These are the famous Irish scones I bring to work every year at St. Patrick’s Day. They go so fast, that coworkers have been known to wait at the elevators for my arrival to be sure they snag one. These light as air scones are a far cry from the heavy, dry and glazed versions sold at a popular coffee chain.
My Auntie Anna from Castleisland, Co. Kerry, generously shared this recipe with me. Over the years, I’ve tweaked it, for instance using plain, whole milk yogurt instead of buttermilk for a lighter dough. I also play around with adding ingredients to the dough such as sultanas (golden raisins), dried cranberries and orange peel in the winter, apple and cinnamon walnut in the autumn or cheese and onion for cocktail parties. Feel free to experiment with your favorite flavors, the recipe lends itself to creativity. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda sieved
- 1/3 tsp. salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 oz. (1 stick) butter chilled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 egg
- 1 cup plain, whole milk yogurt
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Rub in the butter until the mixture looks like bread crumbs.
- Add the egg.
- Fold in the yogurt. At this point add dried fruit or other ingredients if using.
- Using an ice-cream scoop, scoop out the scone dough and place on greased baking sheets.
- Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and the baking sheets and let cool on a wire rack.
- Serve with butter and jam.
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My dad’s birthday is June 18 and Father’s Day usually falls close by, if not on his actual birthday. He loves cakes and sweets and misses Irish cakes. This year, for his birthday/Father’s Day I decided to make him a Victoria Sandwich — an old fashioned cake that I don’t think I’ve made since I was 13 or 14. It’s a very light sponge with a filling of fresh cream and jam (my school recipe calls for a chocolate buttercream filling which I remember being good.) It used to be the classic afternoon tea cake. Since I made it as a young teen, you know it’s not a complicated recipe.
Although I wrote down the ingredients, I did not write down the steps involved in actually making the cake and for some mind-boggling reason we were instructed to use margarine — this was in Ireland, a country awash in possibly the best butter in the world. I definitely wanted a recipe that used butter and needed to confirm that I remembered how to make the cake. And, since June is strawberry season, I also wanted to include fresh berries with the jam.
I found this recipe for Victoria Sponge using butter and fresh strawberries on Irish chef Kevin Dundon’s website. He included it in his “Back to Basics” cooking series that airs on PBS. As I’ve noted before, organic cream makes a big difference in the flavor of cream cakes. It’s even a different color than standard whipping cream — more yellow. Yes, it is more expensive, but how often do you eat cream cakes? They are meant to be a treat. This is how it turned out. As my neighbor commented “not shabby” for a cake I haven’t made since I was a young teenager. I won’t wait that long to make it again, maybe with raspberries next month. Happy birthday dad!
This is the recipe for Victoria Sandwich I wrote in the back of my secondary school cookery book when I was 13.
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For the last few years, my friend Anne has been reminiscing about the Bakewell Tart that her Irish auntie makes and hinting that it might be nice if I put my pastry skills to use by recreating it here in the States. Bakewell Tart is an old-fashioned English tea time treat that combines flaky pastry with almond cake and jam. Raspberry jam is traditional, but you can use any kind of jam you like. While it is perfect as it is with afternoon tea, it can be dressed up with freshly whipped cream and berries for a lovely dessert.
For Anne’s birthday last week, I surprised her with a homemade Bakewell Tart. I found a simple recipe on the BBC food site. Here I’ve translated the British terms into more familiar American names for ingredients and equipment. I always think about blackberry recipes at this time of the year — the peak time for foraging for blackberries in Ireland. – so I used a tablespoon of blackberry jam in place of the raspberry. (Here is an easy recipe for refrigerator blackberry jam.)
We ate the tart at a Labor Day/birthday celebration cookout at Anne’s brother and sister-in-law’s house. Many of the guests had never tasted this tart before, but liked it enough to ask for the recipe so here it is. You will need an eight inch tart pan with a removable bottom. I usually buy ground almond meal in the nut section at Trader Joe’s. It can also be ordered online from baking products providers such as King Arthur Flour. If you are new to pastry, the shell is first baked “blind” which simply means that it is baked first without filling to cook the pastry.
If you make the tart, let me know how it turned out. As always, if you like this post, please share it.
- 175g/6 oz plain flour
- 75g/2 1/2 oz chilled, unsalted European style butter
- 2-3 tbsp cold water
- 1 tbsp blackberry (or other) jam
- 125g/4 1/2 oz unsalted butter
- 125g/4 1/2 oz superfine (caster) sugar
- 125g/4 1/2 oz ground almonds
- 1 organic egg, beaten
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 50g/1 3/4 oz flaked almonds
- 80g/2 3/4 oz confectioner's (icing) sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp cold water
- 20cm/8in tart tin with removable bottom
- Measure the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water, mixing to form a soft dough.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface and use to line a greased 20cm/8 in tart tin with removable bottom. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
- Line the chilled pastry with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans and lining and cook for another five minutes to dry out the base.
- Spread the base of the pastry with a generous tablespoon of jam. It will seem like it's not enough jam, but it is. Too much jam will seep into the cake.
- Melt the butter in a large pan, take off the heat and stir in the sugar. Add the ground almonds, egg and almond extract. Pour into the pastry shell and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.
- Bake for about 35 minutes. If the almonds are browning too quickly, cover the tart loosely with foil to prevent them from burning.
- Meanwhile, sift the confectioner's sugar into a bowl. Stir in cold water and transfer to a piping bag. If you don't have a piping bag, use a plastic storage bag and cut off one of the corners to make a piping bag. It works just as well.
- Remove tart from oven when cooked. Pipe icing over the top in a zig-zag pattern.