Drool-worthy scones and so much more
PHOTOS BY STEVE SMITH, VISIONFIRE STUDIOS
Ceilidh Otter says there’s nothing special about the recipe she uses for her drool-worthy scones. What sets them apart, and makes her raspberry white chocolate variety her best-seller, is the carefully selected ingredients that go into them.
“Real butter and buttermilk, things like white chocolate—I’ve gone through a lot of brands of white chocolate to find something that’s not outrageously expensive but has cocoa butter in it as a first or second ingredient,” says The Otter Girls Bakery owner and regular fixture at the Saturday morning farmers’ market in New Glasgow. “It’s taking the time with those things that make all of the difference.”
The self-taught baker says it’s easy to take shortcuts. “You can get a product to look good, but I was so tired of getting disappointed every time I went to buy something that was baked and it did not taste like I wanted it to.”
When she decided to venture into the baking business last year, Otter figured others, like herself, would be happy to pay a bit more knowing the products would taste good. “We don’t cut on ingredients,” she says. “We use a lot of butter in the run of a week.”
Before starting Otter Girls Bakery, she was living in Hubbards, where she sold beeswax wraps, lip balms, and lotions. She and her husband Luke Otter, a plumber from West Branch, wanted to live closer to his parents and bought a home two years ago in West Earltown. “In a rural area, you kind of need to make your own job to live,” she says.
The local beeswax wrap market was already saturated. Otter wasn’t interested in elbowing her way in. Turning her baking hobby into a business was the obvious choice, she says. “I’ve always loved to bake. I come from a family of caterers and cooks.”
She started out from her home kitchen, selling to neighbours. Soon after, Jamieson’s General Store in Tatamagouche picked up her products and other retailers followed. She opened an online shop.
In January, with demand growing, she moved to a commercial kitchen in Bible Hill, where she’s hired a baker and a student to do packing and labelling.
The business is named for Otter and her four-year-old daughter, Neila. While too young to bake, she has a hand in the business using her sales savvy from the beeswax days at
the markets in Hubbards. (Just don’t ask her about the scones. She prefers the muffins.)
Otter says her specialty growing up was rice pudding, “that no one in the family liked.” In her teens, she started getting into baking and trying new recipes. “When we were newly married, I baked a lot. It’s something I love to do.”
Last year, she rode the hot chocolate bomb wave. “I nearly broke my dishwasher. There was so much chocolate going down the drain. I’m not interested in doing it again.”
Her new commercial dishwasher can handle it, but the chocolatey spheres were too much work and she’s sticking with her line of baked goods, which include muffins, brownies, squares, bread, and custom cakes. “There’s a reason chocolate is its own profession,” she says.
This winter she’s planning to tackle “dough lamination,” creating a series of separate layers of dough and fat to make pastries and croissants. “I love to try and master new skills,” she says.
Berry Ginger Scones
Recipe from Ceilidh Otter, owner of the Otter Girls Bakery
Makes 12 large scones
Preheat oven to 400°F
In a large bowl or stand mixer bowl add:
8¼ cups white flour
½ cup white sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1½ cups butter, cut into 1-inch chunks
- Using a pastry cutter, two knives, or a bowl stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cut butter into flour mixture until butter is no larger than the size of a pea.
- Chop the following ingredients into small pieces, then add to flour bowl mixture:
1½ cups dried berries
½ cup candied ginger
(Fresh or frozen berries are also an option, just make sure they total 1½ cups with the candied ginger, or two cups without)
2½ cups buttermilk (+- ¼ cup)
- Using a large spoon fold together until scone dough is moist but not sticking to the spoon or bowl. If using a stand mixer, do not mix for more than 10-15 seconds.
- Empty dough onto a cutting board and form into a circle 10”-12” across and about 2” high.
- Generously sprinkle turbinado sugar on top.
Cut into 12 wedges and place on a baking sheet.
Bake 30 mins., until nice and golden.
Otter Girls Bakery pro tips:
- Make sure butter is very cold when working with scone dough.
- Do not over-mix dough: fold instead of stirring liquid into flour.
- Handle the dough as little as possible when shaping. Try pushing it into shape instead of kneading or rolling out.
- Replace turbinado sugar with coconut, chocolate, or another yummy topping.
- If baking scones on two trays, rotate trays during baking.