Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Before Passover with Lavender Bakery

What a gorgeous afternoon! In fact if you are ever depressed do two things: bake a cake and light a fire. Guaranteed to raise the spirits.
Lavender Bakery and I are having a practice bake in the Aga in readyness for the Victorian Tea on May 3rd.
We tried 3 recipes: crumpets, madeleines and scones.

22g strong plain flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of dried yeast
1 teaspoon of caster sugar
1/2 pint milk.
Heat milk and 55ml water together in a pan until handhot. Pour into a jug, add sugar/yeast and leave for 10-15 minutes until frothy.
Sift flour/salt into a bowl. 
Make a well, pour in yeast mixture. Work together gradually. When you have a smooth batter cover the basin with a tea towel and leave to rise for 45 minutes. The batter will be light and frothy. You can then cook the crumpets either by greasing the inside of an egg ring or by dropping a large tablespoon's worth onto a hot pan. (I used the simmering plate on the Aga).

After making the mix and leaving it to rise, I dropped dollops of the crumpet mixture on the simmering plate of the Aga. Do not turn it over until bubbles start to show in the top. The bubbles then burst and you have the characteristic crumpet holes, not as many as in shop bought ones however. After about five minutes flip it over and lightly brown the other side. I added more salt to the mixture than the recipe suggests. 

2 medium eggs
75g sugar
10g dark soft brown sugar
Pinch of salt
90g flour
1 tsp baking powder
Vanilla essence (optional)
90g melted butter, cooled
1 tablespoon of clear honey
Butter for greasing 
Combine eggs, both kinds of sugar and salt in a bowl. Work lightly with a spatula until light in colour. Sift together flour/baking powder. Fold gently into mixture with vanilla if using. Do not overwork the mixture.
Pour in melted butter/honey and mix. Cover bowl with clingfilm and leave for 30 minutes.
Grease insides of madeleine tins. Pipe the mixture into the tins. Bake for about 5 minutes (smaller ones) and 10 minutes (larger ones) on the middle shelf of the roasting oven if you have an Aga. Do not overcook or they will be too dry.

Adding honey

I have some vintage madeleine tins that I bought in France some time ago. I have long wanted to use them. The source of the name madeleine for these small shell-shaped honey cakes has many stories...possibly named after a servant girl that made them. I wonder if there is a Magdalene/Venus connection, and whether the coquille de St. Jacques shape is significant, being a symbol of the pilgrimage whose route traditionally passed through the town square of Siena, through the French Pyrenées until the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain where St. James lies.

Lavender Bakery showed me how to construct a piping bag out of greaseproof paper. You cut a large square into a triangle. Fold it over until you make a cone, then tuck the wide part back into the cone. Scoop the mixture into the cone then cut off the tip with scissors. Folding over the wide part, you place your thumb over the folded part until you start to pressure the mixture downwards, using your other hand as a guide.

For 6-8 scones
250g plain flour, extra for dusting
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1 heaped tablespoon of caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
55g of unsalted butter, cut into pieces plus extra for greasing
150ml of milk
1 egg beaten
Sift plain flour into a bowl, mix in the cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda, sugar and salt. Add butter and rub in with fingers until mix ressembles fresh breadcrumbs. Make a well in the middle pour in the milk. Use a fork to work it into the dry ingredients. Finish by kneading lightly but hand until it forms a soft but firm dough. Pat or roll the dough into a solid shape about 1 1/2 inches thick. Using a cutter or glass cut the dough into rounds and place them on a greased baking tray. Glaze the tops with the beaten egg. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. (Half that time in the Aga roasting oven).

These were the least successful of our experiments. The mix was too dry. The original recipe said that the mix should not be sticky. But I have read elsewhere that it should be sticky. Plus we left them a little too long in the Aga. Also I never think of scones as golden, more snowy white and slightly fudgy in texture but perhaps that is because I have always had shop-bought scones?
Passover starts this Wednesday morning, the first full moon after the vernal equinox. (Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon after the Spring equinox). Any fermented food or drink must be avoided. 
One of the things that occurred to me as we worked and chatted was that when people buy a cake from Lavender Bakery, they are not simply buying a cake. They are buying years of trying, practising, adjusting recipes until they are perfect. 

Michelle of Lavender Bakery


  1. After about 5 years of threatening I am finally making crumpets this weekend. I am more excited than is natural. I was going to use a ring but your freeform crumpets do look lovely. I can make them as big as I like then too...

  2. I was exactly the same way. I was practically jumping up and down with excitement about making crumpets. My teen texted me the next day "are you making crumpets again?".
    They were an absolute hit.

  3. Hmmmm cruuuuummmpeeeets.....

    I love crumpets. I bet you could make them with water instead of milk like the supermarket ones, too.

    How does one do them without an aga/hot plate?

    Trying really hard to get healthy at the moment. Vegan principles saving me from all-sorts of heart-disease invoking stodge, 3 birthdays at my work today - buttery cake, all sorts on offer. Moral abstention made, where health would not be motivation enough for me to say no to yummies.

  4. Dear MsMarmitelover,

    Great blog as always. Really interesting about the St James scallop stuff with the Madeleines. Wonder if Magdalene was significant? Hmmm, would love to know more.

    All the best


  5. With crumpets, why caster sugar? is there anything special about it as an ingredient? I thought it was just finer crystals, but if you're chucking it into liquid then its going to disolve.

  6. I don't know slow urgency. I tend to use caster sugar always because it is finer and easier to work with. Maybe some master bakers reading this could answer your question?


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