Baking

Without Words: Almond Biscotti

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Baking

Foolproof Cheese Scones

This weekend has been delightful, hanging out with my mum and my sister over the Easter weekend. We went for a walk in a local wood, and discovered a whole hillside covered in wild garlic. Being me, I had to pick some!

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Oh my days, is wild garlic smelly! It stunk out the car on the way home, so much so that we decided I should keep it outside (in a little makeshift vase) until I worked out what I’d cook with it.

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Having browsed the internet, I decided to make wild garlic cheese scones. Cooking them made the whole house (and even outside the house) smell overwhelmingly of garlic! It’s fair to say that the results weren’t really edible; all but three were thrown away. But it did make me want to blog my usual cheese scone recipe.

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Don’t make these!! But do make my foolproof normal cheese scones…

My cheese scone recipe was originally a recipe we discovered in my Mum’s university alumni magazine, but as I’ve honed my scone-making skills over the years, I’ve tweaked and adapted it. When you don’t add wild-garlic, they really are foolproof! And delicious.

Foolproof Cheese Scones

Ingredients:

8 oz / 225g self-raising flour
Pinch salt
2 oz / 55g softened butter or margarine
1 egg
1 tsp English mustard
7 oz / 200g mature cheddar – the more mature the better!
2.5 fl oz / 75ml milk

The recipe:

Pre-heat your oven to 200 ºC, 180 ºC fan, Gas Mark 6.

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, and add the butter/margarine.

If you forget to take the butter out of the fridge to soften, like I usually do, just cut it up into small blocks with a sharp knife. This will help with the rubbing in process. 

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Rub the fat into the dry ingredients so that it looks somewhat like fine breadcrumbs.

Grate the cheddar and mix it into the ‘breadcrumbs’. You will want to keep some of it back for the top of the scones.

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Add the mustard to the egg and beat together. Make a well in the centre of the cheesy breadcrumbs and pour in the egg mixture.

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Mix the ingredients together with a knife – you don’t want to overwork the dough as it can become tough – and add the milk a splash at a time, until the mixture comes together as a dough. The amount of milk you need will vary depending on the size of your egg.

Use your hands to bring the dough together, but don’t over-do it.

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This dough is actually very slightly wet. I probably should have added a shake of flour to it before trying to roll it out.

Roll out the dough to your preferred thickness. Since I like a short squat scone, I go for about an inch, but if you like a tall one, go for a couple of inches high.

Cut out your shapes with a fluted cutter, or if you don’t have one, just shape into a rough circle and cut into triangles. Place the scones on a greased baking sheet.

A non-stick baking sheet is best; it’s sad to lose some scone to the bottom of the pan. If you do not have a non-stick option, consider using baking paper to line whatever it is you’re using. 

Brush the tops of the scones with milk and sprinkle with the left-over cheddar.

Bake the scones in the middle of the oven for 15-25 minutes, until they are beautifully golden. The time required will depend on your oven and the thickness of your scone, but don’t worry about opening up the oven to take a look, it won’t affect how the scones come out.

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These beauties are actually from a couple of years ago. Part of me wishes I’d made these yesterday, instead of the ones that were thrown away, but life is meant to be an adventure!

And finally, make sure you let the scones cool completely before you eat them. They will smell amazing, but a warm cheese scone really isn’t very nice at all.

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Baking

Rye Bread & Tupperware

On Monday, I made rye sourdough bread.

I seem to have developed a Monday baking pattern, which is working well. But knowing me, I’ll need to mix it up soon, or I’ll get bored! Perhaps I’ll put my starter in the fridge for a few weeks.

This time, I went for roughly half and half white bread flour and rye flour, as most recipes seem to mix two flours rather than go for 100% rye. In my case, 300g of each flour, plus the white flour in my overnight fermenting starter. And I added a couple of teaspoons of honey to get the yeast going – apparently molasses is often used in rye bread, but I didn’t have that.

Since rye apparently doesn’t rise very well at all because of its lack of gluten, I went with a wet dough, a folding technique (rather than kneading), and I let the dough rise in the heavy-bottomed, metal saucepan I’d be baking it in so that I wouldn’t accidentally knock the air out of it when I moved it.

I also sprinkled the dough with poppy seeds before its rise in the pan, and I forgot to slash it before baking. Is the slashing just to make it pretty?

It came out terrifyingly round:

After all of that effort, I discovered that I’m not really a fan of rye bread or poppy seeds. Haha! Never mind. I managed to pull off a difficult loaf, and it is edible as toast. Although, I’m not sure my gut likes it!

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Anyone want the rest of my bag of rye flour?

In other kitchen news, I finally got round to sorting out the chaos in the Tupperware drawer. So satisfying.

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Huzzah for no more rummaging. And, oh look! My toes. 😄

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cooking

Food I made last week

Here are some things I made last week that didn’t quite make the cut of having their own blog post.

Cheese and chive bubble & squeak: These were so tasty! And they did make it onto Facebook, if not onto here…

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Spiced carrot and tomato soup: Made with vegetable stock created from the odds and ends of vegetables sitting  in the bottom of the fridge – leek ends, floppy celery, old cherry tomatoes! Eaten in the sunshine:

Biscotti: Made according to a recipe that I cobbled together from reading various recipes and articles. I made half traditional almond (so yummy!), and half Chinese five spice. I really wasn’t sure about the Chinese five spice – too fennel-y for my tastes – but my housemate really liked them dipped in tea. I’m thinking I might do a biscotti feature properly in the future. We shall see!

Teriyaki salmon parcel: This was loosely inspired by a BBC Good Food recipe but it definitely needs work. The shredded cabbage cooked perfectly, but the broccoli was a bit too crisp even for me. And the sauce I made wasn’t great. I do think I’ll try again; it does feel like the concept has promise.

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Cheese and tomato quiche: This is the first full-sized quiche that I’ve made; I’ve always been a mini-quiche kind of girl. 😃 I went for blind baking the pastry, smearing on some tomato purée, and then adding a mixture of eggs, milk, salt & pepper, tomato, fried red onion, cheddar cheese and chives. The only problem was that I over-cooked it, which meant the pastry on the edges was dark and brittle, and the quiche’s texture wasn’t quite right. I still took it to my friend’s Sugar Free-themed birthday party – it was too late to make anything else! – and it all seemed to get eaten.

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Soy and honey marinated stir-fry steak: This is a recipe I made up a few weeks ago, and I’m still tweaking it. Currently, I cut the steak in strips against the grain of the meat (so that it’s easy to chew). Then, I marinate the steak pieces in corn flour, light soy sauce, a little honey, and lots of black pepper, for just half an hour at room temperature. Next, I chop up my vegetables, blanch them quickly (this time I didn’t do it quickly enough!), and keep them ready in cold water. The cold water stops them over softening, at least in theory. Once the meat’s done marinating, I fry the steak in a hot pan until just browned, before adding the veg for a couple of minutes.

I definitely sprinkled too many spring onions on top this time. I could taste them until bedtime! But the sesame seeds added some visual interest. 😊

So that’s what I’ve been up to. What have you guys been cooking this week? I’m always ready to be inspired.

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Baking

Freshly baked bread

You know how they tell you that the smell of freshly baked bread makes people more likely to buy a house? Well, I don’t know if that’s true, but oh my days, the smell of my second sourdough loaf was incredible. I kept coming back and smelling it again!

This particular loaf was made in the following way:

1 tablespoon of bubbly starter in 2oz strong white flour mixed with 2oz water, left to ferment overnight in a bowl covered with clingfilm.

In the morning, mix it with another 5oz of water until it is dissolved.

Half way through, realise you might wake your housemate up because it’s only 6:30am and you’re a bit keen!

Weigh out 200g (yes, I know that’s inconsistent!) of wholemeal plain flour, and 400g (I think) of strong white flour.

Mix the water/starter mix with the flour to make a dough. Then realise you don’t have enough water, and add some more until it just comes together to make a dough!

Leave to autolyse (i.e. absorb the water) for 1.5 hours.

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Knead the dough by hand for ten minutes and then shape into a ball. (It’s worth Googling how to do this properly, you want to create surface tension.)

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Put into a big, lightly-oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave to rise for 8 – 9 hours, moving it half-way through to a sunny spot on the window sill because it doesn’t seem to be rising very well.

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Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 9. – Every time I bake bread, this sounds ridiculously hot! – And put a thick-bottomed metal casserole dish into the oven to pre-heat.

Wander round trying to find the craft knife you used to score the top of the bread last time, give up and use a knife to score it. This didn’t work. You really need a super sharp knife.

Once the oven has heated up, attempt to move ball from the bowl into the casserole dish using a metal spatula and your hands. Accidentally deflate one of the sides.

Note to self: next time, try allowing the dough to rise in the casserole dish and see whether this affects the cooking. 

Cook for 20 minutes with the lid on (so the trapped steam makes the crust crisp), and another 20 minutes with the lid off.

Take it out, tap on the bottom to see if it is cooked. It should sound hollow. Stand there knocking on it, not convinced whether it does sound hollow or not, and put it back in the oven for five minutes, just in case!

Cool on a rack, and keep coming back to smell it.

sourdough bread

By the time the loaf had cooled, I had eaten my dinner and didn’t have room to eat any bread. So some time later, I had a couple of slices as belated desert!

Sadly, the natural light had gone by then, so this picture isn’t great:

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As you can see, the ‘crumb’ (i.e. the texture) is different to the last loaf I made; more like conventional bread. I think that it was probably caused by a combination of using a different technique (the previous recipe was fold rather than knead); a much dryer dough this time; a lower protein percentage (plain flour has less protein than strong flour), and the use of a percentage of wholemeal flour.

The verdict?

It tasted really good! I love a wholemeal loaf, generally. But all my previous attempts (prior to sourdough) were a bit disappointing – just a bit tasteless. The sourdough really lifts the flavour – it’s like a whole different product. Delicious.

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Musings

Good Things

“I suppose the best kind of spring morning is the best weather God has to offer.” – I Capture the Castle

Hello lovely blog-friends,

I write this two you from my back garden! It is finally spring, and I am making the most of it.

Yes, it’s a bit chilly round my ankles, which are currently in the shade, and there’s a breeze making brief appearances every few minutes, but it is so worth it! Sunshine makes life so much better! I’m sure this is true for pretty much everyone, but sunshine makes me happy. 😊

In fact so much so, that spontaneously – without plan or self-coercion – I went for a run this morning! The first of 2017, as I never did buy myself any winter running clothes. And it was so flipping beautiful out there.

My route is a quiet one; it takes me round the posher part of where I live and the gardens are full of beautiful trees. And I noticed today, that in particular, there are dozens of magnolia trees! – Magnolias are a particular love of mine, with their big silly blossoms that look too big for the trees. We used to have one in our back garden when I was little, and seeing one fills me up with happy nostalgia every time.

On the way back round, I quickly stopped to snap this:

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I’m intentionally trying to fill my life with more spontaneity of late, because I’ve found that spontaneity = happy. So Note to Self: I mustn’t make the mistake thinking tomorrow, ‘a run made me happy yesterday, it will again today.’ … ‘That’s a good plan,‘ often isn’t a great place to start for me. At least not all the time. My little brain need more adventure than that.

Spontaneous cooking is obviously a big part of that for me!

And talking of which, I just ate a little homemade pikelet with jam, which was most definitely a happy thing. I made it earlier today when I fed my (still nameless) sourdough starter and couldn’t bear the thought of throwing away yet more left over ‘discard’ starter. Using things up is also always a joyful thing for me.

They were my first ever pikelets, I might tweak them if I try them again. But they were still pretty awesome.

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I’m also very much looking forward to using up the left-over mashed potato and peas in the fridge for lunch. I’m thinking some kind of bubble and squeak type thing. I’m fairly certain I’ve got an end of a cabbage sitting at the back of the fridge, if not, I definitely have a leek.

I’ve never actually made bubble and squeak before either, but my gut says it’s going to be delicious. Ooooh perhaps I might add cheese.

Meanwhile, there is also my second sourdough loaf on the go – this one is part wholemeal and part white flour, as that’s what I had to use up in the cupboard. I’ve gone for a less wet dough, based on a recipe sent to me by a friend. It’ll be interesting to see how differently it behaves.

Currently, the dough is currently sitting in its bowl undergoing its first rise, so I’ve got a way to go yet! And I think I might have been wrong to shape it into a ball on the first rise. But we shall see. – I like to think that all my bread-mistakes make me a better baker!

I’m totally not going to try the floured tea towels of last week to line the bowl for the second rise. An oiled bowl is much more foolproof!

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Birdsong, sunshine, washing on the line – how idyllic. I don’t want it to end! I should probably go and put some sun cream on though. I can feel one side of my face burning.

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Baking

Without Words: Leek & Brie Tart

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101 Veggie Dishes: Tried and Tested Recipes
(BBC Good Food Magazine)
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