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.

Bread Recipe

If you learn to make one thing in life, make it bread.  I have lost count of how many times I have made bread, due to being snowed in during winter months.  I always keep strong bread flour and yeast in my cupboard, so whilst others are panic buying sliced loaf, I am happy and content in my kitchen, which fills with the wonderful aroma of baking bread.  Baking bread is a great stress reliever too, as I find kneading somewhat therapeutic.  Sometimes I do cheat and use my Kitchenaid mixer with its dough hook, which gives great results.

 

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Ingredients

500 g strong White flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
A little olive oil for greasing
7 g easy bake yeast (I use Allinsons)
300 ml luke warm water

Add flour and sugar to a large bowl, place the salt one side of the bowl and the yeast the other side of the bowl.  The reason I do this, is that salt can kill yeast, so to place it away from each other initially helps.  Add enough water and mix to form a soft dough.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for up to 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.  If using my mixer with dough hook, I also knead for ten minutes.

Place the dough in a bowl which has been greased lightly with olive oil inside.  Place the dough inside and then cover it with cling film tightly.  This stops a skin developing on the dough.  Leave in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size which may take around an hour.  If your house is cold it can take up to three hours! Remove the dough onto a floured surface and knock back the air.  Place in a 900 g loaf tin, cover with a big loose bag and let it prove a little longer for half an hour. Preheat the oven to 230 degrees centigrade.

When ready to bake, slash the top of the dough and dust with a little extra flour.  Place into the oven for around 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees centigrade and cook for a further 20 minutes.  Check that it is cooked by tipping the loaf out of the tin and tapping the bottom, it should sound hollow.

Place the bread on a wire rack, and let it cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

 

Granola

This recipe for granola may seem slightly decadent with the addition of sugar and golden syrup, however these can always be substituted for something similar if you wish.  It does make quite a large batch, so it isn’t as if you will be eating the whole lot in one sitting.  Granola is crunchy and slightly clumped together, so if you don’t have a sticky substitute like the ingredients in the recipe, it will not be the same.  I also use this as crunchy topping for puddings, see photos below for some inspiration, and you can also check out my video for this recipe on youtube.

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Ingredients

55g Butter
60g Honey
25g Golden Syrup
85g Demerara Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract
30g Hazelnuts roughly chopped
80g Pecan nuts roughly chopped
35g Pistachio roughly chopped
60g Flaked almonds
70g Sunflower seeds
45g Desiccated coconut
125g Porridge Oats
Zest of 2 oranges

Preheat Oven to 150 degrees centigrade approx gas mark 2-3

In a saucepan gently melt the butter, honey, golden syrup and Demerara sugar until it is a smooth liquid and the sugar has melted.  Once off the heat, stir in the vanilla extract.

In a large bowl place all the nuts, seeds, oats and orange zest.  Mix round the dry ingredients and then add the butter syrup from the saucepan.  Mix well, this may take some time to make sure there are no dry pockets of oats and nuts around the bowl.

Pour into a roasting tin and level out.  Place in the oven for around 50 – 60 minutes.  Every 15 minutes, remove from the oven and turn the mixture in the roasting tin, then place back in the oven.  This helps the mixture get golden all over.

Once the cooking time has expired, take the roasting tin out of the oven and let it cool down.  Once cool, you will see that it crisps up and goes crunchy, you can see this in the video clip.  Once properly cool place in a sealed container.

 

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I love this crunchy granola on top of a layer of Greek yoghurt and stewed rhubarb.  Simply chop some rhubarb, add a little water, a couple of drops of vanilla extract and a little sugar  (if you want) in a saucepan.  Let it cool and then place it at the bottom, then layer the other items on top!

Rich Chocolate Cake

There are certain times when chocolate will only do.  Valentines Day or a birthday are such occasions.  However, I also use this cake as a dessert by adding, cream, ice cream and even custard.  It is one recipe you should master, so that you can use it time and again!  It gets better after a couple of days kept in a dome…. that is if you can keep people away from it that long.

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Ingredients

320 g of very soft butter
260 g self raising flour (sifted)
1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
260 g caster sugar
3 heaped tbsp of good quality cocoa powder
280 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs beaten
180 g icing sugar
3 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
2 Extra tbsp of milk

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.  Grease and line a 24 cm cake tin.

Beat only 260 g of the butter and sugar together until pale.  In a separate bowl sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and the cocoa powder together.  In a jug mix together the milk, vanilla extract and eggs.  With the mixer running slowly (or by folding if by hand) alternate adding a couple of tablespoons of the dry flour ingredients, and then a good slug of the milk and egg ingredients.  Keep alternating until both sets of ingredients have been used up.  Run a spatula around the bowl, to check everything has been combined.

Pour into the cake tin and place into the oven for around 40-50 minutes.  After 40 minutes just check with a skewer in the middle of the cake, to make sure it is cooked.  If any mix sticks to the skewer just place the cake back into the oven, to cook for a little longer.

Once cooked, leave to cool firstly in the tin and then on a wire rack.  It is important that the cake is cool for the next stage with the buttercream topping…. Or you will end up with a mess.

To make the buttercream topping, whip up the remaining 60 g of butter, 180 g of icing sugar, cocoa powder and additional 2 tbsp of milk.  Whip it up until smooth.  Then you can either divide the cake into two, and input a small amount of the buttercream before sandwiching the two halves together, then use the remaining buttercream to coat the top and sides.  Or, you can leave the cake whole and just coat the top and sides with the buttercream.

I also like to add decorations like more flaked chocolate, sprinkles or with mini eggs at Easter time.  This cake is also great as a pudding and birthday cake.  It is so versatile and delicious.