Been a while! But there's a good reason. First, I got sick. And I can't give good feedback on a recipe when I can't taste it. Second, I don't often read what I'm going to be doing the next week before I embark on doing it, so when I took a look at this recipe strolling through the grocery store for ingredients, I realized it required a half-sphere silicone mold. Six types of whisks? I got that. Silicone mold? Nuh-uh. So I ordered it and waited.
Once you get all that out of the way though, this is actually a really fun recipe. A lot of steps, but it's gratifying. The first step is to make the cookie. It's nothing to write home about--just a shortbread cookie. I noticed when I was making it that it didn't come together quite as well as I thought it would--no smooth ball--so I ended up adding a little extra milk and kneading the ball a bit to get it together. I threw it in the fridge for 5 minutes to let it come together more, and rolled it out.
While the cookies baked, I dealt with the molds. That's a nice thing about this recipe: while there are a lot of steps and a lot of waiting for things to set, everything fits together like a zipper: each piece fits nicely into the pieces before and after it. The pictures here are in the order I did them, so while the cookies were baking and cooling, I melted chocolate and coated the molds.
And then once the cookies cooled, I dipped them in that same chocolate, and let them set. At this point, because I had made an extra cookie, I got to try one, and they were delicious. Do I wish they browned a bit? As a cookie alone, yes. But when you put it together, it's really interesting to have this mild, crumby cookie.
The final part of this recipe is the marshmallow. I advise you: if you have a hand mixer, use it. I do not, and said to myself "You haven't worked out in a while. You could use a little whisking." Well, it was a lot of whisking. Whisking egg whites isn't so bad. But over simmering water with sugar, sugar syrup, vanilla, and salt? It took longer. A lot longer. And I think I stopped too early. Ideally, the marshmallow turns thick and stiff, and while mine didn't drip, it did droop. But my arms were just so tired.
And now to put it all together. Assembly and presentation, as I'm sure I've said before, are is my forte. I'm basically making it up as I go along, and my DSLR makes everything look pretty. I have fun trying though. The key here, which I learned after filling 5 of the 6, is to not overfill with marshmallow. You will have leftover marshmallow. And, delicious as it is, you shouldn't fill to the brim, because then you'll have ugly bottoms. Like this....
Not that anyone sees the bottom of your dish, but I like to think every part of your craft should be beautiful. Even the parts nobody can see.
It adds something special that makes the final product taste that much better, subconsciously. And these tasted good. A few things I would do differently: leave the mold to drip more to give a thinner shell (the volume of chocolate made the dessert far too sweet), whip the marshmallow more to give a stiffer batter, and probably cook the biscuit a bit more to give it more of a snap and less of a crumble. I highly recommend making these. It's worth the effort.
Chocolate Tea Cakes
makes 6 cakes
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) FLOUR
1/2 teaspoon BAKING POWDER
25 grams (1 ounce) GRANULATED SUGAR
25 grams (1 ounce) BUTTER
1 tablespoon MILK
3 large EGG WHITES
150 grams (5 1/2 ounces) GRANULATED SUGAR
6 teaspoons GOLDEN SYRUP
1/2 teaspoon SALT
1 teaspoon VANILLA EXTRACT
283 grams (10 ounces) CHOCOLATE MELTING WAFERS
1. Preheat oven to 325F
2. Place FLOUR, SALT, BAKING POWDER, and SUGAR into a bowl and mix
3. Rub BUTTER into flour mixture until consistent texture
4. Add MILK into mixture and stir until you form a smooth ball -- note: you may need to knead 5-6 times to bring mixture together if crumbly
5. On a floured surface, roll dough out to 14" thick, and cut out six rounds of 3" diameter to fit your silicone mold
6. Chill rounds in the freezer for 10 minutes, then bake 10-15 minutes until hard (note: they will not brown as normal biscuits because of the low oven temperature)
7. Remove biscuits from the oven and cool on a wire rack
8. Melt the CHOCOLATE WAFERS in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring thoroughly in-between, and let cool slightly
9. Coat the inside of the molds with chocolate by spooning into the molds, then spreading it up the sides with the back of a spoon, then flip the mold upside-down to let excess chocolate fall out (this leaves the coating thin). Set aside at room temperature to set.
10. Dip the flat side of the cooled biscuits in the remaining melted chocolate and leave chocolate side-up to cool on a wire rack
11. Place EGG WHITES, SUGAR, GOLDEN SYRUP, SALT, and VANILLA in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until it turns white and glossy, at least double the size, and thickened to be able to hold a shape
12. Spoon the marshmallow into a piping bag
13. Re-melt the chocolate (it will have hardened) and put it in a piping bag
14. Pipe the marshmallow into each mold, leaving 1/4" of room
15. Pipe some chocolate onto the marshmallow, and place the biscuit, chocolate side-up onto the marshmallow
16. Pipe a ring of chocolate around the biscuit base and smooth as much as you can
17. Leave to set fully, then press up on the bottom of the mold carefully to pop the cakes out of the mold. Store at room temperature
I'm not sure what my favorite part of baking is, but I know near the top is measuring out my ingredients. I'm sure eating the baked goods it up there, too, but there's something very zen about measuring out my ingredients. I love seeing the flour, the sugar, the butter, all lined up in their bowls, ready to be mixed or creamed or melted. There's something very calming about having what you need on-hand, and not have to fumble with measuring cups and scales while you're cooking. You can concentrate on the task at hand, and just take everything one step at a time, because you have each step ready ahead of time. Sure, it's methodical, and probably a bit too much for some people, but I find that you still get creative and alter the recipe as you see fit in the heat of the moment, but having all your stuff ready ahead of time gives you a few minutes to think about the recipe, or the weather, or just clear your mind and be in the moment.
I hate meditation, but I love baking.
People often ask me what I do with all the baked goods that have been coming out of this project (and all the baked goods in-between--you don't think this is the only thing I get up to in the kitchen, do you?). I usually have a couple of whatever I create, but for the most part I give them away. I bring them to work, or I drive up to my family and leave them with my brother to eat. However, sometimes a recipe comes along and I get selfish and I eat the whole thing. Last week's bread was one of those occasions (okay, I shared some with my brother-in-law and his wife, who were visiting), and this week's brandy snaps was another one of those occasions (we did have help from our friend Diana).
In my defense, they get less crispy after a day, so really it was just a race against the clock. I totally did not eat them out of pure desire. Totally not my fault. Right....
This recipe, once you have everything together, is actually pretty easy. It's a bit of a time investment, since you can only cook 4 cookies at a time, but the recipe couldn't be simpler. I say "once you have everything together" because this recipe is super British and calls for 1) demerara sugar, and 2) golden syrup. Both of which are not easily found in the United States.
First, demerara sugar. Demerara sugar is a raw-ish sugar that is, they say, less refined than regular white sugar, so it retains more of the natural molasses cane sugar is found with. It also is larger in granule size, so has a bit of a crunch to it -- not that it matters in this recipe, in which you melt everything down. A good, more easily found substitute would be turbinado sugar, marketed as "Sugar in the Raw," which is similar, but not quite exact. Technically, the grains in turbinado sugar are finer than demerara and they are less "sticky," meaning they have less molasses in them, but they're roughly equivalent.
I used brown sugar, which is a perfectly fine, and much more easily accessible substitute. We're not using the sugar for its texture, so the grain size didn't matter, and I like my baked goods more on the well-cooked/burnt side, so the greater molasses content of brown sugar didn't bother me. Plus, it was raining -- I didn't want to find my way to a specialty store in the rain.
Second, golden syrup. Golden syrup is just a barely caramelized sugar syrup, which gives baked goods a nice nutty and hint-of-lemon flavor. You could definitely substitute corn syrup or molasses for golden syrup in many recipes, and the chemistry of these cookies won't change, but the flavor will. Corn syrup will make them more bland, and molasses will make them slightly bitter. I would opt for molasses if you're in a pinch. I, overachiever that I am, realized I had everything to make golden syrup at home though, so I found a DIY recipe and made my own -- it was well worth the time spent.
After you have everything together though, these are fun cookies to make, if just slightly painful, depending on how calloused your fingers are. I'll explain. Brandy snaps are a shaped and filled cookie, meaning you have to shape them into something (anything!) that can act as a receptacle for, in this case, whipped cream (though I could totally see them shaped into a bowl and hold some vanilla or pistachio ice cream).
In order to do this, you have to handle them while still hot. These cookies cool off quickly, and if they cool enough, the "snap" part of their name will come into play and you won't be able to form them into anything. Right when they come out of the oven, they're still very molten, so you have to wait for 1-2 minutes until you can slide a spatula under them without them breaking or melting. At that point, you have to lift them with the spatula and your fingers, grin through the pain if you're sensitive (I found it pleasurable because my kitchen was cold), and wrap them around your cylindrical implements. I suppose if you're professional you could use cannoli molds, but I'm cheap with a small kitchen, so I used some oiled handles of various tools I have in my crocks. Press the seam together and rest them seam-side-down for another 4-5 minutes until they cool completely. It's easier than it sounds, and after doing 5 batches of these things, it becomes second-nature.
After you have everything together though, these are fun cookies to make, if just slightly painful, depending on how calloused your fingers are. I'll explain. Brandy snaps are a shaped and filled cookie, meaning you have to shape them into something (anything!) that can act as a receptacle for, in this case, whipped cream (though I could totally see them shaped into a bowl and hold some vanilla or pistachio ice cream). In order to do this, you have to handle them while still hot. These cookies cool off quickly, and if they cool enough, the "snap" part of their name will come into play and you won't be able to form them into anything.
Like I said, we ate these all in one day. The snaps truly snap. It's a satisfying sound and a satisfying crunchiness between your teeth. You can really fill these with anything that can be piped and stiffened. I could see filling them with cannoli filling, or a stiffer pastry cream. But I actually think whipped cream (or even a spiced whipped cream--I think a bit of cinnamon in the filling would pair amazingly with the ginger in the cookie) is best. The softness and richness of the whipped cream turns these simple cookies into a decadent snack. You can really pop them into your mouth with reckless abandon (and should do so).
I think they're missing brandy though. False advertising.
55 grams (2 ounces) BUTTER
55 grams (2 ounces) DEMERARA SUGAR (or brown sugar)
55 grams (2 ounces) GOLDEN SYRUP (see below for DIY golden syrup)
50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) FLOUR
1/2 teaspoon GROUND GINGER
1/2 teaspoon LEMON JUICE
WHIPPED CREAM (heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, spices of your choice -- I recommend cinnamon and/or vanilla extract)
1. Preheat oven to 350F, line two baking trays with parchment, and oil the handle of a wooden spoon or whisk
2. Heat the BUTTER, SUGAR, and GOLDEN SYRUP in a small pan over a low heat until the butter and sugar have dissolved -- about 15 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil, as it may crystallize
3. Leave the mixture to cool 2-3 minutes, then mix in the FLOUR and GINGER and pour in the LEMON JUICE, stirring to mix thoroughly
4. Drop four teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto each baking tray about 4 inches apart from one another -- if your mixture gets too solid in between batches to scoop, place the pan back on the heat for a few seconds to a minute until it comes back to its goopy texture
5. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture is spread out, looks like lace, and is a dark golden color
6. Leave the sheet to rest out of the oven for about one minutes, then work quickly as the snaps firm up -- if you can release the cookie using an offset spatula, but they're still pliable, you're in good shape
7. Quickly roll a circle of the warm mixture around the handle of the spoon or whisk, joining underneath, and pressing the seam slightly, then leave to cool completely (just a couple minutes) -- if any of the baked circles on the sheet harden too much to work with, put them back in the oven for a few seconds to soften again
8. Fill cylinders of brandy snaps with WHIPPED CRAM to serve
DIY Golden Syrup
makes ~8 ounces
50 grams GRANULATED SUGAR
3 tablespoons WATER
500 grams GRANULATED SUGAR
300 grams (3/4 cup) BOILING WATER
1 quarter LEMON
1. Dissolve first part of SUGAR into WATER over low heat, and cook until caramelized -- the darker your caramel color, the deeper your flavor, so personal preference wins out here, but I would aim for a dark golden orange color
2. When you've reached your desired caramel color, pour in the second part of SUGAR and BOILING WATER, and LEMON slice and bring to a boil, then down to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes
3. Let mixture cool before pouring into a jar or can (preferably sanitized), and store in the fridge
This isn't really part of the technical bake, but Paul Hollywood's scones are really not that interesting by themselves, and if you're going to pair British scones with something, it might as well be clotted cream. And jam. But I prefer to work with fat (surprised?), so I bought the jam and made the cream.
The problem is, when I had this great idea to have myself a right British tea time with clotted cream, I realized I had no idea what clotted cream exactly is. I've had tea in England before (and on the Upper West Side), so I recall having clotted cream at some point in my life, and it being amazing, but I couldn't wrap my head around what exactly it was. Was it just lightly whipped cream? Was it some sort of tangy buttermilk concoction?
It turns out, clotted cream is cream that has been cooked a bit, then cooled, which naturally thickens the liquid into a spreadable paste. Why is this? Well, heavy cream is 36% butterfat, and a lot of the remaining 64% that isn't fat is water. When you cook down the cream, the water slowly evaporates, and some sort of science happens that leaves us with a butterfat that is much higher--somewhere around 55% or above. With less water and more fat, the cream thickens, and because of the heating, it takes on a tanginess that gives it more depth than heavy cream's bland (but addictingly delicious) profile.
And it's a painless process. Most recipes call for you to stick it in a pan the oven on the lowest setting overnight, but seeing as A) creeps me out to leave my oven on overnight, and B) that seems like a racket for the energy company, I found a stovetop version, where you have a little more involvement (once an hour for a few hours -- do it while you do laundry like me!), but it doesn't take nearly as long, and I feel like it saves some natural gas.
Anyway: make this, love this, eat this with scones. And let me know what else I should use clotted cream for, because I made an entire jar, and I only wanted a couple tablespoons for my pastries.
Stovetop Clotted Cream
makes 8 fluid ounces (1 cup)
1 pint HEAVY CREAM
1. Pour HEAVY CREAM into a large, wide-bottomed pan and place on stovetop
2. Turn stove to the lowest setting possible, and let sit for 1 hours
3. After 1 hour, use a spoon to skim off the top layer of "skin" that has formed, and place into a bowl
4. Continue to skim the skin off the top of the pan once an hour, until pan is nearly empty
5. Let skimmed cream sit in a bowl and come down in temperature -- don't worry, it will look curdled and gross, but trust it
6. Place cream in a jar and put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours
7. Stir cream to make it all come together, keep refrigerated
I don't know why, but I thought this would be an easy one. I swear I must have made them before. I make American biscuits on the regular, and I've made plenty of pie crusts and shortbread dough. I definitely eat a lot of scones -- beautiful tender triangles of floury goodness. They can't be that difficult, can they?
Enter, Paul Hollywood, and the GBBO. In baking these technical challenges, I've vowed to use the same exact recipes they use on the show, meaning they come either from Paul or Mary, depending on who is identified in the show as the genesis of the recipe. Granted, I get the benefit of the full instructions, whereas the contestants in the show are usually just given an ingredient list, and forced to make it up from there.
This recipe comes from Paul, and it is a weird one indeed. In biscuits and pie dough, and most anything that yields a tender flaky crumb, you generally use cold butter and cut it into the flour, so every crumb of fat (butter) is coated in flour. This creates pockets of butter in the finished dough, which evaporates in the oven, creating pockets for flakiness to prevail.
When I looked at Paul's recipe though, I saw "softened" butter, which you rub into the flour, like you would with the chilled butter preparation, until the flour resembles breadcrumbs. I was skeptical, but then I trusted the recipe. I mean, if I think about it more, the butter crumbs would still be covered in flour to create those layers, but the butter would be softer, meaning less flake in the layers and more tight of a crumb in the baked good. Regardless: breadcrumb stage.
The other weird part of the recipe is how the milk is added: a little at a time. It was easy enough to add the first bit of milk, working it in with my fingers (as instructed to do on the bake off), but by the time I got toward the end of the milk (and I didn't end up adding the whole amount), I felt like I was working the dough like bread to incorporate the milk I felt it needed. I'm sure I ended up working it too much, since my scones seemed a little tough compared to what I was expecting, so, in fairness, I probably would not get star baker based on this bake (especially up against genuine Britons), but I definitely would not go home from it.
Once it became a sticky, wet mess -- that's where the fun begins. I'm a big fan of working with my hands, so dumping it all out, getting my hands floury, and getting this into formation is what I live for. On the show, nearly all the bakers used rolling pins, but I'm more comfortable pressing it out gently with my fingers, especially considering how I'd roughed up the dough trying to incorporate my milk. I left mine 1-inch thick, which seemed super thick, especially considering these puppies are going to double in height thanks to nearly 2 tablespoons of baking powder. But, trust the recipe--week 2 and I've already learned that lesson.
I chose a 2-inch round cutter, which gave me a baker's dozen scones, after I gathered and re-rolled the scraps a couple of times. I knew already mine would rise at funny angles because when I cut them, a bit of dough stuck to my biscuit cutters, since I didn't flour them liberally enough. Paul Hollywood would not be impressed.
However, I think he would be impressed with the taste. These guys were so dense, but so tender. They flaked apart in a crumbly rain of fatty, carby goodness, and left a good cake in your mouth that forced you to savor the simple flavor of pure butter and flour. Being a pure technical challenge, these had no flavorings, no currants, no berries, and no sugar on top. But they are far from bland. I paired mine with some raspberry preserves (leftover from the Victoria Sandwich), and some clotted cream. The simplicity of the scone made those accessories shine, and paired with a cup of tea, I could have been in Yorkshire for all I knew. I mean, San Francisco is quite foggy.
Paul Hollywood's Scones
makes 13 scones (2" diameter)
500 grams (1 pound, 1 ounce) (4 cups) ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
80 grams (3 ounces) (1/3 cup, or 6 tablespoons) SOFTENED BUTTER
80 grams (3 ounces) (1/3 cup) GRANULATED SUGAR
2 LARGE EGGS
5 teaspoons BAKING POWDER
1 cup (250 milliliters, 8 fluid ounces) MILK
1 LARGE EGG + SALT + splash of WATER (for glazing)
1. Preheat oven to 425F, and prepare baking pan with parchment paper, silicon mat, or grease lightly with butter
2. Put 450 grams of the FLOUR in a bowl with the BUTTER and rub with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
3. Add the SUGAR, EGGS, and BAKING POWDER and turn the mixture gently to incorporate all the ingredients
4. Add 1/2 cup of the MILK and keep turning the mixture until combined, then add the remaining milk a little at a time to bring everything together (you may not need all the milk)
5. Sprinkle most of the remaining flour onto a work surface, tip the dough out, and sprinkle the rest of the flour on top -- the mixture will be wet and sticky
6. Fold the dough in half, turn, and repeat until you've formed a smooth dough.
7. Roll out the dough until it is 1-inch thick, lift up the edges slightly and let them drop back down
8. Using a pastry cutter, stamp out rounds and place them onto the baking tray - leftover dough can be re-rolled
9. Let rest for a few minutes, then use a pastry brush to glaze them with the EGG + SALT mixture, making sure to keep the glaze on the top of the scones, with none on the sides
10. Bake for 15 minutes, until scones are risen and golden-brown
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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