Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The Frugal Baker

To be honest I am NOT a frugal baker. If a recipe calls for dark chocolate, sour cream, ground almonds, I do not flinch, but simply hot-foot it to the shops and buy what I need. However, Christmas is upon us, our mortgage payment has gone up, food prices are, well, pricey and I can't really afford to be so generous with my baking. However, I do know that baking is an essential part of my week. It is both pleasurable and gives pleasure and I'd rather my family eat something homemade and natural than shop-bought and riddled with chemicals. Also, when I bake for my family I feel that I am giving them a little gift of love. I know that dietitians and psychologists tell us we must never equate food with love, but I think this is piffle (and I'm pretty sure millions of French people would agree with me)! When we make something delicious, to be eaten after a hard day at work or school, we are giving a moment of soothing comfort and homecoming to those who've been out and about in the world, and this I think is pretty precious. Blimey, I think I'm about to start on one of my wild digressions again, so before I further wax lyrical, let me get to the point. Here are my suggestions for simple and frugal baked good which provide a treat on a cold November evening but will not break the food budget. I shan't give recipes as I'm doll-making, but if you care to email me I can send you any recipe as soon as I can.

1. Use cocoa for chocolate cake and brownies. The chocolate cake in the picture is made with cocoa and as long as you don't use too much it will be moist. Just replace an ounce of flour with an ounce of cocoa in your usual sponge mixture and bake as usual. Nice!

2. Become one of those wonderful scone-baking housewives from times of yore! Scones are mostly flour based and need very little butter and sugar, they're really just a convenient vehicle for jam and cream. However, they don't keep well. So freeze the dough in rounds, then you can take them out of the freezer and pop them in the oven just before the hungry hoards arrive. Delicious! Oh, and men somehow think you're a walking miracle if you can make a decent scone. Don't ask me why but it's true.

3. Oh, and talking of men. I've noticed they're rather keen on pies, well English men at least. Whenever I bake a pie the DH declares me to be Prudence Goodwyfe. I am such a fan of pies. They stretch the food budget and give real culinary pleasure, they are all round winners and a piece of cake (pie??) to make. Keep it simple, and just try an apple pie made with a plain short crust to begin with. Cost out the ingredients in your head right now, and you'll see that I'm right. Cheap as chips, n'est pas?

4. Use your loaf. If you are not a regular bread-baker, keep bread baking days for times when you've made a very simple evening meal. Any frugal stew becomes a wonderful meal with the addition of fresh, homemade bread. Be canny and make simple things a treat.

6. Use your loaf, part two. A bread dough base can be the beginnings of a real filling treat of a meal. For example, pizza, pisalidaire and any filled bread will create happy tummies with few only a few inexpensive, but healthy ingredients (especially if you go easy on the cheese).

7. Biscuits (cookies) may look expensive to make but the recipes often makes an awful lot. My top tip is to freeze your dough in a sausage like round and slice off cookies as and when you need them, that way your biscuits will always be fresh and nothing is wasted.

8. Do as the Americans do and have pancakes for breakfast. The kids will love you and they're cheap to make...I know it's a faff to do first thing in the morning, but you could save it for a weekend treat!

Well, there you have it, gentle reader. I know that many of you are keen cooks, so if you have any further suggestions leave a comment!


Laura A said...

Nice suggestions! And I want to be called Prudence Goodwyfe.

Speaking of (Southern) American food, have you ever tried grits?

Left-Handed Housewife said...

My American family will sometimes have pancakes for dinner, a cheap meal the kids love. The boys love french toast for breakfast, which is a great way to use up stale bread.

I'm trying to do more baking these days as well. Do you have an opinion on using bread machines? I've never done it, and thought it might be a good way to get my son baking bread for the family (gadgetry!).


Anonymous said...

Lots of great ideas there. Yum!

By-the-way, I have found the secret to long-lived scones...use sunflower spread insead of butter/hard marg...it is a bit messy when you first start rubbing it in, but trust me...my scones keep for 4 days!! (if they're not all scoffed at once!) Yay for scones...my menfolk love 'em! Now be sure to give me a good pastry recipe...my pies are often brick-hard!

love, Tina :)

Seraphim said...

Hmm.... hadn't really considered pancakes, but it's definately cheaper than shop-bough cereal. I'll definately be doing that - thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm didn't know you could freeze scone dough. That's useful to know.

I have a lovely moist chocolate cake recipe made with cocoa.

Are pancakes not a bit pricey due to all the eggs needed in comparison to other breakfasty treats. Lol, to be honest apart from an occasional cooked breakfast we're toast, toast, toast :) But much nicer with homemade bread (although ours is made in a [whisper] breadmaker).

Glad you have returned to the land of blog!


Gumbo Lily said...

You are right Prudence Goodwyfe, men think you are "all that" if you can produce a good biscuit (that's rancher talk for scone). My men kiss me every time I make them. Drizzled with honey is how they drive their biscuits home.

Pancakes, yes! Really, they're not as fussy as you think for breakfast and they're wonderful for a quick, cheap supper too.

Pies also make you a domestic goddess, I agree, and left-over they make good breakfast too.

So glad you're back to writing on the blog. I've missed you.


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Laura
I've heard tell of these grits you talk of, but have never tried them. Are they nice?

Hi Frances
I think breadmakers are quite a good gadget. My only criticisms are that the loaf has a whacking great hole in the bottom of it and the bread is often too sweet for my taste. A good way of using a breadmaker is to use it on its mixing and rising setting only and then take out the dough, punch it down, give it a second rise and bake it conventionally. This means you can use your normal recipe for bread and you avoid the sweetness and the hole.

Hi Tina
Thanks for the sunflower oil tip. I'll give that a go. My only tip for decent pastry is to use lard and a hot oven, oh, you can try chilling your flour before you use it too!

Hi Seraphim
Thinking about it, they're quite healthy too, as they don't contain sugar and only a very little fat...like a scone its what you put on them that counts!

Hi Sarah
Yes, it's non-stop toast in our house too. Sometimes they get a boiled egg, if I can force myself out of morning zombie mode (I truly am terrible in the mornings). Oh, and talking of eggs, American pancakes need only one egg for the batter...it's the maple syrup that'll drain your purse of hard earned cash!

Hi Jody
Biscuits/scones drizzled with honey sounds sooo good. Why does calling a "scone" a "biscuit" make them sound so much more macho? Discuss.

I like the scones for kisses idea, it sounds like a good exchange to me!

Dulce Domum said...

PS. To American Girls

When you do your frugal pancake supper, do you do it with the bacon and sausage etc, just like a traditional American breakfast?

Anonymous said...

Hi again, thanks for the pastry tip! Um, it was sunflower spread I used for scones not sunflower oil. I don't know what would happen if you used oil! xx

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Tina
You *did* say spread...now why did I *think* oil???

Gumbo Lily said...

Mrs Goodwyfe,
I think you're right that a biscuit is far more macho than scone. Scone sounds refined and of course, very British. Biscuit gives the vision of cowboys, hard working men coming in and sitting down to biscuits sounds better than scones (to me, a ranchwife). But, but, but....I do make a terrific strawberry yogurt scone (frosted) that my men rave about. To them, a scone is not the same as a biscuit.

About the pancake supper....I usually make it with sausages or bacon or fried sliced ham or steak strips or even a small hamburger patty. Yes, they really like meat with their pancakes (breakfast or supper). That's how it goes at my house anyway. It doesn't have to be a LOT of meat, just a little something on the side.

Oh, and we've given up real maple syrup. Some of us like peanut butter spread on the cakes and then lightly drizzled with (fake) maple syrup.


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Jody
You know, years ago the DH and I visited new England, in the winter-time. We sat in a cafe and DH ate a proper American breakfast and LOVED it. For me, I just can't mix sweet and savoury on one plate. He still talks about it now. I may make him one for his birthday (he generally has the full English) but it may make a change for him. I know the kids will love it, because they love pancakes and they like novelty too.

Anyway, I think the scones (feminine) biscuits (masculine) thing comes down to how our different cultures view tea. Tea in the USA is a bit of a girlie thing isn't it?

Gumbo Lily said...


You'll have to give us a glimpse of that manly American breakfast if you do it. Did he have pancakes & bacon with eggs, etc.? Or did he have the biscuits and sausage gravy?

I serve tea sometimes to old ranchers who are giving up coffee. Coffee is really the "American hot drink" and by the way Starbucks and every other coffee house has sprung up, I think it's still the most popular drink in comparison to tea. It's quite hip to drink expensive coffees.

Where I live, tea is something for Ladies' tea parties. I know that to the English, tea is something like a mini-meal or snack, but to many of us, it's "tea party" with fancy cookies and cupcakes and cucumber sandwiches.


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Jody
He ate (wait for it) blueberry pancakes, maple syrup, sausage, crispy bacon, scrambled egg, toast, and endless cups of coffee. I have a some vintage American cookbooks and in them breakfast is always a real meal (a traditional English breakfast is hearty too). I may do a post on breakfast, actually.

Regarding tea. Yes, I've noticed tea in America is always formal and dainty. Tea as a meal is almost dead here now. We're all too busy and too fat to think of a meal between lunch and dinner!!! I give my kids tea though, and I have tea, because I'm always starving hungry at 4 o'clock, but it's never formal (sometimes on Friday I do a tea at the table, the kids call it "nice tea"). Even when I was a kid I remember men having tea as a meal. In my dad's workshop all of the carpenters and upholsterers would down tools for a tea break at three o'clock and drink a cuppa and have biscuits and cake. In offices there would be a lady with a tea trolley come round with drinks and snack. Now they have vending machines and even eat lunch at their desks. So sad, to be too busy for a break.