It’s May and all is in bloom and colour. Our plates are in bloom and colour too, glowing with the vibrant pink and green of fresh asparagus, watercress and peppery radishes. The spring palette has me overcome with nostalgia as I recall my Grandmother, muddied at the knees, busy in her greenhouse or digging in the vegetable patch. I remember the fuggy smell of mint as she boiled home-grown new potatoes for lunch and served them with petit pois and lashings of butter. The warmer weather has me nostalgic too, for the long summers of my childhood spent in a farmhouse kitchen. For six endless weeks I would kick my heels to the sound of nearby garden parties and the lazy drone of lawnmowers. I would ride my bike, swim in the river or, when I was really lucky, I would bake jam tarts with my Grandmother.
Jam tarts are an integral part of my baking education; it was by making these simple, sickly treats that I began to understand the science of fat and flour. I wore a little apron and stood on a stool as I rubbed the cubes of cold butter into flour. I learnt to be patient as the two ingredients formed the ‘breadcrumb’ texture that renders shortcrust pastry so light and buttery. We would cut the tart shells out with a crimped scone cutter and I would pat them haphazardly into the baking tin. My little, untrained hands would dollop uneven spoonful’s of Robertson’s Strawberry Jam into the shells and we would bake them in the AGA until they browned and bubbled. The wait for the tarts to cool would be unbearable to my child-like sense of time and the roof of my mouth suffered frequently at my impatience.
For me it was jam tarts, for others it may have been rock cakes, macaroons, butterfly cakes or the infamous rice crispy nest. These childhood kitchen creations were by no means sophisticated; they were lumpy, uneven and often fell short of any complex flavour pairings, but they were full of sugar and soul. Today these baked-goods are a means for indulging in nostalgia. I for one am an advocate for a spot of ‘ugly’ baking, I believe it to be therapeutic. There is nothing quite as soothing as retreating to the child-like safety of mixing up a refrigerator cake or icing biscuits in a rainbow of colours. Baking isn’t supposed to be grown-up, it’s supposed to be playful. Let a little childish baking leave you warm and fuzzy.
Last weekend, with the warm waft of summer in the air, I cobbled together an homage to my jam tart memories; a hastily baked and instantly consumed batch of Jam Splodge Biscuits. These biscuits may be ugly, but my goodness they are light and crispy with a sweet, summery shock of strawberry jam.
Jam Splodge Biscuits
½ tsp bicarb
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
110g butter (softened)
zest ½ lemon
approx. 50g jam (any variation will work)
- Preheat the oven to 175°C or 155°C Fan. Line or grease two large baking sheets.
- In a large bowl blend together the flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt.
- In a spate bowl combine the butter, sugar and lemon zest and beat until light and fluffy.
- Beat the egg and stir it into the butter mixture along with a large tablespoon of the flour mix.
- Add the rest of the flour and combine into a soft dough.
- Roll the dough into balls approximately 1-inch thick and place them, evenly spaced, onto the baking sheets.
- Use your thumb to make a deep, even indentation into each dough ball.
- Fill each indentation with jam.
- Bake for approximately 20 mins or until the dough becomes a very light, golden brown.
- Allow to cool before eating as the jam will be scalding hot.