Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Perfect Scone Recipe...

How to bake perfect scones - a perfect scone recipe...

Scones appear to be a thing of great debate.

Plain, fruit or cheese?

Skɒn or  skn?

Plain or self raising?

Egg or no egg?

Jam, butter or cream?

For me, scones can be plain or cheese, but never fruit.

I pronounce the word skon and cringe at skoun.

I have a preference for plain flour with some complicated additions.

And either way, they must be eaten directly from the oven, slathered in butter and perhaps just a skerrick of jam...

When I was little, scones were apparently the first thing I learned to cook with my Mum. She remembers this still.

They were a staple in our home, for tea* on a Sunday. Straight from the oven, risen and billowing, fluted and crusty on top.

The recipe I always used growing up came from a battered and very much loved copy of the  Good Housekeeping's Picture Recipe Book circa 1953. (I presume this must have belonged to my Granny...either way, it was, and still is, my favourite cookery book.)

This book has been misplaced in recent years - so many house moves and renovations has seen it lost.

So my once fail proof scone recipe has needed to be revised.

I have a close friend whose father is Italian and mother is English, and she explained to me that her Mother's scones are better than anyone's for the use of fine Italian 00 pasta flour.

I have a number of notes and memories of the brilliant baking qualities of lard.

Another friend swears by buttermilk as the liquid.

And for the raising agent, to make those scones rise and billow so beautifully? I have experimented and truly believe that sifting through a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar to the flour is the absolute winner for light fluffy scones. (Self raising doesn't seem to get the lift?)

I could not remember whether my original recipe called for an egg or not. So, first thing this morning I rang my Mum and asked her - and quick as a flash she instinctively said "no, no egg" with such clear headed conviction that I left out the egg - which makes sense to me. An egg would make a scone perhaps a little more cake like?

So I give you my Perfect Scone Recipe. With thanks to friends and family for allowing me to pinch their tips and experiment on them. (Makes 12)

500g 00 plain flour. (This is fine Italian pasta flour. But a good quality plain white flour that has been triple sifted would do.)
1 heaped teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
2 heaped teaspoons of cream of tartar
25g caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
65g butter, cubed
65g lard, cubed
275ml buttermilk* (if you have none, you can always just add a tablespoon of lemon juice normal milk and leave it out on the bench for a while...)

1. Preheat the oven to 210`c
2. Sift the dry ingredients into a big mixing bowl
3. Add the chilled and cubed butter and lard and rub in just using your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
4. Add the buttermilk and stir in with a palette knife to combine
5. Using your hands, bring the dough together to make a soft dough
6. Tip out onto a floured work surface and pat into a circle about 3cm high
7. Using a fluted cutter dipped in flour, cut the scones out and place wide apart on a floured baking sheet.
8. Bake for 12 minutes
9. Once you take them from the oven, place on a cooling rack.
10. Serve immediately with butter or jam or cream...

How about you? Skon or skoun?

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* I ignored the concept of scones being a tea time treat. I baked a perfect batch of scones today right on midday. The fab five ate scones with butter, jam and cream for lunch. Is that very bad?!

Friday, 13 July 2012

How to get calm...

I use a little tiny studio gym at the bottom of road. It's joined up to the local footy club, on the oval where the schools and big boys play cricket and football and soccer. The local council have a playground and a couple of tennis courts along side, and there's a scout hut too. From the gym at 6am on a Monday morning, to the 18th birthday party hosted with bunting in the hall on a Saturday night, to the sausage sizzle on the sidelines on a Sunday, it's a hub of activity, quite literally.

And on Thursday nights there is a new session. Pilate's. Run by the lovely and very funny and evidently most experienced Melanie, who is a scream, it's a new venture. I was tempted by the idea for no other reason that they were offering a free trial to try and russle up participants.

The Pilate's classes are held on a Thursday evening at 7.30pm, so I have half a chance of persuading the lovely husband to be home by then to take over the kid wrangling.

To be frank, I honestly thought I would go along to the freebie session and then move right along.

But when I got home from my first session, where it was all blue Pilate's mats and balls and bands and circles and core strength, I was mildly surprised and impressed.

The lovely husband asked me "Are you all pilated now?" I am not sure how I was supposed to feel, but all I can compare it too is like doing the biggest most sensational stretches, all over your body, for over an hour. Not scary hurty undignified weird positions. Just nice comfy sensation stretching - releasing and pinging all my muscles, and sending me to a nice calm place.

Now I sound like some ol' hippie, don't I?

But, after the first evening of Pilate's, I realised I truly WAS more calm, and that night I slept and slept like a baby. No 3am wakings, for once.

So I went again. And again. And again.

I bloody love it! The calmness stays with me for more than a few days. All that stretchy stretching good vibe feeling remains until Monday! (And lets face it, aside from A class drugs, I am not sure that any thing can really send anyone calm into a Monday morning?).

So the problem is only this - what to wear to Pilate's?

Initially I just rocked up in my usual tracksuit, t-shirt and very very supportive knickers and bra and sneakers.

Then I realised the vibe was so much more chilled than that.

Bare feet.

Comfy stretchy clothes are needed for my comfy stretchy calm making Pilate's.

Now bear in mind, whilst I have lost a load of weight, I am not a skinny minnie. So my criteria for gym clothes are this:

  • Comfy
  • Flattering
  • Not too synthetic sweaty stinky
  • Flattering
  • High quality - faded and saggy after three wears is no good to me
  • Flattering
  • Supportive but not restrictive
  • Washable without losing their shape
  • Flattering
Did I mention flattering?!

Anyway, Melanie at Female for Life showed me her range, and immediately I was keen to try the all in one yoga suit. It didn't disappoint.

But more than that, the site itself is very user friendly - you can see the clothes on real normal sized women. Go and have a look. The models are bloody gorgeous and every day, with real curves and healthy fit bodies of normal women, just like you and me. I am SO comfortable to shop with these chicks! There is a very cool body shape calculator too, which makes me feel like a goddess.

All of the stuff from Female for Life fits the bill - including the bill. The prices have NOT been hiked up as a result of the carbon tax...more like reduced to become global financial crisis friendly! Value for money...PLUS they have a competition on at the moment too....go have a look!

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Disclosure - this is not a sponsored post at all. But I was sent, at my request, an article of clothing to try, for free, from Female for Life. However, all of the above is my very own unpaid for opinion. As you all know, I never blog about a product unless I genuinely love it. And I love Female for Life. I have since happily ordered more stuff from them, at my own cost.

Monday, 2 July 2012

The best thing since sliced bread...

My Dad's Mum, my Granny, Phylis, was known to all of her ten grandchildren as "Barnham Granny"

She was an amazingly resourceful cook. My cousin Kate & I both strain with guarded but keen desire for her old handwritten recipe notes. They speak of how to create peppermint creams within the confines of the rationing that became her commonplace in World War II. My aunt used to tell me of tuck boxes sent to her at boarding school, filled with sweets, made from complicated substitutions of cornflour, essence and glycerine.

My Granny lived in a toll cottage, on Lake Lane, in a tiny Sussex village called Barnham. She and my Grandpa retired there, and lived opposite a bakery - Holt's bakery. (Which has since been demolished and turned into townhouses. Such is life.)

She was a strong woman.By the time I came along, nearly the last grandchild, she had aged and mellowed. My fondness for her was, quite simply, beyond measure. She had a grin that warmed the whole world. My perpetual memories of her were her beautiful voice, her huge bust and the cigarette the was her constant companion. She was a coffee afficionado. Of her and her gurgling coffee machine, and her laugh: I was so fond. With her red hair and her cuddles and her protection, I was so comfortable.

She smelled so good. Of baking, of tea rose, of cigarettes, of coffee. She was strong and tough and gentle and simple and sophisticated all in one hit of loveliness. I search for photos of her - the snaps never do justice to her persona, at all.

But due to the nature of her proximinity to the bakery, her bread baking days were done! She could concentrate on less arduous baking; and quicker treats, often with me at her side. She taught me so much.

She served tea. High teas. Jam tarts, and scones. Fruit cakes and iced fancies - sugar & butter and eggs and fruit in the 1970's were a long way from rationing, and she made the most of it! And sandwiches, made from bread from the local bakery across the lane.

Always at the dining table, we would wait for her to slice extra bread. A whole fresh loaf. A 2lb loaf, no less, to entertain her grandchildren.

And she would hold that bread under her arm like a baby, against her bust, and slice the most perfect thin slices. No squashed crumb. She evidently had had years of practice to get the tension and pressure just right. Never a nick or a cut, and certainly she never caught her cardy or her pinny strings with the end of the knife.

Just perfect slices of easy bread.

I miss her.

She was the best thing since sliced bread.

AND, all that said, I have a winner for last weeks bread baking giveaway....this was kindly sponsored by Brad Russell and the team at Kitchenware Direct - thank you!

Kell from Mad Mummas Sweet Randoms

Thanks to everyone that entered, and Kell, could you please email me with your postal address please?

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PS That image up there? Of my Granny's cottage? I managed to get that by going to Google Maps and moving up and down the lane until I spotted the house. A house I have not been to for thirty years, but I knew each curve of the road and spied it easily. How cool is modern technology?!