Baking has always been my ‘thing’ – I love it and it gives me more pleasure than any other type of cooking, and this book, Mix & Bake, is a collection of my all-time favourite baking recipes.
During my years of working in restaurants, I cooked my way around most parts of the menu, however it was always baking that I was most passionate about. When I say baking, I don’t mean those elaborate, multi-storey cakes and gateaux that you see in shop windows – they’re not really my cup of tea – but more the cherished family recipes and heart-and-soul baking that you find in old country cookbooks.
In Mix & Bake you will find recipes for simple cakes, breads, sweet and savoury tarts, and biscuits that you just know are going to taste good, and which often have a history to them – as do many of the recipes in this book. As I bake them, they immediately conjure up images of my family and friends, and tasting them is, for me, like a ‘taste’ of memories. Be it of my mum, Cooee, making her classic orange cake (I can still see her now, bowl in one hand and wooden spoon in the other, beating the butter and sugar until it was fluffy and always making sure there was plenty of mixture left on the spoon for me to lick); or of my ‘Auntie’ Beryl wreathed in a cloud of icing sugar as she baked hundreds of her Mexican Wedding Biscuits for my wedding day; and many more besides.
I also realise that, despite the best will in the world, finding the time to bake a cake may seem a luxury that few of us can afford these days. In response to this, I have tried to simplify and streamline these recipes as much as I can to make them more suited to hectic modern schedules; it becomes possible to, say, bake a slice or muffin that takes only twenty minutes (and, I should add, tastes so much more delicious than anything you can buy). And that’s the other thing about all of this – homemade cakes, biscuits and pies made with fresh, good-quality ingredients just taste incredibly good.
My two greatest wishes in writing this book are: that it encourages you to make some of these recipes (and in doing so to feel the quiet contentment and joy that baking can bring); and, that the recipes themselves, cooked and eaten with great pleasure in my own family for so many years, become your favourites too.