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

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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