The Aussie in me has never experienced a cold wintery Christmas. I'm used to the barbecues, the fresh seafood, chilled fruity drinks and spending the morning watching a repeat of Christmas cartoons followed by a balmy afternoon at the beach.
My dear friend Sarah decided to host a Christmas In July afternoon tea last week. There was no roast turkey or presents for each other. Instead, we used this occasion as an excuse to kick the boys out of the house and bake. Then instead of swapping presents, we brought along gifts and donations for kids in need and burnt off the calories wrapping some rather difficult open shoe boxes.
I took this opportunity to bake lemonade scones -I have always been fascinated by the simplicity of the ingredients required; and lemon meringue tarts, from my newly bought cook book: Patisserie (Le Cordon Bleu Home Collection), which was only $5.95 from Basement Books!
(From Nigella's website)
3 cups self raising flour
1 cup thickened cream
1 cup lemonade
1. Place all ingredients in a bowl and combine gently. Knead and pat out until 3cm thick and cut out with a 5cm scone cutter.
2. Place on lined tray, brush with milk and bake at 200 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes until top is browned.
Lemonade scones in the making
The scones were so quick and easy to bake! It's a great recipe for the young ones to be involved in too. The result were these delicious fluffy scones, which were accompanied with homemade mulberry jam and cream.
Scones with homemade mulberry jam and cream
(From Patisserie (Le Cordon Bleu Home Collection))
200g plain flour
Large pinch of salt
Large pinch of caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, chilled
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 - 2 drops of vanilla extract or essence
4 egg whites
200g caster sugar
2 tablespoons icing sugar
6 egg yolks
250g caster sugar
4 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
Juice of 4 lemons
60g unsalted butter
1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into 1cm cubes and place in the flour.
2. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
3. Make a well in the centre and pour in the combined egg, 2 - 3 teaspoons water and the vanilla.
4. Slowly work the mixture together with a palette knife or pastry scraper until it forms a rough ball. If it is slightly sticky, add a little more flour. Turn out onto a lightly floured cool surface, gather the dough into a ball and flatten it slightly. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes before use.
5. Brush two 12-hole muffin tins with melted butter. Preheat the oven to moderate 180°C.
6. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a 3mm thickness. Cut 22 circles of pastry to fit the tins, then ease them into the tins and chill for 20 minutes. Cut 22 circles of baking paper slightly larger than the pastry cases and place in the cases. Fill with baking beans or rice. Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove the baking beans or rice and paper from the cases and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, leave to rest for 2 minutes, then cool in their tins on a wire rack.
7. To make the lemon filling, half-fill a pan with water and heat until simmering. Using electric beaters, whisk the egg yols and sugar in a heatproof bowl that will fit over the pan without actually touching the water, until light and creamy. Add the lemon rind, juice and butter and sit the bowl over the pan of simmering water. Whisk continuously for 10 - 15minutes, or until the mixture is thick and creamy and leaves a ribbon as it falls from the whisk. While the filling is still hot, pour into the cases.
8. Preheat the grill to medium. Place the egg whites in a clean dry bowl and beat them with a balloon whisk or electric beaters until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating well between each addition, until stiff glossy peaks form. Spoon or pipe onto the lemon filling in the pastry cases and swirl attractively with the top of a spoon. Sieve the icing sugar over the surface of the tarts and grill for 1 - 2 minutes, or until the meringue is just tingled golden, then serve as soon as possible.
Lemon meringue tarts in the making
Lemon meringue tarts
These tarts were tangy, sweet and divine. They were totally worth the effort it took to make the pastry and filling from scratch. (Although you may notice from my pics, that I did forget to add the icing sugar in the final step :-\)
Half section of lemon meringue tart
Afternoon tea at home
Wrapping boxes for a charitable cause
I'm not a regular baker and am definitely not the neatest. This challenge has led me to appreciate the hard work that goes on behind any scrumptious work of art but it has also triggered a new desire to perfect my baking skills! So stay tuned for more ;)