Watching Masterchef Australia's team challenge the other night really had me thinking. Each team was given recipes from the Country Women's Association (CWA) for neapolitan cake, fruit cake, lamingtons, scones and jam. The idea was to cook morning tea for 100 CWA members. This was a dismal failure. The contestants have already shown us what they are capable of particularly in England creating amazing signature dishes of Heston Blumenthal. Or when Marion cooked off against British chef Martin Blunos. This dish looked like a boiled egg with fingers of toast, but it was really a dessert of vanilla ice-cream, pastry cream and mango coulis served in an egg shell, with shortbread as the toast. But when it came to recreating the "simple" recipes of CWA the contestants came unstuck.
Have we ventured so far in presenting amazing, out of this world dishes that we have forgotten how to really bake?
Baking is a science. Unlike cooking where one thinks of flavours and presentation, baking needs to be accurate and one needs to understand ingredients and cooking methods to be successful. And this takes practice. This is not a criticism of Masterchef Australia just a comment on the world of cooking as I see it. Once children experimented in the kitchen with recipes of toffee and cakes and maybe had failures and maybe had successes but learnt so much in the journey.
Somewhere along the line the basics were forgotten and I saw this in Masterchef Australia.
Making compote and coulis is one thing but making jam.....oh, the pleasure of preserving fruit at it's prime. Everyone should be able to have the enjoyment and pride of taking a jar out of the pantry and say
"Try this jam, I made it myself!"
Take Strawberry jam for example - so easy in the microwave. This way the freshness, vibrance and integrity of the fruit is retained! Here's my recipe.
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups sugar
Wash and check the fruit then cut into pieces - small if you don't like chunks. Place in a large microwave safe bowl with the lemon juice. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Remove. It should start smelling amazing already. Once you add the sugar the fruit won't break down much more so if you want it smooth cook for a little longer. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Return to the microwave, cook for 15 minutes on high, stopping every 5 minutes to stir and check. Pour into sterilized bottles. Seal.
I love homemade strawberry jam. It's so fresh and tangy quite unlike the store bought variety.
So with jam we need scones. Recently my fellow blogger friend Ago posted her recipe for Blueberry Scones. I thought they were beautiful bursting with fruit and I will try them soon. There are many varieties and recipes for scones but for now here is my tried and true recipe for basic scones which should have been produced on the show I mentioned above. This recipe always produces tender, moist scones.
3 cups SR flour
1 1/4 cups milk, plus extra
Heat the oven to 230C.
Sift flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the milk with a flat bladed knife. Depending on the weather and your flour you may need a spoonful or two more of milk. The dough should be sticky.
Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently for a brief 30 seconds. Pat into a flat round about 3 centimetres thick. Cut with a floured cutter pressing straight down and not twisting. Place on baking paper lined tray close together.
Bake in the hottest part of the preheated oven. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes. Turn the oven down after 10 minutes if you think the scones a browning too much. Remove scones from the oven and wrap in a clean teatowel. This will keep them soft and tender.
Remember never to cut your scones but break them apart gently with your fingers.
I hope that in our quest to reach "never-before-seen-heights" and to do what no chef as ever done we don't forget the basics and the simple pleasures of baking and enjoying homebaked treats.