jump to navigation

Scones 4 February 2012

Posted by cath in cakes and treats, comfort food, easy, Recipes, variations.
add a comment

Quick and easy, the secret seems to be: don’t try too hard! Instead of rolling the dough, just pat down with cool hands. Also, don’t cut them too thin, 2 cm or a bit thicker is best.

Here’s the full recipe, makes 8 or 9 small scones (6 cm size cutter):

250g self-raising flour
Pinch salt
1 level tsp baking powder
25g caster sugar
50g butter, fridge cold
125ml full fat milk
1 large egg, beaten

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degC, grease a baking sheet.

Sieve the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Cut the cold butter into cubes and either rub in by hand or process very quickly.

Now add the sugar and mix briefly again. Add about half the beaten egg and process again adding the milk pouring it in slowly, or do this using a knife mixing until a sticky dough is formed. In the processor, keep going until a ball is formed. You should have a splash of milk leftover. By hand a little kneading in the bowl helps, but don’t handle the dough to much and keep those hands cool!

Lightly flour a board, using s-r flour again. Don’t use too much extra flour, you won’t need it. Turn out the dough ball and quickly flatten it to about 2 cm thick, no thinner!

Cut using a 6 cm round, press down evenly and then remove the excess dough from around the first scones. You need to very quickly press the dough back into a ball and push down again. Repeat until its all cut.

Place cut scones on the baking sheet. Add any remaining milk to the beaten egg leftover, mix and brush onto the top of the scones.

Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until golden and hollow when tapped on the base.

Remove and place on a rack to cool, best served warm.

image

This makes a basic, white, plain scone, perfect for cream tea…but anything can be added before mixing to a dough, so experiment away with savory and sweet additions. My favourite has to be cheese, a strong grated cheddar is good… and although you can add as much as you want, for this quantity about 50g of cheese/ dried fruit/ nuts etc. should be about right.

I’ve been eating my scones with raspberry jam and clotted cream – yum, and perfect with a nice cup of tea. Hope you enjoy making scones of all sorts.

Advertisements

Easy Cakes > Anything Goes Fairy Cakes 4 January 2009

Posted by cath in cakes and treats, comfort food, easy, Recipes.
5 comments

Fairy Cakes

These are basic sponge cakes, and the best thing is that you can use pretty much any flavouring you like – it’s a really versatile recipe. Anyone can make these simple little cakes, they are easy and quick. The basic recipe here makes 12 cakes – but can be scaled up as required. In fact, the basic mix can also be divided and flavoured in different ways to bake a selection of cakes. You will need small paper cases to bake them in.

I use a food processor to make the mix, it’s done in a few simple steps and does not take long. They are made by the creaming method which involves beating butter and sugar together and incorporating lots of air, similarly with the eggs. Sieved self-raising flour is then added along with flavouring. Care is needed to keep the mixture light, so it rises – this is not a dense, gooey brownie!

Coffee and Walnut Fairy Cakes

Coffee and Walnut Fairy Cakes

There are some tricks to getting it right and here are my top tips:

  1. Don’t use fridge cold eggs, these tend to curdle the mixture more easily than room-temperature eggs. I also take the precaution of lightly beating the eggs with a whisk prior to adding.
  2. It’s also best to soften the butter so its a good idea to leave the butter out of the fridge as well.
  3. Pre-heat the oven, it needs to be hot, and you must put the cakes in to cook straight away, this is not a mix that can be prepared in advance (but the finished cakes will last for a few days if kept in an airtight tin).
  4. In fact beating the soft butter as a first step adds lightness to the cake mix – and is definitely worthwhile if your butter is at all cold – so if you haven’t followed tip 2 you can recover somewhat here :)
  5. Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to cream the butter and sugar, I would suggest at least 5 minutes of beating on the highest setting, if not more, depending on the type of mixer you are using. Keep scraping down the bowl to ensure even mixing
  6. Once the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, it is time to add the eggs. Add them in bit by bit (e.g. add 2 beaten eggs in at least 3 additions), beat well each time. The mixture will be come quite liquid, but will still be thick and creamy looking. For extra security against curdling the mix, you can add a teaspoon of ground almonds with each addition of egg (up to 3 teaspoons).
  7. Adding the flour and any dried ingredients (nuts, cocoa, dried fruit etc.) must be done with care, quickly and without excess mixing. I use the pulse button on the processor – add 1/3 of the flour and press for a single pulse, perhaps 2 then scrape down and add the next 1/3. Add this similarly, and continue to the last addition of flour, scraping down the sides and pulsing once or twice more to ensure the flour and other dry ingredients are mixed – but only just.
  8. The mixture should be thick, and reluctantly drop from a spoon – it shouldn’t pour or be too stiff. If it falls, it is too thin and you should add a tablespoon more sieved flour to stiffen it. Or you can add a teaspoon of milk to adjust the mixture to be more fluid. Try out the recipes suggested here first and get used to the consistency of the mixture first, then experiment with your own flavours. Be careful making these additions – don’t over mix the cake now, it will reduce the air incorporates so far. Also be measured in your additions, cakes require careful balance of quantities – you won’t need to adjust these quantities much for different mixtures.
  9. When you’re done, quickly spoon the mixture into paper cases – you want to roughly half-fill them, 1 rounded tablespoon is roughly enough. Bake them straight away, in a fairly hot oven (180 deg C in a fan oven) for 12-15 minutes. Don’t take them out too early, or the sponge will not have fixed, and they may sink again. However, after 12 minutes you can safely test the middle of a cake with a skewer – it should come out clean, if not, return for 2-3 minutes and try again. Of course, if you use bigger paper cases, or overfill them, the cakes will take longer to cook.
  10. Remove the cakes from the tin straight away and leave to cool completely in their paper cases on a wire rack. You will see some condensation under the cases as you remove them from the tin – if you don’t remove them to cool on a rack, they will sweat and the cases and cakes will get damp and soggy – so don’t forget this step!

Flavouring

Now for the variety of flavouring you can add. There are basically three types of flavourings that can be added. Using liquid flavourings such as coffee, vanilla extract etc. demands a little more flour in the recipe to keep the mixture together. Adding dry, powdery ingredients such as cocoa powder, grated chocolate, drinking chocolate or ground nuts requires that the flour content be reduced by the equivalent weight. Chopped nuts, dried fruit etc. are easily added as an extra, without need to adjust the main quantities.

So with minimal tweaks the basic mixture can be combined to make any combination of flavours. Add icing for a sweet treat or keep them plain for a healthier snack.

The Recipe

Here are two versions of the basic recipe – this one uses added dry cocoa, and thus slightly less flour.

Cocoa Fairy Cakes

Ingredients

125 g softened butter

125 g caster sugar

2 large eggs

some ground almonds (3 tsp max)

110 g self-raising flour

1 small pinch table salt

15 g cocoa powder – I’ve been experimenting with using finely grated Venezuelan Black 100% cocoa bar (http://williescacao.com/) but you can use any good cocoa powder.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C (Fan oven).

2. Beat the butter well until smooth, then add the caster sugar and beat until the mixture lightens and gets fluffy (5-10 minutes).

3. Lightly beat the 2 eggs together then add a bit at a time to the mixture, beating well between additions and adding 1 or 2 tsp of ground almonds with the egg (see tip 6 above).

4. Sieve the flour and cocoa together with the salt. Add 1/3 at a time to the mixture and fold in (pulse in 2 or 3 short bursts) until everything is combined.

5. The mixture should drop slowly from a spoon, divide the mixture into the 12 paper cases in a patty tin.

6. Bake in the oven immediately, for 12-15 minutes. Check they are done using a skewer, which should come out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Use this basic recipe if you want to add dry flavourings to your cakes, or try this one which uses coffee and vanilla extract as liquids for flavouring, and thus slightly more flour. This one also contains chopped walnuts.

Coffee, Walnut and Vanilla Fairy Cakes

Ingredients

125 g softened butter

125 g caster sugar

2 large eggs

some ground almonds (4 tsp approx.)

140 g self-raising flour

1 small pinch table salt

4 tsp strong made coffee

2 tsp vanilla extract

70g chopped walnuts – reserve some for decorating.

Method

1. Follow the directions 1-3 above.

2. Add the coffee and vanilla extracts along with a teaspoon or 2 of ground almonds. Beat together.

3. Sieve the flour with the salt. Add 1/3 at a time to the mixture and fold in (pulse in 2 or 3 short bursts) until everything is combined.

4. Quickly mix in the walnuts using a few pulses.

5. The mixture should drop slowly from a spoon, add another spoon of coffee or vanilla if required to loosen it.

6. Divide the mixture into the 12 paper cases in a patty tin and bake in the oven immediately, for 12-15 minutes. When done, turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Use this basic recipe if you want to add liquid flavourings to your cakes.

Finishing Touches

For a sweet treat, icing the top of the cakes is easy to make. Try these basic quantities and adapt the flavours to suit your cakes.

Chocolate Icing

120g icing sugar

60 g softened butter

2 tbsp cocoa powder

Beat together all the ingredients until light and fluffy. If you use a processor, the mixture may first turn into a large ball, but persistent beating will smooth the mix into a spreadable topping. Add 1-2 tsp of strong made coffee, or milk, to loosen the mixture to an easier spreadable consistency (if required). Decorate with a sprinkle of cocoa powder or icing sugar.

Cappuccino Icing

4 tsp strong made coffee

1 tsp vanilla extract

120g icing sugar

60 g softened butter

2 tbsp finely grated chocolate or cocoa

Beat all the ingredients together into a soft, fluffy, spreadable icing. Decorate with chopped nuts, flaked almonds or grated chocolate.

Other toppings to try:

Melted chocolate – 55g cooking chocolate, broken into chunks, melted then spread on the cakes and left to solidify.

Chocolate and hazelnut spread makes a quick and easy topping.

Simpler water icing (100 g icing sugar plus a few drops of water at a time added and mixed well – be careful not to make the icing to thin, it will run! You can always add more icing sugar to thicken it again).

Many, many more…

So, experiment with your favourite flavours in small cake form – and let us know what combinations you like best!

Print the basic fairycakes recipe (opens pdf).

Cakes and Treats > The Best Chocolate Brownies 14 March 2008

Posted by cath in cakes and treats, comfort food, desserts, easy, Recipes, specials.
7 comments

This is the ultimate in easy, comfort food. A treat with a cup of tea, or a delicious dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or cream. My brownie recipe has been a long search. I’ve done much researching of many different ideas and recipes. A lot of trials, tests and tweaks later, its a very good thing for my belly (and that of my chief tasters) that the quest is over, and perfection has been reached!

 

Chocolate and Walnut Brownie

Chocolate Brownie

Now, here are the three things that I’ve discovered are the key to making the perfect brownie:

1. Undercooking!

Don’t be tempted to cook the brownie mix as you would a normal cake. Test it with a knife and the middle should still be quite wet. The trick is to also gently press the top of the cake to check that it has firmed up slightly, but still has some give. This should give the crisp top and gooey centre typical of the perfect brownie.

Be careful – it may take a few goes to get the timing perfect with an individual cooker – once you’ve got it right, remember to write it down so you know for the next time!

2. Icing Sugar (or confectioners sugar)

This definitely makes the best consistency of brownie. I have tried several combinations of sugars, from caster to muscovado. But it is fine icing sugar which definitely gives the best texture, its thanks to a recipe by Marcus Wareing (author of How to Cook the Perfect...) that I tried it.

Remember, a brownie mix is dense and fudgy, unlike cake mix that is typically beaten and aerated. Also, you don’t cook brownies for very long. So there isn’t much mixing or cooking time for the grains of other sugars to dissolve and blend properly. Go for the confectioners sugar! This recipe also adds some golden syrup helps the gooeyness along.

3. Nuts

Although they are not in all the recipes, I’m sorry, but for me a brownie is not a brownie without some walnuts (or you could use pecans). After trying a recipe by Pierre Hermé, I am also a convert to toasted walnuts. This is a very quick and simple first step and really makes a difference to the flavour, please try it! Also, as I tend to avoid scoffing all my brownies in one go, adding nuts improves the keeping time of cakes and biscuits, so I also add a few spoons of ground almonds with the flour as well to aid moistness.

OK, those are my top tips, now here is the recipe…

This makes enough to fill one round cake tin (18-20 cm wide). Which gives you at least 10-12 brownie slices, depending on greediness. I know brownies are traditionally square, but I use my favourite loose-bottom cake tin and treat it more like an un-iced cake. Also, this way every slice has some crispy outside and gooey centre – it’s the taste and texture that make these brownies the best!

(Of course, if you want square brownies, just use a square or rectangular tin. Remember to double the quantity I’ve used if you have a large rectangular tin (30×20 cm) – and you’ll also need to cook it for 5-8 minutes more.)

 

Ingredients

100g walnut quarters or pieces

150g good quality dark chocolate (I recommend Valrhona manjari, but any good quality, high cocoa content chocolate will do) – chopped/broken into similar sized pieces (aids even melting)

90g unsalted butter – diced (to help even melting)

2 tbsp golden syrup

150g icing sugar

75g plain white flour

15g ground almonds

20g cocoa powder (I recommend Divine)

2 large organic/free range eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional, try Ndali or make sure you use an extract, not a synthetic vanilla flavour)

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 130 degC (fan)
  2. Spread the walnuts on a flat baking sheet and place in the low oven for 10-15 minutes until toasted. Put the timer on, you must not burn them! (When they are ready – they will be lightly browned and mellowed in flavour, just take them out of the oven, pour onto a clean tea cloth, wrap up and bash them against the worktop to slightly crush into smaller pieces, then open up the cloth to let them cool).
  3. Whilst the walnuts are cooking, weigh out the rest of the ingredients. Place the chocolate pieces, diced butter and golden syrup together in a medium-large glass bowl. This will be the bowl you mix everything together in, so make sure it’s big enough.
  4. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. (Make sure the bowl does not touch the water, you just need a small amount in the bottom of the pan to provide some steam). Stir occasionally with a large metal spoon to melt and combine. (See my post on chocolate crispy cakes for chocolate melting tips).
  5. Whilst the chocolate mixture is melting, sieve together the icing sugar, flour, ground almonds and cocoa powder into another bowl.
  6. When the chocolate mixture is nearly smooth and melted, remove from the heat and stir until completely smooth. Then leave to cool whilst you prepare the cake tin.
  7. Grease the cake tine and then line the base and sides with baking parchment (if you are using a loose-bottomed tin then just line the bottom). Then grease the lined base and sides carefully with some extra butter.
  8. The walnuts should be done by now, once they are out of the oven, turn it up to 180 degC (fan).
  9. Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat together with the vanilla extract (if using). Just do this by hand as well, you don’t need to worry about making the mixture airy and light – you want a stodgy mix!
  10. When the chocolate mixture has cooled to room temperature (takes at least 5-10 minutes, test it if you are unsure, it can’t be hot as it will scramble the eggs – but don’t wait too long or it will be too stiff to combine with other ingredients) add the beaten eggs and stir vigorously to combine. The mixture will begin to thicken up quite quickly.
  11. Then add half of the dry ingredients and mix together vigorously until smooth, continue adding the other half, then the walnuts, beating each time until smooth. The final mixture will be thick, dark and gooey.
  12. Pour the mixture into the cake tin. If you like, you can smooth the top a little using a knife – place a metal knife in a cup of hot water until warm, remove and wipe off the water, and use to smooth the top of the mixture.
  13. Once the oven is heated up, place the brownies in for 13-15 minutes.
  14. To check they are done, the top will be dry looking and slightly cracked – carefully and gently press on the top, which should be beginning to firm but not solid. A knife inserted into the centre should come out moist. Be careful not to overcook the mixture.
  15. Leave them to cool in the tin – don’t be tempted to remove them yet! Once cool, carefully remove them from the tin – peeling off the parchment paper. Sieve the top with a little icing sugar.

Serve with cream or ice cream for a delicious dessert, or just with a cup of tea or coffee for a decadent snack.

Yum!

Brownie

The Finished Brownie Cake

 

Strawberries and more uses for that Vanilla Sugar… 29 May 2006

Posted by cath in cakes and treats, desserts, easy, fruit, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes.
add a comment

Strawberrys

Yesterday we had fresh strawberries (Scottish) from the Farmers Market, and to be extra bad we were dipping them in my home-made vanilla caster sugar.

The vanilla sugar worked really well with the strawberries…so tick another reason why you should go buy some fairtrade vanilla pods from Barts Spices or Ndali.

If you’re still buying strawberries at the supermarket – stop! These fresh strawberries from the market were much juicier and sweeter, and had a better bite to them than the imported stuff, or strawberries that have simply been travelling and kicking around too much in depots.

Summer is definately here, but the strawberry pick your own time (here in Scotland) is not quite upon us. We should be out picking our own at Lowes farm by the end of June…more about that when the time comes.

Here is another picture in the meantime…

closeup

Easy Cakes > Chocolate Crispy Cakes 28 February 2006

Posted by cath in cakes and treats, easy, Recipes.
33 comments

Cakes and TreatsChocolate Crispy Cakes

Everyone loves these cakes, but I’m posting this recipe especially for Col…these cakes take around 10 minutes to make, after about an hour in the fridge they are ready to eat!

Basic Recipe makes about 12 cakes.

Ingredients:
200g Good Quality Chocolate – this can be Dark Chocolate (min 60% cocoa solids), Milk Chocolate or White Chocolate – it should be broken into small pieces of roughly the same size.

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp golden syrup

80-90g Cornflakes (roughly)

Preparation:

  1. Place the chocolate pieces, butter and syrup in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Place the bowl on top of a saucepan of barely simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water in the pan)
    • For white chocolate and/or AGA cooks – boil an inch or so of water in a saucepan, remove it from the heat then place your heatproof bowl on top to melt the ingredients together. The heat from the water should be sufficient to melt everything.
    • Alternatively you can put the bowl in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, in short 30s bursts, stirring each time. When almost fully melted, stop heating and stir well until smooth – the heat of the bowl and mixture should help melt the last few bits of chocolate.
  3. Melt the chocolate, butter and syrup: stir until most of the chocolate is melted and smooth, then remove the bowl from the heat (take it off the saucepan!) and continue stirring until the larger chunks of chocolate are melted and the mixture is smooth.
  4. Add the cornflakes, 1 handful at a time, stiring until they are all thoroughly coated. Then add another handful and repeat until you have a good thick coating on the cereal – you may have to add more or less cornflakes depending on the amount of butter and syrup you added to the chocolate initially.
  5. Place a heaped tablespoon of mixture into each paper case (or place them all on a buttered baking sheet) and refrigerate until set.

Chocolate Crispy Cakes

Notes:
Valrhona Grand Cru Noir Manjari Gastronomie Chocolate (64% cocoa) makes luxury dark chocolate crispies.
Other cereals could be used instead of cornflakes.

To make much stickier and sweeter versions of the same cakes:

  1. To go with Dark Chocolate, add up to 50g of butter and/or 4 tablespoons of golden syrup to the chocolate and melt together.
  2. With Milk/White Chocolate add up to 25g butter and/or 1tablespoon of golden syrup to the chocolate.
  3. Experiment with other combinations: use different syrups, add dried fruit or nuts, other cereals etc.

Be careful about adding syrup and butter to the White Chocolate cakes – as white chocolate is already much sweeter and more buttery…

When using additional sugar and butter, more cornflakes are usually needed to complete the mix.

white chocolate crispy dark chocolate crispy

Chocolate Melting

Tip # 1: Be careful when melting chocolate! If the bowl is warm and most of the chocolate is melted, REMOVE FROM THE HEAT (this means taking it away from the saucepan and hot water) and continue to stir, allowing the chocolate to melt gently.

Overheating the chocolate will produce a grainy texture. It will look dry and thick rather than glossy and smooth. There is nothing much that can be done with overheated chocolate – for cooking anyway, so start again with a fresh batch.

White chocolate is much more sensitive to heat, so take extra care when melting it.

Tip #2: Microwaving chocolate – be careful not to microwave chocolate for long blasts (more than 30 seconds) as chocolate pieces appear to remain whole and unmelted, but in fact they will hold their shape until you stir them smooth and so they could easily overheat.

Tip #3: Don’t let any water come into contact with chocolate that you want to melt, the bowl and spoon must be completely dry. Don’t add any cold liquids (i.e. extra syrup) to the chocolate once it’s melted. Additions at this time will also produce a grainy texture as they will cause the chocolate to cool suddenly.

What to do with chocolate that has overheated/become grainy?

I’m just about to try some as a chocolate spread on toast…will let you know how that goes (hmm – OK but not very easy to do!). Also melting into cream can usually recover slightly overheated chocolate, but won’t help make these cakes!

You can now print this recipe from here