Thursday, January 24, 2013

And we have scone success!

Since my last post, I have made two batches of beautiful, perfect scones. The first has golden raisins. The second, which I'm currently enjoying, has dried apricots. My plan to adapt and combine  my never-fail soda bread recipe with the technique for making scones totally paid off. I have also made two different and equally successful batches of whipped/clotted/Devonshire cream. John likes the version with cream cheese, but I like the version without. With the first batch, we finished the strawberry champagne jam, and I just bought some nice strawberry jam for my next few batches (I've already got requests for more!).

And so, without further adieu, I present the specimens which have restored my faith in my Irishness:

Fresh-cut dough, waiting to pop into  the oven.
 And here we are, fresh out of the oven:
 Split with freshly-made Devonshire cream:
And here's the apricot version, enjoyed at my desk this morning with jam and tea:

Next up, I'm fantasizing about my St. Patrick's Day menu, which will include scones, shortbread cookies, and two new recipes, amongst other staples: potato leek soup and brown bread. I will experiment with both recipes next month so they won't be an epic fail on the actual holiday. So stay tuned.

Stay tuned also for birthday updates!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Holiday Baking Roundup, Scone Shame, and Crafts!

That's right! When I disappear for a long time, I come back with lots of goodies for you! Let's get to it!

Another smash-hit year for cookies! I busted out my classic sugar cookies and Russian tea cakes, and experimented with one variation and one whole new dough.

Tea cakes are always the same--my version don't have nuts, but are super yummy. This years, though, I felt were slightly too buttery, so I may have measured in slightly more than was necessary. And my sugar squirrels were delightful! Eventually, when we have a house to accommodate all my baking necessities, I'll get the rubber bands you fit on your rolling pin so the dough is always uniform. Until then, I'm getting better at keeping them consistently thick/thin. No squirrels were burned!

I varied my sugar recipe for the second batch, which I wanted to  be chocolate acorns to pair with the squirrels. I just added in some melted baking chocolate until it looked chocolatey enough. I seem to have added just the right amount because  they weren't overwhelmingly sweet--in fact, since the chocolate was bittersweet, it toned down the sugary-ness just right. Definitely a keeper!

Finally, as the piece de resistance, I tried my hand at linzer tarts. I figured it's good to have a yummy shortbread recipe under my belt, and since I typically make thumbprint cookies each year, this was a play on that tradition. It all started when I picked up a jar of strawberry champagne jam. I dreamed of sandwiching it in a linzer tart. Then I found a simple round cookie cutter and pack of 6 very mini holiday-themed cookie cutters to use for the opening on the top of the sandwich. Armed with hardware and ingredients, I dove in. Thankfully, the shortbread cookies came out delicious, and the assembly went off without a hitch. I used a loose leaf tea baller to dust confectioner's sugar on the top, and blamo! I kinda put some professional linzers I've seen to shame! So now I'm already thinking of how I can adapt them for other occasions--red or blue jam and a teddy bear cutout for a baby shower? Lemon curd and a star for graduations? Oh yes... and of course I need to get a Scottie dog cutout for the traditional Scottish presentation of the simple shortbread dough.

Below are some photos of the cookies (and the cranberry pies I made from a recipe Tara shared with me). Then we can talk about my epic scone failure. Yes, this semi-pro baker had a HUGE wah-wah moment this morning. But let's look at pretty things for now...

Scones. One of the couples we befriended on our Ireland trip purchased the scone recipe from the farmhouse we visited in Galway. They graciously sent it to me, as I was eager to try them myself. The Mrs. warned me she had trouble when she tried, as they live at a high altitude. I said I'd try it here and send her feedback. Well, altitude is not the problem. I'm convinced something did not translate. While the farmer's wife so kindly included measurements in metric and American increments, I still think there wasn't enough flour, as the "dough" never came together so I could actually knead it into a loaf and then cut it into rounds. After trying twice (yes, I scrapped the first failure after attempts to resuscitate it via adding more flour) to no avail, I plopped the too-wet dough into muffin tins and baked them up. They cooked, but they're decidedly more muffiny than sconey, and are kinda weirdly undercooked-looking. Hmph. So here's what I've decided. I've got a no-fail soda bread recipe I've used for years, and really, the recipes are the same. So next time, I'll just bust out the bread recipe and cut it into biscuits and bake it up that way. One victory from all this was making yummy Devonshire cream. It took about 5 minutes and even fewer ingredients. So more to come on that, as Irish cooking/baking season is only a few short months away! My friend, Jeanette, also gifted me a lovely Irish cookbook, and I'm eager to try a few of the less-intimidating recipes in there (hello, brown bread?)

Finally, crafting. I knocked out a few shadowbox projects on Saturday. One was inspired by a project on Young House Love, in which you use skeleton keys to represent family members. I made this for some friends as their Xmas gift. I then made an Ireland memento box and a wedding invite memnto box. Very happy with all results! Pics are below.

And with that, happy 2013, all.