Saturday, March 10, 2012

February: A Bit of English Cookery

Beef Pasties
From Mexico to England, we're taking a leap across the ocean with our February lineup of recipes.  In Mexican cooking, the piquant flavor of chili underscores the feisty nature of the country.  In English cooking, the subtle flavors and nods to classic French techniques underscore the reserved yet determined nature of the English. 

English Scones

Scones, those light and fluffy mainstays of a proper English Tea, are often made by Americans to be more full-bodied than intended by our English friends.  This recipe will produce a scone worthy of the slightly tart clotted cream and berry jam topping that is the hallmark of a great English Cream Tea.  Or, do like we Americans do and give it a good slather of butter and a healthy dollop of fruit preserves.  Yum!

(Recipe adapted from Pie in the Sky by Susan G. Purdy)

Move a baking rack to center level of oven.  Preheat to 425 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together 2 cups flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Cut in 7 tablespoons cold butter using a pastry blender or your fingers.

Beat together 1 egg and 3/4 cup milk.  Pour this into the bowl with the flour and stir just until the mixture is moist, but don't beat the dough.  The dough should be fairly moist with no dry spots.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a few turns.  Pat or roll dough to about 1/2" thick.  Using a biscuit cutter or other round cutting tool, cut out as many rounds as can be cut from the dough.  Place the scones onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing the scones about an inch apart.  Gently gather together the scraps of dough and knead together.  Pat or roll out as before and cut more scones.  Continue until all the dough is formed into scones.

Brush the tops of the scones with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar (preferably a coarse type sugar such as turbinado).  Bake in preheated oven for 20-22 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.  Remove from the baking sheet to a cooling rack.

Mock Clotted Cream

Whip 1/2 cup heavy cream with 3 Tbs. sugar until stiff peaks form.  Fold in 1/4 cup plain yogurt.

Cornish-style Meat Pasties

Traditional meat pies were made to be transported in the pocket of miners in the Cornwall area of England.  This necessitated the use of a sturdy pastry and a rather dry filling.  Luckily, we don't have to carry our lunch in our pockets, so we can make our meat pies a little more tender and moist than the traditional Cornish variety but still hold true to their homey nature.

Makes 16

16 ounces  flour (about 3+ cups)
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces unsalted butter
3 ounces lard
1 teaspoon dry mustard (optional)
6-8 tablespoons cold water, or as needed

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, dry mustard (if using) and salt.   Cut in butter and lard using a pastry blender or your fingers.  Start by adding 6 Tbls. of cold water and stir with a fork.  Dough should come together to form a ball with no dryness.  Add more water, a tablespoon at a time, as necessary.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Filling (main ingredients should be uniform in size):
1 lb. top sirloin beef, trimmed of fat and cut into small dice
4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
1 large onion, peeled and cut into small dice
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
4 teaspoons dried parsley or 8 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons English Mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
OR substitute the parsley, thyme and mustard with Penzey’s Bavarian seasoning blend, to taste, and season with salt and pepper

Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 360 degrees F.

Beat an egg with a little water and set aside for use in making the pasties.

To assemble pasties, divide pastry dough into 16 pieces.  Roll each piece into a circle on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8” thickness (circle should be about 6” across).  Check that the dough has not stuck to the rolling surface.  If it has, gently work a metal spatula under the dough and sprinkle the surface with a little flour.  Spoon a large mound of filling onto one side of the pastry circle, leaving about a 1/2 “ space along the edge.  Brush some of the beaten egg along the edge of one half of the circle.  Lift the opposite side of the pastry from the filling  and fold over the filling.  Crimp the pastry together using the tines of a fork, or press together with your fingers and roll the edge up and crimp the roll by gently pinching with your thumb and pointer finger to create a scalloped edge.

Place the filled pasties on a parchment-lined baking sheet about and inch apart.  Brush each pasty with the beaten egg.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the crust is very golden brown.  Serve with gravy, if desired.

Brown Sugar Steamed Pudding (Cake) with Syrup and Vanilla Cream Sauce

Before the modern kitchen arrived with its temperature controlled oven, steamed puddings (pudding is the generic term used in England for what we Americans call dessert) were the go-to treat for the English because they could be steamed in a pot on the stove top.  The Christmas pudding was often loaded with expensive fruits and nuts, but this more humble pudding is just simple goodness.  I give it an American flavor by using maple syrup instead of the traditional treacle (light molasses) syrup, but you can use any one of the three choices given in the recipe with equally good results.  A bite of this cake floods my mind with many comfortable memories of my grandma's kitchen, and when served with the cream sauce, it is very reminiscent of Mexican Tres Leches Cake.  This recipe makes use of the oven to steam the pudding instead of the cumbersome stove top steaming method.

Golden Syrup (1 part molasses to 2 parts corn syrup), or Pure Maple Syrup, or Amber Agave Nectar
2 cups flour
1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
12 Tbs. soft unsalted butter
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup Soft Light Brown Sugar

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and brown sugar.  Add the butter and eggs and beat until the batter is smooth and lump-free.

Spray a 4-cup capacity oven-proof bowl or vessel with cooking spray.  Pour enough syrup of choice over the bottom of the cooking vessel to get a depth of about 1/8".  Spoon batter over the top of the syrup.

Make a cover for your steamed pudding by layering together a piece of foil and a piece of equal sized parchment paper.  Fold the layers together, foil side out, in half lengthwise.  Open up the fold to create a V-shaped cover for the pudding.   Place the cover, parchment side down, over the cooking vessel and carefully push down around the edges of the cover, but keeping the V as much as possible over the middle of the pudding.  This allows for the rising of the pudding in the oven without sticking to the cover.

Place a pan in the oven large enough to accommodate your cooking vessel.  Add enough water to the pan to get a depth of about 1".  Heat oven to 360 degrees F with the pan of water in the oven.  When the oven is heated, place the pudding into the hot water bath.  Bake the pudding for 1 1/2-2 hours.  Check progress after 1 1/2 hours by carefully lifting a corner of the cover just enough to check the middle of the cake for doneness.  Continue to bake for as long as necessary to cook the pudding all the way through.

Remove the entire baking assembly from the oven, being careful not to spill the hot water.  Remove the pudding from the water bath and discard the water.  Carefully remove the cover from the pudding.  Loosen the pudding all round using a palette knife. Place a large plate on top of the pudding and invert. Shake gently if necessary to release the pudding. Lift off the baking vessel with a cloth.  Pour over about 1/4 cup of warm syrup of choice.  Enjoy with vanilla cream sauce.

Vanilla Cream Sauce
Smooth and creamy with a light vanilla taste, this sauce is mandatory for a great English trifle or in this case, a bit of moisture (especially on day two of cake eating) and a nice finishing touch to the steamed pudding.

2 cups (480 ml) table cream or half and half (12 - 18% butterfat)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (don't use imitation vanilla!)
1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated white sugar
5 large egg yolks

In a large bowl, whisk together yolks and sugar until light yellow.  In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat cream to just below a boil. Remove from the heat.  Pour a little of the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.  Continue to add hot cream to the egg yolks, a little at a time, until you have added about half of the hot cream.  Pour the tempered egg yolk mixture into the hot cream in the sauce pan, whisking continually.  Add the vanilla.  Cook the mixture over medium-low heat until the sauce coats the back of a cold metal spoon.  Remove from the heat immediately and cool in a cold water bath (plug the sink and fill with very cold water to a depth sufficient to come half-way up the side of the sauce pan).   Stir cream sauce as is cools to lukewarm.  Serve.

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