white cheddar & za’atar scones

cheddar za'atar sconescheddar za'atar scones

My introduction to Bouchon Bakery  by Thomas Keller & Sebastien Rouxel began with my sister waxing poetic on everything she had made from the book. Even the chocolate chip cookies were probably the best cookies she had ever made.

This scone recipe is a riff off of their savoury bacon cheddar scones, and they are probably the best scones I’ve ever made.

What’s that – a good scone? Yes – a good scone: i.e. the perennial struggle! There are many things that I tend to make terribly over and over again, scones one amongst them. There have been tough scones, flat scones, scones that are just straight up proper paperweights.

These scones are actually, like, good scones – baking up light while tasting like blocks of butter and browned cheese and herbs.

cheddar za'atar sconescheddar za'atar sconescheddar za'atar scones

In the oven the scones perform a dramatic rise – the combined effort of baking powder, crumb-sized chunks of butter and shredded cheese. The crisp exterior yields to a tender interior with a subtle flake. I always try to use a white cheddar at least a few years old for nuttiness; shreds at the scone surface brown, bubble and crisp. Any herb will do but the za’atar, a mix of herbs (which can vary considerably from type to type), also has an added toasted nuttiness from the sesame – the idea comes from a scone my aunt mentioned to me to once, and I can vouch for the combination.

While all food is political, za’atar is perhaps the top student in that class – having been weaponized in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Food can be an integral part of cultural identity, and can be used to legitimize and promote a culture, whereas denial and appropriation can be used to undermine a culture. In the case of za’atar, a nearly half century old Israeli law against collecting wild herbs used in za’atar has been employed to impede access to za’atar for Palestinians living in the West Bank. You can read more here in this Vice article, or if you prefer to listen, this Racist Sandwich podcast episode.

Oh, and the scone dough is chilled before baking, which is perfect for making the night before and the baking in the morning to bring in to class. Here, it’s a rather large recipe as I last made them for a pre-pandemic event, but feel free to halve the recipe for a suitable scale.

cheddar za'atar scones

cheddar and za'atar scones

  • Servings: 30 small scones
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Adapted from the bacon cheddar scones in Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel. Makes around 30 1 1/2″x3″ scones.

  • 200g cake flour
  • 100g all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 1/2 tbsp za’atar
  • 130g cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 140g aged white cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 80g heavy cream, plus more if needed
  • 90g greek yoghurt

Whisk together flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and za’atar. Add the cold butter chunks, tossing in with your hands to coat the pieces in flour. Then use your fingertips to rub in the cold butter until crumbly in texture. Toss in the cheese.

Add the cream and yoghurt, mixing with a wooden spoon or your hands until a dough is formed. I usually seem to find it a bit too dry and add some more cream to bring together the dough. Knead a few times on a floured surface just to bring it together. Roll out on a sheet of parchment paper into a rectangular shape that is 3/4″ tall. Cover in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Use a large knife to trim the edges of the dough to make for nice clean edges (the trimmings can be mashed together into a tester scone). Cut into rectangles – I cut it into around 30 scones that were 1 1/2″ by 3″. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake until golden, around 25 minutes. Break a scone in half to check for doneness on the inside too – it will likely still appear quite moist, but cooked.

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