Saturday, January 30, 2016

Identity Crisis – Is it a Scone or a Southern Biscuit???

Being from New Orleans, I grew up eating Southern Biscuits. Hot and steaming from the oven I would slather the puffy gems with butter and jam and stuff them into my mouth.

In the early 1980’s, after a trip to England, I developed a fascination with Scones. Hot and steaming from the oven I would slather them with clotted cream and jam...

Hey wait!

I always thought Scones and Southern Biscuits were different creatures, but are they really different?

Pictured below is a "Scone" and a "Southern Biscuit". Can you tell which is which?

   In researching both Scones and Southern Biscuits I have come to the belief that the Southern Biscuit is just another name for a Scone. (And by Scone I mean traditional English/Scottish/Irish type Scones and not Starbucks style scones.) Some people swear that they are different – that Scones have sugar whereas Biscuits do not. But I have found Biscuit recipes with sugar and Scone recipes with no sugar at all. Other people say that an egg is the difference, but again you can find Scone recipes with and without eggs and you can also find Biscuit recipes with and without eggs. Still others say that buttermilk is the defining ingredient, but invariably you can find Biscuits made without buttermilk and Scones made with buttermilk.

  So if it is not the ingredients that dictate the difference is it the method of preparations? I have never found a Scone that is “layered” with flaky sheets that pull apart (a la Pillsbury Grands), but that criteria can't be used because not all Biscuits are flaky. Copeland’s of New Orleans has the best biscuits I have ever tasted. They are puffy and cloud-like without a layer in sight.

So what is the answer? Is there really an answer?

Over the last few weeks I have come to realize that there are as many Scone/Biscuit recipes as there are cook’s in the kitchen, as many recipes as there are grain of sand on the beach or stars in the sky.

The variations of each are infinite so the defining line between the two is near impossible. So what do you think? Is a Southern Biscuit just another name from a Scone?

Now for the test ---  can you tell which is which?

One is called "Classic Scones" and the recipe is from the BBC, and the other is just called "Southern Biscuits".  So which is which?  Hint: they both have buttermilk (kind of).

(Note: I will post the recipes in later blog entries...  )

Happy Baking,


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Satsuma (Orange) Scones

A few days ago my aunt gave me a big bag of tree ripened Satsumas, and because I've been on a scone baking binge I decided to combine the two and make Satsuma Scones. 

... and if I do say so myself -- they were pretty dog-gone good.  More cakey than a traditional scone, but moist and sweet and packed with a delicious citrus scent.

Now if you have never tasted a Satsuma orange, then you are missing out big time.The Satsuma Mandarin is one of the sweetest citrus varieties, with meltingly soft pulp, huge juice sacs, and paper thin segment walls.  The outer skin peels off easily to reveal the bright, reddish-orange fruit below.  In the United States they are grown mostly in the coastal parishes of South Louisiana, and they are a common sight in New Orleans around Christmas.  Where I live you can find farmers selling their bagged Satsuma on the side of the road from October to late January.

So like I mentioned earlier, I have been experimenting with different scone recipes trying to find the New Zealand Dream scone I tasted 20 years ago.  This time I decided to try a recipe from the British National Trust -- with only a few modifications to use my Satsumas.   My recipe is at the end of the page, and essentially it is the National Trust recipe, with Satsuma juice replacing half the milk. I also added sugar, vanilla, glaze, and increased the butter and shortening but it is the National Trust recipe - No really it is...

I wanted a lot of citrus punch in my scones so I also added some zest.  The skin of a Satsuma is very soft and fragile so I only managed to get about 2 teaspoons of zest.   I would have liked more, but I didn't want to destroy any more Satsumas.

In the end I used 3 Satsumas and got my 2 teaspoons of zest and about 1/2 cup of pulpy fruit.  And take a look at the color of the juice -- isn't the red-orange color amazing.  No Photoshop manipulation here.

The National Trust recipe calls for butter and lard (I used shortening sticks).  I froze both the butter and shortening, and grated it till I got the weight called for in the recipe.  And then I added a little more.  More butter is always better.

The National Trust recipe didn't call for any sugar, but I added 3 Tablespoons and I rubbed the zest with the sugar to bring out even more of the orange scent.  I have been told that the sharp edges of the sugar crystals lacerates the skin and allows more citrus oil to escape.

Next add the sugar-zest to the flour...

And then cut in the frozen, grated butter and shortening with the flour.

The liquids go in next.  Combine the milk, Satsuma juice and a touch of vanilla extract, and then add the liquid mix to the flour a little at a time till the right texture is reached.  I always have trouble with the liquid addition.  Too much and the scones are too cakey, and too little and the scones are dry, crumbly, and get stale very quickly.

Gently pat the dough to the correct thickness and then cut out the scones.  Notice the flecks of zest and Satsuma pulp in the dough.  Yum.

Here are the scones all cut out and placed on a baking stone.  Did you notice some of the scones look a little round and lumpy?  After I cut out the scones I didn't re-roll the dough.  I just gathered it up and formed it into sticky balls.  I also placed the dough scones close together.  I read recently that having the scones close together helps them to rise...

And I think putting the scones close together did help them lift a little higher.  You can see the sides that are touching rose more than the edges that weren't touching.  Also notice the pale, orange color to the scones -- that is real and not a result of my poor photography skill.

While the scones were baking I mixed up a little glaze.  Just confectionery sugar mixed with a little Satsuma juice and touch of vanilla.  Doesn't that juice look like egg yolks?

Drizzling the glaze on the hot scones.

Side view...

Top view.  This is one of the sticky ball scones - It almost looks like a cinnamon roll.

So here is the recipe.  It is highly modified version of the he National Trust's scone recipe.  I also halved the original recipe.  I just didn't want all those scones sitting around begging to be eaten.

Satsuma Scones 

Yield 10 scones (depending on the thickness of dough and size of the cutter)


175 g  / 1-1/2 cups  All Purpose Flour (I use White Lily Flour)
2-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt

3 Tablespoons White, Granulated Sugar (use more if you want the scones sweeter)
2 teaspoons Satsuma Zest

45 g / 3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (frozen and grated)
45 g / 3 Tablespoons Vegetable Shortening (frozen and grated) (I use Crisco sticks for easy handling)

1/3 cup Satsuma Juice with pulp
1/3 cup Whole milk
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

For Glaze:
1/2 cup of Powdered Confectioner's Sugar  (double if you want more glaze)
3-4 teaspoons Satsuma Juice
1/8 teaspoon Vanilla Extract


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Rub the Satsuma zest into the granulated sugar.  Set aside to allow the sugar to absorb the oils from the zest.
  3. Freeze butter and shortening and when frozen solid use a large holed grated to grate the appropriate weight.  Place the grated ingredients back in the freezer until needed.
  4. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  5. Add the zest and sugar to flour mixture, and whisk till combined.  
  6. Combine the milk, Satsuma juice and vanilla in a measuring cup.
  7. Add frozen butter and shortening to flour mixture and using a fork or pastry blade cut the fats into the flour mixture.
  8. Add about half the liquid combination to the flour and mix with a fork.  Add more liquid until the dough comes together and is slightly sticky.
  9. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat the dough into a 1/2 to 3/4 inch high circle. 
  10. Using a 2-1/4 inch circle cutter cut out the scone. Note: don't twist the cutter as you push it down.  Push down in one motion and then pull up.  Twisting the cutter and smearing the edges of the scone will stop it from rising during baking.
  11. Place the scones on a baking stone or on a greased cooked sheet.
  12. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Baking on a stone will take longer than baking on an aluminum cookie sheet.
  13. While the scones are baking mix the powdered sugar, vanilla, and just enough Satsuma juice to created a pourable glaze.
  14. Removed the baked scones from the oven and place on a cooling rack.  Allow to cool for a few minutes and then drizzle the glaze on top.

So I hope you like these Satsuma Scones.   And if anyone can recommend a scone recipe that is light and moist and bakes up to twice its height -- send me the recipe.  Please...  I'm getting fat testing all these scones.

Happy Baking,


Sunday, January 17, 2016

My search for the perfect British Scone - Strawberry Shortcake

My BFFs brought me to a local Tea House for my birthday, and ever since then I have been searching for the perfect British scone recipe.  British scones are different from their American cousins.  American scones have all the sweetness and fruit baked into the scone, whereas the British scone is pure biscuit and the sweetness and decadence comes from the jam and cream slathered on top.

For me the perfect British scone is light and airy, tall as possible, and just slightly sweet.  The best British scone I ever tasted came from a little tea shop in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Stupid me didn't ask for the recipe, and I've been on a fruitless search for it ever since.  Woe is me.

I've tried several American recipes without being able to duplicate my New Zealand dream, so now I'm going back to the source and trying some English and Scottish recipes.  First up is Suzy Bowler's scone recipe from her book: The Secret Life of SCONES.

The end result was pretty tasty, but too flat to qualify as my "ideal" scone.  But it did make an excellent biscuit for Strawberry Shortcake.

The recipe is pretty standard: self-rising flour, butter, sugar, and milk.  The directions are standard too...

Cold butter rubbed into the flour...

Then add the milk.  But for some reason the volume of milk specified in the recipe didn't seem right to me.  After I added the 100ml of milk, the mix just look way too dry and crumbly.

I ended up adding another 4 tablespoons of milk to get the dough to hold together.

Next up patting the dough into a circle (I don't bother with a rolling pin), and cutting out the circles.  The cutter I use is from Cake Boss and I really like these things.  They are tall enough, strong enough and sharp enough to use on biscuits, sugar cookies or fondant.

All ready for the oven.  I use a baking stone so the bottoms don't burn, and I don't re-roll the excess dough.  I just twirl it into a snake and place it on the stone.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  And out they come all golden brown.  But sadly just a little flat.  I'm really not sure why that happened.  I purchased new self-rising flour just for this recipe, and even added a teaspoon extra baking power just to give it a little more oomph.   But no luck.  They look like flat little hockey pucks. 

But like I said they made excellent biscuits for Strawberry Shortcake, and everyone had seconds so all 8 scones were gone in a flash.

So I'm still searching for that perfect high-rise scone, that will bring back happy memories from my wild and miss-spent youth.  Sniff.

Happy Baking,


Note:  I don't like to include another person's recipe unless the creator of the recipe has already posted it free of charge somewhere on the web.  I couldn't find Suzy Bowler scone recipe anywhere except in her published book so I didn't post it here.   BUT ... if you preview the book on Amazon the recipe is part of the preview.

Monday, January 4, 2016

60th Birthday Cake

I made this cake for my sister's 60th birthday party.  Her Birthday is two days before Christmas, but we always celebrate it on Christmas Eve.  And even though she is a Christmas baby, I always make sure her cake and gift wrapping is non-Christmas themed.

I was a little rushed as usual so the plans I had for an elaborate 2-tiered  monument to her 60th birthday got scaled back to an 8" round cake with some quick ribbon roses and fondant swags.  I slapped this baby together so quickly that I even forgot to take pictures of the intermediate steps.

My New Year's resolution is to manage my time better and to stop procrastinating!  Yea, like that is going to happen.

Happy Birthday, Sis!!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Bitten Gingerbread Men - Christmas Cookies

I was trolling Pinterest for decorated sugar cookie ideas for Christmas, and I found a gingerbread man with a bite taken out of its leg.  I know this sounds morbid, but it was so cute.  I immediately decided that the half-eaten gingerbread man was going to be my Holiday cookie.

Now my cookies don't look anywhere near as good as Sweet Sugarbelle's version, but hey, I'm just an cookie decorating hack and she is the artist.   You can see the master's cookies here.

So how did I make them?  Well I pretty much followed Sugarbelle's instructions with just a few changes.

I used my standard "No Fail Sugar Cookie Recipe", and cut out my gingerbread men.  Next I used an interesting looking pattern to take the "bite" out of the leg, arm or body.  I tried taking a bite out of the head, but that just looked to weird/sick.

Baked them next, and here they are right out of the oven. 

Onto the decorating...  I used my standard icing to dam, flood, and decorate the cookies.  It is a Corn Syrup Royal Icing.  It is nice for flooding and gives the dried icing a pretty shine, but it isn't the best for adding the details to the cookies.  Even at a stiff consistency it tends to be a little soft and runny, and doesn't hold points very well.  But I was in a rush and didn't have time to try out Sugarbelle's recommended icing.  Maybe next time...

Anyway to pipe the dam I used a Wilton Round #1 tip, and icing at a stiff consistency.  I get my tips from either Hobby Lobby or Michael's, and they cost about $1 each.  The icing is tinted with Wilton's Brown food color gel.  I usually dam 4-5 cookies in at a time, and after I finish the 4th I loop back around and start flooding the first.  I want to give the dam enough time to set, but not enough time for it to dry.  When I flood I push the flood icing on top of the dam so they both merge into one seamless surface.

For flooding I used a Wilton Round #3 tip.  I pipe the flooding icing about 1/4 inch away from the previously piped dam, and then I use an offset spatula to push the flood icing on top of the dam.  The flood icing will float over the dam, but "hopefully" won't spill over it. 

As a final step I smooth out any air bubble that float to the surface.  I let the base icing dry for 24 hours before I start the detail decorating process.

After the base is dry, I piped on some cheeks with pink tinted icing, and some faces with black.

Next I piped on a little bow tie.  Sugarbelle used a Wilton Leaf tip #67, but even at the stiff consistency my icing wouldn't hold the leaf shape so I just made a flat bow tie shape.  For the center of the tie I just used some preformed circular sugar sprinkles from Wilton.

Final touches included the orange nose and buttons, and the white lines around the head and arms (all tip #1).  In hindsight I should have used a #2 tip for the white lines; they needed to be a little thicker.

So a cute little cookies that weren't too stressful or time consuming to make.  And while they don't looks as good as Sugarbelle's they are pretty good for me.

Happy Decorating,


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Custard (Creme Anglaise) Cake - Not too pretty, but tastes great

My family's favorite cake is the tasty -- but not very attractive looking -- Custard Cake.

We call the cooked egg & milk mixture "Custard", but it is also known by its fancy-pants name - Creme Anglaise (sorry I couldn't figure out how to put the accent on the Creme).  Now the strange thing is that half the family just LOVE and adore this cake.  Their eyes roll back in their head and their face takes on a dreamy look at the mere mention of the cake.  But the other half of the family (include me) can't stand the nasty looking stuff.  Fluffy cake saturated with sweetened cream and eggs just don't appeal to me --- call me crazy.

So at least twice a year I bite my tongue and make a cake that I won't even taste.  Now if that is not love I don't know what is!!

And to make matters worse, this unappealing cake is very difficult to make!  One false step and the custard will curdle, and curdled custard is not a pretty thing.  Curdled custard still tastes good, but it looks like crap. Sometimes you can save curdled custard, but sometimes you just need to admit defeat and start all over.

The first step in the Custard Cake is baking the cake.  I just use a boxed mix -- French Vanilla -- either Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker, and add an extra teaspoon of almond extract.  I used a silicone fluted pan, but any tube pan will work.

When the cake is cool, cut it in half and brush one side with  1/4 cup of melted jelly.  I like to use seedless raspberry or strawberry, but you can use any flavor. 

Put the bottom half of the jam brushed cake in a large bowl so that it is ready and waiting when the custard is finished cooking.  Ideally you want to pour the hot custard on the cut cake so all the creamy custard gets absorbed into the cake.

After the cake it prepped and waiting, start on the custard.  In my recipe I use 10 egg yolks, but I have found over the years that the proportions are pretty flexible.  You can use more or less eggs, more of less sugar and milk.  More eggs (less milk) and the custard will be thicker; less eggs (more milk) and the mixture will be more fluid.  You can really customize the recipe to suit your taste and needs.  But for this cake I use 10 egg yolks.  And make sure you remove the chalaza.  You don't want white bands of egg tissue floating in your smooth custard - yuck.

Next beat the eggs with about 1/2 cup of granulated white sugar (you can also use Splenda if you want to make it low carb).  IMPORTANT - it is critical that you beat the egg yolks with the sugar until they are creamy.  If the yolks are not beaten enough they will form clumps of scrambled eggs in the milk.

Now the next part I do a little differently than real cooks.  I put the beaten sugar and yolks directly into the pot with the COLD milk, cream, sugar, and extracts.  I don't temper the yolks with small amounts of the heated milk.  I just dump all the cold ingredients into one big pot and slowly start heating.  That is the way my grandmother taught me to make it, and that is how I do it every time.  Maybe one day I'll try the tempering method and see if it makes a difference.

Anyway all the ingredients go into a cold pot.  I stir it very well before I apply any heat.  I stir and stir, and I make sure I get rid of the egg yolk dripping on the side of the pot.  For my pot I either use a heavy Magnetite pot or a stainless steel pot.  Taste-wise I've never noticed a difference.  There are reports that it is healthier to cook in stainless steel, but I've had trouble with food sticking to the stainless steel.  So when cooking the custard I just use whichever pot is closest. 

So everything is in the pot, and I constantly stir as I slowly increase the temperature.  I have an electric glass top stove and the highest I go is 4.5 (just a notch below medium which is 5).

Keep stirring as the liquid warms.  As the eggs start to cook and solidify you will start to feel resistance from the liquid as you stir.  Lift the spoon often and look at how the liquid coats the back of the spoon.  The custard is cooked perfectly when the custard starts to cling to the back of the spoon.

Looks ready to me...

But when cooking custard ALWAYS have an ice bath ready and waiting.  In the photo above I judged the custard ready and snapped a picture, but before I could put the camera down and remove the pot -- the custard STARTED TO BOIL.  NOOOOO...  Boiling custard is not good.  I immediately submerged the hot pot in the ice water bath and stirred vigorously to quickly cool the custard, but the damage was done and the custard started to curdle.  Sniff...

But if your custard curdles a just little all is not lost.  You can use an immersion blender to break down the lumps, or you can just strain out the lumps.  Pour about half the custard on top of the cut cake and let the liquid sink into the holes and crevices of the cake.

Let the bottom sit in the custard for about 5 minutes, and then position the top half of the cake on the saturated bottom half.  Pour the rest of the custard over the top.  If you want the top half to absorb the custard you can just a long wooden skewer to poke holes in the cake, and then carefully spoon the over the top and into the holes.

At this point the cake will float and bob in its bath of custard.  To force the cake deep into the custard, and allow the cake to absorb more of the custard, I cover the cake with plastic wrap and weigh down the cake with something heavy.  I use the inverted cover of  a large pot.  The round handle fits nicely into the hole of the cake and I can put additional weigh onto the cover if the cake is still floating.

Put the cake in the refrigerator for a few hours.  Remove the lid and the plastic wrap and carefully spoon the custard on top of the cake.  At this point the custard is getting firmer, but it is still fluid enough to spoon over the cake.

Cover with plastic wrap again it store in the refrigerator overnight.

The longer you leave the cake the better it gets.  Or so my relatives say -- honestly I have never tasted the stuff.  (Give me a big slice of chocolate cake any day.)  To serve slice the cake, spoon some extra custard on top, and garnish with a dollop of whipped cream.

Now doesn't that look yummy (or maybe not)....

Happy Baking,


Custard Cake


  • French Vanilla box cake mix - prepared according to instructions and baked in a tube or Bundt pan
  • 1 teaspoon pure Almond Extract added to cake mix
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup melted fruit jelly 
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups granulated white sugar, divided
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 teaspoons pure Almond Extract 
  • Ice bath 
  • Garnish with whipped cream


  1. Prepare the cake according to instructions on the box, adding 1 teaspoon of almond extract if desired.
  2. When cake is baked and cooled cut in half.
  3. Melt fruit jelly in microwave and brush the liquid onto the cut surface of the cake.   Use more or less jelly as desired.
  4. Place bottom half of cake in large bowl and set it near the ice bath.
  5. Prepare an ice bath.  Stopper the sink and fill will 2 inches of cold water.  Have a container of ice ready and dump the ice into the water just before you place the hot pot into the water.
  6. Next start on the custard.  Whisk egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth and creamy.  
  7. In a large pot combine milk, cream, salt, remaining sugar, and almond extract.  You can add more or less sugar and almond extract to suit your taste.
  8. Add the whisked, egg yolk mixture to the milk mixture, and stir vigorously until combined.
  9. Place the pot on the stove and turn the heat to simmer.  Stir constantly as you slowly increase the temperature under the pot to medium. 
  10. Stir the mixture constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a wooden spoon. About 6-8 minutes. DO NOT ALLOW THE MIXTURE TO BOIL.
  11. When the custard if finished cooking place the hot pot into the prepared ice bath.  The cold water will rapidly cool the pot and stop the custard from cooking further. 
  12. Ladle about about half the custard over the bottom half of the cake.  If you want, you can pass the custard through a strainer to remove any lumps.
  13. Let the bottom half of the cake sit in the warm custard for five minutes.  This will allow the cake to absorb the custard.
  14. Place the top of the cake on the bottom and ladle the rest of the custard over the cake.
  15. If desired poke holes into the cake with a wooden skewer and then spoon more custard into the holes.
  16. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and weigh down the cake with a heavy plate or the lid of a pot.  Forcing the cake to stay submerged in the custard will help the cake absorb the liquid.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  17. After 1-2 hours remove the lid/plate and plastic wrap.  Spoon more custard over the top of the cake.
  18. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Note try not to touch the top of the cake with the plastic wrap.
  19. When serving spoon the custard over a cut slice of cake and garnish with whipped cream.