Delia on the joys of home baking

Cakes sticky prune and date cake

One of the cheapest ways to add a touch of luxury to our everyday eating, I think, is to indulge in a little home baking now and then.

Some of the chief contributors to the boredom of modern synthetic diet are those dull factory-made cakes and flavourless biscuits which come so prettily wrapped on our supermarket shelves. Eating of course is for sustenance – but surely for enjoyment too: and hasn’t the sheer blandness of mass production taken away some of the joy?

If you have never done any home baking, or have lapsed for some time, I do hope you’ll revive the art. There’s so much personal pleasure in it and a sort of wholesomeness about a kit filled with the aroma of baking – a lovely way to make your family feel spoiled.

In the days when households had such things as ‘baking’ days, bread and cakes would be baked in batches to last a week or even longer. The kitchen range was brought up to heat and topped up all day, and not an inch of space or minute of fuel time was wasted. Girdle cakes or crumpets used the heat on the top of the stove, scones fitted in alongside the bread, and biscuits were dried out at the end of the day as the heat died down in the range. The results, I’m sure, must have been enough to feed an army.

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Nowadays few of us have the time or inclination to bake on such an organised scale, and inevitably the main casualties have been those items such as scones and biscuits. We have com rely very largely on bakeries and supermarkets for these, but we are paying very dearly for this convenience (as a quick comparison between the weight and prices of almost any packet of biscuits will confirm). Yet this branch of baking is the easiest of all, using ingredients that most people keep regularly in their store-cupbboard. So why not rediscover some of the pleasures of ‘batch’ baking, and save lots of money at the same time!

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