Tag Archives: biscuits

Cheese Scones / Biscuits

16 Nov

Yummy!Oh my goodness gracious. These are so good. So very very good. Fluffy, rich, creamy, cheesy, light and gorgeously tender. Cheddar cheese scones (or biscuits as Americans would call them) are a quick bread – about half an hour from inception to eating. They dont require any special equipment, in fact I prefer to grate the butter and cheddar directly into the flour and mix with the fingers. You need to be quick in order to keep these scones light as air – and there is a little trick. Add the baking powder after you combine the flour, salt, cheese and butter. This will make sure that the leavening agent is given the best possible chance to make the scones really fluffy.

I have always been fascinated by scones and biscuits. They taste so good, and look like they are easy to make… But they are not! It was a long time before I really began to understand the mechanics of how to make these perfectly. If you take your time, let the butter melt, or work the dough too hard, the scones can be thick and lumpy, with little rise. But if you have everything at the ready, dont forget to sift the dry ingredients, and use your fingertips (and cold butter, cheese and cream), then these scones really are quick and incredibly easy.

These are deeply cheesy – and they really reflect the cheese you choose, so choose well – organic aged cheddar is best. These will be a wonderful addition to a party or celebration dinner. They can be cut in any shape or size, though I prefer smaller 1 1/2 inch circles. They are wonderful split and  layered with cheese and tomato jam – or just as they are, especially just baked. They taste pretty phenomenal with a smear of strawberry jam too! Breakfast, lunch or dinner, these scones are deeply satisfying and totally delectable.

Please do note that these are rich and stuffed with butter, cheese and cream. Theyre no diet food, but then I wouldnt eat them every day. They are the ultimate comfort food though. Eating one of these scones, hot from the oven is pure, perfect joy.

By the way, they keep for about 3 days, tightly covered, and reheat well either in a low oven or in the toaster. Though I truly doubt that there will be any left though once your loved ones catch a scent of baking bread and cheese… 🙂

Makes about 18 1-1/2 inch scones

  • 3 – 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp (3/4 stick/3 oz) butter, grated
  • 2 cups of good cheddar, grated
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • Fresh cracked black pepper (optional)
  • 300 ml (about 1 1/4 cup / 10 fl oz) cream/sour cream/milk (I put 2 tbsp sour cream in a measuring cup and then half and half cream and milk)
  • A few tablespoons of milk to glaze (optional)

Preheat your oven to 215C (425F), and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift together about 3 cups of flour and the salt into a large mixing bowl. Keep the addition flour aside in case you need it to pull the scones together.

Using the largest holes on your grater, grate 3/4 stick of butter directly onto the flour. Using your fingertips, quickly toss the butter into the flour.

Grate 2 cups of cheddar and add it to the butter/flour mixture. Using your fingertips, mix well again. You should have a floury, pebbly, mealy mixture.

Measure out the baking powder, and sift onto the dough mixture. Toss with your fingertips again to combine well. Crack some black pepper into the mixture if you like (I do), and toss again.

Measure out your cream/milk/sour cream mixture. The more cream you add to the mix, the richer the scones will be. I use about 2 tbsp of sour cream, and then make up to about 6 fluid oz with cream, and add milk for the rest. Whisk together with a fork – the mixture will be lumpy from the sour cream, but this is fine.

Pour your cream/milk mixture directly over the flour, and using your hands, knead the milk into the flour until a dough comes together. If its really wet, add a little more flour, a tablespoon at a time. You want a thick soft pliable dough that holds together, and yet feels very tender and delicate. This should take only a few kneads – treat the dough very gently and carefully because you want it to be as light as possible.

Turn the dough out onto a firm working surface and pat into a rectangle or square about 1 1/2 inches thick. Use a round or cookie cutter to cut scones directly out of the rectangle, and move directly onto the baking sheet.

Any left over scraps can be quickly patted together again and recut, but know that if you do this more than once, those scones will be flatter than the others!

Let rest for about 3 – 5 minutes, and glaze with milk if you like (or even 1 egg whisked). This just encourages the top to brown well, but you dont need to do it if you dont want to!

Bake in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes or until light, fluffy and well browned at the top. Dont over bake – they will continue to firm up once out of the oven. Let cool for 5 minutes or so on the baking sheet (though I usually cant resist trying at least one!) and serve immediately, or store tightly covered for 3 days.

 

Adi’s Cookies

26 Oct

Inspirational!Today was a lovely chilled day, reconnecting with the KL I love so much … seeing friends, being inspired and challenged by strong women. My beloved friend, Adi, gave me a beautiful gift – an astonishingly lovely vanilla bean paste that she brought back from holidays in Bali … and this paste was truly magical. It was a mix of vanilla bean, cacao nibs and chili! What a taste combination … and what a scent. When I opened the jar this deep spicy dark chocolatey vanilla musk wafted out and assailed me with its deliciousness.

I couldnt wait to cook with it … and it set me to thinking. Pastes are such a lovely conglomeration of tastes – this one in particular has a balance of dark deep flavours, invigorated by a faint sting of chili. Beautiful! I decided I was going to make refrigerator cookies with the paste, and I also dreamed up a whole variety of other pastes I could make inspired by this one.

If you cant put your hands on a vanilla, cacao nib, chili paste (and unless youre in Bali, and visiting the Puri Ganesha Villas where it was concocted, I doubt you can!), you can make your own paste from any number of wonderful combinations.

Just pound together a few ingredients that inspire you – a mortar and pestle would do well by you here – and bake some cookies or make a cake with the paste as your flavouring inspiration.

Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Crystallised ginger, cranberries and cinnamon
  • Grated lemon and orange peel, hazelnuts and raisins
  • Mint, cacao nibs, and pineapple
  • Dried blueberries, saffron, and almonds
  • Macadamias, a touch of honey, and nutmeg

Once you have a paste that you love, you can add it to so many things – to cakes and glazes. You could stir some into a pudding or ice cream. Use it to perfume a cupcake or frosting. Rub it onto an apple before baking, or stir it into a fruit crumble… you will have a haunting, unique flavour that will intrigue and delight.

Or you could make these cookies. I love refrigerator cookies. Basically, you make a simple cookie dough, lushly rich with creamed butter and sugar, and flavoured with the paste of your choice, and refrigerate the dough, rolled into logs, for at least a few hours. This allows the butter to firm up, and then you just slice the cookies and bake for a few minutes. Any left overs, you can freeze for up to six months, so you always have fresh cookies to hand. What a pleasure and a luxury! And once you have a paste that you love, the entire process takes literally 20 minutes to put together!

Enjoy this recipe, and be comforted. And thank you to Adi for inspiring me in so many ways!

Makes about 48 cookies / 2 logs

  • 2 sticks (16 tbsp) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp sour cream (or you could use cream cheese – or even leave this out – I just love the slight tang this provides)
  • 2 – 4 tsp vanilla, cacao nib and chili paste (or one that you make up!)
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached organic cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp sea salt (I used 1/2 tsp because I wanted to bring out the spice note of the chili – use less if your flavour combinations are softer)
  • 1 tbsp milk or buttermilk

In a stand mixer, fitted with a flat paddle, or a electric hand beater, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This takes a few minutes, so be patient. Its not just mixed together, but actually starts to fluff up…

Add the egg and sour cream and mix well. Add 2 teaspoons of the vanilla paste and taste – adjust if needed.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and sea salt. Add to the butter mixture in three batches, adding a touch of milk in between each batch to keep the dough soft and pliable. Mix in the flour very briefly, just until the dough comes together, then add a bit of milk, mix again, etc.

Once all the flour has been incorporated, turn the dough out onto a long strip of waxed paper. Divide the dough into half, and roll out into a thick log. Wrap tightly in separate pieces of waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or freeze until you are ready to use.

When you are ready to bake some cookies (and I have to ask myself, when am I not?!), preheat the oven to 200C (400F)

Line a cookie tin with greaseproof paper, and take out a log of cookie dough. Cut slices about 1/8th inch thick from the log, and arrange on baking sheet. They wont spread very far, so they dont need to be very far apart.

Bake for 6 – 10 minutes, until the edges are just starting to brown, and the cookies are firm to the touch. Cool on racks for a few minutes before devouring.

Enjoy and be inspired!

PS – forgive the blurry photograph, am still sorting through my luggage looking for my camera!

Grasshopper Pie

11 Jul

Grasshopper Pie with chocolate Cool green mint mousse, over a chocolate biscuit base. A cloud of whipped cream hides nuggets of chocolate – a surprise texture in the midst of all that smooth silkiness. Grasshopper pie is quite retro, but since I was serving a rather retro dinner (tacos with all the fixins) I thought this was apt. Tacos are also very healthy – no cream, no butter, lots of fresh veg. So something as decadent as this is a fun trade off. And watching the World Cup finals, it was imperative that we have something very satisfying and comforting and delicious. This one comes up trumps on all counts.

Its also very easy to make. I do the biscuit base, the mousse and sprinkle the chocolate nuggets the night before. I decide if I am really gonna go whole hog so to speak the day of serving. Agar agar is cooked with milk and eggs to form a custard. Creme de menthe is added, and whipped cream “lightens” (dont you wish) the whole thing. Pour it onto the biscuits, sprinkle nuggets of chocolate over, and refrigerate. Perfection.

By the way, this recipe calls for a double boiler. But I dont have one, and couldnt be bothered with one if I did. I boil water in a saucepan, and set a heatproof bowl over. Enough lah.

You can serve this three ways. For a very elegant, pure green pie, stop with pouring the mint mousse into the pie plate. It is very grown up and sexy. For a slightly rowdier pie, textural and delicious, stop with sprinkling the chocolate pieces (or shaving some chocolate if you want something slightly more sophisticated) over the mint mousse. Which, as you can see from the photo, is what I have decided to do. And finally for over the top lushness, top the whole thing with whipped cream. I might still yet be tempted 😉

For one 10 inch pie, you will need:

  • 12 Mint Milano cookies, crushed
  • 10 chocolate wafer biscuits, crushed
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp agar agar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup creme de menthe
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup chocolate bits
  • additional whipped cream (about 1 cup) to cover

Place all your cookies in a zip loc plastic bag, and crush. I usually bang them about with the bottom of my olive oil bottle. Tip all the biscuits into a pie plate, and make a little well in the centre. Melt 4 tbsp butter, and pour over the cookies. Using your fingers, mix well, and pat to form a crust. Refrigerate until needed.

In a large, heatproof (metal) bowl, pour milk and sprinkle over agar agar. Leave for 5 minutes to let the agar agar soften.

Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water, and bring to the boil. The agar agar should have incorporated into the milk by then. Whisk to combine, and place the large bowl over the top of the saucepan. Lower heat. Cook the milk and agar agar, whisking often, for about 5 – 10 minutes, or until the agar agar has been completely combined into the milk. It will thicken, and as its cooking, you will be able to taste and see the grainy agar agar. Keep at it, and keep whisking, and the agar agar will melt into the milk. Youre ready for the next step when it is silky smooth.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk 4 egg yolks together with 4 tbsp caster sugar until light and lemon coloured.

When the milk mixture has thickened, and there is no more grittiness from the agar agar, take the bowl off the heat, with a cloth or oven mitt, and drip the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk, whisking constantly. The mixture will incorporate, and immediately whisk in the creme de menthe. Put the bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan again, and keep whisking until the mixture is the consistency of a thick custard. This should take about 5 – 10 minutes. Be patient, and keep beating often!

Meanwhile, beat 1 cup cream in a stand mixer (so you have time to also focus on the mint custard) until it holds stiff peaks. As soon as the custard is thick like a pudding, place the hot bowl over a bowl filled with ice. Please remember to use a cloth or oven mitt to transfer! This will cool down the mixture significantly. Remember to continue whisking all the while. As soon as the mixture is lukewarm, whisk half the whipped cream to combine. Fold the remaining cream into the mixture until combined, but do it gentlegentle. You want to keep some of the air in there!

Pour this mixture into the prepared pie plate, and sprinkle with chocolate. I usually use dark chocolate, but you could use anything you like.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 1 day.

Up to 8 hours before serving, whip an additional cup of cream and a whisper of agar agar (to help it hold) and mound over the top. You could flavour this cream if you like – a scant teaspoon of caster sugar and some vanilla, or some dark cocoa powder, or even a little bit of coffee. You could do without this though if you just cant deal with so much richness. The pie is divine as is!

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