It was the first recipe I saw when the message came through on my phone. My mum and dad were at a dinner party and the hostess had pulled the well-worn red and white checked book from her collection. Dad snapped a couple of photos on his phone with the words,
Bit of history in these books. Suzanne is going to lend it to you.
And so it was, a couple of days later, that this gem, in all her Antiquitarianess, came to be in my home. I ran my hands over the cover. Up and down the spine which was held together with four strips of sticky tape. The thin, musty pages drew me in more and more.
It is from the pages beginning at 49 with the introductory words under Butter Cakes that state....
Cooking times will vary. When perfectly baked the cake will be elastic to the touch and a scalded hairpin or very fine skewer inserted into the center will come out clean and dry. If you don't want to pierce your cake, put your ear down and listen. A whisper of steam will tell you if it isn't sufficiently cooked.
The story of this book begins here. You see, from this page onwards, until about page 91 where "peanutties", "Ginger snaps", and "Home hermits" reside is the tell-tale sign of thumbed-over pages - their filo-pastry-like edges are torn and stained. It is no surprise that crusted bits of flour and buttery smudges are prevalent where one finds pikelets and scones. Coming in at a close second are the pages marked with "Snowballs", "Apple delights", and "Lemon Queens".
The black and white photos are basic and minimalistic but so too are the recipes - rarely is a time given and brisk, moderate, and hot are stipulated for the temperatures at which to bake. I particularly enjoy reading the little notes that accompany these photos - Starred for morning tea. Add glamour with chocolate glaze.
A pleasant rattle of cups and a melting, sugar-crowned teacake, the fragrance of crusty brown nut loaf fresh from the oven....you'll attain new heights of hospitality with these mouth-watering tea-time attractions.
I mean, what is not to love about these words, I am transported immediately into a cocoon of coziness.
But getting back to that first recipe, the one that caught my eye, or should I say the name that caught my eye. For it was intriguing - Stuffed Monkeys. What in the world could this entail? Dried fruits, spices, and honey, encased in a pastry shell. Well, let me tell you they did not disappoint. In fact, they were so joyful that when I broke the little parcel into two it was like discovering hidden treasures. I liken them to fruit mince pies, although the pastry is more biscuit-like. They are sturdy enough to wrap in baking paper and nestle into one's pocket. Which is exactly what I did as I set off for the school pick-up. I unfolded it in front of Beau, his eyes instantly sparkled as he devoured each and every last crumb on the walk back to the car. I do recall that I had spooned dollops of jam into a few, which went down a treat. I must make a note of that, for next time.
Cheese and Gherkin scones are in order. Followed closely by a condensed milk tea cake and a batch of cookies for good measure. Oh, and let me not forget about the cheese pastry! I better hop to it, otherwise, my loan may expire. Maybe I can pay my late fees with buttery sugar-laden delights and gain new heights of hospitality while I'm at it!
Recipe slightly adapted from New Australian Cookery Illustrated
4 tbs Spectacular dried fruit mix or 2 tbs each of raisins, currants, sultanas, and mixed peel (Or your choice of jam)
2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
140g unsalted butter, at room temperature
140g caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 egg, at room temperature
225g plain flour
Slivered almonds or blanched almonds
Preheat your oven to 180c fan force. Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside.
Mix the ingredients for the filling in a small bowl and set aside while you make the pastry.
Beat the butter, sugar, and spices with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Beat in the egg until combined. Stir in the sifted flour. Bring together into a soft dough and then lightly dust your bench with a shower of flour.
Cut the dough in half, and working with one half at a time, roll it out thinly and cut out rounds. I used a 6cm round scone cutter. Continue in this manner until all the dough has been used up and you have rows of little circles in front of you.
Place a spoonful of filling on half of the rounds and then dab your finger into a small bowl of water before dampening the edges of the pastry. Lay the other half of the rounds on top, and then pleat them together to form a neat little parcel. You can place a blanched almond or some slivered almonds on top for a nice finish.
Pop them onto your prepared trays and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and feel dry to the touch. They will harden on cooling. Remove from the oven and place onto a cooling rack.
They keep well in an airtight container, but you will probably find yourself baking another batch before too long.