Monthly Archives: April 2011

Welsh Scones

Growing up, I had a thing for the Royal family.

I had coffee table books all about Princess Diana, her wedding to Charles, her boys, William and Harry, along with a video of Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s wedding.

I was one of those girly-girls with a penchant for dressing up, wanting to wear twirly skirts (that whirled out when I spun in circles; I called them turn-y skirts), put on lipstick. I always wanted a tiara.

So, although the inundation of countdowns and articles and television specials and photo galleries leading up to the wedding between Prince William of Wales and Kate (I’m sorry, Catherine) Middleton has been a bit much, my inner eight-year-old girl is kind of loving it. What will the dress look like? What diamond-encrusted tiara will adorn her lovely dark locks? What will the bridesmaids wear? Will they have turn-y skirts?

Outside of the fantasy world, I don’t envy Kate. I’m happy for her and William because they do some genuinely in love, something so clearly missing in the relationship between his parents (though I couldn’t see that as a child). But I wonder too at what she’s giving up for that love. Yes, there are jewels and gorgeous clothes, first-class trips, brushes with celebrity. And there is the paparazzi, the pomp, the expectations, the constantly public life.

No matter, I will be indulging that inner child and tuning in to the wedding.

In honour of that, I’ll be eating scones (and drinking some champagne, of course — though not at 3 a.m. I’m not so devoted that I will wake up that early. That’s why I have a PVR.) as Kate walks down the aisle.

"Welsh Cake" scone

I could eat any version of scones, but I decided to create a recipe that would combine a basic scone with a Welsh cake (which share some similarities with scones, though they are fried instead of baked). My stepfather, who is of Welsh descent, often made these as a Sunday treat when we were kids. (A tradition, thankfully, that continues when I visit my parents.) They have a distinctive flavour that comes from nutmeg and currants. Basically, I wanted to use those flavours. Not just because I love them, but it’s just so fitting.

Afternoon Tea

He is Prince William of Wales, of course. And the couple will start their life as newlyweds in Anglesey, an island off the northwest coast of Wales.

I have to give credit where it’s due, so I will say that Nigella Lawson has changed the way I make scones. Her trick of grating frozen butter is just . . . perfection. I cannot recommend it enough. No matter what scone recipe I use these days, I always, always, always use this technique. Please, try it, I implore you.

This is based on her strawberry shortcake recipe, but has been adjusted.

Butter curls

Egg in Cream

Rolled and Cut

"Welsh Cake" Scones

Welsh Scones

  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (I may go with a tad more next time)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup half-and-half or whipping cream (you may need slightly more)
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (regular or natural cane sugar), optional

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, currants and nutmeg in a bowl. Grate the frozen butter into the dry ingredients and use your fingertips to lightly toss all together. Whisk the egg into the half-and-half cream and pour into the flour mixture a little at a time, using a fork to mix. (I often need another tablespoon or two; I chalk it up to that dry Calgary weather.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, then roll gently to about ¾-inch thick. Dip a cutter in flour and cut out as many scones as possible. (Small ones are cute, but sometimes you just want a large scone with lots of room for Devonshire cream and jam.) Work the scraps back together, re-roll and cut more. (Nigella suggests using a 3-inch/6½-cm round cutter to make 8; I used a smaller one and got about 14.) Place on a baking sheet, brush the tops with the 2 tablespoons whipping cream and sprinkle with the remaining sugar, if desired. I used natural cane sugar, which has larger grains.

Bake until golden. Between 10 and 15 minutes for larger scones. Cutting them smaller? Check earlier. Mine took about 9 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Eat with copious amounts of jam and Devonshire cream. Or butter and jam. Or just jam.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

A milestone slipped past last week.

I took note of it, but said nothing because there was no point in celebrating unless there was cake.

Slice of Cake III

Actually, the original plan was to make a salted caramel tart but, once again, pastry bested me. One day, pastry. One day! Truth be told, it was flaky as all get out and tasted great, but uneven rolling led to some parts being more cooked than others and there were slumping and shrinking issues. My theory is that I’m actually not putting enough weight in when pre-baking and then taking the beans out too quickly. It worked much better with the second shell, which didn’t slump as much, but the unevenness of the baked pastry was a little more than this mostly-perfectionist could handle.

No matter, there was a back-up plan. Albeit one that would have to wait until post-milestone.

See, it’s my blog’s third birthday.

Three years.

Craziness.

I remember first broaching the idea with some friends after we had been out at the pub. We were outside, in the frigid cold, saying goodnight when I just sort of threw it out there. “I’m thinking of starting a food blog.”

And since then there have been many baking projects and, thankfully, many happy eaters. (A special thanks must go to the Civilized Sunday crew at the Herald who willingly — and, occassionally, expectantly — ate what I brought to work on the weekend shift. Cake for breakfast? Yeah, that was a good tradition.

There have been amazing times  and incredibly tough times.

So, I’m interested to see what the next year (and more) will bring.

For the last three years, I’ve kicked off the start of a new blogging year with cake. First, there was the inaugural Red Velvet Cake (wee bit embarrassed by the photos back then, but moving along), followed by a much-better version for my first blogiversary and then a triple layer chocolate cake last year.

This year is only slightly different. It’s still cake, but it’s a decadent and rich, truffle-like Flourless Chocolate Cake.

Slice of Cake II

At least in this case, unlike the pastry situation, slumping is expected.

This cake is deeply, darkly rich, ironically lightened by a topping of whipping and sour creams, beaten with icing sugar. (Or, if you think you have tons because there’s always about six bags in the cupboard where they appear to multiply like bunnies until the day you need some and then there isn’t any, a little bit of berry sugar will do the trick.) And it is Oh. So. Good.

I actually heard about it over Twitter from the gang at Real Simple one day. Made it a few days later for friends and was still thinking about it months later and how I really needed to make it again. That’s the sign of a good cake, I figure. (Original recipe here. Though I haven’t really made any changes.)

Baking like this is so lovely. I especially love adding the chopped chocolate to the hot butter-and-cream mixture and then stirring, stirring, stirring as it changes from a curdled-looking mass to silky smooth melted chocolate. And how it comes out of the oven all puffy and light looking before collapsing into a deeply dark slump of rich chocolate cake. The slight tang in the dollop of the whipped cream takes it to a whole new level.

I ate one slice and gave the rest away to friends. Now, as it nears bedtime, I wish I had saved myself just another sliver. Ah well. Reason to make it again soon.

This recipe is fantastic, but I would add a pinch or two of salt. I really feel that a tiny bit of salt in sweet things rounds them out. In this case, I didn’t quite have enough unsalted butter, so about half of the butter was salted. I think it worked perfectly and I may do this from now on. Only have unsalted? Just add a pinch or two of regular table salt.

Chopped Chocolate

Melted Chocolate

Batter in Pan

Puffed out of the oven

Slumped cake

Cake Slice I

Flourless Chocolate Cake

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/4 cups whipping (heavy) cream, divided
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar, plus more for dusting
Heat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with cocoa powder.
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter with ¼ cup of the whipping cream over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth; remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder; whisk in the chocolate mixture.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until puffed and set, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 1 hour. Run a knife around the edge of the cake before unmolding.
Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1 cup of whipping cream with the sour cream and icing sugar until soft peaks form. Dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar and serve with the whipped cream.