Saturday, 20 February 2010

A Tale of Two Friands

Note - in a bid to make this blog easier to read, I have changed the font colour for the bits where I go off on a serious tangent. Hope it helps!

Friand (n): A small cake.

I made that up, by the way. It didn't appear in any online dictionary in the way I wanted it to, and I was also completely unaware that the definition of friand was so darned rigid. Wikipedia tips its hat to the Australian version of the friand but without really saying what it is (small cake! small cake!). The friand I speak of is not to be confused with the French version, which is something completely different (but no doubt delicious) which I think may involve some pastry and a small sausage. No, I refer to all small cakey things - rather innaccurately, as it turns out - as friands.
Of course, the application of "friand" to the items I baked was completely blown out of the water by AWW "Cook" with its chapter title "Muffins, Scones and Friands", because one was a muffin, one was a scone and were therefore clearly not friands. Damnit!!!
This entry is hereby renamed "A Tale of Two Items which Could Potentially be Filed in the chapter "Muffins, Scones and Friands" commencing on p498 of AWW "Cook", but which weren't, because one of them was a recipe I made up and the other one came out of the CWA's "Country Classics" cookbook, but even if they were they'd come under the muffins and scones bit and not the friands bit".

Yes, that's a far snappier title. Eminently suitable. Well done, Vanessa! Well done!

Friand Number One: banana-date muffins

I made these from scratch, no recipe!

These are the only two pictures I have of my muffins (or, more accurately, the last remaining muffin) because I only got excited about it after I had made them and they turned out to be quite the success, even though I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Foolish girl. Of course, I also made lamingtons for Australia Day but didn't even think to grab my camera until I was in the middle of icing them and thinking "oh, isn't it a good thing I'm not touching my camera with my sticky hands and... ohhhhh... that means I forgot to take pictures again... dang..." And then after that the lamingtons didn't really last long enough to take photographic evidence of them. So really, we're lucky there are any photos of these muffins at all!

I can sort of tell you the recipe, but it's going to be one of those instances, like when my mum taught me to make cheese sauce, that you just kind of add stuff "until it looks right". I used to get soooooo mad at mum for saying that, but once you learn the basics of cooking you should try to embrace the freefall that is Cooking Without a Recipe. It's quite liberating.

These puppies had 2 very ripe bananas (mashed), some dates (chopped), an egg (lightly beaten), some brown sugar, about a cup and a half (or was it 3? No I think it was one and a half *does quick appraisal of the volume of flour, milk and bananas vs. the volume of six Texas muffins* yep, it was a cup and a half!) of SR flour (sifted), spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves) and milk. I think I added it in that order, and added the milk until the consistency "looked right". Then I spooned the mixture into 6 Texas muffin pans and baked at 180oC for... was it twenty minutes? I think so. Well anyway, they'd risen and gone brown on top.

I must admit I wasn't working entirely without a net - I had a ferret around in my cookbooks to have a squiz at the usual wet:dry ratio and how fruit affects that, and baking temperatures. But all of them were so far different from each other that I gave up. The only thing they seemed to have in common was the oven temperature, and even that seemed to vary slightly depending on what kind of fruit went into it and whether it used brown or white sugar. Aaaaaanyhoo.
Consensus: Yummy, flavour-wise. Texture was a little bit like a gym mat, but because I'd covered them with a clean tea towel whilst hot and allowed them to cool in the tin, the moisture remained in them. Lj, the World's Greatest Freefall Baker (we have a baked goods swapping thing going on), suggested adding a bit of oil to the mix to make it lighter, and she's absolutely right. Live and learn. They would have been the healthiest muffins on earth as they were, but the fact they kind of formed a skin and stuck to the wrappers indicates that there wasn't enough grease in them. Bring on the oil!
Friand Number Two: Scones

This recipe was from Country Classics, by the Country Womens Association of Australia. I did make one small alteration - instead of round scones, I made heart-shaped scones. I expected to have to vary the cooking time, particuarly as I made three different sizes, but all seemed to turn out equally light and fluffy and moist. Miracle of miracles!

Guilty secret #753 - I have always wanted to be able to turn out a killer batch of scones if someone happened to drop by. How very Susie Homemaker of me! This recipe is easy enough to remember, but whether I do remember it, and whether I actually have cream in the fridge, and also whether I do decide to just whip up a batch of scones for someone is another question entirely!

I made the scones heart-shaped because it was Valentine's Day, and I'm a dork. Correction - it was the day before Valentine's Day. Grant (the one who stole my Haigh's... yep, I thought about it long and hard, but did some sums and decided that I'd let him stick around because I realised that, over time, he would giveth me more Haigh's than taketh away) wouldn't let me buy him anything for Valentine's Day. Ironically, this included Haigh's. So I didn't. Instead, I made him something. HAH. Further to that, I made him something on the day before Valentine's Day. DOUBLE HAH. And, as it turns out, he loves scones more than many (most, even?) food-related things in the world, so I was already onto a winner without realising it. Further to that, he declared them to be the best darned scones he had ever tasted!!! Now, under normal circumstances I would pay no heed to such compliments, particularly given that scones are notoriously difficult to make light and fluffy and flavoursome, and also because of course Grant was going to tell me they were good to encourage further baking, but because a) they were also the best scones that **I** had ever tasted, and b) they were made more or less in accordance with a CWA recipe, I accept the compliment with pride (ref. Guilty Secret #753).
Basic Scone Dough - p218, Country Classics (Country Women's Association of Australia, 2007)

3 cups self-raising flour
1 pinch salt
1/2c cream
1 1/2c milk


Preheat oven to 260oC and grease a baking tray (I used baking paper, cos it rocks, mainly because it means not having to put much effort into cleaning your trays).

Sift flour and salt and into the centre add the cream and the milk.

Stir with a knife to form a soft dough.

(note I didn't use this particular knife, which is part of our regular dining set, and from which I have sustained many a mortal injury)

It's dangerous. Stand back.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead lightly.

(I forgot to take my rings off. Again.)

Roll to about 12mm in thickness and using a 5cm cutter, cut out the scones (I used 3 different heart ones, ranging from about 4-8cm).

Place on tray(s) and turn the oven back to 250oC before putting scones in to bake.

(Remember to check the shelves before you do that. And make sure there isn't a big, fat roasting pan in your way. Cos that would make things difficult.)

Bake for about 10 minutes. When baked brush tops with melted butter to enhance their appearance (I brushed with milk before baking and the ones on the top shelf turned out a smidge dark).

This is where the recipe ends, by the way. So then I beat some cream to put on them. I bought a 300mL container and if you're a bit frugal in your cream application, the remainder of the container after you've used your 1/2c in the recipe should be enough for the whole batch. If, like me, you are somewhat less than frugal in your cream application, however, you will be stuck using butter on the last half dozen or so of your scones. That works out okay if you're bringing them in to work for morning tea, but otherwise is probably not the ideal scone:jam:cream ratio situation for your everyday scone officionado.

While I was merrily beating the cream (well that's clearly a lie. There was very little merriment involved as I was using a hand mixer not a stand mixer - see previous entries regarding the superiorty of the Kenwood Chef as opposed to the Colossal Piece of Crud that is the everyday, pedestrian hand mixer. Had I been using a stand mixer, I could have walked away from it and, say, painted my nails. But nooooo. Because I can't justify spending that much on a piece of kitchen equipment just now, I have to stand there with the mixer in my hand. It's like watching paint dry. Alright, I concede that it's actually slightly more exciting than watching paint dry because it changes texture and looks tasty... but I digress!) I became confounded by the settings on the mixer: 1-5, low and high, and boost. Now, if I'm not much mistaken, that essentially means that there's at least eleven speeds on this puppy (although I think Boost just makes it go full tilt, no matter the setting it is on). I think mum's Kenwood Chef (all hail!) had either eight or ten on it, which always seemed superflous to me, too, but at least you could walk away from it. See, I'm the sort of body who likes to turn their mixer on full crank. Sure, you start it off nice and gently so you don't get the big POOF of flour (or worse - cocoa) that goes flying up in the air and usually up your nose (oh, the pain of cocoa in your sinues! My eyes water just thinking about it), and then you tentatively put it on medium, and then, almost invariably, you turn the Marshall up to eleven (if that didn't make any sense to you, go rent the rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. Not that I've seen it, but I am aware of the reference. It's cos I'm so cool and in touch with popular culture and stuff). Perhaps it is my immaturity, my green-ness as a cook that causes me to consider that many speed options to be superfluous. If anyone knows what possible uses the settings of, say, two and seven might have, let me know!!! Anyhow, just thought I'd share!

And then you put your cream to good use and apply it to your scones. With jam. Preferably strawberry jam.

Nom, nom, nom...

(I was hungry before, but now I'm **really** hungry! I had breakfast at ten to five this morning before dropping a friend off at the airport, so it's kinda thrown my normal eating patterns out)

I'm still trying to figure out why the scones were so darned good, and I have come up with several possibilities. It may be due to one factor, or to a combination of them, or all. Who knows...

1. It's a CWA recipe. 'Nuff said.
2. They were made with cream rather than butter. I would suggest that this provides the fat content without the stiffness in the dough (but that's only a suggestion - there's no actual, scientific proof of that).
3. I'm a firm advocate of using plain flour and baking powder, rather than pre-made self-raising flour. I had opened a new tin of baking powder for this recipe, so perhaps the levity of the scones was in part due to the freshness of the raising agent.
4. They were made with love. Gag. Sorry. But it had to be said. And it's true.
5. Given it's such a short cooking time in such a hot oven, perhaps it's difficult to go too far wrong. As long as your oven is accurate, which this one seems to be (so far. Unlike the last one).

And at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter why they were so good. All I really care is that I achieved something I always wanted to be able to do - turn out a killer batch of scones at the drop of a hat. Now all that remains to be seen is whether I can in fact whip up a batch upon command...