Monday, 2 May 2011

Scones....oh yes please!

As May marks the start of the British strawberry season, I thought it only appropriate to dedicate a suitably accompanying recipe.

The humble scone is a crucial part of afternoon tea, with which I am very acquainted.  Sandwiches, oatcakes with scottish smoked salmon, scones with strawberry jam and cream of course, and a selection of cakes, or sometimes petit four.

Although very early in the season to be making jam, as the fruits are perhaps not as sweet as by the time Wimbledon approaches, you may have some jam hanging around the house from last years crop.  Neither? not to worry - the supermarkets stock it all year round! hoorah!

400g self-raising flour
2tsp of baking powder
2 tbsp of golden caster sugar
80g softened butter, diced
1 egg
250ml buttermilk
Cream and Jam to serve

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 and line a large baking sheet or tray with baking parchment.

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl.  Add the sugar and stir together.  Dice the butter and add it to the flour blend.  Use your fingertips to rub the butter and flour together, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Unlike some other recipes, where this 'rubbing' technique is used, there is a low flour to butter ratio, and so you will find that the mixture is not as breadcrumby as, say, the banana loaf recipe.

Once the butter is rubbed in, make a well in the centre of the mixture.  Break the egg into the well and lightly whisk it with a fork.  Add a little of the butter milk mixture to the well and bring it together with a knife.  Add the rest of the buttermilk, a little at a time until fully incorporated.  If you have an electric mixer, with a dough hook attachment, then use this instead, pouring a little of the buttermilk in at a time, until the dough is slightly sticky and combined.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface.  Knead the dough lightly and then roll it to a thickness of 2-3cms.  Using a cutted, I like to use a fluted round one, cut your scones from the rolled dough.  You might like to use a fun shape, like a star or heart - these can work just as well.  Place the scones onto the baking tray, brush them with a little milke - on the top only - and pop them into the oven, on the middle shelf, for 10-15 minutes, until they are golden on top and hollow to a rat-a-tat-tat on top.

Let them cool on a wire rack.  I like to serve them with jam and whipped cream.  Others prefer clotted cream, or just butter and jam.  Personally, I am a jam first and cream on top kind of a girl, but the order of assembly is entirely your own choice!


Little lemon-topped delights!

These little bundles of lemony goodness are, to all intents and purposes, a form of cupcake.  However, unlike  muffins or cupcakes, this sponge is ultra light.  This lightness is entirely down to the type of flour I use.  I don't like to pick one brand over another, but one this occasion, I must.  There is one brand (perhaps scottish) that makes a self-raising mcflour variety that is sieved to utter perfection prior to packaging.  This means, that after the one final sieve as dictated within this recipe, you will have yourself some of the most delicious sponge cakes.

This is the recipe that I use as a foundation for all sorts of cakes; Cupcakes, fairy cakes, sponge nibbles and victoria sponge.  It is very simple and it never fails.  On this occasion I am making a lemon flavour topping, however, you can replace the lemon with pretty much anything (and get some fun colours too).  Raspberry, Orange, Blueberry and Honey are excellent too!

Ingredients (makes 12)
4oz (115g) of softened butter (do not melt it, just leave it out of the fridge for a couple of hours)
4oz (115g) of golden caster sugar
2 medium free-range eggs
4oz (115g) of premium self-raising sponge flour
few drops of vanilla exract

Icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (180)

Place the softened butter in a large bowl and cream with the sugar until the mixture is smooth and consistent.

Whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract lightly, in a small bowl, and add a little and time to the butter / sugar mixture.  Beat well each time you add some egg, otherwise the mixture may curdle.  If the mixture does curdle, it is not the end of the world, be persistent and beat firmly until combined.  Once all the egg has been beaten into the mixture set the bowl to one side.

Weigh the flour into a small bowl.  Place a sieve over the large bowl (containing the sugar, egg and butter mixture) and sift the flour into the mixture, a little at a time.  Gently fold the flour into the mixture, do not mix or beat it otherwise you will knock all of the air out.

Once all of the flour is folded in, place the mixing bowl to one side and prepare your cake tray.  A cupcake tray has 12 dips in it, one of each cake.  You could purchase plain white cupcake cases for a traditional look, or perhaps polka dots, or flowers, it is up to you.  Place one case in each hole.

Get yourself a mug of cold water and two dessert spoons.  Places the spoons in the cold water, this will stop any mixture sticking to the spoons.  Use the spoons to distribute the mixture into the cupcake cases.  Return the spoons to the cold water between each use.  One good dessert spoon should be enough in each case.  Remember that the mixture will rise so do not fill to the top, and do not worry about spreading the mixture evenly in the cases, this will happen naturally in the oven.

Place the try in the top of the oven for 12-15mins, or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cupcake, comes out clean.  Leave in the tin for 5 minutes to cool slightly then place on a cooling wire rack, until completely cooled.

Whilst the cakes are in the oven you can make the topping.
Sift some icing sugar into a bowl and, a few drops at a time, add some of the lemon juice, until the mixture is glossy and slightly runny, like a syrup.

Once the cakes have cooled, spoon some of the icing sugar onto the top of each cake and smooth out as desired.  Leave the cakes in a cool place, until the icing is set.  You can also decorate, like I have, with ridiculous flowers and other silly items, as you see fit for the occasion!