Cherry-Zucchini Scones: the zucchini zombie apocalypse, or how to win the runaway vegetable war

Despite your vigilance, despite your twice-daily visits to pick them in the garden, it happens every summer: the attack of the killer zombie zucchinis.

Any living thing that can increase its presence exponentially in a mere matter of hours can’t be quite of this world, can it? You’ve tried everything to keep the population in check. Ratatouille. Caponata. Pickling it, grilling it, roasting it, turning it into bread, cake, frittata, appetizers, pie, muffins, disguising it with chocolate, even making pancakes with it. Obviously, we haven’t enough meal occasions to cope with it all, so I’m here to add another weapon to your arsenal in the zucchini apocalypse wars.

Our team tasked me with a blog for “something zucchini.” The idea of something tender, with a little bit of interest from some lemon zest and dried cherries, and maybe a bit of crunch popped into my head. Your new tool for keeping the zucchini zombies from taking over? Cherry-Zucchini Scones.

It wouldn’t be me writing if I didn’t talk a little food science first. When baking with fruits and vegetables, they’ll often take the place of some of the liquid in the recipe. Pumpkin and applesauce work that way. Zucchini is a little trickier, because while it contains a lot of water, that water stays inside the vegetable’s flesh until something draws it out. That something can be sugar, or salt, or heat.

Sometimes you’ll see recipes that call for the zucchini to be drained or squeezed out. That’s the recipe writer trying to level the playing field, because the amount of liquid in each particular squash can vary considerably, depending on its size, how much rain the garden has had, etc. When I had the idea for these scones, I was planning on getting about half the recipe’s liquid from the zucchini. What could be simpler? Cut butter into dry ingredients, add zucchini and wet, stir, Bob’s your uncle. But when I began testing, I got taken for a ride. Zombie vegetables can be pretty fickle.

It all started innocently enough:

dryinbowl2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

buttercutinnobaconWhisked together, and 1/2 cup cold butter cut in.

zuchhzestNext some lemon zest, a cup of grated zucchini, and 3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped up just a bit so they distribute more evenly.

drypluszucchMix together 1/4 cup milk, an egg, and a teaspoon of vanilla, add, stir all together.

addwetThe first time I did this, it seemed after a few stirs that there was no way I had enough wet stuff. There was a lump of dough in the middle of the bowl, surrounded by what looked like the Sahara dessert. allroundmixshotSo I added more milk (like, 1/2 cup more) to make the dough come together, and that’s when the zombie factor kicked in. The longer the dough was mixed, the wetter it got. The sugar was drawing the moisture out of the zucchini, and what at first looked like a dough that could be patted into place and cut started slumping and spreading in all directions in front of my eyes, like bad time-lapse photography.

gettingwetterbytheminute

After just a few minutes on the baking sheet, the dough is getting wetter by the minute. I could cut through it, but the scones were too soggy to separate before baking, and came out as one, large puffy disk.

I baked it anyway, and liked the flavors very much, but knew this wasn’t going to be the walk in the park I thought it was going to be.

bakedtoowet

I had to cut the scones again after baking to separate them; they’re pretty wet and gummy in the center.

Never underestimate the zombie vegetable.

Being a stubborn sort, it took me about four rounds before I realized I had to accept the fact that in order to get the result I wanted I was going to have to work with the zucchini, and (sigh) be patient. I backed off on the liquid, from what was initially 3/4 cup back down to 1/4 cup, started over, and ended up here:

seems toodrybut comingtogether

I know this looks too dry, but keep folding the dough over using a bowl scraper. The more you do this, mixing the dry bits in, the more liquid the zucchini gives up.

It’s a leap of faith, but if you keep scooping the dry mixture into the dough and folding it over on itself, in short order you get to this:

mixed and cutDough that’s ready for scooping or shaping. Since this recipe likes to expand when it bakes, I decided to confine my zombie mixture in a small scone pan.inminisconepanAfter a shower of sparkling sugar and some quality time in the oven, the battle was won, and a tasty new zucchini-based treat was here.

finished small sconesI confess to having trouble with eating just one of these. They’re very yummy, and have been disappearing with alacrity every time I put them in the employee kitchen.

The moral of our story? Put some dried cherries and lemons on your next shopping list, and be ready for the squash invasion on the horizon (if it hasn’t already started). You may not entirely win the zucchini war with this recipe, but you’re sure going to enjoy trying.

Don’t forget, you can mix and cut the scones, then freeze them for later. (Bake them right out of the freezer; they’ll need another 5 minutes or so in the oven, but that’s it.) There may come a time this winter when you’re actually feeling wistful for some zucchini as a reminder of sunny summer days.

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for Cherry-Zucchini Scones.

Print just the recipe.

Susan Reid
About

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.

comments

  1. Cheryl Ewing

    I enjoyed this story and recipe so much Thank You! However there are a few things I want to know? How do I get a job so I can try all of these wonderful things in the employee kitchen? 2. Do you guys have a Huge weigh issue? I mean if I was around this all day everyday I would look like the side of a barn!!!! LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Cheryl. We do have our struggles with holding off the equivalent of the “freshman fifteen”, but thankfully exercise and wellness are a strong part of our culture, and very much supported, so like most people we strive for balance! Susan

  2. Rita

    Hi Susan, Looking forward to trying this. Sounds delicious. Can I use heavy cream instead of milk in this receipt?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The scones will taste a bit richer and be slightly more tender. Because cream contains additional fat and less water, expect a slightly drier batter. Add a few teaspoons of water to adjust the moisture. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sure thing, Judy! If summer squash is what you have on hand then go ahead and make the swap, making no other changes to the recipe. (Zucchini is actually a type of summer squash too!) The mild flavor of yellow squash will blend in perfectly with most recipes while also adding moistness. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  3. lkcline46

    Since I grate and freeze zucchini for those other times you just need it, I always have lots on hand. I do quite a bit of baking with zucchini and found that since the moisture comes out while frozen, I can just defrost and put it in the recipe and all is well. I look forward to definitely trying this scone recipe. It looks yummy!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The nutritional facts are on the recipe page, right after the directions. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  4. Felecia Berry

    We have a freezer full of blueberries from the back yard. Will they work as a substitution for fresh cherries?
    Felecia: Blueberries would be great, but for this recipe you’ll want to do a little finessing. Frozen berries will give up a lot of liquid; get the dough to come together first, then fold in the still-frozen berries at the very end before shaping. Otherwise you’ll have some very blue, streaky scones! Susan

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Blueberries should work, though I would thaw them if they have been frozen before adding to the scones. Jon@KAF

  5. sfreshwater

    Love this story, got a kick out of it. I didn’t plant any zucchini’s this year. I planted two plants one year in Calif. and I literally took them to work in boxes. I knew I’d pressed my luck when they locked the office door when they saw me coming. We have a hard time growing anything in Nevada, I wonder if zucchini would lived in this lack of nutrient ground. Maybe I’ll just buy some and make some of this, it sounds great. Ever wonder how the growers for the grocery stores manage to get those little buggers before they become so big? I picture the pickers sitting in the fields and watching and the second they reach the right size for the grocery stores the leader yells CHARGE and off go the pickers because they only have about 15 minutes and the little zucchini’s grow 3 feet.
    I wonder if they have remote cameras with little alarms on them to tell them to get out there! Haha. Susan

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Maybe that is the way it goes…it is the great zucchini mystery of our day, for sure. This is one of my FAVORITE recipes to come out of the test kitchen as of late, so I think it would definitely be worth biting the bullet and grabbing some grocery store zucchini to give these guys a try. Hope you enjoy and happy baking! Jocelyn@KAF

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