WINTER

Monday, 7 February 2011

Sun, soap and shortbread/Soleil, savons et de sable

After a bit of fiddling around with a lot more confidence I was ready to push the boat out on Soap Batch No. 2. This time made with rose petals, a hint of lavender and even throwing in a teaspoon of red colouring! It should make for an interesting, almost edible soap...cutting the soap is not as easy as first thought as it can crumble but slowly mastering the technique...another forty odd bars stashed away for a month...more wait and see...
While I am sitting writing this the ducks and geese and chicken at Madam Paris' are going ballistic about something, of which I shall never know. The Village Mayor has also dropped in for a visit with a guy from Lyonnaise de l'Eau about the beloved 'fosse septic'....our septic tank! They are trying to get all of the tanks to conform to standard so are diagnosing them all, at a cost of €80 per household, and so samples were all taken, paperwrk filled and we now await the findings...if we need a new tank it will mean digging up most of our back garden to put in the soak pit...great! Another day in rural France...

Sometimes I feel like I have turned full circle as I go and collect Liliana from the school bus on my bike. I remember when we were children we used to catch the bus to and from school and always arrived home ravenously hungry and went straight into the cake tins to demolish the contents. Miraculously Mum always had three things in the tins...chocolate chippie biscuits, peanut brownies, banana cake, chocolate crunch, louise cake, anzac biscuits, ginger crunch and the like. In the Winter, she would have homemade vege soup heating on the stove or be busy making pikelets on the electric frying pan at the kitchen table which we would eat hot with dripping melted butter and homemade raspberry jam. She would flip these little mini pancakes while she chatted to us about our day at school...a stop in the day. Time to chill before throwing off the school uniforms and roman sandals, chuck on the shorts and t-shirts and tear off outside to spend the early evening running, swinging, jumping and chatting with our neighbourhood friends. Working up an appetite for dinner which would be consumed with the same vigour. I learnt to bake alongside my mother who was never precious about her kitchen and allowed me in with open arms. By the time I was keen and able, being the third child, she was more than happy to hand over the Edmonds Cookbook and the sturdy Kenwood Mixer and leave me to it. My older sister, who preferred to spend her leisure time doing more outdoorsy activities made swift negotiations with me...promising to do my garden jobs if I made her a particular Chocolate Caramel slice or some other super sweet cake she had a craving for. It was fun for me and I baked my way through that cookbook and enjoyed trying to recreate all the different cakes, slices, muffins, biscuits and puddings so that they looked like the pictures...Some only ever got made once, deemed too fussy and abandoned while others became, and remain, mainstays. 

With great pleasure I now see my daughter doing the same...creating huge batches of fudge and biscuits to munch with friends and family. We were recently sent new cookie cutters from a great friend in NZ...a kiwi and the map of NZ no less!! Amelia, ably assisted by Liliana, instantly put them to good use! The chocolate biscuit dough recipe was also from the Edmond's, of course.

Yesterday the sun was shining and shortbread was the craving of the day...with friends for lunch the perfect excuse. I have a recipe made with orange zest which is divine and always the first one I reach for but if I am honest when I think of Shortbread the women that comes to mind instantly is Olive Millar.
Olive is the mother of one of my girlfriends from school and I used to spend many a weekend in my childhood staying at their sheep farm in the back blocks of New Zealand baking! The New Zealand farmers wives HAD to cook well as they were expected to constantly feed numerous farm workers that graced their doors with homemade pies, cakes, biscuits and slices. Olive had a fantastic farm kitchen with paddock views out across the farm. A pleasure to work in. My girlfriend Julie and I spent many happy hours creating all manner of tasty treats in this kitchen. One my favourite's was a particular recipe which in our house became known as Olive's Shortbread. It was just delicious...soft, buttery and slightly crumbly 'melt in the mouth' perfect! I must make it again. Last story I heard about Olive was that she and her twin sister had jumped out of a plane to celebrate their 80th birthdays! Good on them!

OLIVES SHORTBREAD
225 gms butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1+ 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cornflour
a pinch of salt

Cream butter and sugar and vanilla essence. Add sifted flour, cornflour and salt. Mix till smooth.
Roll into sausage shape and wrap in baking paper and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Slice into 1 cm rounds, prick with a fork and place on a tray. Bake at 150 deg for 15 - 20 mins.

1 comment:

Joan said...

The soap looks wonderful.. all pink and lavendery.. and the cookies are wonderful. kiwi cookies in France! Kia ora!