By the book - week three

1/17/2016 08:40:00 pm

Ugh, the post-holiday slump. Back to the usual pattern: sleep, commute, work, eat, repeat.

The first book I remember cooking from is the Commonsense Cookery Book. My mother's copy dated, I think, from her first year of university, and whilst it no longer had a front cover, the paper it was printed on was no-nonsense; rough and yellowed with age.

First published in 1914 by the NSW Public School Cookery Teachers' Association, it has been in print ever since and has sold over 1 million copies. I've just been looking back over the index, and it really does have simple instructions for so many basic cooking techniques, and the range of recipes covers stewing, steaming, pickles, pastry, baking, sweets, ways to prepare cutlets, a whole section on potatoes, and mysteriously, in italics "making a yeast sponge".  When I saw the commemorative centenary boxed set (!) whilst browsing for a book of canning recipes (my brother was going through a phase) I had to impulse buy it.

It was from the Commonsense Cookery Book that I learned the golden proportions for white sauce (two tablespoons of flour, two tablespoons of butter, 1 cup of milk), cooked my first non-packet mix cake, and read with disgusted fascination the section titled "Meals for Invalids", which included atrocities such as beef soup and blancmange.

It's been revised and updated over the years and the invalid section is gone (although horrors such as steak and kidney pudding, forcemeat, and fricasseed rabbit remain), replaced with Australian dietary guidelines, pronunciation guidance for 'al dente'  and 'bon appetite' (al DEN-tay.... boh nap-pay-TEET) and actual pictures. Mum's version has no pictures. Although... the pictures are more instructional than inspiring. No time for flummery here.

By the book - week three - The Commonsense Cookbook (centenary edition)

Basic muffins

1 3/4 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons castor sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
75g butter or margarine

Grease 12-hole pan.
Sift flour and baking powder into bowl, then stir in sugar.
In a separate bowl, beat egg and stir in the milk.
Make a well in the flour and pour in the egg mixtures.
Use a large metal spoon to mix the liquid into the dry ingredients. until just combined Use no more than 12 strokes. (That's what she said).
Spoon into prepared muffin pan, filling each hole 2/3.
Bake at 200 degrees C for 20-25 minutes.
Cool on a rack, and eat warm.

The cookbook has a list of variations, most of which involve adding fruit and spice to the dry ingredients (eg. a mashed banana and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, or 1 cup of fresh blueberries). To make a savoury muffin, decrease the sugar to one tablespoon.

What I did
(1) attempt to make wholemeal muffins per the instructions, only to be thwarted by the detection of a fully grown mothy bug deep inside the flour packet;
(2) replace butter with coconut oil, only because I had no butter and was too lazy to go to the supermarket;
(3) make a savoury combo using half a sautéed red onion, some chopped up left over bits and pieces of sweet potato, and a generous handful of parmesan cheese.

I have to say, not my best work, in spite of my plans... Number 1 was thwarted by the detection of a fully grown mothy bug deep inside the flour packet, after I had sifted and mixed in the baking powder. And I think number 2 was a misstep because the dough was a bit dry. Next time I will walk the 400 metres to Woolies. The flavour combo was good, though.

 To make up for any dryness (possibly also due to the fact that I used more than 12 strokes to mix, but only a few more!), I plan to eat the remainder of the muffins warmed, split, and covered in butter. It's the commonsense thing to do.

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