Slab scone (pictured above)
British folk can’t agree on how to pronounce the word “scone”, or even whether the jam or cream should go on first, so this slab scone will be sacrilege for some. I love it, though, because it turns a dainty afternoon tea staple into a perfect summertime dessert. Of course, I have kept the clotted cream – it is, after all, one of the best-tasting things in the world. For the topping, however, I’ve lightened things up a tad by using fresh macerated strawberries with a hint of vanilla instead of the more traditional jam.
If you can’t get clotted cream, use mascarpone or whipped cream, but do me just one favour: if there is clotted cream available that is made in Devon and you’re not in the UK, don’t buy it– it will have been sterilised and pasteurised, and the flavour will be a shadow of the real deal and not worth the disappointment.
Prep 10 min
Cook 45 min
For the slab scone
500g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
1½ tsp baking powder
50g superfine caster sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
150g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
120ml whole milk, plus a splash extra for the egg wash
4 large eggs, beaten
2 tbsp demerara sugar
For the topping
400g fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
25g superfine caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla bean paste
340g clotted cream
Heat the oven to 180C (170C fan)/375F/gas 5. Line the base of a 23cm x 33cm baking tin with a strip of greaseproof paper, so some excess hangs over the longer sides of the tin.
Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and lemon zest in a large bowl, then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs with a few larger pieces remaining. Make a well in the middle, pour in the milk and three of the beaten eggs, and stir to form a soft, but not sticky, dough.
Tip out the dough on to a lightly floured work surface, press or roll into a 23cm x 33cm rectangle and transfer to the prepared tin. Beat the remaining egg with a splash of milk to make an egg wash, brush this all over the top of the scone, then sprinkle liberally with the demerara sugar.
Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until golden brown, then remove and leave to cool completely in the tin.
Meanwhile, make the topping. Put the strawberries into a large bowl, sprinkle over the sugar and vanilla, and stir briefly. Leave to macerate for 30 minutes to an hour, until the sugar has dissolved.
Once the slab scone is cool, remove it from the tin, spread the clotted cream all over the top and dot with the macerated strawberries, drizzling over any syrup in the bottom of the bowl, too. Cut into portions and serve.
This slab scone is best served on the day it’s made, and eaten soon after assembling.
Creme fraiche brioche fruit tart
This dish is inspired by a Nancy Silverton recipe that was so beloved by Julia Child that it made her cry when it was made on her 90s Baking with Julia TV show. Upon tasting it, Child shed a tear and declared it the best dessert she had ever tried. High praise indeed. My version, a brioche tart topped with a creme fraiche custard and a scattering of fruit, is in the same spirit as the original, but it’s been simplified slightly, because the fruit is baked right on the custard layer. If you can’t find pearl sugar (or sugar nibs), you can use sanding sugar, demerara sugar or even flaked almonds). The brioche dough needs to chill overnight, so start the day before you want to bake it.
Prep 10 min
Rest 8 hr+
Cook 1 hr
For the brioche dough
265g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
25g superfine caster sugar
¾ tsp fine sea salt
5g fast-action dried yeast
60ml whole milk
2 large eggs
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature, diced, plus extra for greasing
For the topping
180ml creme fraiche
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk, beaten for glazing
65g superfine caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 nectarines, halved, stoned and cut into slices
300g mixed fresh blackberries and raspberries
Pearl sugar or sugar nibs, for sprinkling (see note)
For the dough, put the flour, sugar, salt and yeast into the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the dough hook attachment in place and mix briefly to combine. Pour in the milk and eggs, mix to form a shaggy dough, then knead on low-medium speed for 10–15 minutes, until smooth and elastic. With the motor still running, add the butter a piece or two at a time, working it into the dough before adding the next batch, then knead for 10–15 minutes more, until smooth, elastic and pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
To make life simpler, we’re going to refrigerate the dough overnight to make it easier to handle and roll out. Tip the dough into a large, lightly greased bowl, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least eight hours or for up to two days.
Lightly grease a 23cm x 33cm baking tin and line the base with a piece of greaseproof paper. Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface into a 25cm x 35cm rectangle. Gently drape the dough into the lined tin, allowing the excess to go up the sides, almost as if you’re lining the tin with pastry. Cover with clingfilm and set aside in a warm place for about an hour, or until almost doubled in size.
Heat the oven to 180C (170C fan)/375F/gas 5. For the topping, whisk the creme fraiche, egg, sugar and vanilla in a measuring jug until smooth. Uncover the brioche and use your fingertips to dimple the centre of the dough, much as if you’re making focaccia. Pour in the creme fraiche custard mixture, then scatter the berries on top. Brush border of the brioche with beaten egg yolk, then sprinkle liberally with pearl sugar, if using.
Bake for 20–25 minutes, until the custard layer is set around the edges and just a little wobbly in the middle and the brioche border is golden. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then cut into portions and serve. Store in an airtight container for one or two days.
Olive oil cherry snack cake
Snack cakes fall into a random sub-category of cakes that you wouldn’t necessarily serve for a birthday or as dessert; think elevenses instead. They should be incredibly easy, and require nothing more than the simplest of icing sugar glazes, if anything at all. This is not a place for frosting or ganache – these are humble cakes that are perfect for a mid-morning sweet snack. This cherry version is made with an olive oil almond cake and topped with a mixture of cherries; I tend to use a couple of different varieties in recipes such as this, something like a classic Bing and, if I can get them, Rainier or Napoleon, which are very similar.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 10 min
Makes 1 cake
For the cake
3 large eggs
175g superfine caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
120ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing
120ml natural yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
140g plain flour
100g ground almonds
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
300g fresh cherries, pitted and halved
2–3 tbsp flaked almonds
For the glaze
5 cherries, pitted, or 2 tbsp cherry juice
125g icing sugar
¼ tsp almond extract
1 pinch fine sea salt
A few drops of pink food colouring
Heat the oven to 170C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Lightly grease a 23cm x 33cm baking tin and line with a piece of greaseproof paper that overhangs the two long sides of the tin to make removing the cake easier later, and secure it in place with metal clips.
Put the eggs, sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl, then use an electric mixer to whisk for a minute or two, until the sugar has fully dissolved. Still whisking, pour in the oil and whisk for another minute, until slightly thickened, then briefly whisk in the yoghurt and vanilla to combine. Add the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt, and whisk briefly until you have a smooth batter.
Pour this into the prepared tin, spread it out evenly, then scatter over the cherries and flaked almonds. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and feels firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 15–20 minutes, then, carefully, use the paper to lift it out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
Once fully cooled, serve the cake either with a light dusting of icing sugar or make this simple cherry glaze. Puree the cherries, then pass them through a fine sieve. Mix two tablespoons of the puree (or juice, if using) and the icing sugar in a small bowl until smooth. Add the almond extract, salt and enough food colouring to make a pale pink glaze, drizzle liberally over the cake and serve.
Store in a sealed container for up to two days.
When it comes to brownies, I am a purist. No nuts, no fruit – I want pure, unadulterated chocolate. There is, however, the rarest of occasions when I am willing to break these self-imposed rules, and that would be when caramel is involved. For the uninitiated, a “turtle” is a classic confection made of chocolate, pecans and caramel, and, let’s be honest, if there is one thing that makes brownies better, it’s the addition of caramel.
You can substitute the rye for plain flour, but if you haven’t tried rye, I would implore you to: it makes a very special brownie.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr
Makes 12-20, depending on how big you cut them
For the rye chocolate brownies
200g cold unsalted butter, diced, plus extra for greasing
175g wholemeal rye flour
50g cocoa powder
½ tsp flaked sea salt
½ tsp baking powder
300g dark chocolate (65-75% cocoa solids), roughly chopped
150g superfine caster sugar
220g light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
80g pecans, roughly chopped
50g milk chocolate, roughly chopped (or chocolate chips)
For the salted caramel
100g superfine caster sugar
80ml double cream
15g unsalted butter
¼ tsp flaked sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling (optional)
Heat the oven to 170C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Lightly grease a 23cm x 33cm baking tin and line with a piece of greaseproof paper that overhangs the two long sides.
For the brownies, sift the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. Put the butter and dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (make sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water), stir occasionally until fully melted, then take the bowl off the heat.
Put both sugars, the eggs and vanilla in a separate large bowl and, using an electric mixer, whisk on medium-high for four to five minutes, or until increased in volume, thick and pale. This is what will give the brownies a fudgy texture and a thin crackly crust. Turn the mixer to low, pour in the chocolate mixture and combine. Use a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture until just the odd fleck of flour remains. Scrape into the prepared tin and spread out evenly. Sprinkle over half the pecans and half the milk chocolate pieces or chips.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs attached. Leave to cool in the tin. For a fudgier brownie, once cool, chill for a couple of hours in the refrigerator.
For the salted caramel, put the sugar in a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat until melted and the colour of an old copper coin. Add the cream, butter and salt, and, once the bubbling has subsided, if there are any lumps, reduce the heat and stir until melted. Pour the caramel into a small, heatproof bowl and set aside for 10–15 minutes until slightly thickened.
To finish, drizzle the caramel over the brownies, sprinkle over the remaining pecans and milk chocolate, and scatter over a little extra flaked sea salt, if you’re a fan of sweet and salty. Remove from the tin and cut into squares. Store in a sealed container for four days.