Friday, May 06, 2011

Rising to the Occasion

There are many ways we can get air into our baking,other than using the more usual 'raising agents':bicarb, cream of tartar, baking powder, yeast...
Air itself is a raising agent, and when making a cake beating butter and sugar together helps to trap in air, so the cake will end up lighter the longer we beat.we Beaten eggs work in a similar way as 'air-trappers', especially beaten egg whites. Souffles are a good example, not a chemical raising agent in sight and still it ballons up!
'Acidic' milk products can aslo be used as a raising agent - yogurt being a good one, and when this is used with bicarb (not baking powder) there is a strong chemical reaction that gives a good 'rise' to whatever is being baked. Other acids - such as vinegar, orange and lemon juice...also work to give this 'rise'.
Acidic salts can cause a 'fizz', so citric acid may work, and I do remember my mother making me 'fizzy orange juice' by stirring a spoonful of 'something medicinal'(could it be Epsom Salts?) into orange squash. Just loved drinking that (was wartime remember).
It is true that bought scones are heavily flavoured with raising agents, and this makes them taste quite unpleasant. There are probably other chemicals added that give a longer shelf life that also gives an unpleasant taste.

The best home-made scones are made by mixing our own raising agent. One I remember being cream of tartar, together with another - possibly bicarb. Together these do make 'baking powder', but in this instance the proportions are different.
Self-raising flour already has a raising agent, so it should not be necessary to add more, just make sure plenty of air is beaten in, then get it into the oven a.s.a.p before the whole thing collapses.

It is always difficult for me to put myself in the position of not knowing 'how to', when it comes to cooking on the cheap. But this is because countless years of having to cope with little money has taught me a lot. and now it's second nature.
When starting from scratch, cooking can be like a minefield. We have only to imagine how many of us would feel if we were given a pair of scissors, then asked to cut hair into a fashionable style. What a mess we would make of it. It could take years of practice before we got it right. If we ever did. The same goes for cooking. We need to be taught this in easy stages, and with the current money-saving programmes - things that might seem so obvious to us, would not be to others. We all have to learn to walk before we can run. Some cannot yet stand on their own two feet.

Even so - in a recent programme (was it Superscrimpers?) a young couple - wishing to save enough money to move out and rent their own property, with twins virtually ready to drop - surely did not need showing that spending a small fortune buying videos each week (rarely looked at), and countless magazines, as well as 'eating out/takeaways' added up to an expense in excess of a hundred of pounds A WEEK, and by not buying them (and other things also completely unnecessary) meant they would have enough money to get their own accomdation? You would expect they could have worked this out for themselves. But perhaps it was more a 'set up' just to prove a point.

In today's spend, spend, spend world of encouragement, no wonder the younger generation feel that money is purely for enjoyment, after decades being sheltered (with the help of credit cards) from the hidden real world that eventually rears its ugly head. But even the ugly duckling can turn into a swan, and we should all be able to turn our lives round to find the positive side of poverty and enjoy it in its full and glorious 'plumage'.

You know me, always finding the most pleasure when almost penniless. Must he that I thrive on challenges. Others may not feel the same, but myself like to believe that at least readers of this site are enjoying our 'new world of self-sufficiency' that the credit crunch/recession has forced on us, even though we might have been struggling long before this. As things get worse, life can get better. But only when we bother to get up off our backsides and make it so. Yes, it can be done (even if our backside sits in chairs much of the day - like mine. We can still cook, plant and sew when sitting down).