Eric Akis: Savoury muffins and scones go from snacks to meals

Eric Akis

A scone tastes delicious topped with sugary jam. A sweet muffin rich with bits of fresh fruit is also appealing. But today, I’ve turned things around and given both baked goods a savoury taste.

For scones, I mixed tangy grated cheddar cheese, crispy bits of smoky bacon and thinly sliced green onion into the dough. You end up with light golden, tender, aromatic scones you could serve for breakfast, with butter.

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These scones could also be served alongside another savoury dish, such as scrambled eggs. They can also be split and used to make a breakfast sandwich, just as you would do with an English muffin.

For my muffin recipe, I mixed in fresh vegetables, including grated carrot and zucchini, and thinly sliced spinach. To give it a Mediterranean-style taste, I also mixed in oregano, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and crumbled feta cheese.

When baked, the muffins, like the scones, are light golden, tender and aromatic and could be served on their own. The muffins could also be served for lunch or dinner as accompaniment for soup, such as tomato or minestrone, or a saucy bowl of pasta.

In both recipes, I’ve given you options on adjusting it more to your liking, such as using soft goat cheese in the muffins, instead of feta, and ham in the scones, instead of bacon.

The recipes yield nine muffins and nine scones. If that’s too many, any leftover scones or muffins will freeze well, at the ready to thaw, warm up in the oven and serve.

Bacon, Cheddar and Green Onion Scones

These savoury scones are rich with tangy cheese, smoky bits of pork and the mild, pleasing taste of green onion.

Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 18 to 20 minutes
Makes: nine large scones

3 thick strips bacon, cut into small cubes

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for shaping

1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes

100 grams old cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 1/4 cups milk

1 large egg

Place bacon in a skillet, set over medium to medium-high heat and cook until crispy. Drain fat from bacon. Set on paper towel and cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

With your fingers, a pastry cutter or with two forks, work butter into the flour until thoroughly distributed. Add bacon, cheese and green onion and use a spoon or spatula to mix them into the flour mixture.

Place milk and egg in a second, smaller bowl and beat well to combine. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the milk/egg mixture into it. Use a spoon or spatula to combine the two and form loose dough.

Flour a work surface and your hands. Turn the dough onto the floured surface.

Form the dough into a ball. As you do, lightly flour the work surface and your hands again, if needed.

Press the dough into a one-inch thick disc. Use a three-inch-round cutter to cut dough into scones and set them on the baking sheet. Gather up the scraps of dough and press and cut them into scones, too.

Bake scones in the middle of the oven 18 to 20 minutes, or until puffed and light golden.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Eric’s options: Instead of bacon, mix 1/2 cup finely diced ham into the dough. Instead of cheddar, try another tangy cheese, such as Gruyere or Gouda.

Mediterranean-style Vegetable Feta Muffins

Fresh vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano and tangy cheese give these savoury muffins a Mediterranean-style taste.

Preparation: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes: nine muffins

2 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup milk

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornmeal

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup grated carrot

1/3 cup grated zucchini

1 cup loosely pack fresh spinach, cut into thin shreds

5 oil-packed sundried tomatoes, patted dry, and then chopped

100 grams feta cheese, crumbled into small pieces (divided)

Preheat oven 375 F. Line 9 cups of 12-cup muffin tin with the large paper baking cups (not the giant sized ones).

Crack eggs into a medium bowl and beat well. Mix in the oil and milk, then set the mixture aside.

Place flour, cornmeal, baking powder, oregano, paprika and salt in a second, larger bowl and whisk to combine. Add the carrot, zucchini, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and half the cheese. Use a spoon or spatula to mix these ingredients into the flour mixture.

Mix the wet mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Divide and spoon the batter between the baking cups. Divide and top each muffin with some of the remaining feta cheese.

Bake muffins in the middle of the oven 20 minutes, or until they spring back when gently touched in the centre. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Eric’s options: Instead of feta cheese, use 100 grams of soft goat cheese, crumbled into small pieces. If you like the taste of olives, also mix 1/4 to 1/3 cup of chopped green or black olives into the batter.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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