Raisin scones

Raisin scones are a British institution

While I’m a big fan of scones, for some reason I hadn’t made any until a few weeks ago. While on the face of it they’re very simple, after my third time of making them, I can see there’s more to them.

To me, there’s three key things to a good scone. 1) light and fluffy texture yet just a little bit crumbly, 2) that crack that appears in the middle, which leads to 3), they have to split easily when top and bottom are pulled apart.

Rather than going through what I feel like I’ve done wrong, let’s look at what I’ll do differently next time.

  • Knead the dough a little less. I think I did about 2-3 minutes. Maybe 1-2 minutes is enough?
  • Lower the oven temperature to 180°C. These weren’t baked all the way through. Our fan oven is hotter/faster than normals ones. In a conventional oven, you’d set the temperature to about 220°C
  • Heat the oven before starting to make the dough so I can put them straight in after cutting
  • Find my digital scales. Last couple of months I’ve been using volume instead of more accurate weight to measure my ingredients

Scones

Ingredients

  • 225 g self-raisin flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 55 g butter
  • 30 g sugar
  • 150 ml milk
  • an egg
  • raisins

Method

  1. Start by mixing the flour and salt, then then work in the butter
  2. Stir in the sugar followed by the milk. Mix until you have a soft dough
  3. Turn the dough on to a work surface and kneed gently for a minute or two
  4. Pat down to about 2 cm thick sheet. Cut using a cookie cutter and place on a baking sheet
  5. Give the scones an egg wash and bake at 180°C for 12-15 minutes or until we’ll risen and golden brown
  6. Serve with clotted cream or butter and strawberry jam

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minutes(s)

Number of servings (yield): 104

Korvapuusti

Korvapuusti is made with a traditional ‘pulla’ dough. Pulla is a Finnish sweet bread style dessert flavoured with cardamom. Similar to English Hot Cross Bun.

You can use this recipe for making many different kinds of pulla. I’ve struggled finding coarse cardamom in the UK where normally it’s sold in the pod. It’s very laborious to peal and grind them as you’ll need something like a tablespoon of it. If you live in London, you can always visit The Finnish Church in Rotherhithe and buy some from their Finnish food store.

Korvapuusti

Ingredients

  • 50 cl milk
  • 1 egg
  • 170 g sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cardamom
  • 20 g dry yeast
  • 1000 g plain flour
  • 200 g butter

Ingredients, filling and topping

  • 100 g very soft butter
  • 85 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • sugar crystals

Method, pulla dough

  1. Add yeast to milk that is slightly warm to touch
  2. Mix in the egg, sugar, salt, cardamom, some of the flour and butter.
  3. Keep mixing while adding rest of the flour. Mix till smooth and stretchy.
  4. Prove the dough in a warm place till it’s doubled in size, about 45 minutes
  5. Kneed the dough to remove air bubbles

Method

  1. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangular on your work surface. 40×70 cm is a good size.
  2. Spread it with butter and then sprinkle it with a mix of sugar and cinnamon. Don’t be too tight here, if you feel like it needs a bit more sugar and cinnamon, go for it
  3. Now make a roll out of it, a bit like a Swiss-roll, starting from the long edge. You should end up with a roll that is about 70 cm long. Make sure the seam is in the bottom
  4. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough roll into little pyramids (see 16 seconds in in the time lapse video below)
  5. Place the korvapuusti’s on a paper baking tray with the pointy side up and press them down with your finger. Korva is ear in Finnish, this is where they get their name from.
  6. Prove under a tea towel for 40 minutes
  7. Brush them with the egg and sprinkle some sugar crystals on top
  8. Bake at 225°C for 10-15 minutes
  9. Enjoy while still hot with a glass of cold milk

Preparation time: 30 minute(s) plus proving time

Cooking time: 12 minutes(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Not yet a domestic goddess

It was a big independence day for me this year as I became an American citizen last week! I’m very excited about this because now I have dual citizenship. Now instead of fumbling for a hopefully witty but primarily self deprecating answer when someone asks me if I feel more British or American I can proudly look him / her in the face and declare that I am equal parts both.

So, I am back in LA and have been for just under two weeks. Two changes occur in my life when I’m in LA: The first is that I eat 95% of my meals in restaurants, and the second is that it becomes blatantly obvious that I need to lose 1Olbs. Ironically, the second one would be a lot easier if the first were not true. The stereotype that everyone walking around LA is stick thin is just not true, but there definitely are a lot more stick thin people here than anywhere else I have ever been.

Anyway, back to the point. To celebrate my citizenship, and a very good friend’s birthday, my family and I threw a barbecue on the 4th. I had big plans to learn how to make some classic BBQ staples: the ultimate potato salad, coleslaw, and as a way of uniting my two countries – a 4th of July trifle. I made none of these however, as the day before my mum decided to delegated them to someone who can actually cook… Even the trifle. I recovered from this blow and decided to make patriotic cupcakes instead.

In “How To Be A Domestic Goddess” Nigella Lawson has what she claims to be an incredibly easy recipe for fairy cakes. So easy, she claims, that one can rustle up a batch after dinner and have them ready in time for dessert. I feel I should write to Nigella and tell her this is just a lie. I had six hours to make my cupcakes and they were still not ready in time for dessert. My cupcakes were, to put it bluntly, catastrophic.

It does look easy enough… Nigella lists the ingredients and then just says to chuck them all into a food processor. We have a pretty good blender, it’s old but it still works so I wasn’t worried. Everything started out fine… Eggs – check, sugar – check, butter – check,  vanilla – check. I casually look over the ingredients for what to out out in next and realize that it doesn’t say two tablespoons of vanilla, it says half a tablespoon. My first mistake. It’s made even worse by the fact that I couldn’t find tablespoon measures so I made a rather generous estimation when pouring in the vanilla. Oh well, it’s already in there, and everyone loves vanilla. So I persevere and continue to blend. Then I realize I’ve forgotten the flour. That’s not a big deal though, just a blonde moment. I add the flour, blend a bit more, and then put it on pulse and add in the milk… and it’s great. It looks like batter, it tastes like batter, and even the vanilla seems to have mellowed out a bit. It’s so good actually that I just start shamelessly eating it with a spoon. At this point, I’ll be honest, I feel pretty good about myself. Maybe this is my calling, maybe baking is my new “thing.” (I’ll save you the suspense, it’s not).

The cupcakes go in the oven.

Here is a key difference between my life in England and my life in LA – in England I would have been shamed into making the icing from scratch. I would have asked my friends for their recipes and they would have offered tips. As it was, in LA, I had spent the entire morning before in Whole Foods insisting for the tenth time to my mum that I was NOT going to buy cupcake mix. (“But it’s so much easier! No one will be able to tell,” “that’s not the point mum, I’m supposed to be learning how to make them,” “but you can just BUY cupcakes!”) I did however cave and buy icing in a tub. In my defense, even Nigella recommends you do that in the recipe, so I didn’t feel too guilty.

I went to the oven, almost giddy with excitement, envisioning my perfectly fluffy cupcakes… only to find that the stupid things hadn’t risen. They were like little flat rocks. Little, flat, hard, dry, very vanilla-ry rocks.

Here’s a fun fact: all purpose baking flour does not rise on it’s own. In England there is a mysterious, wondrous thing called Self Raising Flour, and it does just that… It raises itself!! Why doesn’t ALL PURPOSE BAKING FLOUR rise????? Why America?? All my revived patriotism of my newest country faded instantly.

Another fun fact: British cupcake recipes are not designed for American sized muffin trays. I think if I had had more batter or a smaller tray they might have worked out better.

Who am I kidding? It’s a poor carpenter who blames her tools. My cupcakes would have been shit even if I had baked them in Nigella’s personal muffin tray.

But neither the flour I used or the tray I baked them in were the real culprits. It is an even poorer carpenter who just flat out uses the wrong tools. Nigella’s instructions call for throwing the ingredients into a food processor. Here in lies my real failure. It turns out that a blender is not the same as a food processor. Two days later I was talking to the chef at our local restaurant and telling him about my cupcake failure. I found myself deep an emotional outburst on America’s lack of self raising flour. “It’s the flour’s fault!” I adamantly declared, and explained that I had followed the instructions and thrown all of the ingredients into a blender. Suddenly the attentive look on his face turned to pure hysteria. Apparently the key to cupcakes has something to do with gluten and by using a blender I had not only sucked all of  the air out of the batter but had also completely destroyed the balance of gluten to whatever, causing it all to collapse in the oven. Also, 400 degrees was far too hot to bake them in (even though Nigella specifically said 400) and in an American oven I should have baked them at 350. And P.S. of course you can buy self raising flour in the US.

So they were a disaster. A complete disaster. I showed them to my dad who grabbed my wrist when I went to taste it and shouted “don’t! It’ll make you sick!!” with genuine concern.

I decorated them anyway, and while they came with a  “do not eat” warning when I presented them at the BBQ they were well admired… If not as well admired as the trifle, which was beautiful, and, as a bonus, actually edible.

Teaspoon cookies

These cookies are a crowd pleaser at any reception you might host. They’re different enough and look like some effort has gone into them to get some attention but are actually surprisingly easy to make. I don’t think my mum has hosted a single family occasion without making them.

Teaspoon cookies

Or lusikkaleivät, as they’re called in Finnish.

Ingredients

  • 200 g butter
  • 15 cl sugar
  • 40 cl plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

Method

  1. Bring your butter to a low simmer for 5 minutes. Once the foam starts to recede, pour the butter in to a bowl, add sugar and whisk until cool. Placing the bowl in a water bath help.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together and add to the dough. Mix until even and smooth.
  3. Press the dough into halved tear drop shapes using a teaspoon and place on a baking tray round side up.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes in 175°C until they’re pale brown.
  5. Once the cookies have cooled down, spread a little bit of raspberry jam on the flat side and press two sides together. Finally, roll in sugar.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 12 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 30

The Royal Dubonnet cake

As I alluded to in my previous recipe, Dubonnet with gin, Darina had an idea of making a cake based on the Queen’s favourite drink. After giving it a little thought, I decided to use my old recipe for lemon drizzle with gin and combine it with some sort of Dubonnet ‘element’.

Dubonnet is classed as a fortified wine which is flavoured with herbs and spices. I’ve not come across it before last week but I’m instantly a big fan. It’s similar to port wines but even a little sweeter and those herbs give it a slightly unusual, more complex taste.

But how to incorporate this lovely drink in a cake that already is an adventure by itself? Three words: royal icing & jelly. I’m not a fan of cream cheese or buttercream icing but what I do like is royal icing (no eggs in mine). The Dubonnet gives the icing a beautiful, soft, colour that is somewhere between pink and purple. Kind of reminds me of flowering heather.

I’ve not made jelly in a long time so this was quite a lot of fun. Idea behind that was to leave a more distinctive and noticeable appearance of the wine in the cake, you could eat it by itself from inside the cake. My jelly layer ended being just over 1 cm thick (using 23 cm cake base and 50 cl of fluid, more on this in a bit), you could shine a light through it as it sat there sandwiched between two layers of lemon drizzle.

OK, enough chat, on to the recipe. I really hope you give this a try, I know it’s a bit of work but it’s quite likely the best cake I’ve ever made–or tasted for that matter.

The Royal Dubonnet cake

Moist cake that’ll definitely impress your guests. Pretty alcoholic so don’t let kids go crazy with this.

Ingredients: Lemon drizzle base

  • 225 g soft butter
  • 255 g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 255 g self raising (or plain flour and 2 tsp baking powder)
  • grated zest of a lemon
  • 20 cl lemon gin liqueur
  • 10 cl apple juice
  • juice of one lemon
  • 25 g sugar

Ingredients: Dubonnet jelly

  • 30 cl Dubonnet
  • 20 cl red grape juice
  • gelatine (vegetarian if available)

Ingredients: Royal icing

  • 250 g icing sugar
  • 40 ml Dubonnet

Method: lemon drizzle base

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C
  2. Mix soft butter with sugar using a hand mixer. Continue mixing and add eggs one at a time
  3. Then add flour and lemon zest. Only mix until dough is thoroughly mixed
  4. Pour into a 23 cm cake tin and bake for 45 minutes or until ready. (Normally I don’t recommend using a silicone base but as we’re using the same base to make our jelly it is advisable. It is perhaps easier to get the jelly out of a silicone one.)
  5. When ready, let it cool for 5 minutes, remove from the base and slice in two. Horizontally, obviously.
  6. Dribble the mix of gin, apple juice and sugar on the cake to moisten it. Remember to do both sides and pour on the cut side.

Method: jelly

  1. Pour the red grape juice and Dubonnet in a small sauce pan
  2. Whisk in the gelatine
  3. carefully bring to boil and simmer for a minute
  4. Pour the mix in to the cake base used for making the cake (make sure it’s not one with a removable bottom)
  5. Put it in a fridge for at least an hour to set

Method: the assembly

  1. Once the jelly has set or you’re almost ready to serve it, place bottom of the cake with cut side down on top of the jelly.
  2. Put a plate on top and in one continues fast movement bring the whole thing upside down
  3. Place it on a table and carefully remove the cake tin. You should end up with cake in the bottom with a clear layer of jelly on top of it
  4. Now all you need to do is put the other half of the cake on and spread royal icing on top
  5. When mixing the royal icing, make sure it’s very thick. It will suck moisture out of the cake and flow down the sides

Quick notes

While it’s OK to make the lemon drizzle base the day before serving, do not add the jelly layer much before serving. The sponge will literally suck the jelly dry in about a day and you’re left with a layer of jam.

Preparation time: 1 Hours

Cooking time: 2 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 12

Shortbread

Having always been a fan of shortbread, it’s surprising I’ve not made any before last week. I was inspired by our friend Sara Macdonald who gave some of her home baked shortbread to Darina for her birthday.

Turns out, shortbread is very easy to make. Just look at the main ingredients; flour, butter and sugar. Very simple, even regular bread has more ingredients.

Shortbread

Ingredients

  • 125 g butter
  • 60 g sugar and extra for topping
  • 180 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 190C.
  2. Start by mixing sugar, soft butter, salt and vanilla using an electric whisk
  3. Add flour and mix until just properly mixed. You should now have a bowl of crumbs
  4. Press into brick using your hand and place on the work surface
  5. Roll into a 1 cm thick rectangular and cut into fingers
  6. Place the shortbread fingers on a baking tray and freeze for 5-10 minutes
  7. Once they’ve gone a little hard, roll them in sugar and place back on the baking tray
  8. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until they start looking golden brown around the edges

Quick notes

Be careful not to over bake or make them too thin, this will make them too cruncy. Unless of course, you want them too cruncy.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 12-20

And here’s a little more of a British Easter tradition

This is perhaps a little late for Easter 2012 but in good time for 2013. Again, I’ve not made these before but they turned out really well and we’re liked by all. This is a slightly modified recipe of the BBC original.

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients

For the buns
  • 625 g strong white flour
  • 8 g salt
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 45 g butter
  • 85 g sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 10 g dried yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 275 ml warm milk
  • 150 g raisins
  • And for the topping
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup

Method

  1. Start by sieving the flour, salt and mixed spice into a large bowl. Rub the butter in the flour.
  2. In a separate smaller bowl, mix the milk, sugar, yeast and lemon zest. Leave it for 10 minutes or until you can see that the yeast has started.
  3. Combine above in the larger bowl and add your raisins at the same time.
  4. Once properly mixed, knead for 5-7 minutes.
  5. Leave it to rise for at least an hour or until doubled in size.
  6. Knock it back, divide into 16 equal size little balls and place them on a lightly buttered baking tray. (I do the division by splitting in twos.)
  7. Cover the baking tray with cling film and leave in a warm place for 30-60 minutes or until they’ve risen nicely. Mine took quite a while so be patient.
  8. Pre heat your oven to 240° Celsius or ‘rather high’ gas mark.
  9. While waiting for your oven to heat, mix 2 tablespoons of plain flour and a little bit of water in to a paste and spoon into a piping bag.
  10. Use the paste to draw a cross on the buns.
  11. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and ready.
  12. Once out of the oven, brush the buns with warmed up golden syrup for that distinctive glaze.
  13. Let them cool down for five minutes or enjoy straight away.

Preparation time: 2-3 hour(s)

Cooking time: 10-20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 16

Easter treat from the East

Or well, east at least if you’re standing in the Western Europe. If I look back at my childhood and what I remember Easter for it has to be these two things; mämmi and paskha. Mämmi is a Finnish dessert that–how should I say this–doesn’t travel well because of its appearance. (Go ahead, click on the link and you’ll understand)

The second, paskha, traveled well into Finland from Russia back when we used to be part of the empire and get more influences from the Eastern Orthodox church.

Paskha or Pascha is a festal dish made in Eastern Orthodox countries of those foods which are forbidden during the fast of Great Lent. It is made during Holy Week and then brought to church on Great Saturday to be blessed after the Paschal Vigil. The name of the dish comes from Pascha, the Eastern Orthodox celebration of Easter.

Wikipedia

It’s been part of my family’s Easter celebrations for as long as I remember and probably my favourite thing about the season. Of course, as a Finn, I should pick mämmi but try both side by side and tell me this isn’t better.

Without further ado, here’s my mums recipe for paskha.

Paskha

Ingredients

  • 250 g formage frais or quark (try and find the full fat versions of these, really makes a big difference)
  • 70 g butter
  • 70 g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 75 ml whipping cream
  • 50 g raisins
  • 30 g crushed almonds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 heaped tablespoon candied orange peel (or mixed peel)

Method

  1. Gently whip the cream for a minute or two. You’re not trying to make whipped cream, just to give a bit more body
  2. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together really well
  3. Pour in to a paskha mold (more on this later), cover and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours or over night

Notes

I don’t actually have a paskha mould and wasn’t able to get one for this Easter. I made mine in a coffee filter holder with the filter in the place. If you do this, remember to wet the filter before pouring in your mixture. Traditionally paskha is made in a wooden mould that gives it its distinctive shape (see below). You can of course use anything that’s suitable as a mould. One thing is that excess fluid must be able to strain away so muslin and a hole in the bottom is needed. Maybe try a flower pot? This recipe filled a regular sized coffee filter and there was a little bit extra.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 12 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Spiced Cake in a Pool of Chocolate Sauce

This is again one of my mums old recipes. I’ve made it time and a time again, always with great success. Only little addition I made this time is the pool of chocolate sauce it sits in. I’ve been off sweets and chocolate for almost two and a half months now so any reason to incorporate a bit of chocolate in a cake, I’ll take it.

Spiced Cake or Maustekakku as it’s called in Finnish

Hazzle free cake with chocolate sauce.

Ingredients

  • 450 ml plain flour
  • 300 ml soft brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 5 tsp mixed spice
  • 2-3 apples, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 ml sour cream
  • 100 g melted butter

Method

  1. Gently mix all the ingredients
  2. Bake in the oven at 175°C for one hour
  3. Let it cool down for 30 minutes and pour chocolate sauce on top. Generously.

===

Chocolate sauce

Ingredients

  • 200 g milk chocolate
  • 100 ml double cream
  • 1 knob of butter

Method

  1. Heat up the cream and butter
  2. Once they they’re almost at boil, turn of the heat and mix in the chocolate

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Lemon Drizzle Cake with Gin

This is one the cakes made for Oskari’s naming party. I’ve since made it a few more times and done some changes to the original recipe. As with most things in life, you can make them better by adding a drop of alcohol. With the lemon drizzle cake, the natural companion is gin.

To prepare the lemon gin liqueur, squeeze juice from one lemon in to a medium size jam jar, mix in 50 g sugar and place to halves of lemon on top. Then fill up to the brim with gin. Close the lid, shake for 30 seconds and leave for at least a week. This will make for an incredibly bitter sweet ‘juice’ to use for moistening the cake.

Now, on with rest of the recipe.

Kristian’s Lemon Drizzle with Lemon Gin Liqueur

Ingredients

  • 225 g soft butter
  • 255 g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 255 g self raising (or plain flour and 2 tsp baking powder)
  • grated zest of a lemon

Topping and moisten

  • grated zest of a lemon
  • 15-20 cl lemon gin liqueur
  • 50 g sugar
  • 15 cl icing sugar

Method

  1. Pre heat your oven to 180°C
  2. Mix the sugar and butter until fluffy and creamy.
  3. Continue mixing while adding eggs one at a time.
  4. Add lemon zest and then flour.
  5. Pour and spread dough into a cake tin and bake for 40-55 minutes depending on how deep the tin is. Use skewer to find out if it’s ready.
  6. Take the cake out of the tin and on to a cake base
  7. After about ten minutes out of the oven, use a dessert spoon to slowly infuse the cake with the lemon gin mixed with 50 g of sugar.
  8. Make a runny icing and mix in the remaining lemon zest
  9. Generously, spread the icing over the cake while letting it drip over the edges

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: up to 50 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 12-16