Apparently, it is National Baking Week. How do they dream these things up? Tuning in to the Great British Bake Off this week, I found myself riveted. Not for tips from Mary Berry on good baking as you might think…… Now that Jerry is out of earshot, I will admit that I was glued to the screen, unable to concentrate on the recipe for a Paris Brest due to a rather dishy young baker named James. Once I dragged myself away from watching him making fondant fancies, I got to thinking about my own baking skills which, it has to be said, are rather hopeless. I have all the relevant kit as you can imagine. Bread scraper, cake and loaf tins, silicone moulds, palette knives, spatulas and EVEN a flour shaker! I know I know, with all this kit, you would think that I would be able to produce something edible. I try very hard but the cakes, bread, scones etc I have made in the past have always had the qualities revered in London brick. I can’t help myself. Even though I know that baking is a science and instructions must be adhered to strictly, somehow, I can never help trying to cut a corner here or adding something to the recipe there. Dare I say it, on one occasion, I even thought that I knew better than the housewives’ staple and goddess of plain cookery, Delia.
In desperation, I turned my hand to some baking research. Reading some serious tomes on the matter, namely Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley, it seems that soda bread is the place to start as it requires very little skill on the baker’s part! No problems there then! Past that, it was all sourdough starter this and proving baskets that. Not for the serial baking criminal…..
Well in the end, after some serious deliberating over recipes, I used a classic soda bread recipe (thank you Mr Whittingstall!) and tried as best I could to follow the baking rules! Preheat oven, weigh out ingredients, mix then knead. I did take a turn towards inventiveness and added a few crumbled handfuls of a lump of cheese I found in the fridge, fried off some smoked bacon and put those in too. Mixed altogether, it looked a bit like a small brain on the baking tray. Unappealing I know. Not even Primrose could give a vote of confidence on this one!
Whilst it had its twelve minutes in a hot oven, I remembered a nifty bit of magic which might just steer Primrose and Poppy away from the inevitable baking failure. Making your own butter! About the only truly memorable thing from my prep school days other than girls having embroidery lessons on Wednesday afternoons whilst the boys went out to play sport. Before you ask, no I did not to go to school in the 1950s but might as well have. Just in case you want to have a go at this, here is how I did it:
- Get a jam jar and fill a third full with room temperature double cream. (I used it straight from the fridge….and it took ages to get through the next bit so follow this even if you don’t follow any of the other instructions)!
- Put the lid on tight and then start shaking. If the cream is the right temperature, then you may only need to shake for 10mins. I attempted to banish the bingo wings for roughly 20mins. You must shake vigorously and continually.
- The jam jar will go silent…..don’t PANIC. In the words of the WWII propaganda poster, “Keep Calm and Carry on”.
- Shake until the sound changes to a slosh and you have a creamy mass and some watery milky liquid in the jar.
- Pour off the liquid (this is buttermilk and you can use it in your next batch of soda bread).
- ‘Rinse’ the butter in the jam jar with cold water. Keep doing this until the water runs clear.
- When it does, then your butter is almost ready. Just press out the rest of the liquid. You can use a delightfully vintage set of butter paddles for this. Failing your ability to procure these, your hands will do just as well.
- Wrap in greaseproof and put in the fridge.