Baked Sunday Mornings: Chinese 5-Spice Sesame Scones

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I’ve had sesame seeds on the brain. I suppose that might be an odd thing to think about as a baker; I mean, fixating on chocolate or Irish butter is a fairly regular occurrence in my sugar-glazed brain, but sesame seeds? And yet, I’ve thought about the importance of sesame since I attended a talk a few months ago in San Francisco by Michael Solomonov from Zahav in Philadelphia; he says good tahini (sesame paste) is quintessential to the best hummus. And indeed, sesame is integral to most Middle Eastern cuisine. But this isn’t the only type of cuisine hot on sesame– I love the prominence of sesame seeds in Chinese food as well. To celebrate Chinese New Year, BAKED developed these Chinese 5-Spice Sesame Scones for Baked Occasions, and we are making them this week for Baked Sunday Mornings. I was excited to see this one on the baking schedule because it was one of my favorite recipes that I tested for the cookbook. It’s more of an homage than an authentic Chinese product, but nonetheless delicious. On the contrary, I find this recipe to be so fun and creative, a spiffy twist on the traditional scone. In addition to sesame seeds, the scones feature Chinese 5-Spice powder, and both flavors together meld to produce a pleasantly spiced, slightly savory, Asian-inspired pastry that I want to eat by the half-dozen, slathered with peanut butter, as recommended in the book!

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Incidentally, I ran out of white sesame seeds, so I used about 25% black sesame seeds, and I was so glad I did! I’m not sure if there was a huge difference in flavor, but I liked the visual aesthetic of both black and white seeds throughout the scone dough (as well as the speckles from the 5-spice powder). I did not toast the black ones, however.

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As is the case with most scones, these are super easy to pull together. After toasting the sesame seeds, you’ll whisk the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, 5-spice powder, salt, cooled sesame seeds), then add the butter. I cut in the butter pieces using the food processor– if you do so, make sure to leave some pea-sized butter chunks; you want a “pebbly” mixture.

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I didn’t want to overwork the dough, so I dumped out the dough crumbs into a big bowl and stirred in the whisked mixture of buttermilk and egg with a spoon. Once the wet ingredients are incorporated, you’ll have a shaggy/crumbly mixture, which you’ll gently knead together to form the scone dough. The texture of the dough is slightly tricky; it should be dry, but hold together. If it’s too crumbly to keep its shape, add a bit of buttermilk. My dough was very dry, even after the extra tablespoon of buttermilk, so I added another one, and I might even add more next time for a slightly smoother dough. (However, these are meant to be crumbly scones, and the texture worked out just fine.)

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The dough then gets formed into a flat round and cut into 8 wedges. Since my dough got a little soft during all this handling, I put the scones in the fridge for 10 minutes before proceeding. The last step is to brush the wedges with buttermilk and sprinkle with demerara sugar. I also scattered about 1 tablespoon of toasted white sesame seeds on top.

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The scones baked up beautifully in 16 minutes with crisp, golden edges– I could barely wait for them to cool! As I mentioned above, these scones are crumbly compared to the typical flaky scone, which makes it a little difficult to spread thick peanut butter on them, but don’t worry, I figured it out. (I imagine that I looked a little like a dog eating peanut butter! 😉 )

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These little wedges are a lovely, unconventional surprise in the scone world. So easy and very tasty, I highly recommend them for breakfast, brunch, or just a snack. Also, they are a snap to prepare ahead of time if needed. You can find the recipe for Chinese 5-Spice Sesame Scones at Baked Sunday Mornings, along with my fellow scone-bakers’ treats! 🙂

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© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2016.

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