Monday, 17 February 2014

Cheese Scones with Za'atar

The AlphaBakes baking challenge has reached one of the more difficult letters of the alphabet this month - the letter Z! I could have gone the easy route, with a zebra cake, or used a zucchini, but I wanted something a bit more unusual. I often get inspiration from my spice cupboard, when looking for unusual flavour combinations, so was happy to come across a jar of Za'atar spice mix hiding at the back.

Za'ater is a variable mix of herbs, spices and sesame seeds (mine contains wild majoram, sumac and sesame seeds - some varieties use thyme and/or oregano) and is quite bitter, so isn't really suitable for sweet baking. After some experimentation, which is best forgotten, I finally decided on the savoury option of cheese scones filled with a swirl of the za'atar mix.

I made a standard scone mix of 50g of butter rubbed into 200g SR flour, to which I added 50g of grated cheese - a mixture of mature dry cheddar and parmesan. I mixed in half a teaspoon each of dry mustard powder, white pepper and cayenne powder for flavour, then added half a beaten egg and enough milk to make a soft dough. After a brief knead, I patted out the dough, on a floured board, to make a square about 1cm deep. I sprinkled about 2 tablespoons of za'atar over the dough, leaving a cm margin along one edge, which was wetted with milk. The dough was then rolled up tightly from the edge opposite the wet edge, so that the wet edge stuck and held the roll in place. The roll of dough was cut into pieces 2.5cm long and the pieces were placed on a baking tray with the swirl of za'atar facing upwards. The top of each scone was brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with sesame seeds before baking at 220C for about 15 minutes, until risen and golden brown.

The bitter flavour of za'atar means it needs to be used with caution - I think these scones might have been better with a bit less za'atar mix, as the flavour quite overwhelmed that of the cheese and other spices used. I also think a scone might not be the best vehicle for the za'atar - small cocktail biscuits or puff pastry whirls which could be eaten in just a mouthful might have been more suitable. However it was an interesting way of getting to use the za'atar, which had been lingering unused in my cupboard for far too long.

AlphaBakes (rules here) is a challenge based on a randomly chosen letter of the alphabet. The dish made must feature something beginning with that letter as one of the main ingredients or part of the name. It is hosted jointly by Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline at Caroline Makes. Caroline is this month's host, with the letter Z, and will feature a round-up of entries at the end of the month.

1 comment:

Caroline Cowe said...

You beat me to it - I thought of za'atar and was sure nobody else would use it for Alphabakes as I'd never heard of it before - but you already had some in your cupboard! Mine seemed to have more of a subtle flavour, and I think from looking at wikipedia it's not a fixed recipe but more of a blend of different spices so I guess yours was more potent than mine! Thanks for sending these to Alphabakes.