Treats Without Sweets: Cheese Scones

Lately, I’ve tried to take the advice of Lady Hirons and trim sweet things from my diet. Because I found myself reaching for sweet treats more often than not, I’ve decided that a three week fast from sweets was necessary to somewhat reset my cravings and remind me that I can, indeed, live without sugar.

Sadly, this coincided with the beginning of a new rehearsal cycle with a director who likes to schedule Saturday morning rehearsals and loves to have breakfast treats to keep us motivated. I generally like to bake for my acting colleagues, so I was somewhat disappointed that I couldn’t bring a batch of soft, sweet cream scones with cream and jam. But then I thought, well treats don’t have to be sweet, and I could easily bake scones without sugar. But they might be rather bland. So I thought back to my old Nigella Lawson recipe for onion pie with cheese scone dough and decided to make a batch of cheese scones.

These are really a simple batch of scones, without even any egg to give them more structure. I recommend you use a nice, sharp cheese, as the sharper the cheese, the stronger the cheese flavor will be. I eat them without any accompaniment, though I imagine a tart jam might be nice.

Cheese Scones

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 stick of cold butter, cubed
4 oz. shredded cheese
2 cups cold milk

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder, and then cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the cheese. Add the milk, a little at a time, until a soft dough forms. Pat the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/2″ thick, and then fold three times, like a letter, and again in half. Pat this out again and cut out your scones. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until quite brown. Makes about 8 scones.

A Simple and Elegant Luncheon

Every once in a while, I want more than a simple sandwich or a soup for my luncheon, even at work. On those occasions, I hearken back to a recipe from my vegetarian days that my mother made for me: broccoli and cheese quiche.

It either sounds overly twee for a weekday lunch (“quiche”) or it sounds like nothing special (“broccoli and cheese”), and yet somehow ends up a little of both. Fresh broccoli is lightly steamed and combined with onions sauteed in a little bacon grease. The smells coming from the kitchen are intoxicating, mostly bacon and onions as the broccoli is not cooked long enough to render its often-unpleasant smell.

A single pie crust’s worth of dough is resting in the fridge, waiting to emerge and be rolled into submission. The oven heats. The kitchen is waiting expectantly to burst into activity. I crack six eggs into a bowl and add a splash of cream, a dash of salt, pepper, paprika, and a grating of nutmeg. Whisking is vigorous but controlled, until the whole mixture forms a kind of creamy, light-golden fluid.

The onions have taken on just a hint of brown from the bottom of the pan, so I turn the burner off and tip them into the bowl with the vibrantly-green florets. I attack the dough. A buttery-rich mass, so simple in its composition of butter, flour, salt, and water, yields under the roller into a pliable, smooth circle. Into the pie plate it goes. I make short and rustic work of crimping the edge, and then tip the veggies into the crust. The eggs pour over, just filling the crust, along with a cup of shredded Emmentaler cheese, a Swiss cheese whose light sweetness balances the heartiness of broccoli and onions. Into the oven it goes.

It bakes for almost three quarters of an hour, puffing up and falling down and browning deliciously. The smell is amazing. And then out it comes, to wait on a hot pad until it cools almost to room temperature. At which time it is sliced into large wedges and boxed up for the week to come, tucked away in the fridge and freezer, ready to re-emerge as a delicious lunch.

[Recipe from Martha Stewart.]