I can hear the clapping sound of the wooden spoon creaming butter and sugar together as it hits the side of the beige ceramic bowl with the white insides. She bakes fruit buns and cakes, she also makes plaited loaves of bread, and we like to break the ends of the plaits off as a treat. Mum lets us play with dough and we make mini loaves of bread that we place alongside Mum’s big loaves. We need to wash our hands before we start cooking, the dough takes all the dirt off your fingers if you don’t and turns grey.
Kneading is hard work the dough starts off sticking to your fingers and as you turn it and sprinkle flour on the stickiness it becomes smooth. And then the dough must prove, and we knead, and it proves and once it doubles in size, we sprinkle it with water and sometimes we put too much water on. Mum puts them in the oven, and we wait for the smell of freshly baked bread.
I want to try some of the new Stork Margarine, but Mum says butter is better. I do taste Stork at my friend Julianna’s house on Mother’s Pride bread, and Mum’s right. Mother’s Pride bread is soggy and sticks to the roof of your mouth and you must swirl it around with your tongue or use your fingers to dislocate it from your teeth.
We learn that cakes are done if the knife we stick in the middle comes out clean. That bread is cooked when you tap it and it sounds hollow. We know that bread must be turned out immediately and left to sit on a wire tray or it will go soggy. Cakes on the other hand stay and cool down in the cake tin and then are gently pried out of their prison.
We help Mum mix the butter and sugar to make the cakes. You must mix the butter and sugar until they’re white. The best time to mix butter and sugar is when the television program “No Hiding Place” is on. We like the exciting music and we beat the butter and sugar to the rhythm of the show.
When we’ve made the mixture white, Mum breaks and separates lots of eggs. She then uses an egg whisk with a round handle to beat the egg whites until they’re white and stick to the beater like mini mountains. Then she adds the yolks and beats them. She teaches us to pour this mixture slowly into the butter and sugar, we’ve to be careful as if we fold it in too fast it’ll curdle and you’ll see the mixture starts to break up, so we’ve to put flour in slowly to stop this happening.
After we do this, we add the rest of the flour and fruit, vanilla and almond essence, lemon zest stops the cake from having an eggy taste says Mum so that always goes in, and anything else depending on the kind of cake. Cake tins need to be lined with greaseproof paper and then we can pour the mixture into the tins. Making cakes is a long process, but the smell as they cook is heavenly.
Although I like Mum’s baking one of my favorite places is a few doors down from Woolworth.
The shop is the local bakery brimming with ring and jam donuts, cream cakes of all different shapes and sizes. The ladies behind the counter wear pink gingham dresses with white aprons and caps to keep their hair in place. They glide around their tiny space behind the counter as they serve people.
In the shop window are sugar encrusted apple turnovers sometimes they’ve apple filling that has burst the seams of the pastry. There are current and Chelsea buns. Currant buns are like hot-cross buns, they’re brown on top and pale underneath and they’ve currants dotted all over them. Rose Marie and Patsy my sisters don’t like dried fruit, so if they get a currant bun, they pick the currants out.
Currant buns are the cheapest bun. I like Chelsea buns, and Swiss rolls. Chelsea buns are like currant buns but they’re square. I tried to make some once. You’ve to roll out the dough until it is flat and a rectangle, then you sprinkle sugar and currants on the rectangle, then you roll it up and then you slice it and the slices become Chelsea buns. You make Swiss rolls like this, but you make it with cake mixture that is cooked, and you roll the cake up, but first you need to put the filling in.
And then the most expensive things are chocolate éclairs, they’ve real cream in them. At school we learned to make Choux pastry and we made mini chocolate choux buns. You must pronounce the “Choux” like “shoe.” Our teacher tells us. It’s French, like chocolate éclairs. But our choux buns don’t taste like the chocolate éclairs. They taste nasty.
The bakery also has bread in a variety of shapes and sizes the most popular is crusty white “arm bread” sold unwrapped it’s tucked under your arm for the journey home where we fight over who gets the end of the bread. Once we win the prize it’s plastered with butter by the lucky winner.
Shop bread is much prized by us as our Mother bakes most of the bread we eat. I can’t understand why my friends like my uneven chunky homemade brown bread. I long for the even slices of white sticky “Mother’s Pride bread” that my classmates have for their sandwiches. Ashamed of my chunky uneven brown sandwiches I hide to eat them when no one is looking. My bread looks disfigured in comparison to the sharp triangles of Mother’s Pride sticky white bread.
The most amazing day at the Bakery comes once a year. On Good Friday the bakery is a source of wonder. That’s the day when Hot Cross buns take over every nook and cranny. They line all the shelves. They’re piled high in the window. As far as the eye can see there are brown Hot Cross Buns with fat juicy raisins peeping through the shiny brown and beige surfaces. And people line up for ages to buy them, the queues go on forever until the last bun is sold and the bakery always closes early.
“Mum why aren’t we allowed to eat Hot Cross buns?”
“They’re Pagan.” Says my Mum. So, I never taste one until years later and am disappointed with the doughy cross. Plain currant buns are nicer.