Folded currant scones

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Scones have the shortest lifespan of any baking. They really are best straight from the oven and with each passing hour they lose their crisp edges and lightness and soften to become heavy. The consolation for this small window of optimum deliciousness is that scones are very quick to make; I was surprised at how quickly I had a tray of scones ready for the oven. The only slightly labourious part is cleaning up the floury bench afterwards, but that can surely be delegated to an eager scone awaiter.

Lois’ folded currant scones are one of the nicest scones I’ve tried. The folding technique creates layers which gives the scones a light and flaky quality. Now that I have been reminded just how quick scones are to make, a repeat bake is on the horizon for this weekend.

Folded currant scones (Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p.85)

2 cups standard flour

3 tablespoons caster sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

80g cold butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup currants

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup plain unsweetened yoghurt

Preheat oven to 200°C (fan bake setting). Sift the flour, sugar and baking powder; if using unsalted butter add a pinch of salt. Add the butter and use your fingers to rub the butter into flakes about the size of cornflakes. Add the currants.

Combine the milk and yoghurt in a small bowl and add to the mixture. Using a cutting action than stirring action, use a blunt knife to mix to a soft dough. You may need to add a little more milk if there is lots of unincorporated dry mixture at the bottom of the bowl. Don’t overmix the dough; some of the butter flakes should still be visible.

Place the dough on a floured bench and use a rolling pin to roll out into a 1-2cm thick rectange. Fold over into thirds and roll out again. Fold into thirds a second time, then roll out into a rectangle. Fold this rectangle in half so that you have a thin long rectangle about 10cm by 30cm. Cut the length into around 8-9 rectangular-shaped scones.

Put on a baking tray and bake for about ten minutes until puffed and golden brown. Transfer the scones to a rack covered with a tea towel and fold the tea towel over the top of the scones until it is time to serve them.

Little River walnut cake

Barbara Henderson, walnut illustration, Good Food, p. 127.

Barbara Henderson, walnut illustration, Good Food, p. 127.

On the day before the shortest day of the year I baked a Little River walnut cake and took it around to Lois’ for afternoon tea. We sat together in her bright warm living room and happily munched on wedges of cake and blue cheese with cups of hot tea.

Walnut cake and blue cheese (Whitestone Windsor Blue) are a very good combination which I highly recommend you try; a little glass of Pedro Ximénez would be entirely appropriate here too. Packed with walnuts and not too sweet, the added treacle and rum impart this cake with a fragrant caramel warmth. A perfect cake to celebrate the middle of winter.

Lois devised this recipe for a relative who had an oversupply of walnuts from her tree. I’m not lucky enough to have a walnut tree (one day, I hope) and I buy my nuts from Moore Wilson’s or The Nut Store to ensure that they are fresh. Rancid walnuts are awful; check that your walnuts are fresh enough to use by trying one before you start baking. I store my walnuts in the freezer, where they can be kept for a month or so.

Little River walnut cake (Lois Daish, Listener, June 15 1996, p.56-57)

200g softened butter

150g brown sugar

4 tablespoons treacle

2 free-range eggs

150g flour

pinch baking soda

pinch ground cloves

4 tablespoons milk

4 tablespoons dark rum or whisky

340g fresh shelled walnuts, roughly chopped 

Preheat oven to 160°C. Line a 21-23cm cake tin with baking paper. Cream the butter, sugar and treacle together until soft and light. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift the dry ingredients and beat in to the mixture along with the milk and rum or whisky. Add the walnuts and mix thoroughly. Scoop into the prepared tin and bake for about 50 minutes until the cake is firm in the middle. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack. This cake has a lovely crunchy exterior when eaten on the day it is baked but is still delightful to eat a couple of days later.

Peanut brownies

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If your previous experience of peanut brownies is from a purchased bag of allegedly baked-on-a-farm biscuits, then you might understandably have a take it or leave attitude towards this old-fashioned baking staple. Prepare for that to be changed. These peanut brownies are incredibly delicious and cheap to make. Another old baking favourite due for a fashionable comeback in my opinion (see also Fruit Loaf).

Peanut brownies (from Lois Daish, A Good Year, p.61)

250g raw peanuts

140g softened butter

200g caster sugar

1 free-range egg

200g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons cocoa (I used heaped tablespoons of Blooker Cacao)

Preheat oven to 175°C and begin by roasting the peanuts. Spread the peanuts into a single layer in a baking pan with sides and roast for 10-15 minutes, shaking the pan every couple of minutes. They are ready once the skins split and the nuts turn golden; keep a close eye on this process. Leave to cool and then rub the peanuts between your hands to remove the skins; take the tray outside and blow away the skins into the garden (or make use of the Wellington wind to blow away the skins for you).

Put the butter and sugar into a mixing bowl and use an electric beater to beat until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and beat again until light. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa into the butter mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the peanuts and mix again.

Line two baking trays with baking paper and place rolled balls of dough (about 30gm makes a good sized biscuit) onto the trays allowing room for them to spread out. Lightly press down the biscuits using a fork (run it under the tap and flick off excess water to stop it sticking to the biscuits). Bake for around 15 minutes; you don’t want to under bake them but they do catch quickly. Leave the biscuits to cool on a cooling rack and store in an airtight container.

Number 9 fruit loaf

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At Number 9, Lois’ first cafe on the corner of Lambton Quay and Bowen Street, this fruit loaf was so popular that they would bake three loaves at a time. Fruit loaves are currently so deeply unfashionable that I feel that it’s only a matter of time before they become the next baking trend at hipster coffee shops. Toasted and smeared with some Zany Zeus Greek yoghurt or cream cheese, fruit loaf has the makings of an excellent (and most importantly for some, Instagrammable) breakfast.

Number 9 Fruit Loaf (Lois Daish, A Good Year, p. 86)

450g dried fruit (currants, raisins, and sultanas; I used a mixture of golden sultanas and currants)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

250ml hot tea (Earl Grey or English Breakfast)

1 egg

2 cups plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Put the dried fruit in a bowl with brown and white sugar, pour over the hot tea and stir. Leave to soak for at least 30 minutes, but preferably several hours.

Preheat oven to 160°C and line a loaf tin with baking paper. The best way to do this is to tear off a sheet of baking paper and run it under the tap while you gently scrunch it up. Shake off the excess water, smooth it out and dry it with a tea towel; the paper will now be easy to mold to the shape of the tin.

Whisk the egg and add it to the soaked fruit. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and beat into the fruit mixture. Scrape the dough into the prepared loaf tin and bake for at least one hour (mine took one hour and fifteen minutes). Use the skewer test to check if it’s done (insert a skewer at an angle into centre of the loaf and slowly remove; it should be clean with no sticky batter adhered to it).

Tips from Lois: the loaf will be easier to slice if you leave it overnight before cutting it; you can also freeze slices of loaf and defrost as needed.

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Classic chocolate cake

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This is an old-school style of chocolate cake; descriptors such as mousse-like and fudgey have no place here. Lois’ classic chocolate cake has a lovely chocolate flavour and is moist but not dense. It’s not overly decadent or indulgent and you won’t need a lie down after eating a slice. Made with simple ingredients that you are likely to have already have on hand, this cake is a perfect cake to have for morning or afternoon tea with a cuppa.

Classic chocolate cake (Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p.160)

150g butter, softened or at room temperature

150g brown sugar

1/4 cup golden syrup

2 large free-range eggs, at room temperature (placing whole eggs into a bowl of warm water quickly brings them to room temperature)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I use vanilla paste)

150g plain flour

1/3 cup cocoa (I use Blooker Cacao brand)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

125ml milk

Preheat oven to 160°C and grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the golden syrup, eggs and vanilla. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and add to the creamed ingredients alternately with the milk, and mix until smooth and lump-free. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 minutes (use the skewer test to decide if the cake is done; a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should have a few crumbs stuck to it when pulled back out of the cake).

Chocolate glaze (Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p.161)

2 tablespoons caster sugar

25g butter

2 tablespoons water

50g icing sugar

1 tablespoon cocoa

Put the caster sugar, butter and water into a small pot and heat gently until it boils. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl and pour the boiling syrup on top. Stir until smooth and pour over the cake while the mixture is still warm but the cake has cooled.

Gingernuts

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This is home baking at its most simple and straight forward. These biscuits are made from inexpensive ingredients that you are likely to already have at home. Making these gingernuts helped to remind me that baking doesn’t need to be complicated, use flashy ingredients or be particularly excessive. A simple batch of homemade biscuits really doesn’t take much time and will be enthusiastically devoured by flatmates and colleagues, or just keep them for yourself as a wee treat to have with coffee at morning tea time.

Wanaka gingernuts (Lois Daish, Listener, August 29 1998)

100g butter

225g sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon golden syrup

250g flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 teaspoons ground ginger

Preheat oven to 170°C (I prefer not to use fan bake) and line a flat baking with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and golden syrup. Beat again and then added the sifted dry ingredients (important to sift to ensure no lumps of baking soda). Roll the dough into balls (about 20g makes a good size of biscuit) and place onto the baking tray with space for the biscuits to spread; don’t press the biscuits down. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown; keep a close eye on them from the 20 minute mark.

Oatcakes

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The perfect autumn platter: blue cheese (preferably Whitestone), quince paste, some freshly cracked walnuts and a pile of Lois’ oatcakes. These oatcakes taste very much like those expensive ones that I am always sucked into buying through their clever positioning in the cheese aisle. Lois’ oatcakes contain inexpensive ingredients and are easy and relatively quick to throw together. There is a distinct possibility that making these crackers would take about the same amount of time as driving down to the supermarket for crackers. This theory is completely untested.

Lois’ oatcakes (A Good Year, p.85)

1 cup white flour

1 cup rolled oats,
pulsed in a food processor

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

50g butter melted in 1/2 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 170°C. Put all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and pour in the butter and hot water. Knead together in the bowl until the mixture holds together. Lightly flour a large clean bench and tip out the dough. Knead a few more times before rolling out thinly. Use a knife to cut into shapes – I went with slender rectangles (or rather, attempted). Use a metal spatula to transfer to a lined baking tray and bake for 10 – 15 minutes until brown and crisp. Keep a close eye on them – you may need to move the crackers around if the ones on the edges are browning more quickly than the rest. Leave to cool on a cooling rack and store in an airtight container. They keep for around two weeks (maybe even longer if they get the opportunity).

Apple muffins

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Muffins will be back in fashion again; hard to believe, but it will happen. When it does these muffins should go near the top of your ‘muffins to make’ list. Packed full of cubes of slightly crisp apple, these rich and spiced muffins are a delicious and very easy thing to make for morning tea or a weekend breakfast.

Apple muffins (Good Food, p. 126)

4 medium apples, peeled and diced

1 cup brown sugar

100g butter, melted

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put the apples and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. In a smaller bowl whisk together the melted butter, eggs and vanilla and then stir into the apple and sugar. Sift the flour, baking soda and cinnamon into the bowl on top of this mixture and fold together very lightly; try not to over mix as it doesn’t need to be smooth. Spoon into a greased muffin tray and bake at 160°C for 30 minutes until golden on top. Muffins freeze incredibly well: wait until they have cooled and then pop into a freezer bag. A muffin removed from the freezer before you head to work will be thawed in time for morning tea.

Anzacs

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The way that recipes change over time and through repeated making is something that Lois and I have spoken about a couple of times. Favourite recipes are seldom made exactly as the original source specified; as cooks make and remake a recipe a little less sugar might be added, a handful of sunflower seeds sprinkled in, the baking time adjusted. It’s often only when you go to write down the recipe, perhaps to give to a friend, that you discover that you have drifted away from the original recipe without even realising it.

There is the personal history of recipes and then there are recipes that live in the public realm, such as Anzac biscuits. Lois wrote a very interesting article which explores how the recipe for Anzac biscuits has changed over time, which you can read here. There are two types of Anzac biscuits currently in the popular vernacular: one is thicker, crumblier cookie sometimes with sunflower seeds and dried fruit added; the other is a crispy and chewy thin disc. Both are good, but the latter really is something special. Lois’ recipe is for the thinner, chewier sort.

Lois’ Anzacs (recipe from Lyndie Pillar)

100g butter

3 tablespoon golden syrup

¼ cup boiling water

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

100g flour

150g sugar

100g rolled oats 

75g coconut (I used long thread, but you could also use desiccated)

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Gently heat the butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan until the butter melts. Pour the boiling water into a cup and dissolve the soda. Mix the flour, sugar, rolled oats and coconut together in a large bowl. Add the soda and water to the melted butter and syrup and immediately pour the foaming mixture into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Cover two baking trays with baking paper. Place heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture on the prepared trays, leaving room for spreading. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the biscuits have melted flat and baked to a rich brown. Keep a very close eye on the biscuits from the 10 minute mark; they go from perfect to burnt very quickly! Leave the biscuits to cool slightly on the oven trays before transferring onto a cooling rack.

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Blueberry & yoghurt scones

 

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Baking morning tea for Lois Daish using one of her own recipes sounds like a challenge round in The Great New Zealand Bake Off (which doesn’t exist, but it should and it needs to be hosted by Jaquie Brown and feature Lois Daish and Dean Brettschneider as the baking pros; I’ve clearly given this some thought before!). Rather than top-quality reality television, this is actually how I spent last Sunday morning, baking blueberry and yoghurt scones to take around to Lois’ place for morning tea.

I am very lucky to have met Lois through her daughter, Mary, a talented architect (and lovely friend of mine) who designed the fit-out for Little, a cafe which I set-up and now manage in Lower Hutt. Lois has been out to visit me at Little a number of times and we have become friends. We spent a very nice time together on Sunday morning eating scones, drinking expertly-made Supreme coffee from her little Rocket espresso machine and talking about recipes, books and her restaurants. I can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy Sunday morning.

Blueberry & yoghurt scones (Lois’ recipe as published in A Treasury of New Zealand Baking, ed. Lauraine Jacobs, 2009)

2 cups plain flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons caster sugar

80g butter, cubed

1 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1/4 cup natural yoghurt

3/4 cup full-cream milk, more if needed

milk and sugar for the topping

Preheat oven to 200°c and cover a flat tray with baking paper. Using a food processor or stand mixer, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and butter together until the mixture resembles bread crumbs – it’s fine if there are flakes of butter visible. Tip into a large mixing bowl and stir through the blueberries.

Put the yoghurt in a small bowl, add the milk and whisk together. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and use a knife to mix into a soft, slightly sticky dough. Add more milk if needed.

Lightly flour a bench and tip out the dough. Pat into log about 2-3 cm thick and cut into 9 pieces. Pop the scones onto the prepared tray, brush with milk, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with butter.