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Beautiful Scones - Daring Baker January Challenge

This month's challenge came from Audax from Audax Artifex, a fellow daring baker and also from Sydney. We had to bake scones and they turned out beautifully (well, except the first batch). I love scones but don't make them very often. But, since this is such a nice and simple recipe I made four batches of it. The first batch came out okay but because the oven hadn't been hot enough and because I had pressed the dough out too thin the scones came out a bit too flat.

The second batch was much better and I couldn't stop making them. I only kneaded them until the dough came just together and then pressed and layered the dough into a rectangle. I like them to be round in shape so I used a cookie cutter but the downside is you have to re-roll the dough and if you overwork the dough they won't rise as much. I simply layered the dough thicker the second time so they would rise to almost the same height as the previous ones. If you can't be bothered, cut the rectangle in squares and that's it, no leftover dough. I like a crusty top on my scones and therefore cooled them on a wire rack. If you want softies, wrap them in a tea towel and the steam will keep the whole scone soft.

My daughter got lured into the kitchen by the smell wafting through our house and wanted to make them too. However, of course, she wanted them sweet. So we added dried sour cherries to the dough and that goes fantastic with the fluffy and buttery little scones, especially when they're still warm. It's so delicious.

I went up to the Blue Mountains that day to see friends and we had them for afternoon tea with eggplant relish and the bacon and onion jam I made - life was really good that day.

I will definitely make this recipe again and again and again as it is a very good basic scones recipe. Thank you Audax for the challenge and for sharing your recipe. I love it!

The basic scone.

This was the fourth batch with dried sour cherries added to the dough.

Scones with dried sour cherries.

Basic scone recipe by Audax from Audax Artifex:

Basic Scones (a.k.a. Basic Biscuits)
Servings: about eight 2-inch (5 cm) scones or five 3-inch (7½ cm) scones
Recipe can be doubled
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) fresh baking powder
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter (or a combination of lard and butter)
approximately ½ cup (120 ml) cold milk
optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones
1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
2. Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)
3. Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)
6. Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.
7. Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones.
8. Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.
9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.


Happy Australia Day

Today is Australia Day and usually we would be doing a picnic or BBQ or both. Unfortunately the weather has been rather wet and so we only had a small more improvised picnic (not very German I know :-). We went for a walk in the afternoon when the rain finally stopped and started with a late lunch at a Thai place on King St in Newtown. Then off to the park for a walk and munching on the  Lamingtons along the way.

Australia Day  is the official national anniversary celebrated annually on 26 January. The date commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788 and the proclamation at that time of British sovereignty over the Eastern seaboard of New Holland.
There are a lot of activities around the city but I think most families prefer to gather in parks and on the beach for a barbie or picnic with friends.

I found a very funny drawing for colouring in about what people do on Australia Day.

Okay, I admit it, we didn't do any of those activities above but instead I made the traditional and
very Australian Lamingtons to show my patriotism for Australia as a good baking immigrant.

Lamingtons for the Australia Day picnic.

So Australian!

Recipe for Lamingtons:

6 free-range eggs
150 g caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
150 g plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
70 g cornflour
2 tablespoons boiling water

250 g desiccated coconut
500 g icing sugar mixture
50 g Dutch cocoa powder, sifted
250 ml boiling water
20 g butter

1. Preheat oven to 180degrees Celsius. Grease a 3cm deep, 20 x 30 cm (base) lamington pan.
Line with baking paper.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl on high speed for 8-10 min or until thick and pale and sugar has dissolved.
3. Using a large spoon, fold in sifted flours. Fold in boiling water. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
Bake for 20-25 min or until centre springs back when lightly touched.
4. Line a baking rack with baking paper. Cool sponge in pan for 5 min then tip over onto prepared rack. Cover with a clean tea towel and set aside overnight.
5. For the icing, combine icing sugar mixture, cocoa powder, boiling water and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and, stirring, bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 min or until sauce thickens slightly. Set aside to cool for 2 min.
6. Meanwhile cut cake into 12 pieces and put coconut a bowl or shallow dish.
7. Using two forks, dip 1 piece of cake in icing, let excess drip off, then toss in coconut. Place on a wire rack to dry. Repeat with remaining cake, icing and coconut.


Sweet basil ice cream

The Australian sun has come back and that means it is hot and humid - too much for me. The sun here actually really burns your skin if you don't stay in the shade or even better stay inside the house and make ice cream, like I did. I couldn't be bothered to go near a stove top to make a custard though so I used mascarpone and Greek-style yoghurt with fresh basil leaves.

It might sound weird but it's actually a very nice flavour that would go well with fruit salad. Since you don't make the custard it's also very quick and easy to make. I used an ice cream maker to churn it into a soft mix, but it will probably also work if you don't have an ice cream maker.

Here is the recipe for sweet basil ice cream:

1 bunch basil, leaves picked
500 g caster sugar
1 kg Greek-style yoghurt
500 g mascarpone
juice and rind of 1 lime

1. Put leaves and sugar in a food processor and pulse to a coarse paste.
2. Add remaining ingredients and mix together. Put in an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions.


New food trend? Chocolate truffels to play

Now that is a really cool diploma project, don't you think? I assume it's only available in Europe though.

‘Sweet Play’ is a new kind of chocolate which is, thanks to three special elements, compatible with your taste. It is the graduation work of French designer Elsa Lambinet (who partnered with Blondel, the famous Swiss chocolate maker) and is based on modular design, allowing you to create three different types of chocolate with two additional ingredients: the dark chocolate has a hole so you can add fruit to it; milk chocolate has a space for nuts; and white chocolate a space for gelatinous goodies.

Chocolate modules - ready to play.


...and drop

Enjoy your selection.

Are marshmallows the new cupcakes?

I came across an interesting article recently. Daily Mail online forecasts a new sweet trend on the horizon: New York artisan bakers have taken on the marshmallow to dress them up and make them more appealing for us grown-ups. I suppose nearly every child likes marshmallow and doesn't mind so much the bought dry stuff as long as they are pink (well, that at least applies to my daughter:-).

I had my first yummy marshmallow a couple of years ago when I was at the Yellow Cafe in Potts Point, Sydney. Homemade and fresh they are beautifully soft and sweet. The Yellow Cafe had a few different flavours but I was cautious and only tried the coconut marshmallow with toasted fresh coconut flakes. They were superb! I then made passion fruit marshmallows and since then I am hooked - but they really have to be fresh. Honestly, forget the packaged ones.

I now make them from time to time as they are not so hard to make and also very versatile (not very healthy though), you can mix almost any flavour in you can think of. What you do need is a sugar thermometer because you have to make a sugar syrup and get this to the right temperature.

I can understand why bakeries in New York have chosen the humble marshmallow to be the next big thing on the sweet sky. It's versatile and the creations I have seen look very far away from the dry and rubbery marshmallow you'll find at supermarkets.

Here is a collection of Marshmallow aficionados and their creations:

Marshmallow mug toppers by Plush Puffs.

Beautifully wrapped marshmallows by Fusion Sweets.


Watermelon marshmallows by Mia Mallows.


Cherry Clafoutis

It has rained almost all weekend which is quite unusual for Sydney summer but I so don't mind. It means I can stay at home and bake naughty little desserts before I start my detox diet next month, oomph. February will be my health month and knowing that I already crave all those things I am most certainly not allowed to eat then.

Clafoutis, sometimes also spelled clafouti, is a baked French dessert of black cherries arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter. The clafoutis is dusted with icing sugar and served lukewarm.
According to baking purists the cherries should still contain their pits as this releases an almond-like flavour but I don’t like biting into unpitted cherries in a dessert.
Call me lazy but I prefer to totally enjoy my dessert without having to worry about any pits.

You can, of course, use any other fruit such as berries, prunes, apples or plums but then it would be rather called flaugnarde. Whatever you call it, it is very yummy and so easy to make. Served in individual dishes it will make a great dessert for Valentines Day or be just a comforting treat on a rainy day like today. 

Recipe for my cherry clafoutis:
Makes 2 individual dishes/frying pan of 15 cm in diameter each

100 g light sour cream
125 ml thickened cream
2 eggs, lightly whisked
3 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons plain flour
butter, softened, to grease dishes
200 g black cherries, pitted
icing sugar
mint leaves, optional

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Whisk together sour cream, cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Add flour and whisk until well combined.
3. Butter dishes then scatter cherries over bottom. Pour batter around cherries and bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
4. Sprinkle with icing sugar and some mint leaves and serve.


Honey-roasted cauliflower salad

Yesterday was another very warm day here in Sydney that asked for a light lunch such as a salad.  When I still lived in Germany I used to make this cauliflower salad quite often and then completely forgot about it until a few days ago. This time though I also roasted the cauliflower in the oven with some leatherwood honey drizzled over and they turn golden and a little crunchy. It's superb! The combination of capers and raisins seems weird at first but it is actually delicious. When you use the small capers in salt (which are much tastier) be careful with adding any more salt, they are like little taste bombs and may still give enough salty flavour to your salad.  I used golden raisins from Harris Farm which are massive compared to the usual one but very yummy and not overly sweet. But you can also use currants instead.

Here is the recipe for it:

1 cauliflower
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon small capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons raisins

1. Trim cauliflower into florets and cook in boiling water until cooked al dente. Discard water and let cool. Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Place cauliflower on a baking tray and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and honey. Bake in hot oven until the honey caramelises, approx. 10 minutes.
Let cool.
2. Stir together lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Dry-roast pine nuts in a medium-hot frying pan until golden brown.
3. Combine all ingredients and serve with crusty bread.


Bacon and Onion Jam

This weekend I went to visit friends in the Blue Mountains. We thought of having a picnic and therefore I made this bacon and onion jam. I got inspired by a fellow blogger here and only changed a few things. I used rosemary and it totally works its magic with the smoky flavour of the bacon and the sweetness of the onions - it's absolutely beautiful. We didn't end up having a picnic due to the weather but nevertheless enjoyed the jam on linseed bread and homemade scones with goat's cheese - a darn good combination. My friend's son really loved it too and had the leftover jam the next day the Italian way with some pasta mixed through it. My daughter, as always, didn't like it and only had scones with nothing, well why not.

Makes about 4 cups

4 rashers bacon
1 kg brown onions, peeled, halved and cut into slices
1 teaspoon salt
500 ml apple cider
50 ml red wine or cider vinegar
40 g brown sugar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1. Heat a large heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon until it is just crisp, then remove the slices and set aside, leaving all of the rendered fat in the pan.
2. Add the onions and salt to the pan, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the onions soften (about 15 minutes).
3. Chop the bacon into small dice. Add bacon and the remaining ingredients to the pan. Cook uncovered until the liquid is reduced to almost nothing, stirring occasionally (about an hour).
4. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking until the onions are a rich medium brown color, stirring frequently (about 10 minutes). If it starts looking too dry, add water 1/4 cup at a time.
5. Remove from the heat, set aside, and let cool.


Calico and Ivy in Balmain

On my last stroll through Balmain I came across a cute little fabric store called Calico and Ivy. I always buy way too much fabric and this store was no exception.  On my first visit I bought very beautiful french linen there that I now use a lot for my photos. The other time I bought fat quarters to make leaves on wires to wrap around presents.  It's a charming little shop and every time I am in Balmain I make sure I stop by even if it means I'll buy even more fabric I probably don't need (but then you'll never know:-). In case you end up with too much fabric and never get around to make  anything they also offer classes and Cath from Prints Charming also taught embroidery there.


Mudgee and vineyards

I am sure there are many more vineyards to visit while in Mudgee but we were so late and managed to only visit two. We went to Burnbrae and Blacklea and bought a few reds and a rose. A yummy muscat liqueur from Burnbrae which I am drinking right now. We also packed the award winning virgin olive oil with basil from Blacklea vineyard which we took straight to our friends' BBQ on New Years Eve. For lunch we went to Eltons Brasserie, a place that sounded nice online but to be honest I expected a bit more given it's a brasserie. The food was okay, nothing fancy thought but rather the usual pub grub such as Caesar's salad, chicken salad and fish and chips. I think next time we go to Mudgee I have to do a bit more research on the culinary side.

Mudgee town centre.

Having lunch at Eltons Brasserie.

Caesar's salad, chicken salad and chicken nuggets with chippies.

The Burnbrae vineyard near Mudgee.

Taking a nap.

Beautiful collectables at the Burnbrae cellar door.

Blacklea vineyard near Mudgee.


Farmstay near Mudgee

We had a wonderful stay at the Ba Mack Homestead in Windeyer near Mudgee with sheep, alpacas, goats, kittens and lots of dogs. Julie and Dave who run the farm are very welcoming and especially kids will love the feeding time with the animals. When we arrived we were greeted by Sally the little dog and my daughter automatically fell in love with her. Julie gave us delicious cake for the afternoon tea (butter-cinnamon and fruit cake) and I couldn't stop eating. It was our first farm stay and we all really enjoyed it. My daughter loved hanging around with all the animals and carried Sally everywhere we went. I'd love to return to Ba Mack for the shearing season and also have to ask Julie for the recipe of that butter-cinnamon cake, it was so yummy!
Another highlight was the kangaroo safari at dusk. It might not be a special thing for Australians but immigrants like us do get the kick out of real kangaroos. In the beginning I often mistook them with tree stumps but after a while I could see more and more jumping around. They are fast but luckily also curious so they never hop too far away.

Oh my gosh, I love that old oven!

Fresh eggs for breakfast and delicious cake for afternoon tea

Feeding time.

Sally, little darling

Time to sleep


Gulgong is a 19th century gold rush town north of Mudgee.

I love fancy photographic goods!

Gulgong seems to be a treasure trove for fancy goods. Shame they were all closed.

Beautiful old Millthorpe

Millthorpe is only a few kilometers away from Orange and such a peaceful place. We got there early in the morning and had a little walk around, it was very quiet. At the end of the main road are two antiques shops and especially the Old Wares shop was right up my alley. I could have spent much more time in there, looking for props and would have liked to have a big truck. I think I have to go back soon.
After prop hunting we went to the Old Mill Cafe for breakfast and I had a beautiful frittata which came in its own little skillet, very cute and tasty.

Sleepy Millthorpe

Old Wares shop in Millthorpe

The Old Mill Cafe in Millthorpe


Finally we managed to drive up to Orange, beautiful country side and wine region not so far from Sydney. It's about a four hours drive through the Blue Mountains. Unfortunately when we arrived most of the cellar doors were already closed but we found one door still open at the Union Bank wine store. They also have a very nice courtyard and a restaurant but that wasn't open either. Anyway, we tasted some fabulous wines and took home Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay from the Belgravia vineyard in Orange.

Settler's Cottage on Mayfield Vineyard