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The Daring Bakers: Scones

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 The Daring Kitchen is a site for bakers and cooks to sign up for monthly challenges. It allows you to complete something you might never have thought of and use recipes that have had a lot of thought put into them. Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens! It just so happened that the first challenge after I signed up was for something I’ve made often enough (thank you Home Economics). I’ve only ever used 2 or 3 recipes, this one is a little bit different and much better. There are so few ingredients that it’s almost silly and it makes a lovely, fluffy, fall-apart scone.

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Ingredients (makes roughly 9 medium scones)

140g plain flour

2tsp baking powder

30g cold butter, in small chunks

Pinch salt

120ml milk + 1tbsp for glazing

Note: I added 1tbsp sugar to a batch for a hint of sweetness you could also use raisins, you can make these savoury by adding things like cheese, herbs, etc..

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  • Preheat your oven to 220°C (for a fan oven, adjust yours accordingly).
  • Triple-sift your dry ingredients, it really does affect the texture of the finished product.
  • Rub the butter into your dry ingredients, or cut using a food processor. I did this until it resembled sand, this makes tender scones. If you want them to be flaky then stop short of this, when the mixture resembles breadcrumbs with some pea-size amounts.
  • Add the milk. You will have a scarily sticky dough at this stage.
  • Cover your counter in flour, turn the dough out and sprinkle with flour. Again, sticky!
  • Using light pressure, pat the dough with your fingertips until smooth and about 1-inch thick. It should feel cold and silky, quite nice actually!
  • Flour a round cutter (or be a rebel and make squares) to cut out your scones, re-forming the scraps to make more.
  • Place on a lined baking tray and glaze the tops with milk.
  • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until risen and golden.

Serve warm with honey, jam, cream…you get the idea.

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The holidays meant a lot of baking/cooking for me so I have a wealth of recipes to post (seriously, there’s at least a dozen that I had the chance to photograph). Choosing one was a little bit difficult but I decided to go with these mini maple pancake muffins which are quick and easy, like many good things in life.

I don’t know about you but with my family Christmas morning and New Year’s Day always means ‘nice’ breakfasts so I made approximately 48 of these (they’re tiny) fluffy little suckers the afternoon before and just microwaved them this morning. If you want to do the same, simply allow to cool after baking and store at room temperature in an airtight container. Reheat for 30 seconds in the microwave, they taste just like they did fresh from the oven.

Recipe tweaked slightly from Bakerella. I bought a set of measuring cups a few weeks ago so I haven’t converted this recipe to grams, for a few Euro it’s well worth not having to fiddle with conversions and avoiding the risk of using too much or too little and ruining your work.

Ingredients (makes 24)

1 cup cream flour

1tsp baking powder

1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch salt

2tbsp sugar

2tbsp melted butter

2tbsp maple syrup

2/3 cup milk

1 egg

 

  • Preheat oven to 160°C and grease a mini-muffin tray.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.
  • In another bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients.
  • Combine wet and dry mixes.
  • Fill each mini-mould about two-thirds of the way and bake for 6-8 minutes or until golden.
  • Serve with maple syrup, fruit, Nutella, etc.

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Yeah, I don’t know either…

 

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The dark chocolate truffles I made were pretty good but incredibly messy. They were a particularly grown-up treat and went nicely with a cup of tea/coffee. These milk chocolate truffles are easier, tastier (I love dark chocolate but these are creamy and sweet with a lovely texture and so will appeal to all tastes), the recipe yields about 4 times the amount in about half the time and they look very professional with minimal skill. Basically, it’s just better.

These lasted perfectly for a week in an airtight container, after that the chocolate developed blooms (when parts turn white). Still tasted fine, just didn’t look so great. This could be because the kitchen where I left them goes from freezing to roasting daily, which probably messed with the resting temperature of the sweets.

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The recipe’s from Pioneer Woman‘s blog and it’s actually for dark chocolate truffles with sea salt but I wanted something more kid-friendly (these are the ones I’m going to give to my friends and family for Christmas). This recipe is foolproof – the consistency of the filling is much more manageable and I can’t imagine how it could be messed up. 

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Ingredients (yields roughly 50 large truffles)

1 can sweetened condensed milk (397g OR 14oz)

225g milk chocolate and 225g plain chocolate

200g cooking chocolate*

*This is for covering the truffles, so you want something that will set quickly. Americans seem to refer to it as candy bark or melting wafers but if you’re in Ireland/UK cooking chocolate like Wonderbar works perfectly. This kind of chocolate is intended as a coating and is easier than trying to correctly temper chocolate (I learned that one the hard way).

1 tablespoon of vanilla essence (or coffee, rum, etc.)

Toothpicks – normally I don’t list my equipment because you can always improvise, but these are handy for giving your truffles neat bottoms (giggidy?).

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  • In a large bowl over boiling water, melt the chocolate.
  • Add the condensed milk and, working quickly, incorporate into the chocolate fully. It won’t look too appetizing at this stage. It should have a kind of spongy, marshmallow-like texture. Don’t poke it, you will be tempted. To me it seemed like a very wet dough.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat. Add the tablespoon of vanilla, the mixture should go from matte to shiny.
  • Let it cool then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
  • Once the mixture is firm, take heaped teaspoons of it and roll into smooth balls. Place these on a lined baking tray and refrigerate for a further 15 minutes. They should be pretty solid by the time you take them out.
  • Now, if you recall my last batch, I rolled them in Green & Black’s cocoa powder. For these I just coated them in chocolate as I did with the cake pops (which seems like so long ago). I want to try coating them in chopped and toasted nuts but alas I am not made of money.
  • Melt the dipping chocolate in the microwave (or over a pot of hot water, the microwave’s easier and you can zap it for another ten seconds halfway through to keep your chocolate warm) and using a fork and spoon, coat the truffles.
  • Use the spoon to pour chocolate over the truffle while it’s on the fork, allow the excess to run off by tapping it lightly on the side of the bowl.

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  • Place truffles on a large sheet of greaseproof paper and run a toothpick around the bottom so that the chocolate sets in a clean round circle.
  • When all the truffles are covered, drizzle your remaining melted chocolate over the top or decorate any way you please.

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Store in an airtight container or pack into gift boxes.

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Dark Chocolate Truffles

P1020010Christmas is in a few weeks and you know what that means? Presents. Lots and lots of presents, to be given and gotten. I’m a bit on the broke side (ha!) so this year I decided I’m going to make baked goods for my extended family. Today was a test run for chocolate truffles, as I’d never made them before. They turned out really well but rolling them out is a very messy process. As you probably know truffles are little balls of chocolate ganache coated in cocoa powder. They’re meant to resemble the other kind of truffles – chocolate that looks like fungus, yum. I think mine look appetising enough, don’t you? If you have a melon baller, use that. Mine aren’t perfectly round because it was physically impossible to do so without melting the ganache. That’s the only messy part though, these are delightfully simple. I mean, there’s only three ingredients!

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I love dark chocolate but I know a lot of people don’t, so you could make these with chocolate that’s 60% cocoa solids instead. I tried white chocolate out of curiosity and the ganache didn’t set so that’s going to go between some biscuits this afternoon. If I end up experimenting with milk chocolate I’ll post the results.

Ingredients (makes about 12)

200g dark chocolate (I used Tesco’s own brand 85%)

100ml double cream

2tbsp. cocoa powder for rolling (I used Green & Black’s, it’s not that much more expensive and tastes far better in my opinion)

You can also roll these in nuts, powdered sugar, anything really. If you want to add flavourings, add it to the cream at the beginning.

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  • Break the chocolate into small pieces.
  • Bring the cream to a boil and immediately pour over the chocolate.
  • Let it stand for a few minutes then stir until fully melted.
  • If the chocolate doesn’t melt, heat in the microwave on thirty-second intervals until the ganache is smooth.
  • Let cool and then leave in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. (I left mine overnight in the fridge and it was rock solid, I had to re-melt it in the microwave and just used the freezer.)
  • Put the cocoa powder in a bowl. At this point, run your hands under very cold water for 10 seconds.
  • Using a tablespoon and your hands, form the ganache into rough balls and roll in the cocoa powder.
  • You can transfer them to petit-four cases or an airtight container.

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Apparently these last for 3 months but I don’t think we’ll get around to testing that in my house.

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So it’s almost December which means Christmas-related baking for a lot of people who don’t normally take time to make treats. You want something easy, cute and yummy. If there’s a young’un in your life, have an afternoon in the kitchen and make some fond memories cutting out Gingerbread Men (and Women and Children. I’m nothing if not an equal-opportunity baker). Spicy, sweet gingerbread biscuits are certainly a Holiday treat but there’s no reason you can’t make these all year round.

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Recipe is from 30 Yummy things to Bake, a set of recipe cards I’ve had for years.

Ingredients (makes a lot. I froze half for future use and still got about 20 biscuits):

350g plain flour

1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 & 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

100g chilled butter

175g light brown sugar

1 large egg

3 tbsp. golden syrup

1-2 tbsp. water as needed

Icing to decorate (readymade or 50g powdered sugar mixed with 1tsp cold water)

You don’t need to be as weird with your decoration as me but feel free to go all out with the characterization. 

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  • Preheat the oven to 180°C and flour or grease a baking tray. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ginger into a large bowl.
  • Cut the butter into chunks and using your fingers, crumble it into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Add the sugar.
  • Beat the egg and add the syrup. Mix this into the flour.
  • Using your hands, form this into a smooth dough and half it. You can freeze this for use at a later date if you want, either way there’s too much dough to roll it all out at once. 
  • Generously cover your work area in flour and using a rolling pin (or whatever heavy cylindrical object you happen to have, I won’t judge) roll the dough out thinly, to about half a centimetre.
  • Use a cookie cutter to cut out your shapes (though I have, in the past, cut out gingerbread men freehand. It was time-consuming). If you don’t have a gingerbread man shape, use a small glass tumbler. Improvise!

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  • Bake for 7-10 minutes, keeping an eye on them. The biscuits are very thin and cook quickly. If you make miniature ones like I did, it’s more like 3-5 minutes.
  • Once cooled, decorate with icing. As you can see I don’t have a piping bag so again, improvise. A toothpick would be handy here too. Or you could just eat them without faces but where’s the fun in that.

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  • You could also coat them in chocolate and/or sprinkles, chocolate buttons or other decorations.

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Raspberry Almond Plait

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Pancakes for dinner? Sure! But sitting down at 11am for what’s basically breakfast? Eh, I’m not really a ‘brunch’ person. Sweet pastry filled with raspberry preserve and topped with an almond glaze could convert me though. It’s so pretty I almost couldn’t bite into it. Almost.

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I made this pastry plait on a lazy Sunday morning and it was the perfect pick-me-up with the dull and dreary winter weather we’re having (though I’m not really complaining, I don’t want a repeat of the apocalyptic winters we had in ‘09 and ‘10). It takes all of 40 minutes and it’s quite impressive, visually. Obviously you can serve it at whatever time of day you please, but I think it’s suited to a luxurious breakfast or afternoon tea.

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The recipe is from the delightful Willow Bird Baking. You know a recipe’s good when you don’t have to change a single ingredient, the only difference is I’ve converted the measurements.

If raspberry doesn’t float your boat you can use any other kind of preserve, or even Nutella. I experimented with the scraps of dough I had left and while fancy bitter dark marmalade doesn’t quite work, Nutella was great!

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

For the plait:

220g plain flour

1tsp baking powder

115g butter, cubed

85g light cream cheese such as Philadelphia

125ml milk

2 heaped tbsp. raspberry preserve

1/2 tsp. almond extract

For the topping:

100g powdered sugar

1tbsp milk

A few drops of vanilla and almond extract

2tbsp flaked almonds (buy toasted if you can, if not it’s easy to do yourself)

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Before I give the actual directions, a few points on making pastry. If this is your first time, don’t worry, this particular pastry is easy-peasy. The most important thing is that your butter/cheese is cold and what you use to mix it with the flour is also chilled. This is the first pastry I’ve made in years and I found a slightly better tip than constantly running your hands under cold water – use two chilled forks to crumb the butter into the flour. You want the butter to stay in little balls so that your pastry is nice and light so this is why it should resemble breadcrumbs. When you’re almost done you can use your hands to make sure the butter is evenly distributed. Don’t roll it out more than once or you’ll make it tough. Even if that happens, it’s still edible, it just won’t be quite flaky. So, cold butter and cold utensils, got it?

  • Preheat the oven to 210°C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.
  • Add the butter and cheese and cut into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs.
  • Add the milk and almond extract.
  • Using your hands, blend into a loose dough and turn onto a floured surface.
  • Knead 3-6 times, it won’t look too pretty at this point.
  • Flour your surface and rolling pin thoroughly, the dough is quite sticky.
  • Roll the dough into a rectangle, as a rough guide it should be the length of a rolling pin and two-thirds of that in width. If, unlike me, you can roll a perfect rectangle, more power to you. If not, use a sharp knife to trim the rough sides.
  • Mark into thirds and make diagonal slits roughly one-inch apart on the outer edges. Spoon the jam in the centre, like so:

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  • Now the fun part – plait the edges together, alternating sides.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

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  • Allow to cool for ten minutes or risk burning your tongue horribly on molten jam.

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While the pastry cools, make your glaze.

  • Simply mix the milk, powdered sugar and flavouring together.
  • If you have to toast your own almonds, use a heavy bottomed pot. Line the bottom of the pot with a single layer of almonds and toss over a high heat for about one minute.
  • Drizzle the icing over the pastry and top with freshly toasted almonds.
  • Enjoy!

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This is a great way to use up leftover chicken. Think of this as a basic recipe, I didn’t have any suitable veggies at home when I made this but you could add mushrooms, peas, peppers, whatever floats your boat really. You could also throw in some bacon or chorizo, I’m just not a fan of mixing two types of meat. Bacon-covered-chicken-breast freaks me out, ok?

I made this at night, so you’ll have to pardon the lack of pictures.

 

Ingredients (serves 2 generously, stretches to 4 with decent side dishes)

1 chicken fillet, diced.

600ml chicken stock

3 cloves garlic

150g Arborio rice

1 tbsp. grated Parmesan & more to garnish

50ml white wine (optional, replace with extra stock if desired)

50ml single cream or milk

Approx. 1 heaped tbsp. butter

You’ll also need two heavy-bottomed pots and a ladle of some sort.

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  • Heat the stock without letting it boil.
  • Fry your chicken in the pot. If you’re using leftover meat just warm it up first. Add garlic.
  • Add a knob of butter and stir in the rice. Let the rice absorb the fat for 30 seconds, it should still be white with translucent edges.
  • Pour in your white wine and let the rice absorb it.

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  • Add the stock one ladle at a time, stirring constantly until it’s absorbed.
  • At this point, mix in your cream.
  • Continue adding stock, stir until absorbed and repeat until the stock is gone or the rice is done.
  • The risotto can take anywhere from 20 to 50 minutes (I tend to average around 40 minutes). You really have to sample it as you go to see if it’s done. Texture-wise the rice should have a bite to it, but not be hard. The consistency should be that of porridge, since the dish tends to stick together, but the rice itself shouldn’t be mush. P1010703
  • When it’s reached your preferred consistency, add the Parmesan and a small amount of butter. Remove the pot from the heat and cover for 2-3 minutes.
  • Garnish with more Parmesan if desired and serve with garlic bread or a salad.