Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Year Begins with Stocktaking

Normally, for a cake I would use quality flour, butter and eggs, but as this cake requires no fat, that is a saving. If the cake was for eating (and a fatless sponge should be eaten as fresh as possible) then quality flour would be used. But for trifle sponges you can get away with using the cheapest flour and eggs, allowing the cake to dry out at room temperature overnight, before cutting up into useful sized pieces, some to be stored up to a week in a tin, the rest could be frozen. One tray-bake of fatless sponge is equal to about three, maybe four packets of trifle sponges. I leave it to you to work out the savings you will make.
Fatless Sponge Cake: can cost less than 30p total
3 oz ( 75g) plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, separated
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
Place the egg yolks in a bowl and add the sugar. Begin whisking the two together until the mixture is very thick, pale and fluffy - and this can take five minutes or more even using an electric whisk. Put the whites into a large bowl and whisk these (remembering to wash the beaters very well before using again), and when the whites are stiff, take a metal spoon and, starting with the egg whites, fold a bit at a time into the yolks and sugar mixture along with the sifted flour and b.powder, folding in the last of the whites at the end.
Spoon the mixture into a greased and lined Swill Roll tin (if wishing to make a cake to eat that day, then use 2 7" (18cm) round sandwich tins), and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 -25 minutes or until the cake has shrunk slightly from the sides of the tin. It should feel firm yet bouncy in the centre. Cool in the tin for five minutes.
Meanwhile lay out a sheet of greaseproof or parchment paper on a cake airer and sprinkle this with caster sugar. Upturn the cake onto this and leave to cool completely, then cut and store as given above for trifle sponges, or for a whole cake sandwich together with jam and whipped cream, or lemon curd and whipped cream, or what you will, to be eaten on the day of making.
Tip: this recipe could also be used to make a true Swiss Roll (except that usually has fat in the mixture, but can be made without). If so, trim the edges to make it easier to roll, and save those trimmings for your next trifle.

For years I have been making Drop Scones (aka Scotch Pancakes) because the family adored them, eaten freshly made with butter and jam. The fresher the better, but strangely they do freeze well. The bonus is I could make 36 pancakes for the shelf price of 6! If the price has risen since then, I dare say you could make the same or even more.
There is something very satisfying about watching the bubbles rise, waiting for the first to burst, and then flipping over to see the perfectly cooked underside. Don't cut down or miss out on the sugar (as I did once) for it is the sugar that gives them the lovely brown colour. Without sugar they end up pale and sad looking.
Tip: use a heavy based frying pan if you can, also stand it over medium heat, without adding any fat, for at least five minutes before brushing the base of the pan with butter (I pick up a knob of butter with some kitchen paper and brush this over, adding another rub over after each couple of batches).
Drop Scones: makes about 2 dozen
8 oz (225g) self raising flour
5 fl oz (75g) milk*
5 fl oz (75g) water
1 egg, beatb
1 good tbslp caster sugar
half a tsp bicarbonate of soda**
1 tsp cream of tartar**
(Note: you could use all skimmed milk instead of milk/water, and 1 good tsp of baking powder if you haven't any bicarb and c of t - but for perfection use the raising agents as given).
Sift together the flour with the raising agents and stir in the sugar. Stir in the egg, adding enough of the liquid to make a smooth batter (with no lumps!!- sieve it if you have to). The batter needs to be thin enough to pour, but thick enough not to run all over the base of the frying pan. Err on the thick side as you can always add more liquid.
Grease a preheated frying pan (see above directions) then pour a tablespoon at a time of the batter onto the pan (towards the sides, so that you can get three, four or more in the pan), where it should shape itself into a round, and repeat, leaving room for the pancakes to spread slightly. During the cooking bubbles will rise and when one or more burst is usually the time to flip the pancakes over.
Remove each cooked pancake onto a a cake airer which has been covered with half a tea-towel (clean of course) and cover with the other half of the towel, keep adding (you can overlap) more pancakes, keeping them covered between times (this prevents them drying out). When all are cooked serve immediately, with jam and softened butter for spreading.
Tip: often you see recipes where a little cinnamon or spice has been added, sometimes a handful of plump raisins. Even so, the basic recipe has stood the test of time. I leave you to experiment.