I baked some scones on Sunday. Now that might not seem like anything special to you, Gentle Readers, but those who know me well will be in wonderment at such an event. I do not bake - indeed, these days, I scarcely even cook. I did succeed in feeding my family reasonably well when they were at home, but I never did any baking.
I was enabled to take this stance, on arrival in our first home, by finding an Aga cooker installed. I don't know how they are today, but in 1960 our solid fuel 2-oven Aga was not an easy project for cake baking. It was recommended to use a special Aga Cake Baker (like an inner oven, I believe), or to reduce the heat of the roasting oven. All this was clearly going to be too complicated and stressful for a young mum with an 18-month-old and another on the way, so I declared or new home a no-bake area. How I survived to be a no-bake wife and mum of four grown sons speaks more for the tolerance of my family than for my housekeeping skills. But I got away with it.
But I love scones, especially small ones, warm from the oven. The older I get the more resentful I become of shops and cafes who only supply great big lumps of scone that are more than I want, and rarely fresh. For some years I have wondered if I might learn to cook scones myself. But circumstances are still against me. I have lost what little culinary skills I have, I have an ancient oven on which the thermostat no longer works - and come to think of it, I don't even have a kitchen table, only worktops. I realised, as I tried to visualise it, that it would be impossible to knead and roll out the mixture at worktop height - it really needs to be done at arms' length.
But suddenly, this time, I was not going to be beaten. I was about to put in an order to Tesco on line, so was able to order some fresh flour. All the other ingredients I had, including bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartare. Are they still used for scone baking? I was using my old Aga recipe book, since their recipes were always nice and simple. The next day I got everything ready, including clearing my dining table of papers and putting a plastic cloth over it. The only thing I forgot was to take the butter out of the fridge to soften. I tried putting some in the microwave, but even 10 seconds, my minimum setting, was too much, and it nearly all went runny. Never mind, press on, and at last I had a dozen scones in my hot (but I didn't know how hot) oven.
They weren't very nice. They were recognisable as scones, just, but their only virtue was that they were a first for me! I got my Mrs Beeton off the bookshelf then, and looked at her "Eight important points to remember when making scones". I had got every one of them wrong. But I had made a beginning.
Later that afternoon I visited my young family on the other side of the village. Walking into the kitchen where my son was preparing dinner, I said to him: "I'm going to tell you something that you will find very hard to believe - I baked some scones this morning." "Now that I DO find hard to believe" he replied. I had taken four in a plastic box as evidence, but although the children showed some interest in the box when they came across it, nobody had suggested trying one by the time I left, after a dinner of roast shoulder of lamb . Can't say I blame them.
I baked some more this morning. There was a marginal improvement, but I've a long way to go.....................................