Lemonade Scones

This famous Australian recipe for scones was invented decades ago by a rural country women’s association. I’ve often wondered what they taste like.

Then the other day a news programme featured a 92 year old lady called Muriel who has been making these scones forever. I decided it was time to have a go.

The recipe uses just three ingredients: self-raising flour, cream and lemonade. Converts swear that once you’ve made these scones you won’t go back to your old recipe which involves rubbing butter into flour and then adding sugar and milk. The milk and butter components are covered by the cream and the subtle sweetness comes from the lemonade. If you go onto Google and type in lemonade scones you will find that there are heaps of recipes and slight variations.

I have to be honest and admit that I didn’t have any lemonade so I used diet tonic water which worked fine. In less than half an hour I had 18 perfect scones to serve with homemade jam and whipped cream. They were as light as a feather and delicious.

4 cups self-raising flour
300ml cream
300ml lemonade (or sprite, Seven Up)
Pinch of salt
Milk to brush
To serve:
Whipped cream
Berry jam (raspberry, strawberry, blackcurrant or blackberry)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Sift the flour into a large bowl (Muriel sifts it three times!) then make a well in the centre and mix in the cream and lemonade, using a knife. When the mixture has all come together, tip it out onto a floured surface. Use your hands to lightly flour any sticky areas and form the dough into a round shape. Lightly pat it to an even thickness of about an inch or 2.5cm. Handle lightly and do not knead. This is not bread dough. Cut out scones using a round cutter, or if preferred, just cut the dough into squares.

Place on a lightly greased baking tray, brush the tops with milk, then bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown, well-risen and cooked.

Serve with whipped cream and jam.

Makes about 18

Sponge Cake with Jam and Cream

Hill House is a dairy farm located on the heather-clad moors of County Durham, in the very north of England. I learnt to make this sponge cake when staying there in my early teens. Unlike a Victoria Sandwich, an egg sponge doesn’t contain any butter.

My Dad’s cousin, whom we called Auntie Vina (pronounced Vyna), taught me to make many of the cakes I still make today. My first sponge cake turned out so well I made another one and entered it into the Butterknowle annual agricultural show’s cooking section and won First Prize. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. The sponge in the photo got a bit overcooked on the sides, as you can see in the photo, but it still tasted good. I always think of my dear old Dad when I make this cake as it was one of his favourites.

3 large eggs
2 tbs warm water
¾ cup sugar
1 cup plain flour
Filling:
¾ cup raspberry or strawberry jam (preferably homemade)
1 cup cream, whipped
Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar and water until very thick and tripled in volume. Add flour through a sieve and fold in carefully with a metal spoon. Scrape into a 20cm cake tin, greased and bottom lined with baking paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until well risen, golden brown and firm to touch in the middle. Don’t overcook. Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then run a knife around the outside and invert carefully onto a cake rack.

When cold, remove paper from the bottom, then turn over. Cut sponge in half horizontally, then cut the top layer into 8 slices – this makes it easier to cut the cake after it has been filled. Fill with jam and whipped cream. Place the 8 slices back onto the uncut bottom layer and sieve some icing sugar over the top.

Chocolate Sponge: use ½ cup self-raisig flour, ¼ cup cornflour and ¼ cup cocoa. Omit the jam and fill with whipped cream.

Note: if you make the cake in a tin with a larger diameter you need to increase the ingredients, otherwise it comes out thin and unimpressive. So for example with a 22cm tin use 4 eggs, 3 Tbs water, 1 cup of sugar and 1¼ cups of flour.

Ebelskivers – Danish Apple Pancakes

We bought this antique copper dish in a market in Damascus in the late 1970s.
The photo shows the back of it. I’ve always used it as an ornament and it never occurred to me to use it for cooking.

In Syria it was probably used for cooking eggs. It certainly wasn’t for making Danish apple pancakes, but I decided to give it a try.

Ebelskivers are traditional Danish pancakes with applesauce in the middle. Danes eat them with red jam and cream, but we ate them as they are, coated in cinnamon sugar.

I halved the recipe I was given by a Danish friend while we were living in Copenhagen and made 21 little pancakes in my Syrian baking dish. I cooked the first seven on the stove top, but it was difficult to control the heat and they got a bit overcooked. The next two lots of 7 were baked in the oven and came out perfectly.

The good news is that having brushed each hole with melted butter the pancakes didn’t stick, which was my biggest worry. My Syrian copper dish has been moved into the cupboard with the other baking dishes. If you don’t have a special tin for making ebelskivers use a muffin pan.

1 cup SR flour (or 1 cup plain flour and ½ tsp baking powder)
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp ground cardamom (optional)
1 Tbs sugar
Pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
1 cup buttermilk
2 egg whites
50g butter, melted
Apple sauce (apples cooked with sugar and some spices and pureed)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
To serve:
Red jam
Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place flour, bicarbonate of soda, cardamom, sugar, salt, egg  yolks and buttermilk in one bowl and the egg whites in another. Using electric beaters whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Then mix the ingredients in the other bowl using the same beaters.There’s no need to wash them, but it’s important to do the whites first, while they are clean. Fold whites into batter.

Brush each hole in the baking tin with melted butter. Spoon a tablespoonful of pancake mixture into each, then about half a teaspoon or so of apple sauce, then another tablespoon of pancake mix. Bake for 10 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Coat each pancake with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.

Serve warm as they are or with jam and cream.

Makes about 20

Chocolate Brownie

Delicious as a snack with a cup of tea or coffee, or as a dessert with cream and berries, everyone needs a good chocolate brownie recipe. The last time I made this with my granddaughter Natalia, we swapped the chocolate chips for M and Ms, at her suggestion. She rushed off on her bike to buy a packet.

½ cup butter (125g)
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1¾ cups self raising flour (or plain flour and 2 tsp BP)
Pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup cocoa
1 cup chocolate chips or chopped nuts (e.g. walnuts, macadamias, pecans) or a mixture

Preheat oven to 180°C. Butter a 9 inch or 22cm square tin and line with baking paper. Or use a silicone pan which doesn’t need greasing.

Place butter and sugar in food processor and mix well, scraping down the sides halfway through. Or use electric beaters in a bowl. Add eggs, mix, then gradually add the sifted flour, salt, vanilla and cocoa, scraping down the sides again halfway through.  Add chocolate chips or nuts and process very briefly, just enough to mix them in.

Scrape into tin and smooth the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Don’t overcook as it’s better undercooked than overcooked.

Cut into 16 squares

Kladdkaka – Swedish Sticky Chocolate Cake

Crisp on the outside, with a soft and gooey centre, this traditional Scandinavian chocolate cake is a bit like a brownie. Kladdkaka means sticky cake in Swedish.

Serve it on it’s own, with a dusting of icing sugar and a cup of coffee, or with whipped cream or ice cream and a few berries as a delicious dessert.

In the photo it’s served with homemade strawberry ice cream, using a very quick recipe and substituting frozen strawberries for the frozen raspberries.

2 large eggs
1½ cups sugar
½ cup plain flour
¼ cup cocoa
pinch of salt
125g butter, melted
1 Tbs vanilla extract
Extra cocoa powder
To serve:
Icing sugar
Fresh berries such as strawberries or raspberries
Whipped cream or ice cream

Prepare an 8 inch (20cm) cake tin by lining the bottom with baking paper, then buttering the bottom and sides and giving a good coating of extra cocoa powder, shaking out any excess. Preheat oven to 180°C.

In a large bowl with electric beaters whisk eggs and sugar until thick and pale. Fold in sifted flour, cocoa and salt and lastly the butter and vanilla. Scrape into cake pan and bake for 20 minutes. The top of the cake will be firm, but it will still be soft in the centre. The cake will sink as it cools.

Cool cake then dust with sifted icing sugar. Serve as it is, or with berries and whipped cream or ice cream.

Serves 8

Caramel Slice

I was staying at Hill House, a dairy farm in County Durham in my early teens when I learnt to make this recipe. They called it Triple Decker Slice and everyone loved it. There are heaps of versions online, often called Millionaire’s Shortbread, but this is my version. I’ve added the salt flakes, which weren’t in the original recipe, but appeal to anyone who likes salted caramel.

This slice is high in sugar and calories, so I don’t make it often, but when I do it always puts a smile on Matthew’s face.

If you can find dulce de leche or Nestle Top n Fill, make Filling (1). If not then make Filling (2).

Shortbread:
125g butter at room temp
½ cup soft brown sugar
1 cup plain flour
½ cup cornflour
Filling (1):
250g dulce de leche or Nestle Top ‘n Fill
125g butter
½ cup soft brown sugar
Filling (2):
1 can condensed milk
2 Tbs golden syrup
125g butter
½ cup soft brown sugar
Topping:
250g dark chocolate
2 Tbs Copha or butter
To finish:
Maldon sea salt flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 170°C. Mix butter and sugar in food processor. Add flour and cornflour and process till mixture sticks together into a ball. Press into a greased shallow rectangular baking tin measuring about 25x30cm, lined with greased baking paper. You don’t need to roll it out, just drop lumps evenly over the tin, then press with your fingers till you have a more or less even thickness. Bake 15-20 mins. It should be very lightly coloured, not brown.

Heat filling ingredients (1 or 2) and when bubbling cook gently for 2-3 mins, stirring. If using Filling (2) you will need to cook it a bit longer, say 5-7 minutes, to achieve the caramel colour. Pour over the shortbread and spread evenly. When caramel has cooled, melt chocolate with Copha or butter, pour over and spread evenly. If liked sprinkle with salt. Cut into squares when cold.

Makes about 20

Plum Cake

I’ve been making this cake for nearly 30 years from a recipe published by Stephanie Alexander, which she calls Mieze’s Plum Cake after the friend who gave it to her. I have slightly adapted the method but the end result is the same.

The best plums to use are blood plums which have dark purple skins and flesh, but unfortunately they’re only in season for a very brief period. The recipe works well with any plums you can get, or peaches, apricots or, as you can see in the photo, with nectarines.  You could also try making it with canned fruit if you’re housebound and that’s all you have.

I make this cake in a 22 cm (9 inch) square tin, so each serving has half a piece of fruit on top. This involves increasing all the ingredients in the original cake mix (but not the topping) to make a bigger cake which serves 16. For a smaller cake use the original recipe (see above link). I like to grind the nuts in a food processor and leave them slightly chunky, rather than buying ground nuts which are more like flour.

Serve with a cup of tea or as a dessert with a dollop of cream.

250g butter at room temp
250g sugar
200g plain flour
200g self-raising flour
pinch salt
3 eggs
½ cup milk
1 cup ground almonds or walnuts
8 blood plums, halved and stoned (or use apricots, peaches or nectarines)
Topping:
½ cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
60g butter
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 170°C. Process nuts coarsely in food processor then tip out. Process butter and sugar till fluffy, add eggs one at a time, sifted flours, salt, the nuts and then the milk, stopping to scrape down the mixture halfway through.

Spread into 9″ (22cm) square cake pan, greased and lined with paper. Arrange the plums, cut side up, over the cake and push them in a bit. The 16 halves should fit exactly. No need to wash the food processor before using it to mix all the topping ingredients. Pour topping evenly over the fruit. Bake in the centre of the oven for an hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle (cake not fruit) comes out clean. If outsides are getting too brown, turn oven down a bit, but don’t overcook or the cake will be dry.

Variation: Use peeled and halved juicy pears instead of plums and add a tablespoon of fresh ginger to the topping.

Serves 12-16

Stir Crazy Chocolate Cake

Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown I participated in an online recipe exchange from which you are supposed to receive lots of recipes. I only received two and this is one of them, from another Linda who lives in Chile. Appropriately named for when you’re going stir crazy while in isolation.

This quick and easy chocolate cake surprisingly doesn’t contain any eggs. Delicious on its own or with a dollop of sour cream, as shown in the photo.

3 cups plain flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
½ cup cocoa powder
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 Tbs vinegar
2 cups cold water
Chocolate Icing:
250g cream cheese at room temp
¼ cup cocoa powder
1½ cups icing sugar
Chocolate buttons to decorate (optional)

Preheat oven to 175°C. You can either mix this cake in a bowl or in a food processor. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl or food processor and mix. Add remaining ingredients and mix till smooth, stopping to scrape down any mixture stuck to the sides. Spread into a cake pan. I used a 22 cm (9 inch) square silicone pan so I didn’t need to grease and line it with baking paper. You know your pan and whether or not cakes stick. Bake for 30-40 mins or until firm to touch in the middle.

Ice with your favourite icing or this one which uses cream cheese. Place cream cheese in a bowl and mix till smooth, gradually adding the sifted cocoa and then the sifted icing sugar.  You might find one cup of icing sugar is enough. If liked decorate with chocolate buttons. Cut into 16 squares.

Serves 16

Rhubarb Tart

With everyone in coronavirus lockdown, some of us are finding more time to cook. And eat.

I highly recommend you find a sunny corner in the garden to plant some rhubarb. It doesn’t take up much room and keeps on fruiting for most of the year. Ours only dies down a bit for 2-3 months in the coldest part of winter. When there’s virtually nothing else in the veggie garden, there’s usually some rhubarb.

This pastry recipe from chez Panisse via Rick Stein is deliciously buttery, reminiscent of a Parisian croissant, fresh from the oven. The oven needs to be nice and hot to get that lovely French glaze. Serve the tart as it is or with some whipped cream or sour cream, which is my preference.

Pastry:
225g plain flour
Good pinch of salt
170g butter, cold from the fridge
About 4 Tbs cold water
Filling:
500-600g rhubarb
½ cup sugar, or more, to taste
2 Tbs fortified wine such as port, but any will do
Grated rind of an orange or lemon
To finish:
Extra sugar
About 2 Tbs butter
Apricot Jam (optional)
To serve:
Whipped cream, sour cream or creme fraiche

To make the pastry, place flour and salt in food processor. Add butter cut into large chunks. Process carefully, preferably using the pulse button, until the butter is in small pieces. You don’t want it to be completely fine like breadcrumbs. Slowly add the water through the feed chute, processing briefly with the pulse button, until just combined. You don’t want it to be too wet, but it needs to start sticking together. Tip out, form into a flat disc using floured hands, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an  hour or up to 2 days. It can also be frozen.

Preheat oven to 220°C. On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out the pastry thinly and line a tart tin, preferably metal. Mine is rectangular, but any will do. Wash and trim the rhubarb. I had plenty, so used only the red ends. All the trimmings and greener ends were made into a compote which is great for breakfast with yoghurt or as the base of a fruit crumble. I cut the rhubarb into the exact width of the tin and lined them up in the uncooked pastry case, so I knew exactly how many I needed. If you want more fruit in the tart you could cut up all the green bits and put them in first, then arrange the bigger pieces on top.

Place rhubarb in a bowl and mix with the sugar, port and citrus zest, then arrange in the tart shell. Drizzle over any remaining sugary juice. Sprinkle with the extra sugar, then dot all over with small pieces of butter.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until pastry is golden and rhubarb is starting to blacken in places – see photo. If liked, brush the surface of the tart with some apricot jam (just the non-chunky part) when it comes out of the oven.

Serve warm or at room temperature with cream, sour cream or creme fraiche.

Serves 10

Variations: use peaches, plums, nectarines or apricots instead of rhubarb.

Jam Doughnut Muffins

Who doesn’t like doughnuts? The only trouble is you have to cook them in deep hot oil, which puts a lot of people off making them at home.

This recipe combines the flavours of a doughnut in a muffin which is baked in the oven. Quicker and easier than anything deep fried, but they are brushed with melted butter, to help the sugar stick, so I’m not sure about them being healthier! A perfect treat for the kids when they come home from school.

2 cups self-raising flour
2/3 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup (250ml) buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla essence
Red jam (e.g. strawberry, raspberry)
To serve:
125g butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 12 hole muffin pan with one third cup capacity holes. Place flour, sugar, salt, oil, egg, buttermilk and vanilla in food processor and whiz to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides, or use electric beaters. Fill each muffin hole a bit over half full. Place a heaped teaspoon of jam in the middle of each, then divide remaining mixture between the muffins. I made 10 but they could have been a bit smaller to end up with 12.

Bake for 20 mins or until well-risen and golden brown. Cool in the pans for a few minutes, then remove. Mix sugar and cinnamon. While still warm brush each muffin all over with melted butter then roll in the sugar. Best eaten on the day they are made.

Makes 12

Variations: use lemon curd, chocolate chips or Nutella in the middle instead of red jam.