Greetings from Taupo Bay.
We now hate puzzles.
I did write this from the kitchen table looking out at the glorious ocean but due to the excellent lack of wifi in this house (I do really mean excellent - but more on that later) I am uploading this from a tiny Telecom phone booth down the road. Its a pretty sad site actually. There are four of us; Jack, Tessah, myself and some random (we can call her wifi hog) all lined up against a stone wall with our iPhones (and in my case MacBook Pro) out.
We are staying at our family friends place, I have asked them to formally adopt me so they won't be family friends for much longer! haha but if I ever write a cookbook I will ask to use this kitchen as the backdrop.
It looks straight out onto the beach. As in drop-something-out-the-window-accidentally-and-it-will-almost-land-on-the-sand straight onto the beach. There is something about this kitchen encourages you to slow down, relax and to take the time in enjoying the cooking process. I have been itching to make bread from scratch all week (but alas! no yeast!). Oh and the light that comes in from the windows is truly magical!
The best thing about this house is the lack of reception and lack of wifi. No Facebook. No Instagram. No hobbit game (much to Jack's dismay) and no texts (not that anyone texts me anyway). I find keeping up with the previous quite tiring and stressful. Also, seeing people's overseas holiday snaps on facey ruins your own beachfront paradise. We always want what we don't have right? Plus all this lack of telecommunication has forced us into family PUZZLE TIME! (did you say that like in the drink driving ad?)
We now hate puzzles.
Anyway, back to the magic that is the lighting.
See? Don't these scones just looks super excellent when they are sun soaked?
What this lighting and sea view has encouraged me to do is to make copious amounts of scones. The wonderful circular chopping board they have here might have helped also as it looks excellently rustic with a batch of scones and the white ramekins of butter and jam atop it.
The best type of scone is a date scone. A date and orange zest scone is even better. And what makes a date and orange scone even better? An easy peasy simple as recipe that basically has three ingredients (minus the dates and orange zest).
I think I made these in pinwheel form last year (where brown sugar and cinnamon are rolled into the dough and then cooked to make pretty pinwheels which are then iced).
However what I have not made for you are scones of the date variety.
I love dates. Date cakes, date slices, dates dates dates.
On that note, Jamal (a fellow date lover), remind me to make these for you.
I compensate for my lack of romantic dates with the the more delicious fruit variety. I wonder why I have so few dates when I can make scones like these.
Anyway when shopping for dried dates I recommend have a good feel of the packets. Sure, when people see you fondling and groping packets of dates they will give you odd looks but finding a good, moist packet of juicy dates is far more important than the opinions of others. I find the Cinderella brand with the blue packet (not the white packet) are a decent date.
Want to know the secret to juicy date scones?
You soak them in boiling water for five to ten minutes before draining then adding to the mixture.. What is even better is if you have a bit of orange juice lying around, pour that over them to cover then zap them in the microwave for two to three minutes, then drain and add.. Delish!
To these scones, I just soaked them in boiling water, drained them then added the juice of the orange that I zested then add the juice and the dates to the flour mix.
I should probably mention something about the unorthodox base ingredient list. Cream. Lemonade. Self raising flour.
Trust me it works. It produces the most luscious, tender scones ever and you don't have to rub in a single gram of butter. The cream provides the fat content and the lemonade the sugar. You can substitute the self raising flour for standard flour with the addition of two teaspoons of baking powder for every cup of flour used. So if you have a scone craving on the way home from work or uni, stop at the dairy (Rob Roy flashes into my mind as I write this), grab a small bottle of cream and a can of sprite and whip some up in 20 minutes!
To the flour you add equal quantities of the lemonade and cream. It usually lies at around a cup of each. Somedays, depending on the humidity you will need more or less. It doesn't have to be an exact science. The final dough should be soft and slightly sticky. Also, don't worry if there are patches of unmixed flour, it will sort itself out in the oven.
On that note I should give you Allie Edmonds (my mum)'s top tips for excellent scones.
- Do not over handle the dough. You will overwork the gluten and make them tough and chewy. The heat from your hands also does the dough no favours.
- Use a knife to mix the dough ingredients. This prevents over hand handling and just works really well.
- Place the scones close together on the baking tray. This will prevent them from drying out too much and will make them rise up rather than out.
- Pat the tops of each scone will a bit of milk just before popping in the oven. It makes the tops all nice.
With these commandments you can overcome any preconceived scone fear you may have had.
Lemonade Date and Orange Scones
makes 8 large scone wedges or 12 smaller squares
4 cups self raising flour (or 4 cups plain flour + 8 teaspoons baking powder)
1 cup full fat cream
1 cup lemonade
Half a packet of dates (2 cups ish), chopped
Zest and juice of one orange
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees on bake and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Soak the dates in boiling water for five or so minutes.
Place the flour and zest in a bowl and mix to spread the zest evenly throughout.
Drain the dates, squeeze over the juice of the orange then add this to the flour.
Mix the dates in with the flour to evenly distribute them.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the cream and lemonade. Use a knife to stir the mixture around until it all roughly comes together.
Tip the dough onto a floured board or bench.
Use your hands to do the last of the mixing, then shape the dough into a flattened circle or rectangle about 5cm thick.
Using a sharp knife, cut the circle into eight wedges or the rectangle into 12 or 9 squares.
Place on the baking tray with just less than a centimetre between them. Pat with milk then bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are golden.
If you want you could sprinkle over a bit of white sugar, just to give the tops a bit of a delicious crunch.
Serve with butter and jam and prepare for the exclamations of gratitude from friends and family who will automatically assume you are some glorious creature who has spent the morning rubbing butter and flour in between your fingers.