May 2020 – Recipes (Scones, Cheese Scones, Canelés, Lemon Drizzle Cake With Edible Flowers, Runebergintorttu)
I should probably call this the Great Lockdown Bakeoff (or something). I’m sure it’s a pretty common theme (certainly it would seem to be if you look at how damn hard it has been to lay hands on flour, yeast, eggs or icing sugar at various times during the Covid-19 lockdown. Whether it’s just a UK thing or not, I can’t say, but having found a number of sources for dried goods and for that matter eggs, I’ve been going off on experimental baking sessions ever since March 16th when I was ordered to work from home for the foreseeable future. A week before it all kicked off I had stocked up on bread mixes so the first thing after the great banana bread production line and the lemon, blueberry and almond cake were a number of loaves of bread at a stage when there didn’t seem to be any available in the shops.
There were a couple of ciabattas that got a tad too burned on the top and a linseed loaf that didn’t. As soon as the local baker’s shop reopened, and I’d found a source of flour (a company called Wellocks, which supplies restaurants during normal times, but which now does “Wellocks at Home” as well, delivering fruit, vegetables and a number of essentials to your door in certain areas, while donating a portion of their profits to one of the charities set up to support the hospitality industry) I was on to try other things. Over the years my stunning inability to make scones has been a source of some surprise, because I’m a very competent cook normally, but they never, ever come out right. They don’t rise, they are solid as a rock and while Lynne loyally eat them, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t enjoy them as much as I would hope. So, back to the drawing board… Anyone who knows me as a cook will know I’ve a tendency to resort to Felicity Cloake’s splendid “How to make the perfect…” series in The Guardian newspaper and website. The deal is she does a barrelload of reseach, finds the most likely recipes from chefs she trusts,and the experiments to create the ultimate version of the recipe. Surely she would have done scones? Well, yes, she has, and cheese scones too. I decided not to get clever on my first attempt to solve the issue so I stuck to the plain scones recipe. She recommends “00” flour, and part butter, part lard. Also, do not under any circumstances roll the dough, just press it flat by hand. I did exactly as I was told, and lo-and-behold I had scones that rose, that were soft and crumbly in the middle, and that made the ideal base for jam and clotted cream (or clotted cream and jam depending on your stance on such things!)
Time: 30 minutes
- 350g superfine “00” flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
- 1 heaped teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 2 heaped teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 50g chilled butter, plus extra to grease
- 50g chilled lard
- 130mls full fat milk, plus 1 tablespoon to glaze
- Preheat the oven to 210C. Grease two baking trays.
- Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Rub the fats into the flour mix, working as quickly and lighty as possible with cold hands.
- Add the milk and stir the mix together to give a soft, bread-like dough. On a floured board, very gently roll or press the dough to a thickness of 2.5cm and cut into rounds with a 7cm cutter being careful not to twist the cutter.
- Place on the prepared trays, brush with milk and bake for 15 minutes until lightly golden and well risen. Remove from the oven and lift on to a wire rack to cool. Eat as soon as possible (you will have no trouble with this stage let me tell you!).
Did they work? They most certainly did!
You can adjust the recipe to get a sweeter scone by adding 25g of caster sugar to the dough. Leave everything else as it is. The results, a week later, came out just as good, proving that the first attempt was not a fluke.
Just for good measure I also made the cheese scones that Felicity describes. We had some leftover cheese and Lynne had expressed a wish for me to try cheese scones. So cheese scones it was.
Time: 35 minutes
- 450g plain flour (I swapped it for the super-fine “00” flour again and would recommend you do the same)
- 6 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp English mustard powder (optional)
- 100g cold butter (again, I used 50g butter, 50g lard)
- 250g strong hard cheese like mature red leicester or cheddar
- 2 tbsp finely chopped chives (optional)
- 120ml cold milk
- 120ml cold water
- 1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk
- Heat the oven to 220C. Put the flour, baking powder, salt and mustard powder into a large mixing bowl and whisk together until smooth and well combined.
- Grate in the butter (butter and lard), then rub it in with your fingertips until it looks like wet sand.
- Finely grate in 225g cheese, add the chives, and then stir to combine. Mix in the milk and water until the dough just comes away from the edge of the bowl; don’t handle it any more than is necessary. Tip on to a very lightly floured surface and flatten into a rectangle about 2.5cm high. Cut out with a fluted cutter (about 6cm wide for 12 scones), reshaping as necessary while handling the dough as little as possible.
- Put on a baking tray and brush the egg and milk mixture. Grate the remaining cheese over the top and bake for about 12 minutes until golden. Allow to cool slightly on a rack before splitting open.
These too worked like a dream. I can probably never make them quite the same a second time, because I used a load of leftover cheese, three different types. As you can see, they looked very tempting.
I was so impressed by the success of these two recipes that I promptly bought the book (Completely Perfect, 120 Essential Recipes for Every Cook) and would recommend you all do the same. It’s been very successful for tartiflette, and for cauliflower cheese so far, so it’s more than paid its dues.
Anyway having finally, at the age of 61, conquered the mighty scone, what next? Well, when we were in Bordeaux in 2018 we discovered the town’s signature bake, the canelé, described by Wikipedia as “a small French pastry flavored with rum and vanilla with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust. It takes the shape of a small, striated cylinder up to five centimeters in height with a depression at the top. A specialty of the Bordeaux region of France, today it is widely available in pâtisseries in France and abroad.” In a fit of what might then have been over-enthusiasm I bought half a dozen of the moulds (striated or otherwise), because they were tiny and pretty and I figured I’d give making my own a go. Two tear’s later that opportunity had come.
I wasn’t sure it was going to be that simple, but I gathered the ingredients together and had a go, using a recipe from the Great British Chefs website, ironically written by a Frenchman, Pascal Aussignac, who is the man behind a restaurant group I like very much in London, the Gascon Connection. It looked easy enough. What could possibly go wrong?
Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- 1 vanilla pod
- 500ml of whole milk
- 50g of butter
- 4 eggs
- 250g of icing sugar
- 4 tbsp of dark rum
- 100g of plain flour, sifted
- butter for greasing, softened
- Split the vanilla pod sideways and scrape the seeds free of the pod. Scald the milk with the vanilla pod and seeds. Mix in the butter, stirring all the time until it melts. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Separate 2 of the eggs. In a bowl, beat 2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks, the icing sugar, rum and flour to a thick batter. Strain the buttery milk onto the batter and beat together until smooth. Chill in the fridge for an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
- Brush the insides of the moulds or tray with the softened butter and pour in the chilled mixture almost to the top.
- Bake the canelés for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 190°C/gas mark 5. Bake for another 30 minutes or until the cakes are crisp on the outside. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before turning them out and serving.
I didn’t have enough moulds so I improvised with some bigger tins that I hoped would work. These were not wholly successful, and the mixture oozed and the stuck. I got one out easily, but the other three really weren’t pretty. The ones in the proper moulds, though, were another matter and slipped happily from their moulds, and were demolished in less than 24 hours with a coffee or two. I was sufficiently impressed that I bought some more moulds so I can practice.
Finding myself with several lemons excess to requirements again, I moved on to make a lemon drizzle cake. I particularly likes the recipe I found for this on the Great British Chef’s site as well, this one by Karen Burns-Booth. Ok, I didn’t have any edible flowers handy, so I used small gold cake decoration balls instead, but it still tasted good and it disappeared very quickly.
Lemon Drizzle Cake With Edible Flowers
- 225g of unsalted butter, softened
- 225g of self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 225g of caster sugar
- 2 lemons, large, zested, juice saved for drizzle
- 4 large eggs
- 1 dash of milk, for mixing
- 175g of caster sugar
- Edible flowers
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 450g (1lb) loaf tin with a piece of baking paper and some softened butter, or cake release spray.
- Place all of the cake ingredients, except the milk, into a large mixing bowl and beat with a hand-held mixer, or use a food mixer. Beat for 2 minutes, then add some milk to give a soft dropping consistency.
- Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown.
- Allow the cake to cool in the tin for a few minutes and then gently turn it out onto a wire rack with a plate underneath it.
- Make the drizzle topping by mixing the sugar and reserved lemon juice together to make a runny, thick syrup, then spoon the mixture over the warm cake. Any drizzle that falls onto the plate can be spooned back on to the cake.
- Arrange the flowers on top of the cake whilst the drizzle is warm – as it cools and hardens, it will act as a glue for the flowers and they won’t fall off. Allow to cool completely before cutting into slices and serving with tea or coffee.
The final experiment of week was a Runeberg cake, a speciality from Finland. They are a cylindrical cake (another one) and are named for the man regarded as the national poet of Finland, Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877). Every year on and around his birthday, 5th February, these cakes are sold all over Finland and are hugely popular. It wasn’t February. I wasn’t in Finland but I was going to do them anyway, especially as I now had the larger canelé moulds which would do nicely for these as well. I was especially keen to give them a try because we had them in 2016 during our Finnish road trip, sitting in a shady courtyard café in Porvoo.
Digging around for a recipe, I should probably not have been surprised to find one on by Bronte Aurell, who owns the very fine (and very funny if you subscribe to their newsletter) Scandikitchen shop and café website. It looked pretty simple so I set to.
Runebergintorttu – Runeberg Cakes
- 125 g softened butter
- 80 g caster sugar
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 50 g ground almond
- 100 g plain flour
- 50 g Leksands crispbread finely ground, or other dry breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp vanilla sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 100 ml cream (I used double because I had some leftover)
- 50 ml water or orange juice
Topping and filling:
- Raspberry jam 1 tsp per cake
- Icing sugar
- Amaretto (optional)
- Baking tin: Cylinder 5 cm x 5 cm holes or similar sized muffin or other shapes.
- Turn the oven to 180C.
- Whisk the butter and sugar until fluffy, the add the egg and egg yolk and mix again until completely combined.
- In a bowl, add dry ingredients except the crispbread breadcrumbs – and then sift into the egg mixture – add the breadcrumbs and cream and fold again until smooth. Add 50ml of juice or water and mix – the mixture will still be quite thick.
- Lightly butter the cylinder baking tins and then fill just over half with mixture. If you use tins with holes around 5cm x 5cm, you will get 8 cakes from this batch.
Bake for around 12-15 minutes or until done – the little cakes will rise quite a bit during baking.
- Remove from the oven. Brush the most level ends of the cakes with a bit of Amaretto, for extra flavour.
- Level out any wonkiness so the cakes can stand. Cut a hole in the middle to fit approx. 1 tsp jam into each.
- Mix the icing sugar with a bit of hot water until you have a thick paste. Put it into a plastic bag and snip off the corner and pipe a line around the jam. Leave to dry.
I used to believe I wasn’t very good at baking. It’s a pleasure to find I’m actually not bad at all.