quite as much as the butter scones did. The sticks weren’t quite hard or solid enough to make the scones rise as much as the butter did. But the texture of the scones made with Smart Balance sticks was still tender and flaky enough to be tasty.
The scone on the left was made with Smart Balance sticks. It didn’t rise as much as the one on the right, made with all butter.
There was no discernible difference in flavor between the two types of scones–at least according to my husband, who seems to be something of a “super taster” because he has a more sensitive palate than most. I still preferred the scones made with butter, but it was virtually impossible to tell the difference in taste.
So once again, I think Smart Balance Butter Blend sticks passed the baking test for both texture and flavor. I would highly recommend them as an excellent alternative to butter if you want to reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your baked goods.
And without further ado, here is my recipe for non-traditional scones. Enjoy!
Yield: 12 triangular scones
All-purpose flour 3 C.
Sugar 1/3 C.
Baking powder 2 ½ tsp.
Baking soda ½ tsp.
Salt ¾ tsp.
Unsalted butter, cold 6 oz. (1½ sticks)
Milk ½ C.
Heavy cream ½ C.
(or substitute 1 C. half & half for the milk and cream)
Melted butter for finishing
Cinnamon-sugar mixture for finishing
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Toss dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl (do not sift).
3. Dice the butter into small cubes and cut it into the dry ingredients by hand with a pastry blender until it is the size of small peas.
4. Add the milk and cream (or half & half) and stir with a rubber spatula just until blended.
5. Gather the dough into a ball. *If adding additional ingredients, incorporate them into the dough at this time. (see below)
6. Divide the dough in half. Press each half into a circle which is ½-inch thick and 7-inches in diameter.
7. Cut the circles into 6 wedges each.
8. Brush the scones with melted butter, then sprinkle lightly with cinnamon-sugar mixture.
9. Place scones on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
*Variations: (additional ingredients can be added as desired after the dough is mixed)
Chocolate Chip: Add 1 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips for 12 scones
Lemon Poppyseed: Add the zest of 1 lemon plus ½ tsp. lemon extract and 2-3 Tbls. poppyseeds for 12 scones
Berry or other fruit: Fresh or frozen berries, such as blueberries or raspberries, work nicely. Dried fruits such as dried cherries, apricots, currants or raisins also work well. Amounts will vary.