Savory Baking
By Mary Cech
Published by Chronicle/Raincoast 2009, softcover, $29.95; 168 pages.

What better accompaniment to our current lust for homey, comforting soups and stews than a book full of ideas for savoury scones, quick breads, rolls, pastries, cobblers, dumplings, cookies and other irresistibly starchy things to go with them.

The sweet side of baking has been extremely well-covered on our cookbook shelves but few baking experts have ventured so completely into the savory side. Thus I’m all ears — and tastebuds are on full alert, too — as Cech tempts us to consider peppered pear and goat cheese scones, potato and scallion butter biscuits, buttermilk tarragon loaf, onion and sherry cream turnovers and thyme, lemon and sea salt shortbread.

Can’t take the suspense! Let’s get right to a recipe.

Creamy brie and the sweetness of caramelized onions are locked inside these tender cream scones, which are great served for brunch, as a snack, or as an accompaniment to warm soup. Try camembert or cambozola as a pleasing substitute for the brie.

Onion Filling
2 medium red onions, peeled,cut in half and cut into ¼-inch slices
4 tbsps. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsps. sherry wine vinegar

3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 cups plus 3 tbsps. heavy (whipping) cream
8 oz. brie, cut into ½-inch pieces

To prepare filling, sauté onions in the oil in a large, wide-bottomed skillet over high heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook onions for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice for even cooking; they will start to turn translucent and soften. Decrease heat to medium, add sherry wine vinegar and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown and very soft, 20-25 minutes. Transfer caramelized onions to plate to cool.

To prepare scones, preheat oven to 375°F and line baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick baking mat. Stir flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in medium bowl. Pour 2 cups of heavy cream over flour mixture. Mix flour and cream with your fingers, forming a soft, slightly sticky dough. Mix dough gently and briefly. Don’t worry if you see a few dry flour patches.

Turn moist dough out onto a floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces. Gently knead each piece several times, then flatten each into a ½-inch thick disc, about 9 inches in diameter. Dot one disc of dough with the brie and spread the caramelized onions evenly over the top. Place the other disc of dough on top of the onions and gently press down the edges, sealing the two discs together. Lift the sandwiched disc onto a cutting board With a long sharp knife, cut the round disc into 12 pie-shaped wedges (see note below).

Evenly space scones on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between each one to allow for slight spreading. Brush tops with remaining 3 tbsps. cream. Bake until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and place on cooling rack. Serve scones warm. Makes 12.

Note: I like using a sharp chef’s knife for cutting the scones. Push down into the scones quickly, rocking the knife back and forth, like cutting wedges of pizza. Clean knife between each cut by running  it under hot water. This ensures the knife does not stick to the dough and the scones are neat in appearance.

– From Savory Baking