Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Afternoon Tea Cakes

The other weekend, for the Jubilee, I hosted an afternoon tea party.  Some cakes were classic recipes I followed almost to the letter, and suggest you do the same; with others, I got a bit more creative.  When you're baking all day it's best not to strain the brain too hard.

Classic scones - I turned to the BBC's recipe here, for simplicity.  Breads and I have never really clicked, so I wanted firm guidance from Auntie.  Make scones on the day for freshness and warmth that will impress.

Palatial shortbread  - Millionaire's shortbread is fast becoming a family favourite, and you can find versions of it in hip coffee chains all over the country nowadays.  My version is slightly more decadent even than the Beeb's.  Following their recipe mostly, I added 2 teaspoons of ground cardamom to the shortbread mix (a combo I picked up from here years ago).
I did accidentally turn my back on the caramel resulting in a delicious fudge.  I left the butter out of the dark chocolate mixture, for depth of flavour, and instead of white chocolate decorated the tops when still tacky with silver balls.

Rhubarb tartlets - all my own work
You Will Need: fairycake tin with twelve holes, large bowl, scales, dinner knife, clingfilm, rolling pin, pastry cutter/glass, small pan, small bowl, cup, chopping board and sharp knife, wooden spoon, fork, teaspoon, baking tray
2oz cold butter
1oz ground almonds
1 tsp ground ginger
3oz plain flour
1-2 stems ripe red rhubarb
2 eggs
double cream
caster sugar
jar of crystallised ginger

1) Make the pastry.  Cut the butter into little cubes.  Knead with the dry ingredients with your hands, first to breadcrumb stage and then squidging into a single ball.  Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for half an hour.
2) When the pastry is cold, preheat the oven to 180 C.  Roll the pastry out on a floury surface until 3-4mm thick.  Be aware that this pastry is very 'short' or flaky.  It will not like you!  Do not despair.  Cut circles out of the pastry and press them into the tin, squidging any cracks together with your fingers.  You should be able to make at least 6. I got 7.
3) Poke two sets of holes into the bottom of each pastry case with your fork, to allow any air bubbles trapped underneath to escape and not bugger them up.  Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
4) Allow the cases to cool completely before touching them again.  If tempted, make more cake while waiting.
5) When the cases are cool, trim the ends off your rhubarb and pull out any stringy ribs from the square edges.  Chop it into 2-3cm pieces, and if they are fat, halve them lengthways.  Put 2-3 pieces of rhubarb per pastry case into a small pan with a knob of butter and a splash of water.  Fry/poach the rhubarb, adding a little more water as it evaporates, until the rhubarb is pink and tender and strings are coming off it.
6) Lift the pastry cases onto a sturdy baking tray and fill them with rhubarb.
7) Separate the eggs, with the yolks going into a small bowl and the whites a cup (save whites for meringue in the fridge).  Add a small pile of sugar.  Beat this together with a fork.  Gently heat enough double cream to cover the bottom of your small pan.  Add the eggmix and stir quickly to blend.  When blended, take off the heat and carefully spoon into the pastries, around the rhubarb.
8) Put back in the oven (hey I didn't say to turn it off) for another 7 minutes, to bake the custard and roast the tips of the rhubarb.  When out of the oven, drizzle some of the sugar syrup from a jar of crystallised ginger over the top of each one.  This makes all the difference.

Mini battenberg
This is a lovely recipe from the Hariy Bikers.  I only made one egg's worth of sponge, dividing my tin with their greaseproof paper trick into 3 - half for battenbergs, and one for my shortbread.  I also added lemon zest and a splash of juice to the 'yellow' Berg, and used 3 tsp of raspberry jam to colour the pink Berg as I couldn't find the mother-out-law's cochineal.

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