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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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.

 

bread.jpg

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.

 

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.

Custard Tarts

When I visited Portugal I had a real love for these!  It is a good job I do not live there, otherwise I might be packing on more than a few pounds.  However, as a treat they are delightful and great to share with friends, if you can steal them away from yourself.

portuguese custard tarts

  • 320g Ready Made Puff Pastry
  • Butter for greasing tin
  • Plain flour for rolling out on the surface
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 2 Large Yolks
  • 120g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Cornflour
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 400ml Whole Milk

Lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tin with butter.  Then roll out the pastry, with a little flour on the surface.  Roll until it is around 2.5cm thick.  Cut out rounds that will fit your muffin tin.  For a nice rustic look, just press the pastry up the inside of the tin, until the pastry fits.  This rustic look reminds me of the custard tarts that you get in Portugal, whereas in the UK they have dessert pastry and are smooth.  Place in the fridge whilst you make the custard filling.

Into a heavy bottomed saucepan, place the egg yolks and whole egg, along with the sugar and cornflour.  Mix together. Then on a gentle heat add the vanilla and gradually add in the milk.  Make sure you keep stirring so that it does not catch the bottom of the pan.  Eventually you will get to a nice smooth but thickened custard.  Remove from the heat and place this custard into a bowl with clingfilm over it.  Allow it to cool with the clingfilm on, so that it does not get a skin on top.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan).

Once cooled down, spoon the custard into the pastry and bake in the oven for around 25 minutes.  The tops will be golden and blister slightly and the pastry will puff up.  Allow to cool in the muffin tin before placing on a wire rack.

Quick Tiramisu Pots

What is there not to love about these gorgeous pots of tiramisu?  Great to eat at parties as they can be made well ahead of guests arriving, and these are no cook, just putting together!  This recipe makes around 3 depending on the glass or pot you use.  Just alter the amount of ingredients to the number of people you are making them for.  Decorate as you want.

tiramasu

 

  • 125g Mascarpone cheese
  • 284ml Double Cream
  • 70ml Marsala Wine (Or you could use Amaretto)
  • 3 Tbsp of Caster Sugar
  • 150ml of Boiling Water with 1 Tbsp of Instant Espresso Granules mixed together
  • Pack of Sponge Fingers (Lady Fingers)
  • Dark Chocolate – Few Chunks grated.
  • 1Tsp Cocoa Powder

Whisk the double cream and the sugar with the Marsala/Amaretto until thick.  Fold in the mascarpone cheese.  It should be the consistency of whipped double cream.  If it isn’t, just whisk for a little longer.  Set to one side.

Get your pot/whiskey glass or other tumbler ready, and then dip the lady finger sponges into the coffee, gently lift out and then make a layer in the bottom of the glass.  Then spoon a layer of the double cream over, followed by a layer of the grated chocolate.  Repeat this process a couple more times until you end up with your last layer of cream mix, where I dust over cocoa and the grated chocolate.  Place in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.