Maple and Bacon Scones

This week has been a week of much baking. I was given some free plums, so I decided to make breakfast crumble. Calling it breakfast crumble makes me feel better about the fact that I am essentially eating pudding for breakfast. But if Deb does it, it’s okay. I’ve also made banana bread, and birthday brownies for my friend Catherine. Earlier this month I’d tried Peyton & Byrne’s brownie recipe, but split the chocolate, half plain, half orange-flavoured. They turned out really well, so I decided to repeat (I have forgiven P&B for fail crumpets). Nothing quite like a chocolate orange brownie. As for the banana bread, best new recipe! I never thought I’d want to make anything other than Nigel Slater’s chocolate banana bread, but a contender has appeared, and can be found here (icing an unnecessary extra – 3 of us got through a whole loaf in an evening. That’s how good it is.)

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As for the thing I’d actually planned on making this week, I’m actually kind of disappointed. From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook comes “Maple and bacon scones = not as good as I was hoping”. Nothing went wrong, they were just kind of dry (which I suppose is always a danger with a scone), and I expected them to be laced with mapley goodness, and they just weren’t. I suppose this is the interesting thing about choosing 52 recipes just because you like the sound of them – there’s a higher rate of failure/disappointment, because I’m not just sticking to the things I’m familiar with and I’ve tried and tested before. But then, it’s no fun if everything works all the time. 

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Anyway, after totally selling maple and bacon scones to you, if you’d like to make them – here’s the recipe! 

85g bacon (about 3 rashers)

4 tbsp maple syrup

190g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

55g butter

4 tbsp buttermilk

1. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan and drain it on paper towels. Pour the bacon fat into a measuring jug so you can see how much you have (should be about 2 tbsp). Freeze the fat until solid. 

2. Chop the bacon into small bits, and place in a bowl with the maple syrup. Stir and set aside. Remove bacon fat from freezer. 

3. Preheat your oven to 220C/Gas 7. Line a baking sheet. Mix the flour, raising agents and salt in a bowl and rub the bacon fat and butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the bacon/maple syrup mix and the buttermilk and blend together until evenly moistened. 

4. Knead a couple of times (as little as needed). Pat out to 2.5cm thickness, and cut into scones with a 5cm cutter. Place on baking sheet, and bake for 12-14mins until puffed and golden. 

 

Next week: Vanilla Bread! (but I reserve the right to change my mind…)

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Rosemary, Apple and Yoghurt Cake

Week 2! 

So, in case you’re wondering – the crumpet recipe I posted did work, fantastically well! The only thing to know for next time is to add more salt, and to freeze the crumpets you’re not going to eat immediately, otherwise they kind of shrivel up. But otherwise, success! 

This week I’ve started teaching myself French (after it’s been almost a decade since I stopped learning it, forgot most of what I knew, and adopted a horrendous English-sounding French accent) with the app DuoLingo, which is amazing. This has very little to do with baking, but everything to do with being a more well-rounded human being, which leads me to my next point: a New Year’s Resolution I forgot to mention! The last food-related one. Waste less. I don’t waste too much food, certainly less than the average 3.2kg a person throws away per week in the UK, but there are always times when you forget to use stuff up and then it’s mouldy and you feel bad, mostly because you’re throwing money away. So, today’s recipe was a good choice, because I had both apples and yoghurt to use up! 

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But just before we get to recipes – if you’re a fan of epic cakes, or Game of Thrones – or both…my brother made a cake of the Wall and Castle Black which you can see here

The recipe this week comes from the Italian Cookery Course by Katie Caldesi. I’ve had this book for quite a while, and I bought it because I love Italian food, and it has such lovely photos. However, I’ve barely used it – so little so, that I took the price label off before I took this photo. Sigh.

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This is a really simple cake to make, and tastes fantastic. The rosemary infuses the cake, and leaves a beautiful but subtle taste. I sliced my apples extra thin, because I don’t really like big chunks of apple, and it always makes the cake more gooey (not desirable in this case). 

250g caster sugar

250g natural yoghurt (I used half vanilla and half plain)

2 eggs

90ml oil (vegetable, sunflower, olive, whatever)

300g plain flour

3 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp chopped rosemary (it’s GOT to be fresh – I don’t think you’d ever get the same taste with dried)

2 large apples (or 3 small ones) peeled and sliced

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1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F and grease a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin.

2. Whisk the eggs, yoghurt, sugar and oil together until combined. Fold in the flour, baking powder and rosemary. Add the apples, and carefully fold in with a large metal spoon. 

3. Pour the mix into the tin, and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. 

 

Next week, maple syrup and bacon scones!

New Year’s Resolutions

So I disappeared for a while. But now it’s 2014, and new years mean new resolutions, and my food based ones are extensive. I’ve complained in the past about the quantity of cookery books I have, and the infrequency with which I actually bother to use them. This changes now. I’ve spent the afternoon sitting with a large pile of them, looking for 52 things I want to bake in the next year.

The rules:

1. One recipe a week

2. Nothing I’ve made before

SIMPLE.

Of course as soon as I started sifting through, I realised there were going to be far more than 52 things. But it’s good to have a shortlist (or a long list) from which to choose. And it will challenge me, and make me bake things like Brooklyn Blackout Cake which I’ve been looking at for…years now and thinking I should try it one day. Well, that day has now come.

I’ve also resolved to eat less meat. I’ve spent quite a lot of time recently reading about sustainability and climate change, and everything keeps telling me I should become vegan. I’m not going to lie though, I have no desire to be vegan, I like milk and bacon too much. But, as a compromise, I am buying all my meat locally, I’m thinking a lot more about where the food I buy comes from, and I’m going to try and eat vegetarian whenever I eat out. So, small steps.

Anyway, without further ado, the first recipe on my list is CRUMPETS!

My boyfriend decided it would be funny to buy me crumpet rings for Christmas. I’m still convinced he bought them because he knew he would get freshly baked crumpets, but he continues to deny it. Crumpets are one of those things that for the longest time I just assumed came out of a packet bought from the supermarket, and I had no idea how they were made, apart from probably by a machine in a factory somewhere. Then along came Peyton and Byrne’s British Baking, at which point I found out that you, yes you can make crumpets in your own home, with some crumpet rings and a frying pan! (and some ingredients of course…)

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Except, sometimes, things go wrong. And you’ve definitely followed the recipe, but it’s just not right….

My first few crumpets (cough…all) turned out more like under-done batter than crumpets. Wholeheartedly disappointed, I decided to dig out the recipe I had earlier discarded from the back of the packet the crumpet rings. Was it quite different? Yes. Yes it was. Not in ingredients perhaps, but definitely method. So I can tell you now, no, my batter was not left to rise enough, yes, it lacked bubbles and smoothness. Am I going to try again with this recipe? Yes. It’s official, Peyton and Byrne, you failed me. Spectacularly. But we shall try again, and who knows, maybe they will turn out right next time (watch this space). As a way of not wasting the remaining batter (once I realised the entire batch was going to be a total failure) I tried to use it to make pancakes. Even those didn’t work. Oh well.

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fail crumpet

So, if you want to make some crumpets, have a recipe that I think will work (although is yet to be properly tested):

250g strong white bread flour

1x 7g sachet dried fast action yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1tsp caster sugar

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100ml water

275ml milk

butter for greasing and to serve

1. Heat the water and milk together until lukewarm. Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the yeast, sugar, bicarb and salt.

2. With a large wooden spoon, mix the warm milk and water into the flour mixture, then whisk for a few minutes until a batter is formed. Place a damp tea towel over the bowl and leave in a warm place for about 1 hour, by which time the mixture should have risen and be full of bubbles.

3. Generously grease the inside of the crumpet rings and add a knob of butter into a pre-heated frying pan. Place the crumpet rings into the frying pan and add approx. 2 tbsp batter into each ring, so they’re about half full.

4. Cook on a medium to low heat for about 10 mins, until the surface has bubbled, formed holes and has dried out. Try to remove the rings (although I’m pretty sure it’s not the end of the world if you can’t) and then flip the crumpets over so the tops can brown.

5. Serve immediately with butter, or save for later for toasting.

Next week: Crumpets, vol. II and Rosemary Apple Yoghurt Cake

Black and White Cookies

Continuing on the theme of cookies…

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In November 2008 my sister and I visited America for the first time. It was an eventful trip – we visited 3 cities in 13 days, and during the time we spent in Chicago we watched the election results roll in, and saw Barack Obama’s victory speech as we stood in Grant Park.

We spent a lot of time in various Starbucks’ on our trip (we weren’t particularly adventurous when it came for searching out new places). One Starbucks visit I remember particularly, because we were travelling back to our hostel late at night after the election. We stopped to get a snack because we hadn’t eaten in hours, so I picked up some NY black and white cookies. And they were awesome. I then ate them at every opportunity I found them for the rest of our stay. When I got back, I meant to find a recipe to try and recreate, but either I forgot or I put it off thinking they’d be too fiddly to ice. And five years passed…but they’ve been in the back of my head all this time. Until now!

To say these cookies were a hit would be an understatement. For three or four days in a row I brought them to work to give to Rachel, and each day I brought them I was met with more excitement. And to be fair, well justified – they are fantastic. The batch I did made 27, which were about 4 inches in diameter. I could have easily made more, smaller ones – although I may have lost my mind trying to ice them all. I think icing black and white cookies is more of a leisurely afternoon pursuit than a rushed evening thing – I felt relieved when I’d done all the white icing, only to then realise that I still had to add chocolate to the rest of the icing, and then ice them all over again. But in the end, they were worth it. Beautifully light and cakey, they were just as I remembered them (albeit more ‘homemade’ looking – my icing skills aren’t great at best, but even worse when I’m trying to rush through 27 cookies).

Whilst I did want to take a short departure from writing about Smitten Kitchen recipes, this was the only place to go for a recipe of such importance. So you can find it here (hers look way more pretty than mine do anyway). But in the next couple of days there will be autumn fruit related recipes coming up here. In fact earlier today I found out that I could download the new Fall Baking magazine online, so I’ll be looking through that and coming up with some stuff.

Finally, pumpkin puree. Didn’t realise it was incredibly difficult to get over here, but it is. So I’ve decided to make my own instead of paying £5+ including postage to get one 15oz tin. Maybe we just don’t love pumpkin enough in the UK. Which is a huge shame.

Maple Oatmeal Cookies

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So, I’m on a bit of a cookie phase at the moment. A couple of months ago it was flapjacks, now it’s cookies. The difference being that whilst there is only one flapjack recipe for me, there are literally hundreds of cookie recipes that I want to try out. What with all my current porridge consumption, I’m also enjoying oats right now. And I think I’m starting to learn that oatmeal cookies are the best. Maybe tied with chocolate. Chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies? That’s where it’s at.

Anyway. I realised that Smitten Kitchen has been my everything of late, so I was like, “hey, why not look at one of the other bajillion cookbooks on your shelf?”. Which is when I remembered that The Outsider Tart have some incredible cookie recipes including snickerdoodles which I made for my friend Alice for her birthday, and they were super good. Know what might be better? Maple Oatmeal Cookies. Yes. Yes. I’m going to resist typing a third yes, but I think you get where I’m coming from.

My first note about this recipe is that when you’re mixing together the butter and sugar and maple syrup it smells so good that you think to yourself “don’t need to add the dry ingredients…could just eat this….” and you definitely could. Oh maple syrup! But I did soldier on and add flour and oats and sultanas, and they went in the oven and came out beautifully and delicious and…is it bad that I only want to make variations of oatmeal cookies now? I really like walnuts and pecans, and I feel like that is the only thing that this recipe was missing. The sultanas are optional – they actually suggest raisins, or any dried fruit you want, so dried cherries or cranberries, or I guess you could do apricots…apricots would be really good. It’s been ages since I had sultanas though, and somehow they just looked better than raisins, and they taste great in the cookies too.

8oz plain flour

2tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

9oz jumbo oats

8oz dried fruit (optional – chopped if required)

6oz unsalted butter, softened

60ml maple syrup

4oz granulated sugar

6oz light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, bicarb and salt. Add the oats and dried fruit (if using), mix thoroughly and set aside.

3. In a large bowl (or in an electric mixer) cream the butter, maple syrup and both sugars until well combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time until evenly incorporated. Stir in the vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear. Place 6 spoonfuls of dough on each sheet leaving 2 inches between cookies (unless you’re making a ton of smaller ones, which is what I did).

4. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to wire racks.

 

There’s also a glaze, which I didn’t make, because I didn’t think I needed it, but if you want:

6oz icing sugar

60ml maple syrup

60ml double cream

a pinch of salt

1. Whisk all the ingredients together until smooth. You may need to heat the mixture gently to help remove any lumps.

 

It’s October now, which means that I will be digging out the Fall Baking magazine that Jordi sent me two years ago now, and looking for excellent pear/apple/maple based recipes. For previous Fall Baking products, see here. It is the greatest magazine known to mankind.