Roasted onion & smoked cheese scones

Returning to my savoury roots, and it seems a while since I have posted a savoury recipe, I decided to make some cheese and onion scones, using roasted onion and smoked Cheddar cheese.

This is a very rustic bake, and no apologies will come from me regarding that! They are also very easy to make and are intensely satisfying to eat.

Onions that shine!

Roasted onion takes on a more intense and slightly sweet flavour: a perfect foil for the tangy, smoky Cheddar. It is very easy to make up a batch, which you can do on the hob or in the oven, covered: just don’t rush them – only a slow, gentle cooking will turn them into that luscious caramelised flavour that you need.

I use roasted onions a lot in my breads, too, giving an exciting sweet-savoury kick: you just incorporate some with the flour at the start and proceed normally.

The roasted onions run right through the dough itself, adding prominent bursts of sweet oniony flavour in each bite.

I sometimes add some finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the dough: about 25g gives enough of a tomato kick to complement the flavour of the cheese and the onion.

Gluten-free or not?

I made these scones gluten-free so that a friend could eat some: for the gluten-free bakes that I do make from time to time, it is crucial that they taste as good as non-GF bakes.

Now I enjoyed eating these – and I am my harshest critic! – but I was so pleased that she very much enjoyed them, too.

These scones can, however, be made non-GF by using standard plain flour instead of the gluten-free flour.

To serve

These scones are at their best served warm (they freeze and re-heat beautifully) and then sliced and buttered. They are wonderful spread with all manner of goodies such as:

  • seasoned cream cheese mixed with freshly chopped chives
  • crushed or puréed goats cheese (just a little!)
  • caramelised onion chutney
  • beetroot chutney
  • chilli jam

One of my favourite combinations is a small amount of beetroot chutney, topped with a mixture of goats cheese and cream cheese, sandwiched back together before heating for about 10 minutes: the cheese just starts to melt and the heat peps up the flavour of the chutney: divine! And for these, I would replace the Cheddar in the dough with goats cheese.

Recipe: roasted onion & smoked cheese scones – makes about 15

For the roasted onion:

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped – about 200g chopped weight
  • a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for roasting
  • the leaves from a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the dough:

  • 350g white gluten-free plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
  • the roasted onions, cooled
  • 2 teaspoons grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 80g unsalted butter, softened
  • 60g smoked mature Cheddar (or goats cheese), cut into small cubes* or grated- plus extra, grated, for topping
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature, beaten
  • 120-150ml milk – plus a little extra for brushing

(1) Preheat the oven to 160C (fan).  Mix the onions with the oil, seasoning and thyme in a small roasting dish. Cover with a lid or foil and roast gently for about 45 minutes or until the onions are soft and golden, stirring about half-way through. Remove from the oven and cool. Finely chop or crush the cooled onions.

(2)  Increase the oven temperature to 190C(fan). Sift the flour, baking powder, salt into a large bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

(3) Stir in the chopped Cheddar and the chopped onion so they are well distributed. Mix the mustard with the egg and most of the milk and add to the bowl, combining to form a very soft but not too sticky dough. Add more milk if needed. Knead gently until smooth. *NB: having the Cheddar chopped rather than grated gives you nuggets of gooey cheese in the scones, whereas if it is grated it melts into the scones more uniformly – it is purely down to personal choice here!

(4) Roll out the dough to about 2cm thick and cut into circles using a cutter of preferred size, using the trimmings to make scones: I tend to use a 5½ cm cutter but they can be made any size: miniature ones for canapés (sliced in half and served open with a topping of choice) are particularly lovely, although if going for the smaller scones, roll out the dough a little more thinly (otherwise they risk toppling over in the oven!)

(5) Place the uncooked scones onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof, brush with a little milk and sprinkle lightly with the grated Cheddar. Bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and deep golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

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