Rhonda Hetzel in her book The Simple Home: A Month-by-month Guide To Self-Reliance, Productivity and Contentment says that July is the time for simple home bakes.
She say’s when visitors are expected it always makes you feel good to set the kitchen table with a special cloth, fresh flowers, napkins, tea, coffee and just baked cakes, slices and biscuits. She thinks such a spread acknowledges the importance of your visitors and the significance of providing hospitality. She believes that offering visitors good food, drinks and a comfortable place to rest, especially visitors who have travelled a long way, is part of living a simple life. In addition to baking for visitors many of you see the good sense in providing your family with bread and simple baked goods everyday. If you eat bread or like to put snacks such as cakes, biscuits or slices in lunchboxes then baking is a good skill to develop. While its a delight to bake in winter and fill your home with the aroma of hot bread and freshly baked biscuits, baking can be done any day of the year. 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 enhances that are commonly included in supermarket baked products such as bread, biscuits, 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.
Storing Ingredients: If you do a lot of baking and have the storage space try to buy your ingredients in bulk. If you have no local shop that sells in bulk you may find a store online that that can deliver through the post or by 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 a lot of cellophane or 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, if you have the space 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 as normal on the shelf, confident that you wont be troubled by pantry moths or weevils. A chest freezer with a very good energy rating is generally a sound investment in a simple home. It will allow you to kill off insects in dry goods such as bread flour, store bulk ingredients and meat as well as pre-prepared food. It doesn’t have to be situated in the kitchen because you wont use it frequently. Any cool place out of sunlight will be fine.
Caring for your equipment: Some bake ware will be sold with specific instructions on how to bake in the tin or tray the first time and how to care for it over the life time of the item. Always follow those instructions. Aluminium is an excellent conductor of heat and aluminium cake tins are the best value for money bake ware. If there are no instructions wash the baking tin or tray by hand without using detergent or soap, then dry. The first time you use it for a butter cake or any cake containing fat either brush melted butter on the interior of the pan or line it with parchment paper. You can hold the parchment paper in place with a dab of butter in a few places. If you are cooking a sponge or other cake with no fat in it, don’t butter or line the baking tin. Do not use olive oil or grease your aluminium bake ware because over time it will discolour it. When you finish baking, wait till the tin has cooled and soak it in warm soapy water for about an hour. Then simply rub over the tin with a soft dishcloth and make sure all the fat and any remnants of the cake are removed. Dry completely before storing. If your storing one cake tin inside another it’s a good idea to place a sheet of paper towel or clean cotton rag inside the tin so they don’t rub together. Never cut a cake in the tin and don’t use a pointed knife to help remove the cake from the tin. To clean enamel cookware after baking allow to cool then soak in warm soapy water for an hour and wipe over. If there is a lingering stain, make a paste of bicarb soda and water and apply to the stain. Let it sit for a couple of hours then wash off. Dry completely before storing and be careful when storing one thing inside the other because enamel can chip.
Recipes: With any made from scratch recipe the results will depend on the ingredients you use as well as your techniques. Don’t substitute margarine for butter because frankly if you do you might as well buy commercial biscuits and cakes full of trans fats. Try to source local ingredients if you can, if not, buy the best quality you can afford. That doesn’t mean buying the most expensive ingredients. You’ll need to do a bit of test buying and tasting. Look for different butters, flours and milks and see which of them you prefer. From then on buy them and not what’s on special or the most expensive.