Friday, March 6, 2009

End of Winter Indulgence #5: Bacon & Cheese Scones

meaty - cheesy - what more can you ask for?

It's Lent, and it's Friday. Naturally, I feel compelled to post an entry about meat so I can vicariously get the protein I am piously sacrificing. I apologize ahead of time if, through my bacon-obsession-induced writing stupor, I make you feel like an infidel. >:)

Oh, and Happy 35 weeks! Just five weeks until Ludovictus' due date! Matt and I are going to sit down this weekend and pin down the official first and middle names. Wish us luck!

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There are two unlikely ingredients taken very seriously in British cuisine and not in American which I have come to fully embrace and appreciate only since living in the UK: bacon and cheddar cheese.

It seems to me that in the US, while bacon is used a lot and liked by most, it's boringly the same everywhere. There is little variation and it doesn't really cross the breakfast threshhold that often.
Cheddar cheese is also a neglected ingredient in America. It's kind of the boring old staple you get at the deli for your normal sandwiches. If you want to be exotic or foodie-esque you get the Gruyere, not the Cheddar. Here in the UK, cheddar comes in more maturities and varieties than you can count and originates in one of the loveliest of towns. And because I think it deserves a post unto itself, I will simply say that it is good here. It is damn good.

a veritable mountain of Cheddar cheese

These thoughts and more are why I was delighted two weeks ago at Cupcake, when my friend Rachel and I discovered fresh-baked bacon, cheddar and onion scones. Immediately I knew I had to come up with a way to replicate these creations, as it literally took five seconds from the time I spotted them to the time I was shoving one in my face after my futile attempt at being healthy by doing Yoga that morning. I'm hoping my pictures can entice you into the same savory-scone induced frenzy.

End of Winter Indulgence #5 is Bacon & Cheese Scones.

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I love bacon. I actually belong to a bacon fan-club on Facebook and have to admit it is in my "Favorites" on Tesco's online shopping list service. At least once a week I find an excuse to use Bacon in my cooking - not in copious amounts, mind you, but nevertheless I use it. There are a couple of things that, I swear, make this slightly more acceptable being in the UK than it would be were I in the US.

Why I'm Not a TOTAL Porker for Constantly Using Bacon
or, why British and American Bacon Rock

4. The Meaty (Royal) Older Brother
Bacon in the UK is like the meaty older brother to scrawny, chubby American bacon. It is what some might look at and consider a "ham steak" when put next to the otherwise thin and fatty US version. This is because British bacon is cut from a boneless pork loin, whereas American bacon is cut from the extremely fatty belly of the pig.

Big fan of pig bellies, let me tell ya, but unlike many die-hard expats, I would argue both of these cuts have their merits and suit certain dishes better than others. That said, I still buy what the British call "streaky bacon" (American bacon), a whole lot more often than I buy the less-fatty, more-meaty British brother. You can take the girl out of the US, but you can't take the US out of the girl.

3. It's unavoidable.
Everything has bacon in it here.
Matt and I were shocked at the ubiquitous nature of bacon when we first moved to the UK. It seems like absolutely everything has bacon in it, and if it doesn't, it's offered to you on the side anyway. Whereas in the US bacon is generally relegated to a breakfast-time commodity, in the UK you get it at breakfast, lunch AND dinner. In soups, in all kinds of sandwhiches, in jacket potatoes (baked potatoes for you Yanks), in the traditional English breakfast, used to wrap chicken (or any other
edible thing), and just on its own.

This obsession can go overboard at times though. While looking for an apartment, our estate agent
took us into a flat that was supposed to be ready for showing. What we got instead was a gigantic cloud of bacon fat in our faces. The ENTIRE place smelled of frying pork. You might think that sounds good now, but when you're having to imagine living somewhere, it turns you off quickly. Perhaps some people should time their bacon frying / grilling / microwaving a little better. :)

2. Streaky bacon. A good approximation, but an approximation nonetheless.
As I wrote this post, I came along an informative review of British bacon by a fellow American who seemed to make some of the same basic observations as me. One thing he didn't seem to know (not living in the UK), is that the British do sell streaky bacon, as I mentioned
above, and so it is not so hard to get your American bacon fix as some might have you believe.

That said, streaky bacon is not exactly American bacon. Much like some of the kind-of-catty / know-it-all-y comments made by Anonymous Brits on the blog above, the British attempt at American bacon is simply that: an attempt. Streaky Bacon is usually cut in much wider slices which actually naturally fall into two long pieces and is a heck of a lot less fatty than the one I get in Texas or Connecticut. That justifies my obsession, right?

1. Everything tastes better with bacon. Everything.
Apart from being extremely available, bacon here is also extremely inexpensive. You can go for
premium smoked bacon or you can go for basic Tesco unsmoked bacon - whatever you choose, it's not likely to put you out much money at all. The variety of bacon (and delicious pork products in general) in this country is sometimes dizzying.

As for me, I think everything just tastes better with bacon. A salad with real bacon bits. A BLT just wouldn't be that if it didn't have the B! The English breakfast - you can lose the baked beans, but please don't skimp on the bacon. And potato and leek soup is happily transformed the moment you chop up some bacon and toss it in. You just can't argue with that.

Now that you know my general feelings regarding bacon and its goodness, you will understand why a Bacon and Cheddar scone recip
e was nothing short of an epiphany to me. A self-proclaimed savorite (as opposed to a sweet-ite, I guess), I take any and all opportunities to see how something sweet can be made at least somewhat savory. Adding bacon and the much revered British mature cheddar to a sweet British staple was just the challenge I needed for my last End of Winter Indulgence.

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Bacon & Cheddar Scones with Caramelized Onions

Makes 8-16 depending on size

When I set out to make these scones, I looked at many recipes. In the end, the one I am posting is a combination of two: one posted by the Gastronomy Domine and one posted by the Food Network on behalf of someone I generally dislike but sometimes has really good recipes, the painfully loud and irrepressibly boisterous Emeril Lagasse. I also took a look at a recipe on Fine Living. The result was scones that are more biscuity than crumbly, and more cheesey and baconey than doughy. If you like that, you'll enjoy this recipe.

I made my scones small, in a futile attempt to curb my eating enthusiasm, but you can make them bigger and just increase baking time as you see fit.


1 2/3 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
4 slices American (streaky) bacon
1 small onion, sliced thinly
3/4 cup (75g) grated Cheddar cheese, mature or extra mature
1/2 stick (50g) butter, at room temperature, cut into chunks

3/4 cup Whole Milk, plus enough for glazing


1. Preheat your oven to 450F / 230C and butter a baking tray.

2. Fry the bacon until crispy and allow to cool and drain on a paper towel (if in the UK, you might want to use a little oil to help crisp the bacon up). Once cool, chop into small pieces and set aside. Using the same pan, fry the sliced onion in the bacon fat over medium-low heat until the onions are brown and caramelized (10 minutes or so). Remove from pan and allow to cool.

3. Sift the first 5 ingredients into a bowl, aerating as much as possible, and mix. Add the butter and mix in using your fingers until the mixture becomes crumbly.

4. Stir the grated cheese, chopped bacon, and caramelized onions into the flour mixture until evenly distributed. Then add the milk, mixing and working until the mixture forms a dough.

5. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough out until it is about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch high. Cut out round scones using a cutter (I use the bottom of a glass) to whatever size you please and place on the greased baking sheet. Brush the tops with extra milk.

6. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until the scones are golden and risen. They taste best when served hot from the oven and go deliciously with savory chutneys.

I am now going to go and stare at the scones I cannot eat today until the clock hits midnight.
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  1. Bacon. Cheddar. It's because of posts like these that I didn't give up a thing for Lent - I know that I would succumb to temptation immediately! I can only imagine the cheddar nirvana in the UK - no orange bricks there.

    Biscuity, cheesy, bacony scones will always have a home with the Noodles!

  2. Scones of any sort are divine! I love this post because it salutes the deliciosity of CHEDDAR! MMMM!

  3. Oh my, two of my favorites combined together - I agree typical American cheddar does not come close to its English brethern, but there is some magic that occurs when you combine it with bacon.

    Speaking of bacon being upiquitous (spelling might be off) its showing up in a lot of desserts lately here in the States. How about the UK?

    Any luck on names?