Saturday, September 17, 2011

Blackberry Shortcake...and clotted cream

The original recipe I found was for Blackberry and Clotted Cream Shortcake, from BBC Good Food, one of my absolute favorite food sites. I have yet to experience clotted cream in the way I've wanted to for years. Not living in England is really a bummer. Not owning a Jersey cow is a setback, too. Also, not living anywhere within 60 miles of a specialty food store makes things difficult.

I used to have a friend in England (that sounded wrong... I think we are still friends...) who would patiently answer my nit-picking string of questions about all things English, including traditional Cream Tea, and her descriptions of clotted cream was enough to set me drooling. I mean, come on... LOOK at that scone! Doesn't the cream on that look more amazing than anything you've had in your life? Okay, maybe I'm obsessing just a little.

I decided to make my own when a friend offered me raw cream from their cow. Unfortunately, the cream was not the freshest and the results were... potent.

I tried mail-ordering some from English Tea Store *once, but it was mid summer, and they contacted me to let me know it would be an additional $30 to ship it in a chilled container so it wouldn't spoil. For ONE JAR. I cancelled my order.

Then finally, last year mom and I were on a trip and stumbled across Clotted Cream in a baking store, so I begged her to get it for me for Christmas. Sadly, the jarred cream really was more like hard butter than anything else.

So, here I am to this day, making Mock Devonshire Cream anytime a recipe calls for clotted cream. It's a recipe I came across in the book If Teacups Could Talk, and it really is very good for a cream filling. How like clotted cream it is, I honestly couldn't say. All I know is that I enjoy eating it by the spoonful, so it works for me. For now.

Now, on to the shortcake! I have a tendency to want rich, gooey chocolate things when I make dessert for an event, but this was a dinner for my parents. I know mom likes simpler desserts, most of her family are big fans of blackberries, and I wanted something easily converted to sugar-free for my dad's sake. I browsed my recipe box and knew this was a good one to try. And it WAS good!

The recipe was in metric measurements, and I recommend using them (see link above) if you have kitchen scales. I did my best to convert them to cups, but it will always be slightly different.

3 cups self-rising flour
1 tsp baking powder
10 Tbs cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg, beaten

16 oz blackberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
3 Tbs sugar (or to taste)
1 1/2 cups clotted cream or Mock Devonshire Cream
Powdered sugar to decorate, optional

  1. Heat the oven to 375. Tip** the flour into a mixing bowl with baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add the butter, rub everything together with your fingers to make a reasonably fine crumbed mixture, then stir in the sugar.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, then tip in the buttermilk and egg. Gently work the mixture together until it forms a soft, sticky, dough.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead the mixture a couple of times and mould it into an 18cm (7 inch) round. Put the dough on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 mins until golden and risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle. Leave to cool.
  4. For the filling, lightly mash the blackberries with the sugar. Split the shortcake in two horizontally and spread the bottom half with the clotted cream***. Spoon the mashed berries over the cream, then top with the shortcake. Dust with icing sugar and serve in slices.

To make Mock Devonshire Cream, beat 3/4 C heavy cream until stiff, with a Tbs or so of powdered sugar. Fold in 3/4 C sour cream until thoroughly combined. YUM.

*This should not be a reflection on the company; I'm sure it's very hard to ship items that must be chilled. And if you've never checked out their store, DO. Their loose leaf teas are some of the best I've come across. You simply must try the Earl Grey Cream. It's unbelievably good.

** Yes, I copy/pasted the instructions for the most part because I'm a sap who loves British cooking terms.

*** I put the berries on first, because my mom loves soggy shortcake. I just had to let all the juices soak in. :)

Basil & Garlic Focaccia

This is my favorite quick Focaccia recipe. I'm sure it's not very traditional, and this particular batch turned out denser than I would have liked, but it's delicious, flavorful and doesn't take all day to make. Maybe it's name should be "Focaccia in a pinch"? Either way, it's delicious sliced horizontally for sandwich bread or in slabs to dunk in tomato soup. The original recipe is rosemary, to which I add garlic, which is a wonderful mouth-watering combination. Since I was serving this with a basil tomato soup, I switch the seasoning. Try it with whatever herbs you prefer, you really can't go wrong.

Basil and Garlic Focaccia

Based on a recipe from Epicurious.

  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
  • 2 tsp table salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Stir together 1 2/3 cups lukewarm (105 to 115°F) water and yeast in bowl of mixer and let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes. Add 5 cups flour, 1/4 cup oil, and table salt and beat until dough comes together. Turn out on floured surface and knead (you will need to flour your hands, too; it's a sticky mess at this point.) until soft, smooth, and sticky, 3 to 4 minutes.Be careful not to knead in too much extra flour, you want it to be a little stickier than you initially think is a good idea. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and turn dough to coat with oil. Let rise, covered with plastic wrap, at warm room temperature, until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Stir together rosemary, garlic and remaining 3 tablespoons oil.

Press dough evenly into a generously oiled 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan. Let dough rise, covered completely with a kitchen towel, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Make shallow indentations all over dough with your fingertips, then brush with herb oil, letting it pool in indentations. Sprinkle sea salt evenly over focaccia and bake in middle of oven until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool a while, then turn out onto a rack or bread board before cutting.

Chicken in Golden Sauce

This recipe has been a family favorite since I was a kid. It's aaaaaall about the sauce.

Chicken in Golden Sauce

Original recipe from 1970-something Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book

3 chicken breasts* (2 pounds)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/4 C flour
1 tsp paprika
Dash freshly ground pepper
3 Tbs butter
1 clove garlic, halved
1/2 C white wine

For the sauce:
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 C heavy cream
1 Tbs fresh parsley, optional
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Remove skin (if desired) and cut chicken into serving size pieces. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Heat butter and garlic in a heavy pan over medium heat. While waiting, in a shallow dish such as a pie plate, combine the flour, pepper and paprika. Roll the chicken pieces to coat, and fry until brown on both sides. (It will not be cooked through at this point) Add the wine, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until chicken is tender. Remove the chicken, but keep it warm. To make the sauce, use the pan liquid to temper the egg yolks to help keep the sauce from separating (in my picture here the sauce had separated... still delicious though.). Add cream and parsley. Cook on low heat until thickened, then add lemon juice. Serve over chicken and mashed potatoes.

*We have made this with all cuts of chicken.

Fresh Peach Sweet Tea

Right now we have an abundance of late-season peaches in our fridge. They aren't the greatest quality, certainly not mouth-watering like the peaches we get in August. I would never cook with those peaches, they are best eaten fresh, with the juice running down your arm. The ones I'm dealing with now, while the flavor is fine, are not at all juicy and a bit mealy. What to do with all these peaches?

I wanted a special beverage for the dinner, and since I currently have about two pounds of loose leaf black tea waiting to be used (Bless you, dear friend who sent it to me!) it only made sense; Peach Iced Tea.

Here's what I came up with:

Fresh Peach Sweet Tea

Makes about 6 quarts

2 lb fresh peaches (about 6)
6-8 tea bags, or Tbs loose-leaf tea (I highly recommend loose-leaf)
2-3 C simple syrup*
8 C water

Put your water on to boil. While waiting, peel and slice peaches (as long as they aren't super mush, you can peel them with a regular vegetable peeler.) and put through a food mill or food processor. If you want you can then force the peach puree through a fine sieve.

When the water boils, turn off the heat, add your tea bags and allow to steep for 5 minutes. This will make a good strong tea without steeping so long it turns bitter.

This is my kind of tea bag. :)

Now, if you've forced the peaches through a sieve, you could now simply stir it into the tea. I wanted mine very smooth and not pulpy though, so I didn't sieve it. I put the peaches in cheese cloth and poured the tea over it, allowing all the peach juices to be brought out and the fibers left behind. Squeeze the pulp as dry as you can, there is really very little waste. Stir in as much or as little simple syrup as you like, keeping in mind that it's strong tea that will be served over ice, so you may want it a tad too sweet to start with. Enjoy!

* Simple Syrup is made simply by combining equal parts water and sugar in a sauce pan and bringing it to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Cool and use in any sweet drinks you want.

The Starter: Roasted Tomato Soup

A family friend raved about this soup long enough, I finally decided I had to try the recipe. I haven't made home-made tomato soup before, I'm always concerned that it will taste like eating... well, tomato. Which, in my book, is not a good thing. Tomato sauces are wonderful, but not plain tomato, and especially not raw. I know, I know... I've been told I don't know what I'm missing by all the tomato-sandwich fans I know, but hey, I didn't CHOSE the way tomatoes taste. They were nasty to start with!

Anyway, I'll move on. This soup has a wonderful blend of flavors, and is very low fat, not being a cream soup. I drizzled mine with a little home made yogurt or cream, mostly just for looks but it tastes nice too.

Fresh Basil... mmmm...

Roasted Tomato Soup

  • 3-1/2 pounds tomatoes (about 11 medium), halved
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 12 fresh basil leaves
  • Place the tomatoes (unpeeled), onion and garlic in a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan; drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper; toss to coat. Bake at 400° for 25-30 minutes or until tender, stirring once. Cool slightly.
  • In a blender, puree tomato mixture and basil in batches until blended and as smooth as you like.
  • When ready to serve, transfer to a large saucepan and heat through. Serve with croutons or herb bread.
Original recipe from Taste of Home.

I made a double batch, so I simply added 10 minutes to the oven time.

I served this soup with fresh focaccia, perfect for dunking.

Poor little blog!

I didn't give up on you, little blog, never fear! I am just not one who functions well while working full time. I either work, or do Other Things, I don't tend to do both. My job is seasonal, so after taking a few weeks to travel a bit and just glory in the beauty of late summer, I feel ready to really get back into cooking an blogging about it!

Last week my parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, and I cooked a big meal for the family and a couple of friends. The upcoming string of recipes are the ones I chose for the meal. Enjoy!