Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Victorian Lavender Cookies

With Spring finally here, we have chosen to look at Victorian recipies to welcome the blooming flowers. What could be better then adding some of these delicate blossoms into a fregrant treat to be enjoyed with a cup of tea and friendly company? Let's get this season kicked off with cookies!

Victorian Lavender Cookies 
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon culinary lavender, crushed
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt 

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add eggs, lavender, flour, baking powder and salt to creamed butter and mix until combined.
  4. Drop by teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

~ The Gamer ~
The appearance of these cookies could lead one to initially think that they'd be more on the savory side, but the first bite will quickly get rid of any thoughts along those lines. It actually ends up being slightly sweet, with small buttery tones in the background. There's also a very small hint of what I would best describe as herbal spice, most likely from the lavender. The cookies turned out nice and soft on the inside, with just a slight amount of crunch on the bottom where it browned the most. I would say that in terms of moistness, it's somewhere in the middle, leaning just a little bit towards the dry side. This is definitely a baked good that I would recommend to others, and what's more, it's my own opinion that it doesn't need anything additional added to it. The only thing that might make it even better is a nice hot cup of green tea, something light that would compliment the flavor of the cookie without overpowering it.

~ The Artist ~
I thought that it would be a good plan to start this chapter of our food adventure off with something simple so chose a fairly basic recipe. I did leave the cookies in the oven for a couple of minutes longer in the oven then the stated 10 minutes just to be sure the little treats were cooked all of the way through. Pulling them out of the oven and let them cool for a moment, I was delighted to see how fluffing and light they came out to be. Not overly sweet and having a light flavor of lavender, I found myself wishing I had some home made fruit jams or even other light treats to go along with them. An absolute treat for a nice Spring day in the garden. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fruit Bonnag

Today we venture into the land of the Isle of Man which is off of the coast of England. With so many traditional foods similar to those of England, it took some time in order to discover something that would be unique for the area. Searching and taking time to pick through the various things on the internet, we discovered some interesting baked good recipes. Deciding on one was only the first part of the adventure in this European adventure. Are you prepared for this humorous journey in food? 

Fruit Bonnag
225g plain flour
a pinch of mixed spice 
a pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
110g butter
110g light soft brown sugar
225g sultanas (golden raisins)
225g currants
225g raisins
225g mixed peel
1/2 tbsp black treacle 
2-3 tbsp buttermilk, to mix 

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/gas 3. Sift the flour, a pinch of salt, mixed spice, nutmeg, and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl, rub in the butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, Stir in the sugar, fruit and peel. Add the treacle and mix to a fairly stiff dropping consistency with buttermilk or milk. 
  2. Turn mixture into a well-greased 1 lb loaf tin and bake for 2 1/2 hours in the center of oven - a skewer should come out clean after inserting into the cake. 

~ The Artist ~ 
Well this was perhaps the most amusing quest into European recipes that I've ever had.  Bonnag is a type of all purpose bread but it doesn't follow the standard format that I'm used to. That wasn't the issue I was having when looking through the ingredients and temperature when I was converting things. I had to replace the golden raisins and currents with dried cranberries due to the local grocery store was out of both at the time for some reason and also had to replace black treacle with molasses.The temperature ended up being 320°F which wouldn't have been bad save for the 2 1/2 hour time frame. I discovered that it only took 1 hour 25 minutes to cook completely through. Even with the minor changes, it came out rather well. With a nice crust but warm moist interior, the raisins and cranberries worked well with the molasses. It reminded me of a merging of a holiday molasses bread mixed with a fruit bread. Delicious with a little bit of butter and pairs nicely with a cup of black tea. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Scottish Apple Scones

Huzzah! As you know, for the month of March we will be taking a look at the traditional foods of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, and England. Why? Why not! As we continue on with our tour of foods from our Atlantic neighbors, we take a stop at Scotland. While hunting and researching, we discovered an entire variety of traditional recipes which made narrowing down what we should try that much more difficult. So many things to try and not enough time or kitchen space. 

Apple Scones
One medium cooking apple 
8 oz (250g or two cups) self raising flour (all-purpose flour with baking powder) 
½ teaspoon salt 
Level teaspoon baking powder 
2 oz (60g or ½ stick) butter 
2 oz (60g or ¼ cup) castor (fine granulated) sugar 
Up to ¼ pint (150ml or half cup) milk
Ingredients for glaze: 
A little milk 
1oz demerara (light brown) sugar

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F or Gas Mark 6). 
  2. Peel and core the apple and then finely chop. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Then rub in the butter followed by the sugar and chopped apple and mix. Add milk until you have a soft but not sticky dough. 
  3. Roll out on a floured surface to about ¼" thick and 8" round and mark into 8 wedges. Place on a greased baking sheet, brush the top with milk and sprinkle with the demerara (light brown) sugar. Bake in the pre-heated oven at 200°C (400°F or Gas Mark 6) for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm with butter.

~ The Artist ~
Originally I was a bit puzzled by the measurements that were given for the flour. Not because the recipe was obviously European but the fact that it seemed so indecisive. Going on a hunch, I went with the 2 cups of self raising flour. During the baking process, I did not expect for the round of scones to spread as much as as they did. The size went from 8" round to about 12" round. However even with this, the crust became a golden brown once it was done baking. The inside was soft and slightly crumbly. With a light and faintly sweet flavor, it was a perfect pairing with a cup of tea. The only moment of disappointment that I had was that I was hoping for more of an apple flavor but I would need to experiment a little in the future when creating the dough.  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Irish Tea Cake

March is finally here and we would like have decided that we will be taking a look at our friends across the Atlantic and try foods from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and England this month. So how are we going to kick this off? By taking a look at a recipe for an Irish Tea Cake. 

Irish Tea Cake
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar (for dusting) 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175° C (350° F). Grease and flour a 9 inch round pan. 
  2. In medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time then stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into the batter alternately with the milk. If the batter is too stiff, a tablespoon or two of milk may be added. 
  3. Spread the batter evenly into prepared pan. 
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack, then turn out onto a serving plate. Dust with confectioner's sugar. 

~ The Gamer ~
     Today Dawn ended up deciding to make an Irish tea cake, something that my occasionally short attention span apparently failed to note until she asked me if I would like a slice of it. I'm happy to say that it came out quite well. Although rather plain looking, the inside was soft and warm, while the outer crust had just enough crunch to give it a bit of variety. The taste actually reminded me a bit of the Greek Almond Crescents we had written about previously, sweet but not overly so. Some people might even be reminded of cornbread upon tasting it, albeit without the corn flavor that comes with it. Definitely something to have with a nice hot cup of tea (or coffee if that's your preference). Personally, I would probably go with a nice herbal or black tea to offset the powdered sugar that was used as a topping.

~ The Artist ~
     Originally I was asking some of my regular readers from Facebook for traditional Irish dishes in celebration of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day so I could steer away from the Americanized, stereotypical 'Irish' food which is typically seen as sweets loaded in green food coloring or just alcoholic beverages out of the wahzoo. Luckily some friends were able to give some suggestions but I was struck by the thought that why not have the month of March just be focusing on Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England. I've had this particular recipe for some time in and can't remember where I actually found it but thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to try it out. The process itself was quite simple and only needed to put a little bit of extra time in order to make sure that the center was cooked completely through. Every time I opened the oven door, the kitchen was filled with the sweet aroma of the cake. Once we were able to sample the treat once it was cooled enough, I was delighted over how soft it was on the inside and how the crust had just the right amount of firmness. A suggestion for a possible alternative in the future was replacing the vanilla extract with almond extract.