Fruity Buttermilk Scones

If someone asked me what my favourite cake or sweet treat would be it would be a choice of two things. Although I love baking cakes and cupcakes, I can’t resist chewy, gooey flapjacks or scones covered in strawberry jam and cream.  It brings back fantastic childhood memories of tea out with my grandparents. Whenever I go anywhere for afternoon tea, the scones are always top of the list for me.

When it was my 40th birthday last year I loved afternoon tea so much I decided to have an afternoon tea party in my local village hall as a celebration. Not for me a pub crawl and throwing up into a gutter at 3am.  Though perhaps 20 years ago when I was a student, now it doesn’t have it’s appeal. At the celebration I just had to have scones!  My mum made some beautiful, delicate little scones to have with jam and cream at the party and they went down very well.

The food table at my 40th birthday party.
The food table at my 40th birthday party. The scones were in a large basket. People could help themselves to them along with butter, jam and cream if they wanted.

At the end of term as a teaching assistant I always get lots of lovely gifts from the children who I work with.  These are usually totally unexpected as I love my job.  This time I was given a gift of a jam pot complete with jar of strawberry jam from one of the families in school.  I was over the moon with this as the parent concerned knew how much I liked baking.  The first thought was this wasn’t going to be wasted on toast, I was going to enjoy this with a traditional afternoon tea!

An end of term gift from one of the families at work, a jam pot with delicious strawberry jam from Marks and Spencer.
An end of term gift from one of the families at work, a jam pot with delicious strawberry jam from Marks and Spencer.


Yesterday was a funny day where the weather had turned to rain and we didn’t know what to expect.  I had a carton of buttermilk in the fridge that was getting near to it’s use by date and I just fancied having scones.  So, I had a play around with some scone recipes and came up with this version. If you don’t like fruit you could leave it plain or add chocolate chips, citrus peel or even some cherries which are another huge favourite of mine!

50g sultanas

50g raisins

450g self raising flour

80g golden caster sugar

150g butter

2 large free range eggs, beaten.

6 tbsp buttermilk

Makes 9 large scones if using a large 10cm approx circular fluted cutter.

Sift the flour into a bowl, then add the sugar.  Rub in the butter carefully until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on the dried fruit. Pour on the beaten egg and the buttermilk. Combine together with a pallette knife then work the rest together with your hands.  If the dough is a bit dry add another 1tbsp buttermilk. Don’t handle the dough too much though.  Form the dough into a ball then put it onto a floured work surface. Roll lightly so it is about 1″ thick and cut the scones out. Whatever you do don’t twist the cutter around, just tap it or the scone will go a funny shape! Carry on til you get trimmings, roll the scone mix up and start again.  Put the scones on two baking sheets covered with parchment and bake in a preheated oven at 220oc/ fan 200oC/425oF or GM7. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until they are well risen and golden brown. Best served fresh on the day they are made!

The finished fruity buttermilk scones still warm from the oven!
Afternoon tea outside in my garden before the heavens opened!
Afternoon tea outside in my garden before the heavens opened!

My son came into the kitchen and said “Wow, scones!”  He normally laughs about me and my cream teas saying I’m an old grandma but he wolfed two down there and then!  Scones are definitely NOT old people cakes!  They are delicious whatever your age.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx


Chocolate Orange Stripey “Zebra” Cake

Last Saturday I was taking part in the Clandestine Cake Club’s VCake Event Cake-a-Licious which is a virtual cake event. It was designed for those who haven’t got a local group near them or who can’t always make local events who can still join in the cakey fun online!  Of course you don’t get to actually eat the other members’ cakes as you would at a face-to-face cake club event, you can still have the fun of seeing what everyone else is making!

If you fancy joining the VCake Club then the details of how to take part are here:

I am the organiser for York Clandestine Cake Club and also jointly organise the events for the Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon group. I do have lots of exciting events to go to but I love any excuse to put on my apron and I would be baking for my family this weekend anyway, so I was delighted to be able to take part!

I chose to bake a Chocolate Orange Stripey Zebra Cake. The original idea and the recipe for this is in Lorraine Pascale’s latest book “Fast, Fresh and Easy Food”. Lorraine Pascale is one of my favourite cookery writers at the moment as her recipes are always simple, uncomplicated yet delicious and interesting at the same time.  I often use her books for inspiration for her midweek meals but had yet to try this recipe out.

Once my springform tin was greased and lined, the oven on, I set to with the mixing.  Sunflower oil, eggs, milk, vanilla extract and caster sugar were mixed together carefully in a large bowl. I then had to transfer half the mixture into another bowl, this I did by weight. Approximately half was 400g.  To one half of the mixture I had to add sifted flour and baking powder.  This formed the plain sponge part.  To the other I added sifted flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and grated orange zest.  These were mixed carefully.

Now for the fun part.  I had to start off with a large tablespoon of the plain mixture, then adding the chocolate so it looked like a bullseye on a dartboard!  This didn’t entirely work for me as I got in a bit of a mess and I ended up with little blobs. Instead of little stripes, my zebra would be more patches.  I didn’t care though as it was more important the cake tasted better.

The chocolate orange zebra cake just out of the oven and waiting to cool down!
The chocolate orange zebra cake just out of the oven and waiting to cool down!
The finished cake ready to serve. I drizzled melted plain chocolate on top of the cake and sprinkled some chocolate flakes to finish it off.
Me carrying the cake on it’s stand to the table. I don’t like having my photo taken!
A slice of cake cut to show the pattern, doesn’t look very stripey, more of a marble effect really. Who cares? It tasted nice!
The cake eating fairies have been in the box! This was what was left two hours later!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pecan and White Chocolate Blondies

After vowing I wouldn’t bake this week and I was having a rest from it to get on with other jobs, I found myself having to eat my words. Why? Well, my 13 year old son who is growing as fast as a triffid at the moment is always hungry.  I honestly don’t know where he puts it all, he must have hollow legs. I only have to LOOK at a cake or a biscuit and the pounds pile on!

Last Friday morning I was catching up with jobs around the house.  Funnily enough they were exactly the same jobs I had been doing earlier in the week; cleaning, hoovering and dusting. It’s like painting the Forth Bridge in our house.  I was totally bored and wanted something interesting to do.  By 11am as I had cleaned out my airing cupboard, my son wandered in and said “Why don’t we have anything nice to eat?”  I reeled off a list of things he could eat for his breakfast, his answer was “Why do you always buy crap cereal?”  Oh the joys of being a mother of teenagers.  In the end he ate two Weetabix after moaning it was “baby food” but then moaned he was still hungry.

After lunch I decided to bake something before we went out on a dog walk.  My children love brownies but I fancied making something different.  I didn’t have enough spare plain chocolate, only some white chocolate chips and some pecan nuts.  My inspiration came from a great American baking book I bought in Lakeland several years ago- The Genuine American Cookie and Muffin Book by Peter Shaffer. It has been on my shelf for a while now and although I baked a lot of the cookies from it when I first got the book, I haven’t bothered with it since.

The All American Cookie and Muffin Book by Peter Shaffer.
The All American Cookie and Muffin Book by Peter Shaffer.

First I got some butter and made it come up to room temperature so that it would be easier to cream with the sugar. Once this was done and the sugar was creamed together, I added eggs and some vanilla extract.  In another bowl I sifted in flour and baking powder, then combined them with the egg mixture by gently folding in with a metal spoon.  In went a 100g bag of white chocolate chips, followed by 80g of chopped pecan nuts.

I greased and lined a 9″ square loose bottom cake tin and put the mixture into the tin carefully.  The recipe suggested 30-35 minutes baking time for the blondies.  This I stuck to as I had not baked this recipe before and wasn’t sure what to expect.

Pecan and White Chocolate Blondies made for my son who had the munchies last Friday!
Pecan and White Chocolate Blondies made for my son who had the munchies last Friday!

To be honest the result was a little disappointing. I wish I had taken the blondies out of the oven a bit earlier as they did not have the chewy, gooey and fudgy texture that other blondie recipes have had in the past.  They were more like a cakey, spongey texture.  I cut them up into 12 equal pieces and although I found my son loved them, I wasn’t impressed.

The blondies had a cakey, spongey texture, not at all what I expected.
The blondies had a cakey, spongey texture, not at all what I expected.

I will definitely try making these again but will take them out of the oven after 25 minutes and see if that makes a difference to the texture of the blondies.  If not, I will try another recipe.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Mary Berry’s Cookery Course

Mary Berry’s Cookery Course: “A Step-by Step Masterclass In Home Cooking”

The blurb on the back cover says: “With Mary at your side, sharing her secrets of success and guiding you through her masterclasses, you’ll be able to build an impressive repertoire of over 100 recipes to delight your family and friends,”

The front cover of Mary Berry's Cookery Course. Pic courtesy of Google Images.
The front cover of Mary Berry’s Cookery Course. Pic courtesy of Google Images.

I was in my local Morrisons shopping when I spotted Mary Berry’s latest cookbook on the shelf.  At a RRP of £25 it is not a cheap book but at the special offer of £12.50 I thought it was good value.  I flicked through the pages and immediately spotted page after page of delicious easily created recipes for the beginner.  These were beautifully photographed with clear, easy to read step by step instructions.  The book is published by Dorling Kindersley who are renowned for their clear, user friendly style of photographs and instructions. I knew straightaway that this book would not disappoint.

At the beginning of the book there is a clear guide on Basic Equipment.  This is useful if this book is for a complete beginner or maybe a student or young person moving into their own home for the first time.  I thought this book would be good for my daughter to use. She is 15 and has taken GCSE Hospitality and Catering. Although it will be a few years yet before she flies the nest, she does love to cook and experiment.

There is also a useful Technique Finder section towards the beginning of the book.  This is particularly helpful is you want to find the page reference quickly for basic techniques, such as separating eggs or greasing cake tins, etc.  The glossary of cooking methods and techniques is also handy for new cooks.

Then, the book is split into several chapters: Soups, First Courses, Eggs, Fish, Poultry and Game, Meat, Pasta and Rice, Vegetables and Side Dishes, Salads, Puddings, Cakes and Biscuits and Bread.  Each chapter starts off with a Master Recipe which features step-by-step pictures and details of how you go through every stage of the dish.  Mary says in the Introduction to the book that “These recipes are my favourites and show you everything you need to achieve great results every time,” 

master recipe
Master Recipe for Caesar Salad. Picture from Dorling Kindersley.

Each chapter also has a section entitled Mary’s Secrets of Success.  These are some useful guidelines that not only helps to make cooking easier, they also help to achieve great results.

mary's secrets of success
Mary’s Secrets of Success double page spread for the Puddings chapter. Useful advice and guidance. Picture courtesy of Dorling Kindersley.

Armed with this fantastic book, I wanted to put it to the test.  Making pastry has always been a problem with me and I had been recently feeling more confident about tackling it. This was down to Mary Berry’s advice given on one of her Great British Bake Off Masterclass programmes where she demonstrated how she made her mouthwatering Tarte au Citron.  I was totally blown away by Mary’s tips and techniques especially with rolling the pastry out and getting it into the flan tin that I just had to have a go myself.  

I made Mary’s Quiche Lorraine recipe and followed it to the letter.  I have to say it was a complete revelation and I was totally gobsmacked by the results. Although I didn’t roll the pastry thin enough so therefore there was a bit of the soggy bottom (that Great British Bake Off innuendo still has us sniggering in our house!) the rest of the quiche was very impressive.  It was mouthwatering and although my son turned his nose up at it, my hubby, daughter and I enjoyed it with a green salad.  I just want to say a big thank you to Mary Berry for giving me my pastry baking confidence back after 30 years of believing I couldn’t make pastry.  I still need a lot of practice but I’m determined to try lots more recipes.

Quiche Lorraine, recipe featured on page 88 of Mary Berry's Cookery Course.
Quiche Lorraine, recipe featured on page 88 of Mary Berry’s Cookery Course.
Delicious served hot or cold. We ate our Quiche with a large salad. The rest was eaten cold the next day at lunchtime.

To sum  up I would say that the Cookery Course book is perfect for a young person just starting out or for an adult that would like to learn the basics but with delicious and inspiring recipes to help them on their way. A lot of the recipes are included in Mary’s other books, such as her Baking Bible but that is ok if you don’t have them already and want a good “all rounder”.

I have decided to review this book which I bought with my own money to feature on my blog. I am not being paid to do this or being promoted in any way. I am doing this to show you a book which I love.

Happy Cooking!

Love Sam xx

Peach and Ginger Muffins

A couple of weeks ago it was our annual staff night out to Ripon  Races.  In previous years we have eaten food when we have got there, either fish and chips or a hog roast sandwich with a drink to follow.  As it was such gorgeous weather this year we decided to have a picnic instead. We met up beforehand and set out a picnic in the carpark before going in to the meeting.   Each of us brought something to contribute to the feast.

I was asked to bring crisps, raw veg and dips along which I bought as normal but thought I would also make something sweet if anyone fancied something after all the bread and cheese.  I didn’t want anything heavy, rich and creamy which would go off in the hot weather.  I also wanted something that people could eat with their hands without needing a fork. A big cake would also need cutting up too!

After spending ages deciding I found the perfect recipe in my Rachel Allen “Cake” cookbook.  I haven’t baked from it for a few months now and wanted to try something out.  Her Peach and Ginger Muffins seemed to hit the spot.  You could use tinned peaches in juice and as I had a tin lurking in my cupboard that hadn’t been used up, I thought it was the ideal opportunity.

The fabulous Cake recipe book by Rachel Allen.
The fabulous Cake recipe book by Rachel Allen.

That afternoon after being busy finishing off some cakes and cupcakes I set to on the muffins.  The kitchen was like a sauna so the French doors were thrown open to let even more air in.  I used pretty summery muffin cases I had found in Waitrose a couple of days before, they were had a mixture of polka dots and flowers in pretty pastel colours on them.

The muffins were simple to make.  First I chopped half a 400g tin of peach slices into small chunks as well as 2 balls of stem ginger.  These had been rinsed thoroughly to get all the sticky syrup off it.  Once that had been done I weighed out the dry ingredients- wholemeal flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder as well as some ground ginger.  In a separate bowl I whisked together sugar, melted butter and egg. These were then combined along with the peach and ginger.  However, when I was in the middle of weighing out the ingredients I was distracted by the phone ringing.  I’ve got so sick of the phone ringing and it being telesales that I nearly didn’t bother answering.  It was!  Anyway after being interrupted I headed back to the kitchen and forgot to add the sugar until I started spooning the mixture into the cases!  It wasn’t until I saw the bag of sugar on the surface that I realised my mistake.  That would have been really embarrrassing so I quickly weighed it out and added it carefully to the muffin batter.

Peach and Ginger Muffins
Peach and Ginger Muffins

I was pleased with the way that the muffins turned out. They did look a bit uninspiring though when they came out of the oven so I livened them up with a quick dusting of icing sugar on top.  To be honest we didn’t really feel like eating them after all our food and to me they looked unappetising.  May be on a cold winter’s morning with a steaming mug of coffee but not on a hot summers’ day.  Only two got eaten and the rest went home in the box they came in.  They were still there 4 days later.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Lemon Squares

Last Saturday was our villages’ Annual Yard Sale.  This is usually held in the morning on the first Saturday of July and is well attended.  It is the fourth or fifth year running that it has happened and everyone has a clear out of their cupboards, earning a few bob as well as raising money for the Village Hall and the church funds.  However, this year the Yard Sale was put on the same day as lots of other events taking place in neighbouring villages.  It was in the afternoon and also poorly advertised.  This really annoyed us as hardly anyone turned up compared to previous years.  In spite of this though, my hubby managed to sell my son’s old bike which he had grown out of.  We  also sold some pictures, a few books and I even managed to get rid of a pair of Birkenstocks I had hardly worn!

I had completely sold out in previous years when I baked flapjacks and cookies to sell for customers to eat while they were wandering around.  I decided to do the same again this year.  I baked my usual Smartie and chocolate chip cookies as well as some flapjacks.  I get fed up of baking the same things over and over again though, so I wanted to test out something new.

One of a series of mini Leon books- this is Brownies, Bars and Muffins.

The other week I had found some cute little Leon books in Waterstones.  I’ve never eaten at Leon before, as I don’t get down to London all that often. Having said that  I do remember seeing  one on Kings’ Cross station, it looked like a kiosk though, rather than a restaurant. I didn’t try anything from it  though as we had already been next door to eat on St Pancras station. I know people have talked about the Leon cookbooks and have said how great they are. Being a bit obsessed by baking books I treated myself to “Brownies, Bars and Muffins” when I was looking in Waterstones a few weeks back.

Upon looking through the introduction it says “this is a book that lets you have your cake and eat it!”  I totally buy into that one!  The recipes are designed “to taste good and to do you good too”.  My mouth started to water at all the delicious brownies and bars beautifully photographed and the recipes were easy to read and follow.

I found a recipe on page 24 that I had wanted to try for a while.  Lemon Bars are made with a gorgeous shortbread base and topped with a tangy lemon mixture.  They have to be made in two stages, first the shortbread is baked in the oven then slightly cooled. Then you add the lemon topping to bake for a little longer.  After this has cooled down, we then dust the bars with icing sugar and cut into bars.  I chose to cut mine into squares.

Looking at the recipe, it called for some fresh lemon juice “preferably Meyer or Amalfi if possible”   Now on reading this I couldn’t understand whether this was a variety of lemon or whether it was a brand of shop bought lemon juice.  I had two lemons in my fruit bowl but I couldn’t tell what variety they were. I’d just picked them up off the shelf in Morrisons!  I just squeezed the lemon juice out of them but it didn’t make 120ml even though I squeezed every last drop out of it.  I ended up adding the shortfall with some Jif lemon out of my baking cupboard!  The other ingredient was to add 1/2 teaspoon of grated lemon zest.  I felt that this wasn’t enough to create a lemony hit for me but I like to follow the recipe to the letter first and then tweak it to my taste afterwards.

Lemon Squares baked for my village's Yard Sale
Lemon Squares baked for my village’s Yard Sale

The lemon squares baked beautifully although I felt the shortbread was a bit too dark for my liking.  They cut easily and I got a good reaction from them.  I personally didn’t find them sharp and lemony enough for my liking. Next time I will add the zest from one or two of the lemons, not just half a teaspoonful.  They are perfect for a fundraiser or even as a treat for a summer’s day.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx