Sunday, 29 March 2009

Sunday Scones

Cream Tea.

Such beautiful words. The very mention of these two words conjures up fragrant images of freshly baked warm golden scones, spread generously with luxuriously thick clotted cream and a dollop of sweet, tart strawberry jam. These and a pot of delicately flavoured earl grey tea. What more could you ask for for afternoon tea?

When I first moved to London, I've never heard of cream tea, much less tasted it. Even when I was in charming Bath, where tea rooms were plenty, the snaking queue of tourists waiting to have cream tea at the famous Pump Room meant it was no longer going to be afternoon by the time I sit down for afternoon tea. I cannot remember (Why?!) where I first experienced the joy of biting through crispy crust into scrumptious soft centre of a scone, but I can tell you, I never looked back since.

I have been making scones from Sophie Conran's recipe for a while now. The original is for choc scones and fruit scones, but since I have so much wholemeal flour left and this is meant to be a blog for more wholesome bakes, I have adapted her recipes for...tadaaaa!...these deliciously sweet date and walnut scones. Dates and walnuts are a classic combination and I am really pleased they've worked for scones.

Here's the recipe:

Date and Walnut Healthy-ish Scones

(makes 10)
125g self raising wholemeal flour
125g self-raising white flour
50g cold butter, cut into small cubes
100g golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
50ml milk
50g dried dates (without stones), cut into small cubes
50g walnut, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 220˚C/Gas Mark 7. Rub the flour and butter together in a bowl until it's the consistency of breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, baking powder, salt, dates and walnuts. Mix in the egg and enough milk to bind and form the dough into a ball with your hands. Roll out until 2cm thick on a floured board. Using a cookie cutter or small upturned glass, cut into rounds. Place on a non-stick baking tray. Cook for 10-15mins or until slightly browned. Allow to cool.

Scones are always round. I had star-shaped scones because I had to be different. No, actually the star shaped cutter was the only one I had since it was a gift from a dear friend. I think they make quite pretty scones! I had a slight accident with the forever erratic oven again, so they are darker than they should be.

I eat them as they are, warmed. But if you like, cut into half before serving and fill with banana slices, or cream (naughty, naughty!) or just spread with margarine or jam.


Sunday, 22 March 2009

Please excuse my Fougasse.

After much anticipation, here it is. My first work of bread art. I call it, The Alien.

Having watched The Boyfriend play Left 4 Dead night after night, this looks like something a fat zombie would spit at you. It was a bit of an accident on my part of course. I couldn't slide the painstakingly worked dough onto my 'baking stone' (a scaldingly hot upturned baking tray), so I had to lift throw it into the oven, before it drooped further and sprawled itself out on the kitchen floor.

Thankfully, the next batch was much better.

The fougasse made a really nice centrepiece on the dinner table. Especially since it was Mother's Day in the UK and we were trying to impress with a homemade four-course dinner. Lovely with soup or with extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar, it was funny watching everyone dusted with flour when they were finished eating. (sorry)

I'm really pleased my first bread project has gone so well (OK, failed ciabatta from two weeks ago don't count. It was a bread mix). I went from nervous to smug as I turned a sticky blob into a smooth bouncy ball. I never expected it to be so gratifying! For someone of my calibre, it took me only half an hour of traditional kneading and folding –– 25 minutes too long. With back bent and arms aching from slapping the dough over and over again on the kitchen table, it wasn't easy work, but so worth it when warm rays of sunshine were streaming into the kitchen. I felt like an Italian mama making bread in her airy Tuscan kitchen. Just not sure I want to do this every weekend yet!

This recipe from Richard Bertinet's 'Dough'.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Healthy-ish pancakes

It is officially spring today! Perfect excuse for pancakes. Or more specifically, these wholesome wholemeal blueberry pikelets by Peter G.

Sadly, mine are a disgrace to the original, which are not just fluffy, but perfectly formed. Sigh. If only I had one of those pie makers. Or a cooking ring.

Nonetheless, they were delicious. Especially with fresh blueberries. And, I must confess, a naughty drizzle of thick maple syrup.

p.s. I know these don't exactly fall into 'baking', but I'm sure I could have popped them into the oven and they'd still be good..

Monday, 16 March 2009

It's here

I am so excited!

My bread bible has arrived! Dough, an award-winning book by Richard Bertinet, even includes a DVD so it reduces the chances of me baking bricks instead of bread.

Next project coming up this weekend: The Fougasse.

I like how it looks and sounds so chichi but is incredibly easy to make (well I say easy now.. because Richard says it's easy).

Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Fresh from the oven

After last week's first attempt at baking bread, and feeling really good about it (especially since four loaves of rosemary & olive ciabatta are more than enough for a week of homemade lunch sandwiches), I have decided to stop, umm...i mean cut down on, making indulgent, i-can-die-and-go-to-heaven sugary cakes. Instead, I'm turning bored Sundays into days that are filled with the smell of freshly baked bread and muffins that are just as good to eat as they are for putting a zesty spring in my step.

While waiting for the arrival of a newly ordered bread book, I chanced upon this recipe for cranberry and orange muffins that ooze with goodness. Mixing together seeds and berries, I felt like I was baking for birds. The end result, even with an oven that is constantly at 200 degree celsius from the turn of the knob (or whichever way you turn it), was still brilliant. I now have guilt-free breakfast muffins for work. Yay!