A winter treat - home baking

23 July 2018

July in The Simple Home

"... he got out the luncheon basket and packed a simple meal, in which, remembering the stranger's origin and preferences, he took care to include a yard of long French bread, a sausage out of which the garlic sang, some cheese which lay down and cried, and a long-necked straw-covered flask wherein lay bottled sunshine shed and garnered on far Southern slopes." - Kenneth Grahame

The Noosa Permaculture Group visiting us for a look at our garden and a chat.  
Here is our morning tea.

There are few things that demonstrate every-day, practical love of family and friends more than preparing delicious food and treats, and taking time to welcome visitors with a freshly prepared morning tea or lunch. Home baking is July's topic in The Simple Home and now in the middle of an Australian or New Zealand winter, nothing warms a home more than a hot oven full of bread, cakes or biscuits.

I've written so many baking posts that it seems like overkill to do the same again here. Instead I hope to inspire you to either start baking or to expand your experience so you not only enjoy home made bread, cakes and biscuits, but also send your family off to work and school with a healthy and homemade lunch box full of food they'll love to eat.

There is no doubt that by making your baked goods at home you’ll save money, but you’ll also be healthier for it. Home baking doesn’t rely on the preservatives and flavour enhancers that are commonly included in supermarket products such as bread, biscuits/cookies, cakes, flans and pies. You’ll be able to offer your family a greater diversity of baked goodies, including the traditional baking of your own heritage, and you can modify favourite recipes exactly to your own liking or dietary needs. These are the main benefits for me. I like that we’re not eating the preservatives and additives that are so common in food nowadays. I enjoy adding what we like and making our food fresh right in my own kitchen. 

 Traditional rye loaf
 White loaf with cornmeal topping.
 A wholemeal loaf.
 Crusty white with sesame seeds.
Soft grain bread with oats and poppy seeds.

If you do a lot of baking and have the storage space, try to buy your baking ingredients in bulk. I often buy baker’s flour in a 12.5 kg bag with a few 5 kg bags of other flours such as rye, mixed grain, corn and barley or wholemeal. There is a shop in a nearby town that sells bulk flour and other dried foods such as fruits, coffee, tea, spices, sugar and cereal. If you have no local shop, you may find a similar store online that can deliver through the post or courier. Make sure your potential purchases will be cost effective before you order. Buying in bulk helps you bypass the wasteful packaging that more often than not surrounds purchased food. Supermarket cakes, biscuits and snacks are often over-packaged, with plastic and aluminium trays, small bags in larger bags, and too much plastic wrapping.

Store your ingredients in sealed glass or plastic containers so you never waste any, and when you bring home new bags of flour, or any dry goods, put them in the freezer for a couple of days to kill off any larvae that might be in the packet. Once they’ve had that initial time in the freezer, you can take them out and store in sealed containers on the shelf, confident that you’ll not be troubled by pantry moths or weevils.

 Chocolate birthday cake with cherry jam and chocolate cream.
 A quick cheat - frozen puff pastry cut to size pre-baked, and filled with cream and fruit.

Date and walnut loaf.

Create your own collection of your family's favourite foods. Collect and try recipes for bread, flat bread, cakes, biscuits and cookies, pies, flans, quiches, rolls and scrolls. If you're anything like me, you'll modify the new recipes to suit the tastes of your family or for any dietary requirements they may have.  But that's the beauty of home baking, you can modify all of it, increase or reduce salt, change the type of milk used, reduce or eliminate gluten or add nuts and seeds. You'll save money doing all this especially if you're making your own vegan or gluten-free goodies because they cost a lot in the shops.

I store my recipes in the Paprika app so try that, or find another online program that makes sense to you. Or simply write your recipes out in a book, a card system or type them into Excel.  The main thing is to have this valuable family recourse not just for now, but to pass on later when others ask for recipes or when your kids leave home to make their own lives. It might seem like a big task to set up but doing it a little at a time will make it lighter work.

 Cheese rolls - all these photos below show good lunchbox food.
 Quiche.
 Homemade pizza.
Cinnamon rolls.

Don't forget to create a section for lunch boxes. Those foods need to be able to withstand being in a box, moved around and possibly dropped in a school bag or back pack.  Instead of making sandwiches with regular homebaked bread, make up wraps made with your own flat bread. Flat breads add variety to the lunchbox and they’re easy to carry if they’re wrapped firmly, or left flat to be filled at lunchtime. Those who like a hearty lunch will probably enjoy chicken, cheese and avocado with a small amount of sweet chilli sauce, or leftover roast lamb and coleslaw. The lamb can be rolled in the flat bread at home and the coleslaw carried in a small lidded container to be added at lunchtime. You can cut the flat breads into triangles and add them to the lunchbox with hot soup in winter, or for dipping into a small container of homemade guacamole or cheese dip as part of a summer lunch. I like to cook my flat bread in a cast iron pan but use any pan you have that you know won’t stick.

Flat bread recipe - makes 6
  • 250 g/8 oz self-raising flour, plus a little extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 250 g natural yoghurt
1. Place all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until a dough forms. If the dough is too wet, add a small amount of flour and pulse again. Remove the dough and place it on a floured board.

2. Roll into a long sausage shape and cut into six equal pieces. Roll each piece into a circle and then flatten it using a rolling pin. The circles need to be very thin and about the size of a bread-and-butter plate.

3. Place one circle at a time into a non-stick pan and cook each side for about two minutes on medium heat. When it’s ready, it will have small charred spots on each side and will smell baked. Place on a cake rack to cool.

Flat breads freeze well so you can make up a batch that will cover your lunches for a week. Store them in a freezer bag with a piece of baking paper between each of them.

The other thing that will help you is to master the plain butter cake. The best cake recipe to start off with is the butter cake because it can be used as the basis of so many other cakes. A butter cake is excellent as itself but you can add almost any kind of flavouring or fruit to give variety – chocolate, coffee, apple, sultana or ginger, for example. A plain butter cake is perfect for a child’s birthday: it’s fairly solid and will hold its shape, even with a lot of icing and decorations (wait until it’s completely cold before decorating it). The cake is also a good morning tea or lunchbox cake, served plain or with a scrape of butter.

 Thumbprint biscuits with various fillings.
Walnut muffins above, blueberry muffins below.

Above and below - butter cake. They're easy to make and freeze well so you can make a two or three at a time.

Butter Cake recipe

This recipe is from the Fiona's blog and I must have made it dozens of times since I found it. It’s similar to my grandmother’s butter cake recipe, but I think slightly better. It’s a never-fail cake and we all need those in our repertoire. BTW, Fiona has many fine recipes there so take a bit of time to look around when you visit her. She also has an Instagram page - buenavistafarm.
  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and lightly greasea 20cm/9" round cake tin. Using electric beaters, beat butter and sugar until thick and creamy. Beat in one egg at a time.

2. Stir in one cup of flour. Add half the milk. Stir in the other cup of flour. Stir in the other half-cup of milk.

3. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for about 30 minutes. Check the cake with a toothpick as soon as you smell it baking. If the toothpick comes out clean, take the cake out of the oven and let it sit in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out carefully onto a rack to cool.

If you forget to get the eggs out of the fridge in time for them to come to room temperature, place the eggs in a jug and fill the jug with warm, not hot, water. Leave the eggs in the warm water until you’re ready to use them, or about five minutes.

So there you have it, my friends, I hope that if you're new to cooking and baking this will show you a good entry point, and if you're already a home cook, it will show you how to develop your experience and help you create some wonderful food for your family and friends.

Happy baking everyone.  🍰 🎂 🍪





41 comments

  1. Cant wait to try the butter cake recipe! it looks delicious

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  2. Yum. You really do make life hard Rhonda, showing all those delicious goodies. You're not looking for a border by any chance?? :)

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  3. Hi Rhonda, yes the cooler weather certainly is a good time for baking! In our house we have been enjoying 'Pie July' - getting better at homemade pastry by practicing with a different pie each weekend. Such fun.
    We rarely buy baked goods any more (except for occasional Saturday croissants from the bakery - they seem too fiddly to do myself). As well as avoiding preservatives and other additives from supermarket baked goods, I like being able to control the amount of sugar in homemade cakes, muffins, pancakes and biscuits.
    I recently bought two 12.5kg bags of flour as I've been getting into baking sourdough bread. They are too big to put straight in my freezer, so I'm storing them in a sealed esky with branches of bay leaves to hopefully repel pantry moths. When I'm transferring a smaller amount into the large jars that go into the pantry, I freeze it then. That method seems to be working so far.
    Cheers, Sally at One Family, One Planet blog

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  4. Wow, that all looks divine! I can feel all my resolve of having less sugar go slip sliding out the door. I will try that flatbread recipe too.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. Jamie, you can decrease sugar if you want to eat less of it. :- )

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  5. All of your baking looks amazing could you share your recipe for soft grain bread please it looks wonderful .carole x

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    1. My bread recipe is the same for all types of flour - https://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2015/08/our-daily-bread.html

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  6. What a lovely post. How kind of you to share your recipes and encouragement.

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  7. hi Rhgonda. thank you so much for todays post., It is so to be reminded of the basics, I feel very inspired to get baking.

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  8. my mouth is watering so much looking at all those delicious food photos! that morning tea looked like a fair bit of fun.

    i've just about given up trying to cook; i've had so many burnt offerings this year it's not funny. can't even get it right using an oven that automatically switches off either. it all goes into a slow cooker, soups or stews is my main for the moment, i just seem to be too distracted to actually cook. slow cooker has been a safer way to cook for now at least.
    i also acquired a bread maker, i want to learn how to make my own sourdough loaf; as i buy it every week. haven't done it yet, getting over a bad bout of a head cold.

    glad you and Hanno are well
    thanx for sharing
    selina from kilkivan qld

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  9. Okay, now I'm really hungry! Its mid-summer here in Alabama, USA, so I haven't been thinking about much baking, but oh boy, you have me thinking now. It is amazing how the smell of baking can transform a home and how the work of it calms a person down.

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  10. Oh I love seeing all of your beautiful baking Rhonda! Thank you for the inspiration to get my recipes and baking tins out! Kelly

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  11. I home school my 14 year old daughter. For home economics this year I'm slowly but surely teaching her to cook one family friendly meal a week, getting g her to write it up on word and will eventually print them all and bind into her own personal recipe book along with her own photos of the finished product.

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  12. My mouth is watering! July is a lovely month to bake isn’t it? I’ve been busy today baking jam drops, choc chip biscuits, beef broth in the slow cooker, 2 overnight breads (1 plain and 1 olive and rosemary), veggie soup and apple crumble granola. I’m really looking forward to trying the butter cake now too! You know, I’ve found over the last few years, the more you cook from scratch, the more it becomes a “habit” or normal routine and you never look back. You just keep building on it, it can be time consuming at first but then it just becomes what you do. And the benefits are so worth it!

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  13. I love to bake, too. It has been too hot here in California lately, we are in the middle of summer. I avoid putting the oven on as much a possible, I use an electric slow cooker for some meals. The one thing that amazes me is how much salt is in baked goods as well. It is yet another thing one can control when baking at home. The recipe for soft grain bread looks scrumptious; do you ever make a barley and sunflower loaf?

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    1. Hi hopflower. When I can get the flour, I make a corn and barley loaf which is delicious. Stay cool.

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  14. Oh my goodness, what a lovely post! Such gorgeous baking, it all looks straight out of a professional bakery. I can't say my baking looks that good (but it tastes good, so that's what counts, right?), but I'll keep at it. It's hot and humid where I'm at in the US, so baking isn't on my radar as much right now, but there's nothing I love more than baking in the winter, especially when it snows, and you're making me want to get back into the kitchen!

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    1. You're spot on, Stephanie. Taste counts more than anything else. Enjoy your baking when you get back to it in the cooler months.

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  15. Thanks for the Butter Cake recipe! I will be trying that soon.

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  16. Enchanting post today, Rhonda, thank you for sharing. I love to bake and I have tried your butter cake recipe from your book. It was delish! We are in the hot part of our year here in the U.S., so I'm not baking a whole lot, just occasional cookies in the evening after dinner. We try to use the bbq grill for our cooking when it's hot. I hate to wish my life away, but I can't wait for October when it cools down and I start baking again.

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  17. Your baking photos are spectacular! I used to bake daily, but have changed my eating due to arthritis. It brings back happy memories, though. It's fun to indulge now and then...

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  18. Great to see you back Rhonda although I'm now sooo hungry after reading this blog post! - what yummy fare. Much love to you and the family, Wendy.

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  19. Oh my goodness, all your goodies look so yummy!!! Thanks for sharing. Wish I lived there! lol

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  20. Thanks for reminding me of that great tip regarding putting dries in the freezer, Rhonda. It doesn't only pertain to flour but any dry ingredient.

    Today is bread flour buying day so those bags will definitely go in the freezer! I buy the 5kg bags of organic flour so I do have the occasional wastage due to moths as I get to the last remnants of the bag.

    Earlier this year I had an infestation in my pantry I just couldn't find the origins of. Eventually I tracked it down to some rolled oats tucked away in the empty containers section. Even with the lid securely on, those little grubs were getting out of that container and into any other with tight fitting lids to do their nasty work!
    Anyway all is cleaned up now.

    But it's a good habit to get into as most of my dries come Kunara so will have some livestock in them due to being organic.

    When I was a young teen, I worked on cattle stations. On one property, I was 'taught' to make bread a very odd way. Her bread was so soft, rose beautifully and tore like soft clouds.

    She made a slurry with a bit of flour, a little sugar, the water and her own potato yeast in a bucket which was set aside by the wood stove for an hour or so to froth up to the top of the bucket. Then she mixed in remaining flour and left it again. Then it was punched down, divided and kneaded. I never did get the hang of it! My loaves were horrid compared to hers!

    These days I leave it to the machine to make the bread for me! ;D

    Happy winter baking, Rhonda!

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  21. Lovely Post Rhonda!I'm now salivating looking at your gorgeous picture's! Thank you, I'm making some Rolls today, this cold weather is perfect to Bake!😘

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  22. I needed a reminder to bake bread, however I'll wait. Our temps this week are in the triple digits, today was 103°F.
    I'm definitely writing your recipes down for cooler weather. Thanks Rhonda, Elaine

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  23. Hello Rhonda,
    I didn't see this post until this morning. I walked past my library copy of 'The Simple Home' yesterday and went straight to the July chapter almost as if I was being drawn to it. The baked goodies in your book and in today's post are perfect for everyday and for special occasions. Thank you for sharing your ideas and recipes.
    Rhonda, I want to thank you especially for the beautiful and heartfelt dedication in 'The Simple Home'. Until yesterday I hadn't seen it. I was in tears when I finished reading. What a beautiful way of expressing your love for your family and the importance of home. You have put into words the way I feel about my family and our home.
    Warmest regards,
    Maria from Adelaide xx.

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  24. Yum! I can almost taste those scones!

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  25. I spent all day yesterday baking for the freezer, for the school term. Life is so much easier when I can grab something pre-made in the morning instead of doing it all from scratch. The only trouble is stopping everyone from eating it on the day... I'm trying to get ahead people! :)

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  26. I miss Fiona's blog!
    We're in the middle of an unusually hot (for the UK) summer, so I haven't done much baking recently. I need to try to schedule it for early in the morning before it gets too hot. I have been baking with the preschool children I work with though. Cheesy bread 'snails' yesterday (holiday club theme is 'In the Garden'). I'm hoping that they might at least realise that there is baking beyond those kit packets with rice paper pictures in, and so might their parents!

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  27. I just made the butter cake, it looks & smells amazing! Now to stop the kids from eating it until hubby is home for afternoon tea.
    I have been doing a bit of baking through the holidays - especially chocolate slice (similar to a brownie but doesn’t use any chocolate, only cocoa) as it’s my kids favourite.
    My 12 year old has been doing some of the baking, and she’s about to make rocky road for the first time.
    Your bread looks delicious! I wondered if you’ve shared the recipe for the fingerprint biscuits before Rhonda? They would be great in lunchboxes :)
    Melissa.

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    1. Good lucky with stopping the kids eating the cake. LOL I love that your daughter is baking. I hope she keeps at it. It's such a great skill to have.

      Melissa, the fingerprints are made using the Cheap and Easy biscuit recipe. With butter, flour, condensed milk and sugar, it makes up enough dough for 7 dozen biscuits. I halve the mix, bake half and wrap the other half and freeze it for later. The recipe is here: https://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2009/11/cheap-and-easy-biscuits.html Let me know if you make them.

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  28. Oh my gosh, I could have eaten every one of those lovely items you posted today. Some of my favourite recipes are ones that have been passed down through the generations,. My niece once asked for my Moms granola recipe, and I sent it to her, but also noted the changes that I made to the original. She said that they tasted just like Mom's so I guess over time my Mom also halved the sugar and oil, and added applesauce or mashed banana. Something I do to most recipes these days. Recently I was visiting my daughter in America and I made chocolate zucchini cake. Oh gosh, that has now become my all time favorite recipe. We love olive bread, so I sometimes make that, and your flatbread recipe is the same as mine(maybe I got it from you!). You have inspired me, I am going to have to do some baking this weekend.
    Oh! I also love that quote at the beginning of your post!

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  29. What a lovely inspiring bunch of photo's. Too hot here also to bake, but I do miss it. Home baked goodies will always win over storebought. I am not the worlds greatest cook, I don't particularly like it either, but baking has my heart!

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  30. Such beautiful food photos Rhonda, simply scrumy, home cooked food is definately the best, I now make a family size meat pie using gravy beef, home made beef stock, I cheat and use ready rolled pastry, and I thicken the pie gravy with your gravy flour recipie, I make 1 pie a week sometimes two, and with a home made pot of chicken and veggie soup, using a left over B.B.Q chicken and some home made bread, my husband and I have hearty nutricious food after a cold day on the farm, nothing compares to home made, it is sad that the supermarkets have gotten away for so long with their pre packaged rubbish that they sell as quick and convenient for the busy mum. When I return home from shopping, I cut up my gravy beef and freeze it in portions for later use, and do the same with any other meat purchases, mince is turned into small meatballs and frozen for spaggetti or a batch of hamburger patties for later in the week, half an hour of preparation saves so much time later on, I have yogurt in the fridge for a batch of flat breads also destined for the freezer, thank you for the inspiration you bring to our lives in internet land, cheers Kat, Gippsland, Victoria

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  31. Thank you Rhonda, such delicious looking food. Inspired to do some baking at the weekend. I hate oversweet cakes, do you know how much the amount of sugar can be reduced without it spoiling the recipe?

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    1. Hi Patricia, I've reduced sugar by 50% in many recipes with no problems.

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  32. This post has inspired me! I don't do a lot of baking as I'm always ' tryinf to be good!' but I don't buy much prepared either except for unleavened rye bread. Your post has inspired me to have a go at making this myself! Off to get some rye flour now- wish me luck! I'll post photos of hoeI get on!!

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  33. Thank you for the Kenneth Grahame quote. It brought back happy memories of reading to my three boys.

    Yum afternoon tea food too and always appreciated.

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  34. This is a magnificent post.

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