We know most kids would do anything for a sugar hit. So it’s always a challenge for parents to pack a lunch that contains treats that are healthy, tasty and 100% naturally sweet and nutritious at the same time.

My own children have just declared their desire for packed lunches at school – the thought of which fills me with dread. I love the simplicity of assuming the school feeds them well and playing the guessing game of what they had for lunch, judging by the stains on their white tops…. but school dinners are not necessarily as great as you may always hope, and so if you are destined to be making pack-ups, then how do you balance their sweet-tooths with something Jamie Oliver wouldn’t have a heart-attack over?

California Prunes have offered Family & Parenting Magazine a recipe that we hope will satisfy this demanding criteria, and in return for using the word California every time that we want to mention prunes… here we are:

California Prunes are a convenient and – above all – delicious addition to a school lunch box, providing some essential nutrients to a child’s diet, presented in a sweet and moreish guise!  Sadly most mums and dads probably aren’t aware that prunes are the only natural, whole fruit to achieve an authorised health claim in Europe (eating 100g California Prunes – about 8-12 – contributes to normal bowel function as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle) so they definitely warrant a regular appearance in those packed lunches!  In addition to this, prunes are a rich source of vitamin K and a source of manganese. These substances contribute to maintaining bone health. In addition, prunes are a source of vitamin B6, which plays a part in the reduction of tiredness and fatigue – no parents wants their child dozing off in important lessons! B6 also contributes to normal psychological function to help deal with the stresses and strains of the school day.

This easy and fun recipe for California Prune Panda Scones will ensure your child is benefitting from this important ‘superfood’ but at the same time, it is sure to please the fussiest of eaters and should naturally satisfy any sweet cravings. Kids will love getting involved in the baking and decorating too. Perfect for packing in their lunchbox, the scones were developed by Frances Quinn, former ‘Great British Bake Off’ winner and author of Quintessential Baking’.

For a healthier version you might want to consider replacing the double cream topping with half double cream and half low fat cream cheese.

Let the recipe commence:

FRANCES QUINN CALIFORNIA PRUNE PANDA SCONES

Ingredients

  • 100g California prunes-approx. 10
  • 300g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 100g slightly salted butter, cut into pieces
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g California Prunes
  • 300ml double cream

Method

  1. Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7.
  2. Sift the flour into a large bowl.
  3. Remove 1 tablespoon of the flour and place it into another smaller bowl. Using scissors cut the California prunes into the flour in small pieces. Toss the California prunes around in the flour to fully coat them and stop them sticking to one another. Set aside.
  4. Rub the butter into the flour in the big bowl with your fingertips to create a fine breadcrumb mixture.
  5. Stir in the sugar and then stir and toss through the cut up California prunes and remaining flour from the bowl.
  6. Stir the vanilla extract into the milk and make a well in the dry mix and add the liquid, saving a little back to paint the top of the scones with. Fold through with a spoon or spatula to combine. Then use your hands-lightly dusted with flour if necessary-and gently bring the mixture together into a ball, picking up any dry bits of flour from the base of the bowl. Transfer onto a lightly floured surface.
  7. Pat or roll out the dough with a rolling pin to no less than 3cm deep.
  8. Leave to sit for a few minutes while you cut out some non-stick parchment paper and line a flat baking tray.
  9. Take a 6cm plain circular cutter and dip in some flour, to prevent the cutter sticking to the scones. Press firmly into the rested dough, trying not to twist the cutter as you do as this will result in a lopsided scone. Pick up and gently press the dough out on to the prepared baking sheet.
  10. You may need to use your scissors to trim the California prunes from the base of the scones.
  11. Repeat until you have cut as many as you can and then gently press together the remaining dough and cut up bits of trimmed California Prunes if there are any. Repeat the process again, you are ideally looking for 6 full complete scones, which when cut in half, will make 12 Panda faces, with any leftover dough and scraps making up smaller scone titbits to be nibbled on while decorating the California Prune Pandas later!
  12. Brush the top of the scones with the remaining vanilla milk and bake near the top of the pre-heated oven for approx. 10/15 minutes until risen and lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  13. While baking and cooling, prepare the California Prunes features for the Panda’s faces.
  14. To create the eyes patches, carefully slice through 12 California Prunes to create 24 flat eye patches.
For the ears cut 12 California Prunes in half and set aside with the eye patches. To make the noses and pupils, carefully cut out 12 small triangles and use the remaining scraps to cut out little bits of California Prune to make 24 pupils. Set everything aside. If you have made more than 6 scones, feel free to cut out more California Prune Panda features.
  15. Place the cream into a medium bowl and whip to soft peaks. Be careful not to over-beat as the cream will thicken as it’s piped. Transfer the mixture into a disposable piping bag and cut off the tip to about 1cm. Pipe the whites of the Panda’s eyes on to the California Prune Panda eye patches you have set aside. Using the tip of a knife or cocktail stick carefully place the cut-out California Prune pupils onto the piped cream within the Panda’s eye patches.
  16. Once the scones have cooled, carefully cut in half and cut off another section of the piping bag to approx. 3cm and divide and pipe the cream onto the halved scones. Using a palette knife or rounded knife, spread the cream over their surface to create a smooth Panda face.
  17. Now place the California Prune Panda features on to each scone face, starting with the eyes, then ears and finally nose. You can make smaller or bigger scones as you desire. To make smaller scones, use a smaller plain cutter and use more California Prunes to make the features of the California Prune Panda’s.

Link to printable version of the Frances Quinns California Prune Panda Scones Recipe