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Treacle scones are traditionally made with a bit of cinnamon, but I thought I’d try ginger for a wee change.

This is the recipe I used, although next time I’ll alter it a bit and you’ll see why below. Sometimes it can be helpful to see mistakes and then possibly avoid making them yourself.

Ingredients and Method (all in a oner because I’m lazy)

1. Switch your oven on (with a shelf near the top) at a high heat. I used 210ºC in a fan oven, which I think is 230ºC in a normal electric oven and about gas mark 8.

2. Using your fingertips (you can use an electric mixer but I prefer the old-fashioned method), rub together:

6oz self raising white flour

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

2oz butter/margarine (I used solid baking margarine)

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Flour and fat – I don’t bother sieving the flour, just shake it in a bit above the bowl and then some air gets into it as it falls

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Rub the fat into the flour, very lightly. If you lift your hands as you pick up the flour and fat you bring more air into the mix. You’ll see that there are lumps of yellow that haven’t been rubbed in much, that’s what you want. If you rub in too much the scone will be heavy and solid.

3. Add:

1oz soft brown sugar

2oz (1 tablespoon) treacle

1 teaspoon ground ginger (or more if you like it fiery, or cinnamon if you prefer)

some crystalised ginger chopped up (optional, I used about half an ounce)

1 beaten egg (retaining a little – a level teaspoon or so – for brushing on top of the scones before they go into the oven, if you like them to come out shiny)

2 tablespoons milk

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Bung everything into the bowl, adding the milk and egg last (they haven’t yet gone into the bowl in the picture above). Then mix it all together with a spoon, knife or other implement of your choice.

What you should end up with is a soft, pliable dough, not like this (apologies for poor focus, my hands were sticky), which is too wet:

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Too wet – determined to stick to the sides of the bowl

It was at this point that I realised I should have used less milk, or possibly omitted it altogether. I used a large egg and the treacle gave a bit of moisture too. This is how I would tweak the recipe above, just add a wee spot of milk at a time if you think the mixture’s too stiff. It should be soft and dampish but not so wet that it sticks to your hands.

To rectify the situation, I added a bit of flour, to get a consistency that was still a bit on the damp side but at least prepared to come away from the bowl:

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Damp but manageable dough

4. Take the dough out of the bowl and plop it onto a well floured work surface.

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5. Handling it lightly, flatten it out on top so that it’s more or less even all over and as thick as you fancy making it. I tend to make mine about the thickness of the height of the scone cutter, probably between 2cm and 3cm thick.

6. Shoogle the cutter into the flour on the work surface and plunge it straight down into the dough without twisting:

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If your mixture’s very wet, as mine was, you might have trouble getting the dough out of the cutter:

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I’m shaking it but it won’t come out.

I had to resort to turning the cutter upside down and gently persuading it to fall out of the top:

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Come on, oot wi’ ye!

When I managed to get it out I popped it on a baking tray:

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Now you just sit there nicely while I get your bedfellows.

7. Cut out the rest of the dough (there is invariably a wee bit at the end that doesn’t make up a full size scone, in which case I form it lightly into a sconeish shape) and put all scones onto the tray.

8. Brush the tops (and sides, if you’re feeling meticulous) of the scones with the leftover beaten egg (you can use milk instead but egg gives a shinier finish):

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If you cook the scones at a lower temperature than I did you might find that they don’t get crispy on the outside, and I know some people prefer a chewier textured top, in which case use a lower heat. I like mine crisp outside and soft inside, however, which is why I go for the high heat.

For the last 4 minutes I turned my oven down to 190ºC (210ºC/gas 6 or 7) because the scones seemed to be getting quite brown. I don’t always do this, but I was cooking these for a couple of minutes longer than I might have done with a drier mixture.

The finished result demonstrates what happens when the scone mixture is too damp – the scones have keeled over instead of rising up:

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The poor things tried their best to rise up but the damp mixture meant they burgeoned more outwards than upwards.

The tops were crisp but the inside was soft and, most importantly, there were lots of air holes that made for a light texture. The scone I had melted in the mouth in a way that my scones don’t always do, and I think that was due to using a higher than normal ratio of fat to flour.

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Air holes: a result of not rubbing in too vigorously.

Not too bad for a morning snack, particularly with a nice pot of jasmine pearls tea:

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Welcome, regular readers and potluckers alike, to the 3rd Virtual Vegan Potluck.

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I eat soup probably 4 or 5 times a week in the normal run of things, and I like making it because it’s easy, quick and nourishing.

Although all the soup I make is vegetarian, most of it is also vegan. One of the many wonderful things about soup is that if you stick to a few simple ingredients it’s very hard to mess it up.

I first made this soup without the coconut milk and it was nice and tangy, but quite acidic. The addition of coconut milk balances out the acidity and adds a wonderfully creamy dimension.

Ingredients:

1 can of coconut milk

1 small brown onion, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon of grated root ginger

2 red peppers (capsicum), chopped

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped

3/4 of a pint (400 ml) of vegetable stock

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Throw the vegetables into a pan with the grated ginger, can of coconut milk and vegetable stock.

2. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Liquidise with a stick blender or in a liquidiser.

4. Add black pepper to taste.

For lots more vegan deliciousness, be sure to check out some of the other participants (there are more than 170 this time round!).

A full list of bloggers with the category of dish they’ve brought to the potluck (you might be tempted to go straight to puddings, and who can blame you?) can be found here.

To visit Veganishy, the blog before mine in the potluck chain and the last in the list of side dishes, please click on the button below:

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To visit Sweetveg, the next soup in the line-up, please click on the button below:

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H a p p y   N o s h i n g !

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I imagine that most bakers have their own favourite recipe for scones, and this is the one I base my scones on, altering it depending on what kind of scones I’m making. It comes from the small Be-Ro baking book my mum used a lot when I was growing up, and to my delight I found a copy of the same book in a second hand shop. Here’s the Be-Ro book atop my current favourite cookbook, The MacMillan Coffee Shop Recipe Book:

When I made spiced pear scones the other day (click here) the following recipe is more or less what I used. (Because I’ve made scones so often I’m afraid I don’t always accurately measure ingredients).

I use the rather old-fashioned imperial measures because it’s what I was brought up with, and since the numbers are smaller than measuring in grams, they’re more practical for my easily confused mind.

Ingredients

4 oz self raising white flour

4 oz self raising wholemeal flour

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

2 oz margarine (you could use butter instead, but I use Flora spread)

2 oz soft brown sugar (any sugar would do, I just fancied using the soft brown stuff, and I think it was 2 oz I used, although I usually only use 1 oz, but I thought it might need more with the pear in it, in any case they weren’t too sweet)

1 level teaspoon of mixed spice

1 level teaspoon of cinnamon

1 rounded teaspoon of nutmeg (I don’t honestly know how much spice I used, I just shook it in, but I think I used more nutmeg than anything else)

1 Conference pear, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into chunks

1 egg, beaten

A little milk (again, guessing here, but it may have been a tablespoon or two, it depends on how big the egg is and how wet the mixture is before you add the milk)

Method

1. Set the oven at about 220 degrees Celsius (I used a fan oven at 220 and then turned it down to 210 after the first few minutes of baking so that my scones wouldn’t burn) with an oven shelf ready at the top of the oven.

2.  Mix flours and baking powder in a bowl, rub in margarine (you could use an electric mixer for this job but I always do it by hand because I find it quite therapeutic).

3.  Add sugar, spices and chopped pear to flour mixture and mix well.

4.  Add most of the beaten egg (keeping just a little aside to paint onto the scones before baking – this gives the scones a nice shiny glaze) and enough milk to make as wet a mixture as you can handle without it sticking to your hands and the rolling pin.

5.  Spread the area you’re going to roll the scone mixture out on with a bit of flour (I have a flour shaker filled with plain white flour, but you could use self raising, it really doesn’t matter).

6.  Divide the dough into two and, handling lightly, roll out each blob into a round about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick (this was a bit of a squishy job for me because my pear chunks were quite large).

7.  Cut each of the rounds into quarters (you could just mark the round and cook it all as one, dividing the scones once cooked which would make for more triangular scones, or you could press each scone out using scone cutters, which is what I normally do) and put onto a baking tray.

8.  Brush the top of each scone with the beaten egg using a pastry brush (I have occasionally smeared egg on with my fingers if I haven’t had a brush to hand) and bake at the top of the oven for 11 minutes (it could be 10, it could be 12, but I generally do it for 11 because I’ve found that this is what works with my oven).

The picture below shows how mine turned out. I did open the oven door quickly after about 7 minutes and turned the oven tray round but that’s only because my oven doesn’t cook evenly, you shouldn’t have to do that.

Happy baking! :)

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No tearooms today. It’s jolly parky in Perthshire and this morning’s thick frost made me feel like staying indoors and pottering about in the kitchen. I made sweet potato and red pepper soup for lunch, and baked some biscuits.

I christened the beautiful wooden pestle and mortar I received for my birthday recently

using it to crush some sunflower and pumpkin seeds, to put into oatcakes:

I also made some Appin biscuits (so called because, according to the blurb in the wonderful Macmillan Coffee Shop Recipe Book fom whence the recipe came, the recipe was donated by someone who was from Appin, a remote part of northern Scotland), which went down nicely with a steaming teacup of Twinings 1706 tea. The biscuits are stuffed with sultanas:

The Quarrymill Recipe Book is full of wonderful things (including today’s sweet potato and red pepper soup) and I’m steadily working my way through them all.

I’ve put on a couple of pounds since I started this tearoom reviewing business, but I suspect staying at home is just as bad for the waistline with that recipe book to hand.

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