sambell @ oz kafe

DEE-LIC-IOUS.

Monday night’s Oz Kafe chef appreciation was absolutely, perfectly, delightfully … delicious.

And I have Simon Bell and Sam Long to thank.

They created a menu that was finger-licking, lip-smacking good.  It’s true.  There’s no other way to describe it … it wasn’t fancy; but it was exactly perfect: four courses of sheer perfection.

springrolls, deviled eggs & bbq'd quail

springrolls, deviled eggs & bbq’d quail

We started with a platter of Goi Cuon (springrolls), Trung Cay (deviled eggs) and Chim Cut Roti (bbq’d quail).  I loved it all: fresh springrolls accompanied with a good spoonful of hot sauce; smooth and rich deviled eggs; and the bbq’d quail coated in a sticky sweet hoisin glaze and topped with crunchy salty peanuts.first course

I admit … I could probably eat my way through a bucket of the bbq’d quail … and still crave more.  Just look at them!

bbq'd troutThe second course was a delicate Ca Nuong :bbq’d trout paired with a mayo, tamari ponzu, rice crispies, bahn mi pickles and aplhalpha sprouts.

Delightful.  The crispy skin and the moist meat of the trout, combined with the creamy mayo and crunch of the rice crispies; a pleasurable bite of food that lingers in your mouth.

Then I was served one of the greatest bowls of Pho I’ve ever eaten.pho

Beautiful cuts of raw beef, rice noodles, a few sprouts and herbs, a wedge of lime and a clear broth.  No MSG headache.  Nope.

adding the broth

adding the broth

I will never be able to eat another bowl of Pho and not compare it this one.  I think that Oz Kafe should make it and sell it by the enormous bowl full.  It was the absolute perfect bowl of food.  This is what comfort food is all about.  Simple.  Each bite as delightful as the last.  My only regret was not getting a second bowl of it.

ice cream sandwich The meal was finished with kem tuoi.  A deconstructed ice cream sandwich; pizzelle (Italian waffle cookies), green tea ice cream, and sweet red bean paste.  I liked to pile a little of the green tea ice cream and red bean paste onto the pizzelle: a mouthful of crunch, smooth, sweet, bitter.  A little bit of everything.

It was just right.  Same as the rest of my meal.  Just. Right.

scones

The baking crew was back at it again.

This time we decided on scones.20130207-173908.jpg

I know … you're probably wondering … from bagels to brioche to pie to doughnuts to scones???

We usually pick an untested, untried recipe and aim for passable success. This time we stuck with a well known classic.

We decided to do this for a couple of reasons:

We were all a little yeasted out. We wanted needed a little break from having to use it.

Plus … we wanted to see how Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery scones would be like.

Our challenge was pretty simple: bake the Bouchon Bakery plain scone; and then make a second scone, each of us letting loose and picking *another* flavour.

Keller & Rouxel offer a few options in their book: chocolate cherry scones, cinnamon honey scones, and bacon cheddar scones.

After considerable deliberation, I opted to create my own scone flavour: grapefruit coconut scones.

Which worked out well since Meredith tried the cinnamon honey scones, Cory opted for the bacon cheddar scones, and Tom & Aimee presented us with chocolate orange scones.

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A nice little balance of flavours.

Now you might wonder … why the heck would all of us bake the plain scones? And using the exact same recipe?!

I’m glad you asked!

It turns out it was a great opportunity for us to talk about what worked well … and to see the different results we all ended up with… because we really did end up with very different scones.

Meredith and my scones didn’t seem to rise; whereas Cory, Tom & Aimee’s scones rose beautifully.

The recipe called for creme fraiche: Meredith used it, I replaced it with sour cream. Meredith also opted for an unsalted butter: I used salted butter. These scones are so plain and simple (honestly, this recipe is uber basic) you could taste the difference. The salty difference.

Tom & Aimee replaced the creme fraiche with a soy alternative and tossed in vanilla seeds: the vanilla wasn’t really very pronounced … but it sure did look pretty.

Cory completely disregarded the original recipe when making his scones; they reminded us all of a cross between a biscuit and a scone (they were absolutely delicious).

After sampling the plain scones we dug into the flavoured ones.

Meredith’s cinnamon honey scones were insanely delightful. They were buttery with a hint of sweetness. Totally worth the effort of making the cinnamon honey butter. I’ve also decided that I love these scones so much that I want to make them myself … and perhaps turn them into a bread pudding of sorts … don’t be surprised if you see a blog post in that vein soon :0)

Tom & Aimee’s chocolate orange scones were the perfect balance of both flavours. They used a bit of chocolate liqueur as well as enough orange juice to basically replace the cream in the recipe. They were then topped with more chocolate glaze. The perfect scone to sit down and enjoy over a cup of coffee.

Cory went big: bacon cheddar scones. Who doesn’t love that flavour combo? They were also dense enough that they would be the absolute perfect accompaniment to chili. Or butternut squash soup. Basically … these scones are perfect for this cold weather.

Are you wondering how my grapefruit coconut scones turned out?

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They were pretty nicely balanced … but unlike Tom & Aimee’s chocolate orange scones in which both flavours were really distinct, these scones needed a little pop of something extra. I think next time I’ll add more grapefruit juice to the batter and perhaps increase the sugar slightly so that there is more of a contrast of flavours. I’ll continue tweaking the recipe and get back to you … because I’m pretty determined to get it right.

All of us, except for Cory, followed the Bouchon Bakery plain scone recipe – and even based our *flavoured* scones on the original plain recipe. So perhaps you’d like to give it a try too! One thing to note … Keller wants you to let your dough rest and chill overnight.

Yeah … this is an overnight kind of recipe.

Do you really need to plan that far ahead? Well … as a collective group we discussed it, and none of us really think you really, absolutely must freeze the scone batter overnight. I would recommend refrigerating the dough a couple of hours; then shape out the scones and freeze them for a further 2 hours (basically you want the butter to be as cold as possible so that you end up with a flakey and tender scone).

Then I’d bake ’em. For about 20 minutes.

They will be delicious: honestly … I actually preferred mine the following day. The plain scones were the perfect accompaniment to my creamy ginger-carrot beetroot soup.

Thomas Keller’s plain scone recipe
ingredients:
152 g / 1 c. + 1 1/2 tbsp flour
304 g / 2 1/4 c. + 2 tbsp cake flour
12.5 g / 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2.5 g / 1/2 tsp baking soda
91 g / 8 ounces sugar
227 g / 1/2 c. + 1 1/2 tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
135 g / 1/2 c. + 1 1/2 tbsp heavy cream
135 g / 1/2 c. + 2 tbsp creme fraiche (I used sour cream instead)

*the recipe, as per Bouchon Bakery’s instructions, uses a stand-mixer. Feel free to use your hands instead.*

Place the flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Using your paddle attachment, and setting your mixer on the “stir” setting, mix for 15 seconds. Basically you just want to combine all those ingredients.

Stop the mixer. Add all the butter, and starting on the lowest setting (this prevents the flour from flying all over your counter), mix the ingredients together. After about 45 seconds, increase the speed and mix for a further 3 minutes: breaking up the butter and incorporating into the dry mixture. If any large pieces of butter remain, stop the mixer, break them up by hand, and then mix again until incorporated.

While the mixer is running, slowly pour in the cream. Add the creme fraiche (sour cream) and mix for about 30 seconds, you’ll know it’s ready because all the dough will start to come together around the paddle.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. You’re done.

On a clean work surface (no flour required), mound the dough into a pile, and using your hand or a pastry scraper, push it together.

20130206-085301.jpgPlace the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap, and using your hands, press it into a 6 – by – 9 – inch block (mine will look smaller since I divided the dough in half and added grapefruit zest, juice and flaked coconut to the remaining batter, thereby getting two different types of scones out of the original plain scone recipe). Straighten your block, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours, until firm.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a knife, cut the block of dough lengthwise into thirds (mine was cut in half), and then crosswise in half. Cut each rectangle in half, creating perfect little triangles. Arrange them on the cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until solid: at least 2 hours, but preferable overnight (I think 2 hours is fine).

20130206-085255.jpgHeat your oven to 350 F.

Line another, un-frozen cookie sheet, with parchment paper. Arrange the frozen scone triangles about 1 inch apart and brush the tops with heavy cream; then sprinkle the tops of each scone with sugar.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (depending on your oven). Basically you are looking for golden brown. In my case, I tend to pay attention more to the bottoms of the scones than the tops of the scones, so once those had a nice bake to them, I took them out of the oven to cool on a wire rack.

Done. Dead simple eh? And it’s a great basic recipe to play around with.

Now it’s your turn …