Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thrifty Week - Baking

One of the things that you notice when you try to price up home made cakes for a cake stall (been there, done it...) is that home baking is actually not a very thrifty activity. If you really charged what that hand-iced coffee and walnut cake was worth, in terms of ingredients and time, unfortunately, most buyers would refuse to stump up. I gather it's the same for hand-crafted goods, and all this is rather a shame. However, of course that doesn't stop us baking, because both the process and the results are well worth it - things may cost a bit more than mass-processed versions in the shops, but they were fun and satisfying to make, and way better to eat!

Last week I cleared space in my freezer and used an unusually empty afternoon to bake for Holy Week and Easter. First I made hot cross buns for Good Friday...

I got to thinking about how I shop thriftily for home baking. My first rule seems to be: buy the cheapest ingredients, and if they turn out to be good, stay with them, but if they turn out to be rubbish, upgrade next time. This means that I buy budget flour, sugar, raisin and butter, but pay more for better quality spices and eggs - with eggs it's an ethical choice as well as a quality one, of course. I bake with cocoa powder but not too much real chocolate, as I don't like to buy rubbish chocolate and the good quality Fair Trade stuff I buy is really only for special occasion baking at the price! So I suppose that's my second thrifty baking tip - choose your recipes according to what you can afford, and what is easily available in the country you're living in. Brits bemoan the cost of imported Golden Syrup in France, and Americans mourn the lack of Hershey's Kisses! So, find recipes that don't use them...

Next thrifty tip, which I stole wholeheartedly from Cath Kidston - cover battered recipe books in offcuts of oilcloth! Oh, I did enjoy doing this, and have enjoyed using the books ever since! They're easier to find on the shelves now, too.

Here's the Simnel cake, minus its marzipan topping, which I'm going to put on when it comes out of the freezer before Easter. The last trick I use is to decide which ingredients are essential and which ones I can replace with cheaper alternatives. Self-raising flour is available in France but just as expensive as the British version. I seive in the appropriate amount of baking powder with my budget flour. Currants are really expensive here (quick lesson in etymology: they are called Raisins de Corinth, pronounced 'corrant' which shows you where we get the English word currant). Therefore I usually substitute cheap raisins/sultanas for the mixed fruit or currants in any recipe. It's not quite the same but this way I can afford to bake.

Do pop over to see Mrs Yappy Dog for her advice and links to all the other Thrifty Week posts, and please also feel free to have a look at my daily prayer for our children, below...


summerfete said...

mmm Floss they look delicious, you know I always wonder what the cross on the bun is made with?

I shall have ago at the standby, wattage thing, though I might email you the results, not wanting to recieve more shouty rude comments (not published).

Its far to hot to get that bothered..really!

Pomona said...

I often change the fruit in recipes according to what we like, or have available, and in fact the family prefer dried apricots to cherries. I have tried cranberries, too, which are delicious. We buy in bulk from a wholesaler, which does cut down the cost.

Pomona x

marigold jam said...

I'm creeping back to blogging now that you are doing this thrifty thing Floss! I agree with all you say here - sometimes making one's own is not cheaper but you do at least know what you are getting! I used to buy flour in bulk and add baking powder if I wanted SR and so it wasn't a problem that I couldn't find it in France.

As always the main tip is Cut your coat according to your cloth really isn't it?!!

Jane x

Fat Dormouse said...

Hi Floss! I'm very proud of myself - I've just made (actually am in the process of making) my first ever hot cross buns...I shall see how they turn out.

With the economic crisis (and the fact Mr D's not earning much) I am learning to be more thrifty...but I'm not very good at it!!!

Betty said...

Hello Floss, your hot cross buns look delicious. some lovely tips - I spend far too much on ingredients, the cakes never work out cheaper than shop bought but I think, as with your eggs, we like to know what's in our food.... chocolate is so expensive and most of the cakes our boys like need a lot of it! I guess it will be just as expensive in France?

wendz said...

When I lived in France I rarely baked - I regret that now in a way. I think I tried to hard to hold onto the way I was used to doing things instead of embracing the changes.

I am so impressed with what you have done there.

Angela said...

I made a major error recently- I bought cheap 'marg' thinking I could use it as a butter substitute - only to discover [after the mixture was whirring away in the Kenwood] that it was labelled 'for spreading only, not baking' The biscuits baked up- and went to crumbs as soon as you touched them. They made good topping for ice cream and other desserts though.
But like you, I often use cheaper ingredients where I can - and sometimes reduce the amount of dried fruit by 5%.
Good post as usual. I think I need to wrap my Jamie Oliver in a remnant of oilcloth!
Easter blessings x

Bozena Wojtaszek said...

Floss, I read your posts with great interest. And I think it's funny that the things we now find as "words of wisdom" would be obvious for our grandmas. It's basic stuff and it's just the matter of our "modern world" that we stopped thinking about it. Mass media and commercials tell us what to do so we forgot to think what suits us best. Thanks for keeping us on the right track. Happy Easter!

Squirrelhaus said...

Love all your baked goodies!!! Yummy!
Have a wonderful Easter Holiday!!
Chris :o)