13 December 2018

Devon Flats - Classic British Biscuit (Cookie)

Devon Flats - Classic British Biscuit (Cookie) - made with luscious clotted cream / www.delightfulrepast.com

I should be a judge or something on the Great British Baking Show—British baking has been my schtick all my life. And here I go with a biscuit (cookie) from Southern England. This isn’t a family recipe. My only connection to Devon is that 13 of my ancestors on my father’s side came over on the Mayflower from Plymouth. 

I’ve had biscuits/cookies made with clotted cream and butter before, but they were from Cornwall. I only learned about this traditional all-clotted cream Devon version when I read a post about Devon Flats on the charming food blog As Strong As Soup.

The recipe was in print as early as 1935 and most are very similar and call for the dough to be cut into 7 or 8 cm/3-inch rounds. I wanted them a bit smaller for afternoon tea and used a 5 cm/2-inch round cutter. The clotted cream can be store-bought (difficult to find in the US, though) or mail-ordered (clotted cream on Amazon), or you can make my authentic Homemade Clotted Cream, which I did the day before I made the Devon Flats.

Devon Flats - Classic British Biscuit (Cookie) / www.delightfulrepast.com

You might think this plain little biscuit would taste no different from a regular sugar cookie made with butter. But if you’re a clotted cream aficionado, you know that clotted cream and butter taste quite different. I resisted my natural inclination to add vanilla extract or citrus zest or spice, knowing I'd be rewarded with the pure clotted cream flavor. 

Most Devon Flats recipes call for self-raising flour (called self-rising in the US), but I always use plain flour (called all-purpose in the US) and so have added baking powder and salt to the recipe. Since British self-raising flour is not the same as American self-rising flour, it makes much more sense for me to make my recipes with plain/all-purpose.

Devon Flats - Classic British Biscuit (Cookie) - made with my authentic homemade clotted cream / www.delightfulrepast.com

The recipes I looked at measured the clotted cream “or thick double cream” in “ml” rather than grams, so I’m assuming those bakers were using a much more liquid product than I. I used clotted cream, which is quite solid, so needed to add more liquid. The recipes called for rolling out the dough anywhere from Phil’s “thinly” to 1/4 inch, 1/3 inch, 1/2 inch and even an absurd 1 inch.

I rolled this batch to 1/4 inch but next time will do 1/8 inch, which is what I imagine Phil’s “thinly” to be. And that will mean more biscuits! And, since my clotted cream is not the least bit pourable, I will change up the mixing a bit, creaming together the clotted cream and sugar, then mixing in the egg followed by the flour mixture. 

Devon Flats - Classic British Biscuit (Cookie) - made with luscious clotted cream / www.delightfulrepast.com

Devon Flats 

(Makes about 3 dozen 2-inch/5 cm cookies/biscuits)

1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces/213 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces/99 grams) sugar
1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup (3.5 ounces/99 grams) clotted cream

1 large egg, lightly beaten

A little milk, if needed (I used 4 tablespoons, one at a time, of the thin cream left over from making clotted cream)

1 In medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt to “sift” the ingredients. Whisk in the sugar.

Note: I plan to change this up a bit next time as mentioned above: Whisk together the dry ingredients. Cream the sugar and clotted cream together. Mix in the egg. Then mix in the flour.

2 With wooden spoon or with hand mixer on low speed, mix in the clotted cream and egg to form a soft, but not wet, dough. If the dough is too stiff, add some milk a little at a time to soften the dough.

3 Cover the dough and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or so. Chilling the dough will make it easier to handle. 

4 Preheat the oven to 375F/190C/Gas5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough about 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick and cut out the biscuits using a 2- to 3-inch (5 to 8 cm) round cutter.

Note: As mentioned above, I plan to roll the dough about 1/8-inch (3 mm) thick next time. 

5 Place on lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes until the biscuits are coloring on top and browning slightly around the edges. Cool the biscuits completely on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.


06 December 2018

Banana Cream Pie - The Best Crust Ever for Cream Pies

Banana Cream Pie - Pâte Sucrée (a slightly sweet shortcrust pastry) / www.delightfulrepast.com

Banana cream pie is one of my lifelong favorites, enjoyed often at my Southern grandmother’s house. She made it with a regular flaky pie crust, but lately I’ve taken to making it with a slightly sweet, vanilla scented shortcrust pastry I came up with to hint at the vanilla wafers in a traditional Banana Pudding.

This pastry is going to be my go-to crust for any cream pie from now on, including Coconut Cream Pie and Chocolate Cream Pie. It rolls out beautifully and has a wonderful flavor and texture. The custard is thick and lovely, quite a nice color, no need for the yellow food coloring some people add.

Banana Cream Pie - Pâte Sucrée (a slightly sweet shortcrust pastry) / www.delightfulrepast.com
This Banana Cream Pie is what the word luscious was invented for!

If I were topping the pie with meringue, I would make the custard with egg yolks and use the whites for the meringue. But since I prefer whipped cream, I make the custard with whole eggs so the whites don’t go to waste. (I really hate food waste! And I’m getting better, but not perfect, at avoiding it.)

What is your favorite pie? I’m really more of a fruit pie fan, though I’ve been on a custard pie kick lately. But I promise, I'll post something besides pie next week! 

Banana Cream Pie - Pâte Sucrée (a slightly sweet shortcrust pastry) / www.delightfulrepast.com

Banana Cream Pie 

(Makes one 9-inch/23cm pie, 8 servings) 

The Pastry - Pâte Sucrée (a sweet shortcrust pastry) 

1 1/4 dip-and-sweep cups (6.25 ounces/177 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 packed cup (1 ounce/28 grams) unsifted powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional

The Custard

2 1/2 cups (20 fluid ounces/591 ml) milk
2/3 cup (4.67 ounces/132 grams) sugar 
1/3 dip-and-sweep cup (1.67 ounces/47 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces/43 grams) unsalted butter, cold
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon brandy or rum, optional
3 medium (about 1.5 pounds/680 grams) firm ripe bananas

The Whipped Cream

1 1/2 cups (12 fluid ounces/355 ml) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Garnish

Fresh banana slices, banana chips or toasted sliced almonds

1 Add flour, powdered sugar and salt to work bowl of food processor; turn on for about 3 or 4 seconds to combine. Add chunks of butter; pulse to a crumb texture, leaving some visible chunks of butter. Add egg and vanilla extract; pulse until the dough starts clumping together. This is to be a crisp, more cookie-like crust, rather than a flaky pastry; so there's not quite the concern about over-processing. Flatten slightly into a 4- to 6-inch round disc, wrap in square of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. Save the piece of plastic, you'll be using it again.

2 Very lightly butter a 9-inch glass pie plate; I usually just run the butter wrapper over it. On a lightly floured piece of parchment, roll out disk to a 13-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Place pastry in pie plate, being careful to not stretch the dough. Leave a 1-inch overhang of dough*. Crimp and flute the edge. (Sometimes you need to chill the pastry a bit before crimping.) Cover loosely with the reserved piece of plastic wrap and place in freezer for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 425F/220C/Gas7.

* Don't throw away the scraps; they make wonderful cookies (I made 6 little 2-inch wafers, using ever scrap). Just press them out and throw them on the baking sheet next to the pie plate for the final 10 minutes of baking.

3 Fit a square of aluminum foil in the shell and fill with ceramic pie weights (baking beans). Set on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch butter drips). Bake the thoroughly chilled crust for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and pie weights, pop on the pie crust shield and bake for another 10 minutes.

Note: I use two boxes of the ceramic pie weights, and they just fit nicely into a 200-gram tea tin. If you're not a loose leaf tea drinker, though, a quart canning jar works.

4 Remove fully pre-baked pie shell from the oven; let cool completely before filling, at least 30 minutes or hours ahead, whatever suits your schedule.

5 Make filling while pie shell is cooling. In heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucier or 2- to 3-quart saucepan, heat milk just to a simmer. 

6 In 2-quart glass measure or bowl, whisk together sugar, flour and salt. Whisk in eggs until thoroughly combined. Gradually add hot milk, whisking constantly.

7 Pour mixture back into saucier and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until thickened—just takes a couple minutes (well, several, but not as many as when starting with unheated milk), so don't get distracted—you don’t want scrambled eggs. (Food safety note: Any mixture with eggs should be cooked until it registers 160F/72C on instant-read thermometer.) Custard should be very thick, with the whisk leaving trails. 

8 Remove from heat. Whisk in cold butter and vanilla extract (and brandy or rum, if using) until butter is completely melted. Let cool at room temperature for 20 minutes, whisking occasionally, before pouring into pie shell. Spread 1 cup of custard across bottom of pie shell. Cut bananas into slices about 3/8 inch (1 cm) thick. Arrange the banana slices. Pour on and smooth out the remaining filling, pressing down to make sure all the spaces are filled. 

9 Cover and refrigerate pie for at least 5 hours or up to 24 hours before piping on whipped cream. Garnish with fresh banana slices, banana chips or toasted sliced almonds. I used 2 tablespoons (0.5 ounce/14 grams) sliced almonds, toasted in small dry skillet.

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