Wednesday, 19 November 2014


You can't have a tearoom without having scones. That would be madness.
If you're not familiar with them, scones are a kind of quick bread - usually made with flour, fat and baking powder (you could argue that they are actually a form of pastry, but I'd recommend that you quit taking things so seriously). 
Opinion is divided on the pronunciation of the word scone at the tearoom. Mike favours rhyming it with cone (which is the Southern English and American pronunciation), I prefer rhyming it with gone, like the rest of the North of England, Scotland and Canada). We have reached a compromise where whoever makes them decides. Which is me. Buahaha*
We make two types of scone - sweet and savoury. The savoury scone I'll write about another day, but the sweet scone is a classic tearoom treat. Light, fluffy and slathered with butter and jam is my favoured method of eating them, but the classic jam and cream is always popular.
To paraphrase the old saying, a good scone is hard to find. I've eaten far too many that are dry, doughy or tough. A scone should be light, buttery and melt in the mouth. The secret is to use butter (sorry vegans! Though coconut butter makes a rich, exotic scone that is pretty awesome too), to take care rubbing the four and butter together (lumps of butter left in there will give the scone a slightly weird flaky texture) and to handle the dough as little as possible (easier said than done!)

300g strong white flour
75g butter 
2tsp baking powder
50g sugar (though you an use a substitute like apple syrup or stevia if you want it sugar free)
1 egg, whisked
75ml cream
50ml milk (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190C. Rub together the four and butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. This will take about 5 minutes but feel like 10,000 lifetimes.  To the radio. John Finnemore's souvenir programme is about half an hour long, you'll have scones by the end of an episode! As the baking powder cand sugar (for sugar free scones you could add apple syrup or sugar free jam for a fruity scone). Whisk together the egg and cream and add to the flour. Quickly mix into a soft dough, adding a little milk if it seems dry.
There are two ways you can proceed. Option one is the traditional method - roll out about 3 - 4cm thick and cut into rounds with a 7cm cutter (pressing sharply down rather than twisting to ensure an even rise) and arrange on a baking tray. Brush with milk if you want to be fancy and bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops are pale gold.
Method two is good if you don't have a suitable cutter. Roll the dough into a rough circle 3 - 4cm thick. Brush with milk if you feel like it. Then using a sharp knife, mark the circle into 6 pieces radiating out from the centre like the spokes of a wheel. Game for 20 - 25 minutes, or until golden and will risen.
Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool. Serve with jam and cream, or a smear of butter, and cup of tea.

Of course, a plain scone is a thing of beauty, but that doesn't mean you can't mix things up. Try adding chopped dried fruit and nuts, or grated cheese mixed with diced chillies or finely shredded spring onions. Here are a few other ideas.
Cherry Scones: Replace the sugar with 50g of diced glace cherries
Date & Walnut: Replace the sugar with 30g chopped dates & 20g chopped walnuts
Spiced: 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon & mixed spice and 50g dried mixed fruit (my favourite!)

*Simple pleasures, my friends 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Chocolate & Banana Sugar Free Cake

I've been really enjoying the challenge of sugar free cakes (without resorting to buying that slightly disturbing white granular stuff in the supermarket*). This chocolate & banana cake sold out about 4 hours after I put it on the counter. Good, because I am ridiculously proud of it, it's one of the best damn cakes I've ever made. Moist, rich and indulgent (and slightly less terrible for you!). It's sweetened with very ripe bananas & apple syrup, which gives it a richness and really brings out the chocolate flavour without being sickly.
This recipe makes a huge cake! But you can reduce the quantities by a third & use 20cm cake pans for something a little less excessive

Healthy - if you don't count all the butter and cream!
Chocolate & Banana Cake
250g butter (yes, that's a whole packet. But no sugar, so it's fine!)
3 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
175g apple syrup (I like Sweet Freedom. You can use any fruit syrup, but I find apple balances the banana well)
300g plain flour
3 eggs, whisked
50g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
100ml single cream

You'll also need two 23cm springform cake tins, greased & lined, for this.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
Soften the butter in a large mixing bowl & combine together with the mashed bananas and apple syrup. Add the cocoa powder & eggs (it will look a little lumpy and weird, but don't fret! It will be good!). Add the baking powder & flour & mix well. It will make a fairly stiff batter, so add the cream a little at a time until it forms a nice soft batter that clings to the spoon, but succumbs to gravity and flops off back into the bowl after a few seconds. If the idea of raw egg doesn't squick you out, have a quick taste and see if it needs a squeeze more of apple syrup (a lot of the sweetness comes from the overripe bananas, so less blackened ones will need a little help) Divide between the two cake tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer, knife or other pointy, prodding instrument jabbed into the cake comes out clean.
Leave a few minutes before turning out of the cake tins and handle with care. Cool on a wire rack, then sandwich together with some whipped cream (a 300ml tub of double cream is plenty for this sized cake) & dust with a little cocoa powder.
Eat with a slightly misplaced sense of virtue

*No offence to those that do, I just find myself staring at the stuff and asking myself "But what is it?!")