I’m sure I’m not the only one to have noticed this and surely I won’t be the last, but for some reason over the last few weeks of this pregnancy (less than five weeks to go!), I have begun a great love affair with traditional homemade baked goods. The kind of baking that is creamed with butter and sugar, gently piled with sifted flours and folded with chunks of nuts and pieces of richly decadent dark chocolate. The kind of baking that Nana used to make.
While there is nothing refined-sugar-free about it, it is made with love and absolute affection for the resulting baked goods. I often bake something and wait with such anticipation for it to rise and come out of the oven that I often don’t even feel like much of it once it’s baked. But I do love the idea of homemade filled tins and I do tend to enjoy a piece of homemade baking most days at the moment. Just something small but I look forward to it either after lunch or dinner, depending upon when my belly tells me it’s time to eat. Given I couldn't go anywhere near sweet foods in my first trimester, this is a great turnaround!
(PS. The cake I'm holding above is actually a raw cheesecake from Ritual Cafe that I definitely didn't make but was a beautiful gift from my sister!)
Both of my Nanas were exceptional bakers. I remember growing up next door to my Nana and dreaming about getting home from school when I could run next door to steal (with permission) a piece of her caramel slice out of the tin or a chunky walnut and raisin cookie. Nana also made the most amazing homemade flaky mince pie and sliced fried potatoes cooked in dripping. Their golden hue has never escaped my memory nor the vision of Nana standing over the pan flipping each chip in turn. Nana had one of those old-school ovens that was fuelled by the fire so she chopped wood and lit the fire so that she could cook and have hot water each and every day. I remember taking a class trip to Nana’s house because the oven was such an unusual occurrence in suburbia. But it did make the most amazing slices and biscuits!
Dad’s mum (also Nana!) gave birth to 15 children and lived on a high-country station where she cooked and prepared everything from scratch. All of the children had jobs from feeding the chooks and the dogs to helping in the vegetable garden and preparing meals. I’ll always remember Nana’s preserve cupboard, packed to the brim with homemade preserves such as bottled peaches, plums and apricots and her famous spaghetti. So famous were her recipes that family decided to create a recipe book in her honour- Homebake Okarahia Downs - so that her children, grandchildren and generations to come could enjoy her cooking around their own family dinner table. Not only was Nana extraordinarily pregnant for 11.3 years of her life, she also ensured each and every person in her family was well nourished and fed with wholesome homemade meals and baking. If I can accomplish the same wholesomeness with my family, I will be one very happy mum!
Here’s a recipe that I have loved making – it’s totally a treat and packed with energy and sugar like you’re packing up lunch for the boys before they head out to muster or shear sheep for the day. But, even for those of us not undertaking such rigorous daily physical activity, one small treat when you feel like one enjoyed amongst a day of wholesome food is certainly not going to rock the boat…in my opinion! If there’s one thing I absolutely love as a treat, it is a hot cup of tea with a teaspoon of sweet condensed milk leftover from the bottom of the tin (something my dad taught me!). Brings back delightful childhood memories…
Dark Chocolate Macaroons – makes ~20
1 tin condensed milk
90 dark chocolate, chopped
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 ½ cups desiccated coconut
Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
In a saucepan over a gentle heat melt the condensed milk and chocolate together. Stir until mixed together and continue to heat gently until the mixture has thickened.
Next add the vanilla and stir in the coconut.
Place spoonfuls of the mixture onto a baking paper lined tray.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until just cooked. Watch them carefully as they can burn easily and the macaroons will become too hard.
It is best to under cook them so that they are deliciously chewy!