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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Scones, blackberry jam and clotted cream

I had been stuck on the idea of clotted cream for the past few days. It's a mildly sweet, spreadable thick cream, somewhat of a cross between unsalted butter and heavy cream. I had it with homemade scones and jam for breakfast but this meal is usually enjoyed in the afternoon with a cup of tea as a part of the famous cream tea which is very popular all across the UK.

It's next to impossible to get your hands on fresh clotted cream here in the US. The closest thing is a processed version (found in a tiny jar in the picnic food section of Cost Plus World Market) or Double Devon Cream (can be bought at Cost Plus World Market, Wholefoods and the The British Pantry). However I really wanted to taste the real deal and me being somewhat of a food nerd and after being told that the idea "sounds jolly good" I decided to make it in my tiny kitchen :-)  

Thanks to Google my hunt for raw unpasteurised cream was surprisingly short. I was able to locate a depot in Bellevue and all I had to do was make a call and collect it on Thursday morning. It's hard to describe the feeling I felt when I was holding a pint of raw cream from Jersey cows in my hands :-) A pint of cream took me over eight hours and I got about a third cup worth of clotted cream. The process for making this is very similar to making malai probably because clotted cream IS malai. However there is a HUGE difference in taste and texture between the two maybe because clotted cream is made from a better quality of milk or cream. 

The method is simple. Just pour the cream in a wide skillet, cover and cook on very low heat for several hours until a thick crust forms on the top. That yellowy, oily crust is clotted cream. Scrape it off and collect it in a small bowl. I found this recipe for clotted cream which makes it in an oven. However I made it on the simmer setting on my electric stovetop and scrapped off the crust every hour or so. The crust will form several times. In the end I had very little cream left in my skillet, I couldn't let it simmer further without making it stick to the skillet.

During my search for a recipe I found that people usually compare the taste of clotted cream with mascarpone, ricotta, heavy whipped cream or some mix of these ingredients. And after tasting it, it is my very humble opinion that clotted cream is also comparable to softened khoya - Milk solids made from evaporating milk, an ingredient very commonly used in Indian/Pakistani desserts and can be easily bought from an Indian grocery store.


I followed a recipe from America's Test Kitchen, a version of it can be found here.
However I never used any currants or dried fruit and cut the recipe in half.
For the sake of completion I have copied the recipe below with the quantities that I used.
Dreamy Cream Scones
America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F.
2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.
3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Transfer dough to large bowl.
4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.
5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by either a) pressing the dough into an 8-inch cake pan, then turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper (the book’s suggestion) or b) patting the dough onto a lightly floured work surface into a 3/4-inch thick circle, cutting pieces with a biscuit cutter, and pressing remaining scraps back into another piece (what I did) and cutting until dough has been used up. (Be warned if you use this latter method, the scones that are made from the remaining scraps will be much lumpier and less pretty, but taste fine. As in, I understand why they suggested the first method.)
6. Place rounds or wedges on ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Blackberry Jam

Blackberries - Frozen 1 lbs
Sugar - 2 1/2 cups
Juice of half a lime
Apple peels and cores for natural pectin (I had saved some from a pie I had made a few days earlier)

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot.
Turn on the heat and allow the berries to welt.
Cook for about 5 mins and pass the fruit through a seive to remove seeds and apple peels.
Add the seedless fruit back into the washed pot and continue to cook for another 15 mins on medium high heat or until the mixture is reduced to 1/3 cup.
Pour into a clean jar and seal.
Finish within a week.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Apple Pie

Years ago, when I was a student, I used to really enjoy apple pie from a bakery (forgot the name) in Islamabad. It had coconut flakes and raisins mixed in with the apple filling.

I have been feeling very nostalgic lately and decided to make an apple pie similar to the one I used to love. Good 'ol times, how much I miss it all :-(

I used a small 7" pie pan, so three small apples were enough to fill it up. While I was searching for a great recipe I found this picture and thought it looked really nice. So I tried to emulate the look using apple and leaf shaped mini cookie cutters. I also used the recipe on that page as a guide.

(prep time 20 mins if using prepared pie crust)
(bake time 45 mins)
(enough for 4 ppl)

2 Pie crusts or use store bought
3 Apples - small size (granny smith, honey crisp, red delicious)
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 Tbs Heavy cream
2 Tbs Butter (chopped into small pieces)
1 Tbs Flour
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 cup Brown sugar
1/8 cup Regular sugar
1/3 cup Coconut flakes-sweetened  *optional
1/3 cup Raisins - I used golden raisins *optional
1 egg - for eggwash


Line the bottom of a buttered and floured pie dish with one of the pie crusts.
Use a knife to cut off the over hang.
Set aside and refrigerate the pie dish.
Peel and core the apples and slice them thinly.
Put the slices in a large bowl and sprinkle some lime juice on them to prevent browning.
Add the sugars, spices, flour, cream, butter, coconut and raisins and combine well.
Pour this mixture into the pie dish and cover with the decorative crust.
I saved a few slices and arranged them in a neat pattern on the top layer. I figured it would look nice because it will show through the cut outs. But now I think it would have looked better had I not done that, specially because some of the apple pieces got really brown. 
Apply some eggwash on top of only the crust and bake in a preheated 450 oven for 15 mins.
Then reduce the temperature to 350 and cook for another 30-45 mins.
I had to cover the edges of the pie with aluminum foil to prevent over browning.
I removed the foil in the last 15 mins of baking.
Let this sit for 30 mins at least.
You can eat this warm or at room temperature.
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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pecan Pie

Ooey gooey good :-)
This was incredibly delicious... mmm. I made several versions of it and below is what I liked most. I cook the syrups for a while for an extra sticky texture and I also prefer using a prebaked pie crust for a super duper flaky pastry!

(makes one 10" pie)
(prep time 15 mins if using store bought pie dough otherwise and another hour or so)
(cook time 45 mins)

1 Pie crust or use store bought
1/2 cup Maple syrup
1 cup Light corn syrup
1/2 cup Agave nectar
2 Large eggs (At room temperature and lightly beaten)
4 Tbs Butter (Melted)
1 3/4 Cups pecans or use walnuts for a walnut pie
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp salt


Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour a 10"pie dish and refrigerate it for 10-15 mins.
Roll out the pastry and place it inside the pie dish. Poke a few holes all around the inside of the crust with a fork.
Place this in the fridge for 20 mins or so. We want to make sure that the pastry is very cold.
When you are ready to bake the pie crust place a piece of aluminum foil on top of it and use some uncooked dried beans or baking beads to prevent the pastry from puffing up.
Bake for 12-15 mins.
Take out it from the oven, remove the weights and let it cool down to luke warm atleast before you fill it up with the pecan filling.

For the Filling:

Combine the vanilla, salt, agave, maple and corn syrup in a sauce pan.
Cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes.
Let this cool down to room temp.
Pour in melted butter and mix well and then fold in the eggs.
Add whole pecans .
Pour this mixture into the pie shell.
Bake for 40-45 min in pre-heated 350 degree oven.
Or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
The middle should be slightly wobbly but it will set when cooled.
Let it cool down completely before eating.
Also tastes great super chilled.

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