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.

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.

IMG_3416

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.

Victoria Sandwich Cake

A traditional Victoria sandwich cake is only supposed to have a layer of jam.  However, like most people, I enjoy it better with both the jam, whipped cream or a buttercream layer.  This cake is one of the most made, as it can also be a birthday cake with either a buttercream and decorated topping or with a fondant icing layer on top.

 

sponge cake copy

 

Ingredients

4 eggs in a jug beaten (After you have weighed them see recipe below)
Caster Sugar (the same weight as the eggs)
Butter (softened and the same weight as the eggs)
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
Self Raising Flour (the same weight as the eggs)
(Possibly a little milk)
A couple of tablespoons of icing sugar
Whipped cream & strawberry jam
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
Take a large spring formed, loose bottomed cake tin, grease and line it.

If you want to use buttercream you will need:-

400 g Icing Sugar
120 g of butter at room temperature
3 tbsp of luke warm water
1- 2drops of vanilla extract

Decorations and drops of food colouring and flavourings as you may require in substitution for vanilla icing or you could still use a couple of drops of vanilla extract.

Method

Weigh your 4 eggs – whatever the weight of the eggs, you need to use the same weight in flour, sugar and butter.

In a mixer or with an electric hand mixer whisk the butter and sugar.  Whisk until the mixture goes very white and creamy.  The temptation with a hand whisk is to give in when your arm aches, but trust me it needs to be going for about 4 minutes to achieve this white creamy texture, hence the reason why I use my beloved standalone mixer.

Once this is achieved you will need to add your beaten eggs bit by bit on a nice slow beat.  Go slow with this and do not rush it.  Add your vanilla extract and beat slow again for 3 seconds.

Then you need to add the flour to the mixture.  Sieve the flour over the mixture and gently fold the flour in.  I find my spatula is the best tool for this job as it ensures that no pockets of flour is left over.  If the mixture is too thick that you cannot get it reasonably easy from the bowl then add a tablespoon of milk to the mixture.  However this mix should not be at all over runny.

Pour the mixture into the lined cake tin.  Cook for about 35-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.  Wait for the cake to cool before turning out onto a wire rack for further cooling.

Once cooled properly, slice in half.  Its at this point once cool that you can add fresh cream or buttercream (see below) and jam.  Put both sponges together.  You can also decorate this cake for a birthday or other celebration, or simply sieve some icing sugar on top.

To make the buttercream simply whisk/beat the icing sugar, butter and water together.  To get a real good airy whip, make sure you whisk it for about 4 to 5 minutes.  If the buttercream is little stiff just add another drop or two of water a bit at a time.  You can also add a few drops of flavour, like vanilla, and any colouring to suit.

Rhubarb Meringues

I just love it when rhubarb comes into season, and although one of my favourite desserts is rhubarb crumble, I enjoy it with others dishes too.  I always save a little of the stewed rhubarb and have it with yoghurt, a drizzle of honey and granola for breakfast.  Oh it is heavenly.  Technically rhubarb is a vegetable, but it’s sour taste goes so well with sugar, and weirdly enough also with oily fish such as mackerel!

 

rhubarb meringue

 

Ingredients

400g Rhubarb cut into 4cm chunks
110g Caster Sugar
Zest of 1 Orange
1 Tsp Cornflour
1 Tsp of Vanilla Extract
2 Egg Whites

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade.  Place the rhubarb, half of the sugar and orange zest into a ovenproof dish.  Stir to combine and then cover with foil.  Place in an oven for 35 minutes until the rhubarb is soft.  I like to stir it half way through the cooking process, and then remove the foil ten minutes before the end of cooking.  This helps to thicken the mixture.  If you find that the rhubarb mixture is still a little too runny, then add a heaped teaspoon of cornflour, and stir it in well and just place in the oven for a minute or two more.  One batch of rhubarb can be different from another, in that some contain more juice, so you can never tell whether you need the cornflour until this final stage.  Finally, add the vanilla extract and stir again.

Place the rhubarb mixture into four ramekin dishes and set to one side.  Still keep the oven on for the next part.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Sprinkle over half of the remaining sugar and whisk again. Then gently fold in the rest of the sugar. Pile the meringue on top of the rhubarb to cover it completely. Place the ramekins in the oven for 10 minutes until the meringue is risen and golden. Serve immediately.