Introduction

Introduction

By
Margaret Fulton
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742706306
Photographer
Vanessa Levis

It is 7 o’clock on Sunday morning and my niece is downstairs rustling up some trays of her special date slice, to take to friends. As that reassuring fragrance wafts into my bedroom, I love knowing that someone is in the kitchen and something is baking in the oven. It takes me straight back to my childhood and my mother, for whom home baking played a vital role in everyday life.

One of my fondest memories growing up was seeing my mother sitting in the kitchen with a mixing bowl on her lap, making her shortbread. The whole thing would be done literally by hand. One hand was kept clean, holding the bowl, and with the other hand she would beat in the butter, sugar and flour until it all got very buttery. She made very good shortbread and I’ve continued that tradition, as has my daughter Suzanne.

Rich cakes, melt-in-the-mouth biscuits, light-as-air sponges and fluffy scones have held pride of place in the Australian kitchen since pioneering days. And over the years, as we’ve become more cosmopolitan and sophisticated, the range of recipes has extended to include not only the established fare but also a varied international contribution as well. The inspiration for many of the recipes in this book came from my travels around the world.

My daughter Suzanne (who has been working with me on this book) and I know that many others share our love of baking little specialties for our family and friends. In Holland, spicy speculaas are a favourite biscuit, especially at Christmas. Every self-respecting Scot takes pride in making shortbread. Throughout Scandinavia, Germany and Austria, spiced biscuits are made. In Germany two stollens are baked, one to keep and one to give away. France has many baked treats, such as madeleines, fruit tarts and pithiviers. From Italy we get sometimes chewy, sometimes crisp specialties like ricotta torte, siena cake and amaretti. We love them, so it is natural that they have been included in this book.

Over the years, I’ve received letters from all over the world enquiring about my recipes. I once got a letter from a group of men on expedition in Antarctica, wanting a crumpet recipe. I wrote to them for a long time afterwards and they sent photos of the crumpets they made. But the most common thing I get asked about is my Christmas cake. I still get so many letters about this recipe. A lot of people write to me and say ‘I love your Christmas cake, and my mother used to make it, and now I make it’. It’s wonderful to know these recipes get passed down in families and continue to live on.

Home-baked goods may not always resemble those professional offerings with their perfect edges and level tops, but usually this is a good thing. For me, something that looks handcrafted, a little rustic even, has far more allure than something that comes from a factory. And the bonus is, you’ve used real ingredients, so you know what you’re eating.

Some people avoid baking because they think special skills are needed. The most important thing to remember is to follow the instructions. You’ve got to learn the rules. If you don’t learn the rules you’ll get into trouble. There’s nothing mysterious about baking. If you’re not daunted by something, it’s just a matter of going in and doing it. And practise, just keep at it. I love teaching people how to make things like pastry as it’s such a wonderful thing to know. It’s so easy to do once you’ve been shown the ways with it. Pastry is the base of all the good things in life!

Baking for me means slowing down enough to roll up your sleeves and bake for the sheer pleasure of it, and for giving and sharing. Suzanne and I invite you to share our joy and love of cooking and baking with these recipes. Enjoy!

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