Basics – Scones (Biscuits)

Devonshire Tea.

Okay. I give in. Just for the Americans among you, I’m going to refer to these as biscuits.

Scones!

Scones!

That’s only going to happen up here, mind!  For the rest of the post they will be known as scones (a word that rhymes with ‘on’, by the way). However, this mere mention at the outset will mean that some of you will find a recipe you are looking for and the rest of the readers will learn that Americans call scones, biscuits.

I don’t know why.

Anyway, these are one of the first things many of us learn to bake – or should. Try making these with your kids, they don’t take a lot of time and are a great way to fill a rainy afternoon.

Scones are also one of those wonderful recipes that lend themselves to variations, both sweet and savoury.

Learn how to make a good scone and you can whip up a batch and serve them within 30 mins of unexpected guests calling, or you can augment the recipe to create a sweet breakfast scroll or a lunch dish along the line of pizza. You could even fill your freezer with quick-bake lunch box fillers and finger food.

Once you’ve made plain scones a few times, then extend your repertoire and give these a go too:

But first, let’s start from the beginning.

Scones are a form of quick bread and may even be considered a type of pastry. They need the bare minimum of ingredients: flour, butter, milk.

They also work best if you handle them as little as possible. Do not use a rolling pin. Ever. I don’t care what you may have seen elsewhere. Just don’t.

Okay?!?!

Ahem.

Let’s just deem them delicious and get stuck in.

Preheat your oven to 230°C or 475°F.

Sift your flour, and a pinch of salt into a largish bowl.

I add a spoonful or two of sugar to my scones following a tip I was given many years ago. It helps to avoid a “floury” taste to the scones when eaten cold in the days after baking. (If any are left.) It really does seem to work, so I keep doing it.

You may, of course, use wholemeal flour if you prefer.

Sift your dry ingredients together

Sift your dry ingredients together.

Cut your butter into small pieces and then rub it into your flour.

add your shortening

Add your butter to your flour.

This stage may be done with something called a pastry blender. I’ve never been in actual physical contact with a pastry blender at any stage in my life, so I can’t tell you how to use one.

You can also use a food processor…apparently. However, this is a very simple, ancient recipe and fingertips are something one usually finds whenever one happens to be in one’s own kitchen – why create more washing up, people? Why??

Rubbing is a technique that is a little hard to describe, and I suspect I may have to make my first foray into YouTube to demonstrate it, however here goes…

Have your butter a little on the soft side, but not too close to melting. Plunge both your hands into the flour and, holding your four fingers together, rub your thumb across them as you lift them out of the flour. Aim to get pieces of butter between your thumb and fingers as you grab the flour. Repeat.

Continue rubbing the flour into the butter until there are no clearly visible pieces of butter left and the contents of your bowl resemble fine breadcrumbs.

Actually a quick questioning of Mr Google has revealed this YouTube clip. It’s not how I would demonstrate it, but it may help 😉

So, now we add our liquid. Milk works well, you may also use buttermilk, a mix of half yoghurt and half milk or all yoghurt.

In the pictures below I have done the latter.

Be aware that the measurement in the recipe is for milk. A greater quantity will be required for the buttermilk/yoghurt options.

Make a well in your dry ingredients and add 3/4 of the liquid all at once.

add your liquid

Add most of your liquid to the flour.

Now cut the liquid into your dry ingredients using a butter knife. Because my mother said so.

Actually, using a knife to mix in the liquid works a lot better than using a spoon, as it does away with any little hollows for flour to get trapped in.

If there is flour left in the bowl when the liquid has all been incorporated, then add more a tablespoon at a time until you have a bowl of dough and no loose flour.

The mixed scone dough.

The mixed scone dough.

When your dough has all come together – if you are using milk it will be a lot smoother than the dough pictured – turn it out onto a floured surface.

Prepare a surface with flour.

Prepare a surface with flour.

Save yourself a lot of drudge work and cover your work surface first with either a silicon baking sheet -as I have done in the photos -or just with a strip of baking paper. Then, when clean up time comes, you can either shake all the leftover dusting flour into the bin or throw the whole piece of paper in.

No more gluey sponges.

Moving on.

Gently shape your dough into a ball, patting it with flour where it might be sticky, and then gently flatten it with your fingertips into a rough oblong shape about an inch or so thick.

Shape and flatten your dough, using only your hands.

Shape and flatten your dough, using only your hands.

Don’t use a rolling pin, or you will knock all the air out of your dough, making it denser and  tougher.

Place a sheet of baking paper or parchment over a baking tray.

Then, using either a scone cutter or a small drinking glass dipped in some of the flour on your surface, cut the dough into rounds. Re-dip the cutter between scones.

Be as economical as you can with your cutting. Start on the side of the dough nearest to you and cut each piece as close to the last as you can. This way you minimise the need to re-form and re-roll your dough.

Any scones made with dough that has been reshaped will be less smooth than the first cutting, as you can see in the picture below.

The result of reshaped dough.

The result of reshaped dough.

Place each scone on the tray as it is cut, starting in the centre and working your way around. Think in terms of making a daisy shape. Place your scones as close together as you can. This helps them to rise instead of spreading outward.

Any leftover piece of dough that is too small to cut into a scone should be given to any small child who may be “helping” and shaped into their own special creation for baking…

Place closely together on the baking tray.

Place closely together on the baking tray.

Using a pastry brush dipped in milk (or your finger) gently brush the tops of your scones. This will encourage a nice brown finish, but is not necessary.

Bake for 15 mins, until a toothpick inserted in the centre scone comes out clean. Again, yoghurt or buttermilk mixes may take longer to cook.

Now for one of those old-fashioned tricks: Scones wrapped in clean cloth as soon as they are removed from the oven will keep soft as they cool. I have this rather groovy cloth bread basket I bought on clearance at Ikea a few years ago, but two tea towels overlapping in a cross formation should do the trick equally well.

Wrap your hot scones in a cloth to cool.

Wrap your hot scones in a cloth to cool.

Serve your scones. Another tip, don’t cut them in half or they will become doughy. Instead use your fingers and gently break them apart.

And serve..

And serve..

Serve with strawberry jam and whipped cream and a nice pot of Earl Grey for your classic Devonshire Tea, or you can serve them up with butter and any spread you darn well want: marmalade, vegemite, peanut butter. Knock yourself out.

Scones also freeze well and travel quite nicely in packed lunches.

Devonshire Tea.

Devonshire Tea.

Basic Scones

  • Servings: 12 scones
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2 cups self raising flour (250g)

pinch salt

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp butter (30g)

¾ cup milk (187ml)

Method

Heat oven to 230°C or 475°F.

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Cut butter into small pieces and rub into flour until mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add milk and cut in quickly and lightly with a butter knife until a moist dough is formed.

Turn onto a lightly floured board and shape into a smooth oblong about an inch thick using hands and fingertips.

Using a floured scone cutter or drinking glass, cut out scones and place close together on a prepared oven tray.

Glaze with milk.

Bake for 10-15 mins until a toothpick inserted in the centre scone comes out clean.

For soft scones, wrap in a cloth until cold.

 Variations to basic recipe:

Cheese Scones:

Add ¼ tsp mustard or a dash of Cayenne pepper to the flour before sifting. I like using a tablespoon of Old Bay Seasoning.

Add ½ a cup of grated tasty cheese before you add liquid.

Fruit Scones:

Add 2 tbsps of caster sugar to the flour before sifting.

Add 1/3 cup of dried fruit such as sultanas, currants, diced dried apricots or craisins before adding the liquid.

 

Basics – Pancakes (Drop Scones)

I heart pancakes...

Pancakes are one of those things that always seem special, no matter how they are served.

They really aren’t all that difficult to make, but may require some time on your feet and rather a lot of patience while you get your pan sorted out.

Learn how to make these and then learn to ring the changes and make a savoury version with fritters or a simple variation with sliced apple.

I heart pancakes...

I heart pancakes…

They can be made in adult-sized meal servings or as many ‘baby’ pancakes.

In Australia these baby pancakes are usually served cold and known as pikelets or even drop-scones. As a Queenslander by birth, I grew up calling them pikelets and taking them to school spread with butter and Vegemite. When my family moved to Victoria I discovered them dubbed drop-scones and served with jam and whipped cream

I must confess, I don’t make pancakes very often. They are one of those dishes that starts out a treat but can readily become too much of a good thing as your stomach starts to feel overwhelmingly full…

I’ve also had a lot of frustration with the glass cook top at my new home and had decided that they were just not going to be a thing while we live here. Then, on advice, I bought myself a little butane-powered camp stove and could suddenly fry at a reliable temperature again.

In the meantime there were many tears over many, many failed dishes.

Chocolate was eaten.

Hugs were required.

It doesn’t need to be hard though. If you have a reliable heat source and a good frying pan or skillet, you should be fine. Really truly.

Also, don’t worry about the whole flipping thing. These are pancakes and not crêpes, use a fish slice or spatula and relax.

I’ve made these so many times now that I don’t need a recipe anymore and simply mix everything together in a large Pyrex jug. You, too, can get to that level of confidence following the recipe at the bottom of this post. 😉

Print it off, laminate it and pin it to your fridge. Someone may see it and decide to spoil you with them for a special occasion some time. Ahem.

So, let’s begin.

Sift together your SR Flour, a pinch of salt and some sugar. Feel free to add a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg, but don’t feel obliged.

Sift your dry ingredients together.

Sift your dry ingredients together.

Mix together your egg and milk. You might also try using buttermilk or a mix of half yoghurt and half milk. These last two will give your batter an extra lightness.

Mix in your wet ingredients.

Mix in your wet ingredients.

Melt some butter into a hot frypan, adding a dash of oil. The oil will stop the butter from burning.

You can use oil instead, if you wish, but I find butter gives a better result.

I confess to also having a can of spray oil on hand with which to lightly coat the upper surface of the pancakes before I turn them.

Cooking them solely in spray oil is not something I would recommend. Your pan will be on the heat for a longish time and this will change the flavour and scent of the spray oil. You have been warned.

melt your frying fat.

Melt your frying fat.

When your butter starts to foam, as pictured, add dollops of batter. If you want pikelets use a dessertspoon to measure it out, if you want pancakes use a ladle.

Dollop your batter into the pan.

Dollop your batter into the pan.

Once in the pan, leave it alone. Make sure the heat is not too high or you will end up with a burned pancake. Everyone burns their first pancake. Really.

First pancake = burnt offering to the breakfast gods.

First pancake = burnt offering to the breakfast gods.

The pancake is ready to turn once small bubbles start to appear on the uppermost surface.

Bubbles will form in the batter.

Bubbles will form in the batter.

As mentioned before you may wish to give them a misting with spray oil, then flip them over. Leave for about three minutes and then remove to paper towel to drain. This won’t take long, basically you just want to absorb any cooking fat sitting on the surface to stop your pancakes from being greasy.

Drain on paper towel.

Drain on paper towel.

Serve immediately or store in one of those wonderful tortilla warmers I’ve spoken of before.

Sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar, douse with maple syrup or spread with your preferred preserves. This is yet another place to use your home-made lemon curd or dulce de leche as well.

This is a recipe that can be added to in many ways. You can try the savoury option and go for fritters (and tidy up the bits and bobs littering your fridge), or you can explore the sweet side of things.

Try adding a few choc chips if you have them, or mixing through dried fruits like sultanas or craisins.  Add these things to the dry ingredients, after sifting and before the milk and egg.

Fresh berries are fabulous additions when in season, but frozen work just as well when their seasons have passed. Again, stir into the flour before adding the liquid.

Try adding some fresh lemon or orange zest to all of the above suggestions and feel like a chef for a bit…

You may have noticed that last photo has a heart-shaped version and one with sliced apple. They’re both going to have their own posts, so stay tuned.

Pancakes

 Ingredients

1¼ cups self-raising flour (156g)

¼ tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar

1 egg

¾ – 1 cup milk or buttermilk

butter or oil for frying

Method

Sift flour, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center.

In a jug mix together the egg and most of the milk. Pour into the dry ingredients and beat together with a wooden spoon. Add remainder of milk if necessary. You are aiming for a thick batter.

The batter will also thicken upon standing.

Heat your frying pan and add butter to grease. To prevent the butter burning, add a touch of oil.

When your butter is melted drop dessertspoonsfull of mixture onto the hot pan – for drop scones or pikelets – or ¼ cup amounts for full pancakes. Try using a small ladle for measuring the batter into the pan.

When bubbles appear on the upper surface of your batter turn to cook the other side. This will take approximately 3 mins.

Remove from the pan onto paper towels to absorb any excess oil on the surface. Keep warm, or serve immediately.

May be served cooled with whipped cream and strawberry jam as a Devonshire Tea.

Hidden Treasure Muffins

Allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

So, you’ve made yourself some Dulce de Leche, or even some Lemon Curd – now what?

Make these.

Simple, tasty, made from things you’re likely to have already and hiding a sweet(er) surprise, what’s not to love about these morsels?

You now you want one.

You know you want one.

A batch or two of muffins mixed up on a Sunday afternoon and stored in an air-tight container can provide you with a week’s worth of school/work lunch treats. That can save you quite a bit of money over the medium to longer term, especially if you provide your own beverage as well.

They taste better than most mass-produced cakes (there’s a certain floury taste to things made from a premix) and you get to look mysterious when people beg you to tell them where you bought them…

Get picky. Eat only the best, and that usually means things made from scratch – it doesn’t mean things that are too difficult to make yourself. I promise.

These particular muffins make use of things you’ve already learned how to make here: dulce de leche and/or lemon curd.

Before I start to guide you through it, though, just a quiet word. Muffins are sensitive souls. They need a gentle touch – one that will let them know they are loved and then leave them alone…

In other words, don’t overmix them!

As soon as all the flour is incorporated, stop. Just stop. That is all.

Treat them gently, and you too could have a platter that looks like this.

A veritable treasure trove.

A veritable treasure trove.

If you do happen to overmix them, it simply means your muffins won’t rise as much and will be slightly denser in texture.

This is not a tragedy.

This is a reason to try again and see if you can improve your results.

Shall we begin?

Preheat your oven to Moderately Hot.

Start by sifting your Self Raising flour and baking soda together into a large mixing bowl.

Add your brown sugar, but be careful to pack it into your measuring cup first! When you tip it into the mixing bowl it will look like those sand castles you used to make with your bucket at the beach.

This is a brown sugar sandcastle.

This is a brown sugar sandcastle.

Mash it up with your spatula or wooden spoon to get rid of lumps and stir into the flour.

How are you doing so far?

Believe it or not — you’re nearly done!

Melt your butter. This can be done in a small saucepan over a low heat on the stove, or in a microwave.

I use a pyrex jug for mine and zap it at 50% for a minute and then repeat until it’s liquid. Then I stir the buttermilk into the milk.

Mix your butter and buttermilk together.

Mix your butter and buttermilk together.

If you can’t find buttermilk anywhere, then a 50/50 mix of plain yoghurt and milk will also work; alternatively add a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a cup of milk and wait 5 minutes.

Break your egg into your butter mixture and whisk well with a fork.

Then make the ever-necessary well in your flour and pour the liquid into it.

Add the wet to the dry

Add the wet to the dry

Then stir – quickly and gently. Try stirring around the outside and then slicing underneath. It’s hard to describe and I think I may need to post a video at some stage.

In the meantime…just don’t beat the life out of it.

When all the ingredients are just combined. Stop. This is not a cake batter, it will not be smooth and liquid. It will look lumpy – like this.

Stop when it is just mixed together.

Stop when it is just mixed together.

Place some muffin cases into your muffin tray. You could just grease the cups, but the paper cases make eating your snacks a much cleaner experience, means they don’t stick together when stored and also make it easier to pack them for lunches.

If you don’t own a muffin tray (I’ve had mine for nearly 20 years, add it to your list.) then use a flat baking sheet or pizza tray and place double thickness muffin cases on top and close together. You could even do this in a cake tin, if you wished.

Dollop spoonfuls of the mix into the bottom of your muffin cups. Don’t spread or smooth the batter, just leave it as it falls.

Fill the bottom of your muffin cups.

Fill the bottom of your muffin cups.

Now for the fun bit. Deploy your fillings. I used a teaspoonful of dulce de leche per muffin in this example. It’s quite sweet and I thought that would be sufficient. You may use more, of course!

I would use a tablespoon of Lemon Curd for this purpose, but it’s still up to you (and how much you have to hand!)

It helps to fill a coffee cup with boiling water and dip your metal spoon into it before dipping it into your cold filling. The heat will cut through the cold caramel and help it to slip nicely off into the cups. There is no need to dry your spoon between dunkings.

Use a cup of hot water to help spoon out your filling.

Use a cup of hot water to help spoon out your filling.

Now cover your caramel with the rest of the muffin mix.

Hide the treasure.

Hide the treasure.

Pop into your hot oven to bake for 20 mins, while you wash up ;-).

If your oven is not fan-forced, you may wish to rotate the tray at the half-way point to ensure even browning.

When done, test by inserting a toothpick or skewer into the center of the thickest muffin. If it comes out clean of raw batter, it’s cooked. Just remember you may hit caramel or lemon curd too!

Allow to cool in the tray for 10-20 mins and then move to a cake rack to cool completely. Set up a guard if you wish to keep them for lunches during the week to come…

Allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Muffins: If you tire of using your Dulce de Leche or Lemon Butter in these, and the budget permits, then try sifting a ¼cup of cocoa in with your flour and using a cup of Nutella to fill with.

You’re welcome.

 

Hidden Treasure Muffins

  • Servings: 12
  • Print

Ingredients:

2½ cups self raising flour

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (Baking Soda)

½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed

125g butter, melted

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk

2/3 cup Dulce de Leche or Lemon Curd

Method:

Grease a 12 hole muffin pan, or line with paper cases. (I find this makes transporting them a lot easier.)

Heat your oven to Moderately Hot – 200°C or 400°F.

Sift flour and bicarb into a large bowl.

Add brown sugar and break up any lumps as you stir them together.

In a pyrex measuring jug (for ease) heat your butter in a microwave for 1 minute at 50% power. Repeat until melted. (This step can be done in a small saucepan over low heat if a microwave is not available.)

Add butter milk to jug and whisk together, then add eggs. Mix liquid thoroughly.

Make a well in your flour and pour in all the liquid at once.

Fold together until just mixed. DO NOT BEAT!

Cover the bottom of your muffin cups with a tablespoon or so of the batter.

Place a spoonful or so (it is up to you how generous you wish to be…) of your caramel or lemon curd on to this and then top with the rest of the batter.

Bake on the top shelf of your oven for 20 mins, rotating the tray halfway through.

Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick or skewer through the thickest part of a muffin. If it comes out clean of batter, it’s done.

Leave to cool in the muffin tray for 20 mins or so, before removing to a cake rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

 

 

Fritters

Fritters are one of those magical things where you create a substantial meal from next to nothing.

Flour, eggs, milk and those odds and sods cluttering up your fridge + a little time = happy tummies.

My mother introduced me to the art of the fritter.

When I was a kid, they were something that popped up on the school holiday or weekend lunch menu on a regular basis – especially during the long, rainy days that were the wet season in Far North Queensland (otherwise known as the Christmas Holidays).

Frightfully frugal fritters

Frightfully frugal fritters

Easy, frugal and tasty they could be a part of your life too.

You could even put your older kids to work making them during those long, wet-season holiday breaks.

Picture a pancake. Your nice, thick fluffy pancake, not a crêpe. Then add in some of the bits and pieces. Fry. Add a dollop of your condiment of choice and Robert is your Mother’s brother.

In our home, fritters inevitably contained either corned beef or hot dogs. In your home, they can contain whatever you want. Think rustic. Chunky pieces of whatever you have to hand.

We had some leftover corned beef, so fritters came to mind due to my childhood association of the two.

In our home it was always referred to as Cane-Cutters’ Ham, because my brother and I didn’t like corned beef….ahem.

Moving on..

So, to a basic pancake batter was added a handful of tasty cheese,

Add a handful of cheese

Add a handful of cheese

a handful of diced corned beef,

Diced corned beef

Diced corned beef

Add diced corned beef

Add diced corned beef

a small can of corn

Add some frozen corn

Add some corn

and some frozen peas.

Add frozen peas

Add frozen peas

Then an egg was mixed into a jug full of buttermilk,

Whisk an egg into your liquid of choice

Whisk an egg into your liquid of choice

and it was all mixed together to form a stiff batter.

The final batter

The final batter

So what to do with what could be considered a rather intimidating-looking mix?

Introduce it in dollops of a tablespoon or so in size to a hot frying pan or skillet. Use the spoon to spread them a little, but don’t fuss too much.

Start with smallish amounts until you are sure of the temperature of your pan. If the mixture sits there and no sizzling can be heard, then your pan is too cold. If it starts to smoke and you smell burning, then it’s too hot and you may as well dispose of that particular dollop.

Add small dollops to the  hot, oiled pan

Add small dollops to the hot, oiled pan

Don’t touch them until they are ready to be turned/flipped. If you try to move them before they are ready, you’ll end up with a mess in your pan and possibly in tears.

I speak from experience.

Let them gently fry until small holes start to appear in the upper surface of the batter. Like this…

Small bubbles will appear when it's time to flip them

Small bubbles will appear when it’s time to flip them

If you possess an oil spray, you may wish to gently mist the upper surface of the fritter before you flip it. 😉

Using an egg flip/fish slice turn the fritters over and press gently on the top to flatten them a little more.

Flipped fritters

Flipped fritters

If you expose rather a large amount of uncooked batter when you press down, then don’t panic. Simply gently slide your fritter over to the edge of the fry pan with your egg slice, and hold the raw underside against the curved wall to cook it.

Push the fritters gently against the wall of the frying pan

Push the fritters gently against the wall of the frying pan

When the fritter is cooked through, you can either serve them immediately to the hungry hordes that will have gathered as the aroma of frying fritters grew (hyperbole? meh), place them on a paper-towel lined plate in a warm oven, or stow them in a tortilla warmer until they are all done.

I have a tortilla warmer I bought in Walmart for about $3 during my Texan sojourn and it’s brilliant. They now pop up in Aldi’s once or twice a year in Australia and I heartily recommend them.

Tortilla warmer

Tortilla warmer

2014-09-17 14.11.45

Fritters, still warm and ready to serve

Fritters, still warm and ready to serve

Eat with your fingers and serve with a dipping sauce of some kind: ketchup, tomato sauce, mayonnaise, sweet chilli sauce, whatever.

These are also great cold as a packed lunch/snack for school or long trips. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.

Enjoy!

Fritters

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

1½ cups self-raising flour

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

Seasoning of your choice: pepper, chilli flakes, mixed herbs, mustard powder etc or nothing at all.

1 egg

¾ -1 cup milk (Buttermilk or Natural or Greek yoghurt can also be used for a lighter fluffier batter)

Your choice of meat: leftover roast meat, rotisserie chicken, hot dogs (try continental frankfurters for a treat), bacon, spam or even hard tofu and vegetables: peas, corn, onions, capsicums (peppers) mushrooms, grated carrots, celery,  zucchini etc., cut into small dice. Three options should be sufficient, aim for a handful of each.

grated cheese, if desired.

oil for the pan

Method:

Sift flour, sugar and salt into a medium-sized bowl.

If you wish to add herbs or spices, do so now.

Stir in your cheese, meat and veges individually. You will want each piece added to be coated in flour so that they will stick to the mixture.

In another bowl or jug measure your milk, starting with the smaller amount. Add the egg and beat well with a fork.

Make a well in your dry ingredients and add the liquid.

Mix together with a wooden spoon or wide spatula until all ingredients are combined. Add more milk if necessary.

This will form a firm batter.

Heat a frying pan or skillet over medium heat, oiling lightly.

Add batter to pan in spoonfuls, turn only when small holes or bubbles appear in the surface.

Cook for approximately 3 more minutes.

Serve with a sauce of your choice.