Scones

Scones are not just simply delicious but can be whipped up in next to no time. They can either be plain or include raisins and can be smothered in butter or my personal favourite whipped cream and jam. Scones are great for just eating at home but are the star attraction of a tea party. Without them, a tea party seems incomplete. I have made so many versions of scones over the years in my pursuit of perfection. Finally, I think I have managed to achieve a scone which has good height and great taste. There are a couple of tricks though. Firstly when you push the cookie cutter into the dough, do NOT twist the cookie cutter to get the scone shape out. Lift it from the rest of the dough and gently tease the dough from the cookie cutter. Secondly, when rolling out the dough ensure that it is just over 2cms thick. If you roll it too thin, the scones will not get the height. I also find using a finer flour “OO” Italian grade flour makes the scone lighter. Do not worry if you cannot find any (although most supermarkets now stock it), its just that I use it quite a lot for light fluffy cakes and delicacies, so always have it to hand. Plain flour thats been well sieved will give a good result.

scones

 

Ingredients

500g of “OO” Italian Flour or plain flour
2 heaped tsp cream of tartar
1 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
130g chilled salted butter
50g caster sugar
1 egg beaten
275ml of milk
3 tbsp of Demerera sugar
Optional: 40g sultanas

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees centigrade and lightly grease a baking tray.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a large mixing bowl.  Rub the butter into the flour mix until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Light airy motions are best for this.  Stir in the caster sugar.

Mix the beaten egg and milk together.

With the beaten egg/milk, you want to retain a couple of tablespoons for brushing onto the tops of the scones later.  The remaining egg mixture along with the milk can be added and mixed until a dough forms and the mixture comes together.  If adding the optional sultanas do so at this stage.  On a lightly floured surface roll or even better gently press the mixture to just over 2cms in thickness.

Using a 6cm cookie cutter press down into the dough (please see narrative notes above).  The dough will give you between 10-12 scones.  Just keep rolling the dough until its all gone and you cannot make any more scones.  Transfer the scones onto your baking tray.

With the remaining egg/milk that you set aside brush the tops of each scone.  Sprinkle the demerera sugar on top.

Bake in the oven for around 10-15 minutes.  Check after 10 minutes.

Eat warm with butter or cool with cream and jam!

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Simnel Cake

This is a traditional Easter cake, which certainly makes a great centrepiece for your Easter dinner table.

simnel cake

Ingredients

500g marzipan
180g butter
180g light muscovado sugar
3 large free-range eggs
250g plain flour, sifted
½tsp baking powder
60g ground almonds
300g mix of raisins, sultanas and currants
50g candied peel, chopped
zest 1 lemon
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp rum
1 small egg beaten
A couple of teaspoons of smooth apricot jam

Pre-heat the oven to 150 C fan oven.  Prepare a 7 inch loose bottomed cake tin by greasing and double lining it.  As the cake takes a while to cook, double lining helps to stop the cake burning on the outside.

Take the Marzipan and divide it into thirds.  With 1/3rd of the marzipan roll it to the size of the cake and just put to the side.  With another 1/3rd do exactly the same.

To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar until white and fluffy.  This step may take a few minutes, so be patient.  Then add the baking powder to the flour and stir to make sure it is evenly distributed.  Turn your mixer to a slower speed and alternatively add the flour and the egg.  This helps to stop the mix curdling.  I add a small amount of egg, then a large tablespoon of flour until all the flour and egg has gone.  Then fold in the almonds, mixed fruit, peel, lemon zest, mixed spice, milk, brandy and rum, taking care not to lose that air you have whipped into the cake.

Pour half of the cake mixture into the tin, then place the marzipan circle on top that you set aside earlier.  Pour the remaining cake mixture on top.  To make the cake level as possible, make a slight dip into the centre.  Bake in the centre of an oven for around 1 hour 30 – 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes clean out of the cake.  Let it cool in the tin slightly before turning out onto a wire rack.

Once cool you can then decorate the top of the cake.  First glaze the top of the cake with apricot jam.  This helps the top layer of marzipan stick to the cake.  Gently place the other marzipan circle on top.  You can crimp the edges like a pie, leave it smooth or even make lattice patterns on the marzipan it is your choice.

Take the remaining marzipan and roll into 11 balls. It is usually 11, to represent the apostles, Judas gets missed out, for obvious reasons.  Take the beaten egg and just brush a little onto each marzipan ball and stick them to the top of the marzipan on the cake.  You can leave the cake like this or a lovely touch which I sometimes do, is to glaze the cake top with the remaining beaten egg and then use my cooks blow torch on it for a few seconds.  This gives a lovely golden colour to it.