Part of my routine every week is to make something sweet for morning teas or desserts. This is a simple thing for me to whip up, I rarely use recipes because I have a stable of favourite recipes that are used in a kind of loose rotation and even though we have the same things repeatedly, their appearance on the table is far enough apart not to bother anyone.
Both my sons are fine dining chefs. These are Shane's cook books that are currently being stored in our guest bedroom. Click on the photos to enlarge them.
Someone in my real life commented the other day that people don't commonly bake now like they did in the old days and that cake stalls are always popular with everyone from small children to older folk. (We were discussing fundraising.) That got me thinking about those of you who are new to baking and cooking from scratch so I thought it would be a good idea to write about a few basic recipes and the ins and outs of home baking as part of your routine.
Soon after I stopped buying ready made desserts, cakes and biscuits (cookies), Hanno and I started our morning ritual of morning tea on the front verandah. Anyone who knows the European way of socialising, would know that often coffee and cake are part of the mix, so for Hanno, tea or coffee without something sweet to eat was not an option. So I bake a cake or biscuits at some point during the week, usually when I'm also baking our daily bread. If I don't get the chance to bake a cake I whip up scones or pikelets. They're easy, I always have the ingredients in the fridge and pantry, and they'll be ready in half an hour. So if you're starting out and want to incorporate this into your routine, the first thing I suggest is to have a group of recipes that are firm family favourites and you put some time aside each week to bake. But you'll also need another group of easier and quicker recipes that you use when there is nothing made and you want something quick. You'll need these recipes when someone phones to say they'll be dropping in to visit in the next hour. It used to be the sign of a good country cook that you could have a plate of scones, hot from the oven and ready to eat, in 30 minutes.
My fast recipes are:
Scones - plain, date and sultana (golden raisin). For scones you'll need flour, butter, a pinch of salt and sugar and some milk. Most of you will have those supplies always on hand. You can go from zero to hot scones on a plate in about 30 minutes. Scone recipe. You can make any plain scone into date or fruit scones by adding a bit more sugar to the mix as well as a cup of chopped dates or sultanas (golden raisins).
Pikelets. Pikelets are little pancakes and like scones you'll probably have the ingredients on hand. They too are made and on the plate in half and hour. Pikelet recipe.
So those are your two standby recipes, the ones you quickly whip up when there is nothing else to eat or when unexpected visitors arrive. They are simple fare but don't be fooled, serving a plate of fresh, warm scones or pikelets topped with jam and cream are one of life's great luxuries. High tea always includes scones, it's a classic. Practise making scones and pikelets quickly for your family on a few occasions so you know the recipe and can make a fast plate when you need to.
Your other standard recipes can be part of your normal baking routine for the week. If you're working outside the home, bake on the weekend and freeze part of what you bake. Most cakes, scones, pikelets and biscuits can be frozen. As you go through the week, just take out what you need for that day from your freezer. If you're working at home, like me, you'll probably have a time set aside for your weekly baking, although those of you with a family larger than mine (just the two of us) will obviously bake more often, maybe twice or three times a week.
My rotation of cakes includes orange and coconut cake, lemon cake, apple cake, banana and walnut cake and tea cake. The ingredients for all these cakes are very similar, the flavouring is different and is usually dependent on what I have growing in the backyard or in the kitchen at that time. Try to use what you have on hand, don't make a special trip to the supermarket to get your ingredients. If you don't have a list of favourite recipes, try perfecting a pound cake and add different flavourings - pound cake recipe. To this recipe you could easily add choc chips, dates, orange or lemon zest and juice, blueberries, sultanas, bananas, nuts, coffee or ginger and other spices. Once you've perfected your pound cake recipe, experiment with it.
Another baking tip is to use all the special ingredients when you buy them. For instance, if you buy a bag of choc chips or nuts for a recipe and don't use all of them in your cake or biscuits (cookies), the next time you bake, bake something that will use it up. If you're going to get serious about your baking, you don't want little bits and pieces in the pantry. Buy a pack, use it all, then buy something else. Try not to waste anything.
I hope I've given you a couple of ideas to get you started on regular baking. If you can replace store bought cakes and cookies with those you make at home, you'll cut down on a lot of preservatives and artificial flavourings that are present in store bought baked goods. They have to make their products to sit on a shelf until someone buys them, you don't. When I make a cake for just Hanno and I, I usually cut it in half and freeze half of it so it lasts longer. If you have a larger family you wont have to do that. But don't be put off thinking it's only you, or you and your partner, because almost everything can be frozen and defrosted in portions to suit you.
There are millions of recipes online. My particular favourite place is taste.com.au. Their recipes and photos are clear, and generally it is good wholesome food. joyofbaking.com is also good, it's an American site, and Delia Online is a good starting point for my UK friends. And you can't go past baking911.com for recipes, ideas and troubleshooting. This is a superb site for all new and experienced bakers because they explain why things work, and don't, for all forms of baking, including bread. So there you have it. I hope you have enough information here and the motivation within to start working on a regular baking routine. It's a fine thing to offer hospitality to visitors and good food to your family that you have made yourself. Think back to your childhood, I bet their is a favourite memory there of cakes or pies or biscuits. You can help create those memories for your family too. Home baking is one of those enriching and feel good parts of a simple life that almost everyone can do.
And finally, this is the other recipe for crumpets I promised one of the ladies recently. This one is baked crumpets. I haven't tried this recipe, it's from my old CWA (Country Women's Association) cook book and is typed exactly as it appears in the book:
Break two eggs in to a basin, beat slightly, add 2 teaspoons sugar. Sift ½lb SR flour in another basin, pour in eggs to make a light dough - a little milk may be needed. Work quickly. Roll to ½ inch thick. Cut into rounds. Prick with a fork. Bake in hot oven for ten minutes. Tear open and butter while hot.
Happy baking everyone.
ADDITION: Bec's comment made me realise I should add this. If you want to freeze your cakes, do it without the icing or filling. You can add icing or frosting if you want it when the cake is defrosted. Also, you can freeze a cake whole or in slices. If you slice it, put little pieces of baking paper or freezer sheet between each slice and reshape the cake back to its original form. Then place in a plastic bag to freeze. This will stop the cake slices drying out.
You can also freeze biscuits, slices (without icing), scones, muffins and cookies. Just place them in a plastic bag when they're completely cold, remove as much air from the bag as possible, and freeze for up to three months.