Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tweaked English Scones - with Peanut Butter!

I have been having a bit of an experimenting day in the kitchen today...

I wanted to make scones, but not my usual plain sweet or cheesy ones, and so while having a bit of a google on the 'net for new and interesting ideas I kept coming across recipes for peanut butter scones...

hmmmmmm??!!!!....now there's something that I really like...PEANUT BUTTER oh my, oh yes, oh yum! the thought of PB scones rather set the taste buds going!

On closer inspection of a few sites (and dutifully saved to Pinterest of course) I noticed that they were all for American style scones...and required more ingredients, including using eggs....and more often than not, chocolate (match made in heaven...so pretty obvious I guess).

So, nothing wrong with that....American style scones are VERY tasty...but the lack of English style recipes for scones with peanut butter got me wondering if it was actually possible to make them the English way....

...and there was only one way to find out....

just try it and see!

I took my tried and trusted recipe for English Sweet Scones and tweaked it just a little bit by adding some wholemeal flour and rolled oats into the mix (just to take the edge off the white stuff and add a bit more texture), and reducing the sugar content (assuming the PB would add some but not all the sweetness) and I stuck to normal milk rather than yoghurt or buttermilk for the liquid part (purely due to the fact I had neither in stock...but they would work equally well) I also opted to leave out chocolate...just so I could get an idea of what the plain PB scone would taste like.

Making up the mix was pretty simple....I just made the standard dry crumb mix first before adding the peanut butter, which I warmed slightly in the microwave to loosen it up a bit, then re-crumbed it again and then stirred in the milk to get the final dough. My ingredients list calls for approx. 1/4 pint of milk and I advise you add it slowly and gradually - depending on how much PB you use, and the flour type (not all flour is equal and has different absorption rates), so you may not need it all...or you may need more.  Mix it all gently and stop working it the moment it has all come together and formed a soft dough. It's crucial not to over knead scone dough...it's not like making bread and you do not want to activate too much gluten in the flour by kneading or you'll end up with dense heavy scones. Sometimes I form my dough into one large round and then cut into triangular segments, sometimes I use a round cutter...in this instance I went for a round 2&5/8ths inch plain round cutter and it yielded eight scones...oh, and one thing that I NEVER do, is to roll out the dough with a pin...I gently form and pat out with my hands because again, going back to what I said about mixing it, you don't want to over work it or it will become heavy...and I feel a rolling pin can often do that. I like a hands on approach so I can feel the texture and know when it's right. I pat it out to approx. 2 inch thickness...purely because that's how we like our scones - deep (after the added rising during cooking) with a good balance of soft fluffy inner and crispy crust outer.

So, a quick brush with a milk glaze over the top and they went in the oven and I sat in anticipation, watching as they slowly rose and lightly browned.

and the verdict?

Well, I have to say I was very please with the outcome.

The combination of the wholemeal flour and the oats gave a slightly nutty background to the scone.... and the peanut butter was there but not overpoweringly so. In all, the scone seemed more malty flavoured than anything and not overly sweet, which seemed quite strange...but pleasant....and as my 'NON peanut butter loving' other half scoffed back a couple and said they were very tasty and a success, I guess that was fine...in fact I think they make a perfect base for splitting and slathering with a spread such as chocolate. I tried one with sliced banana and a drizzle of honey and can happily give this combo a big thumbs up.

I also think this recipe could be tweaked to suit tastes....maybe add more wholemeal flour for a denser dough, maybe add more peanut butter for a real nutty kick...or even try crunchy version for real texture and bite...and don't forget to try chucking in some dark chocolate chips for a classic combo.

So here's the recipe I went for....give it a whirl...see what you think...tweak it if you think it needs it!

  • 5oz Plain white flour
  • 3oz Wholemeal flour
  • 1oz rolled oats
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2oz cold unsalted butter cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 generous dessert spoons of smooth peanut butter
  • approx 1/4 pint milk you may need more/or less, plus some required for glazing.
Preheat oven to 220oC (200oC if using fan oven)

Combine the flour, oats, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl, add the butter and rub in with the fingers to form a rough crumb, stir in the sugar. Slightly warm the peanut butter in a microwave to loosen the texture a little and pour into the crumb mix, stir in. You'll probably find it will clump together so then use fingers to break it up and re-crumb the mix gently again. Start adding the milk, a bit at a time, stirring in until it all comes together, is combined and formed a soft dough. Tip out onto a work surface and gently shape with the hands. patting out to approx. 2 inch thickness. Shape as a round pattie and cut into 8 triangular wedges, or use a round cookie cutter to make the more traditional looking individual scones (makes approx. 8). Brush the tops with milk glaze and bake in oven for 12-15minutes until cooked through and lightly golden on top.

Serve warmed, split and spread with chocolate spread or sliced bananas and a dash of honey.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A Rhubard Curd Tart...that wasn't tart at all!

I'm a few years in to growing rhubarb in one of my raised veg patches...to the point where things are growing so well my freezer is stuffed to the rafters with rhubarb and I'm basically giving it away left right and centre to any neighbour, relative and friend who'll eat it. I'm also becoming obsessed with finding new and different ways to cook and eat it...from savoury to sweet you name it, I'm googling for it and slowly working my way through a list....with the help of Pinterest of course, and my vast collection of cookery books.

We English are rather fond of our puddings...and a rhubarb crumble is a staple in our house...but there's only so much crumble a gal can eat...and where as it makes a welcome comforting dish during cold winter days (and where the pieces carefully frozen and stored in the freezer come into play)...during the early summer, when it's warm and the rhubarb is fresh and tender you find yourself wanting to make the most of it at it's best and freshest...but need something summery and lighter perhaps...

(although not necessarily lighter calorie wise...sigh)

After previous years experimenting in various preserving recipes for chutneys (photo above), I was looking at perhaps making a jam....(any way to store and preserve it is good by me) but most websites and my books suggest that this really only works well when using early tender and forced rhubarb stems...so this being the beginning of August with my plants mature, fat and ready to start wilting back, that didn't bode well on the jam front...

...and then, during a evening 'Pinteresting' I came across Rhubarb curd!

Hmmmm? Rhubarb Curd? Now that was something new for me. I was keen to give it a go.

The problem however, when searching for recipes on places like Pinterest, is that you can quite literally get bogged down with so many variations you aren't sure which way to turn and which one to try out so I pinned a few and took a closer look into them at what to do. I'm quite familiar with making lemon and lime curds...but wasn't sure how to prep the rhubarb (turns out there is more than one way). Firstly I settled on using a recipe from the good old tried and tested website BBCGoodFood, with a nice easy safe recipe to follow with little outlay and effort and a small yield of just two jars (so no mass of stuff to dispose of if all goes horribly wrong...oh me of little faith lol!) here's the link -


but one thing however did bother me. Their instructions called for the raw rhubarb to be run in a blender to create a pulp/juice...and I was not willing to do this and then have to deal with cleaning my blender (yes I was being a tad lazy that day) PLUS my rhubarb was mature and probably tougher than the usual forced stems (that they use) so I wasn't sure my blender was up to the task. So another scan of the pin board and I noticed another recipe by American food page The Kitchn -


Here, the instructions said to stew the rhubarb in a little water...and suggested this makes it sweeter...so that got me thinking....

Stew the rhubarb, but keep to the BBCGF recipe ingredients....and despite the fact the stewing would in effect have extra water in it, this would be counterbalanced by the added cornflour (in fact if you read the comments and ratings below, someone even advises adding extra cornflour to make the curd even thicker).

(As it turned out, I think stewing the rhubarb then giving it a further going over with my Bamix hand blender, pulverised the rhubarb very well and I extracted far more juice than was needed. I'm not convinced my food Blender would have done the job as well).

So, that was sorted and I set about my curd making. Here's the combo of the two above recipes -

RHUBARB CURD - (makes two jars)

  • 600g forced rhubarb, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped (yes it does call for forced rhubarb....but as it turned out my more mature stems were perfectly fine and I just chopped them up smaller so they'd break down quicker)
  •  a little water for stewing
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200g butter, diced
  • 4 tsp cornflour
  • 175g caster sugar (I used vanilla pod infused unrefined golden castor sugar
    First prep/sterilise two regular sized jam jars.
    Place the rhubarb in a pan, barely cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer until the stems become soft and pulpy. This might take approx. 20mins but depends on the size and thickness of the pieces. Remove from heat. If possible, use a hand blender to break the rhubarb down further (to enable you to extract as much juice as possible...then strain through a sieve, keeping the juice to make the curd. I use a plastic fine sieve over a bowl for sieving fruits, and push it through with a wooden spoon....I think using a metal sieve and utensils can often taint the fruit with a metallic taste. Set juice aside to cool.
    You can use the left over pulp for something else (it's great stirred into some yoghurt). After hitting my stewed rhubarb with my Bamix hand blender I managed to sieve out much more juice than is probably usually expected and only had 2 tablespoons of pulp left.
    Place the eggs, butter, cornflour, sugar, and 250ml of the rhubarb juice into a pan over a very low heat and whisk continuously until the butter has all melted and the ingredients have all incorporated. Then switch to using a wooden spoon and stir, again continuously over the very low heat until the curd thickens to about the consistency of custard. This may take some time....do not be tempted to turn up the heat, this will only curdle the eggs and turn it into a scrambled mess. Also keep an eye out to prevent it catching on the bottom and sides of the pan. Remove from the heat.
    Sieve a second time, into a clean bowl, to remove any lumps, stir in a further 100ml more of the reserved juice (optional)...and fill your prepped jam jars. Seal, cool and store in the fridge (for up to one week)
    So, here's my effort! Firstly, you can see the jug of left over juice in the background, over 100ml so that was jarred up to be used for a lemonade spritzer drink. But back to the curd...as you can see, the colour changed rather dramatically (and disappointingly) which I think is due to the lovely deep yellow free range eggs I used. So the deep salmon pink of the pulp dissipated into the egg sugar mix to became a rather insipid flesh colour...but hey ho...
    It was the taste that was important to me...
    Had to be good and patient to allow it to cool and with an overnighter in the fridge to thicken it up some more....then it was dive in with a spoon and give a verdict...
    ...and boy did it taste good!
    Not what I expected at all, the curd was creamy, smooth, velvety...not tart at all (real surprise considering it is rhubarb!) but not too sweet either and with a subtle buttery vanilla background. The consistency was soft, unlike the curds I'm used to making...and certainly no where near the gelatinous stuff they sell in the supermarkets. In my opinion, it's was very close to that of crème pat (only obviously rhubarb tasting)....
    divine...totally divine!
    If you like rhubarb, and you like making preserves and curds etc, then you really need to make some. Yes it has a short shelf life...but to be honest, once you taste it, that jar will empty quicker than you think lol!
    So, asides from just diving in and eating it straight of the spoon....I started to ponder over ways in which to use it. BBCGF page suggests slathering it on toast and crumpets...which I'm rather partial too with my lemon curds...
    ...but there was something about this one that seemed far too creamy and decadent to be partnered up with bread.
    It was crying out to be used in a dessert.
    So I thought, lets try a little pastry tart, filled with the curd, topped with some more rhubarb (roasted pieces this time) to put some of the bite and tang back in...
    First things - I made a shortcrust pastry. Very easy and quick to do...just a plain one. I don't bother with making sweet enriched pastry for sweet tarts because I like to balance the sweeter contents with a plain base. I use a good old tried and trusted recipe from BBC Food site -
    Just click on the link and follow their instructions...I'm not going to type it all out again because it's just straight up as it is written, no tweaking or alterations by me.
    I rolled out very thin (I like really thin crispy delicate bases to my dessert tarts) and blind baked in a small loose bottomed tartlet pan.
    Look...no soggy bottoms!
    While this was set aside to cool, I then went and got myself a nice young tender stem of rhubarb, fresh from the garden.
    Washed and trimmed into small pieces, I places the rhubarb onto a baking tray and roasted in the oven for a couple of minutes...a couple was all it took as it was quite a thin stem.
    Now roasting is an ideal way to cook rhubarb if you want to soften but retain it's shape (stewing obviously breaks down the fibres). Some cooks suggest you sprinkle with sugar and a spoonful of water, but I didn't bother...I wanted a bit of bite and to keep the rhubarb as tangy as possible.
    While the roasted rhubarb pieces cooled, I set about filling the tart pastry case with my rhubarb curd. Because I intended on eating straight away, I didn't bother with sealing the pastry case with an egg wash (and some people brush melted chocolate in) but if the tart had to sit around for awhile (say if I was making for a party or dinner) then I probably would because the liquid in the curd will probably soften and seep into the pastry...so after all that hard work cooking to ensure no soggy bottoms...you don't want to go ruining it with the filling putting one right back in there do you!
    The tart got decorated with the roasted rhubarb....which I had a dilemma over - go all rustic and scatter or be more civilised and posh and make a symmetrical pattern....
    civilised and posh won!
    ...and then a dusting of icing sugar....awe...look...it's all pretty!
    Crispy pastry, soft creamy filling, tangy bites of rhubarb...
    Oh my did THAT taste good!
    I think we can safely say this curd recipe and tart will be made quite a few more times in this kitchen :)
    Hope you enjoyed reading this....and that it inspires you to have a go at making your own curd.
    xxx Ange xxx