Home-School Science Experiments

Yesterday was bleak and blustery, and somehow I drifted into the kitchen, a place I often leave to be Bill’s domain.

I made my first-ever batch of gluten-free scones. Scones, I believe, are the kind of thing you should bake every week, so that you can remember from one week to the next the little tricks to improve each batch. Decades ago when I worked at Michael’s Nook Country House Retreat in the Lakes District (UK), my colleague at the Singing Birds Coffee Shop in Grasmere made them every day. Her scones were legendary – the best I’ve ever tried. And she didn’t bother with a scone cutter. She could mould them in a twinkling, and they were always high and even. 

Last time I cooked scones was about five years ago, and that was with “normal” flour. My gluten-free flour is made of a blend of ground maize, tapioca and rice, and it felt very silky to the touch as I rubbed in the butter. The recipe I was following to the letter, called for warming the milk and adding in a little lemon juice. The milk curdled the moment I did that. There’s a home-schooling science lesson, if ever I saw one. Anyway, I pushed on. Perhaps it was intended as a binding agent (maybe next time I’ll experiment with buttermilk and no lemon).

Well, they turned out okay. They had the required crumbliness, but the texture was fairly firm. I checked back on the recipe and mine looked the same, externally and internally. Okay enough for home consumption. I wouldn’t try selling any! And next time I’d make them twice as high, and probably use a wide-circumference glass as the cutter. After all, a batch is best consumed within a couple of days, and you want to be generous with the jam and creme~

Scones (1)rs

You can see in this photo that when I re-used the off-cuts, I didn’t bother to roll the dough out smoothly, like the first time around 🙂  I was a bit afraid of overworking it.

And the best part of that experiment was they fitted into the cake tin that I’d found in my last spring-clean. It depicts The Big Ring by artist d’Arcy Doyle and features a couple of Australian brand icons of the era, Bushells Tea and Cerebos Salt.

Scones (2) rs

Moving on.

I’d made fresh coleslaw a few days ago, and I still had a lot of cabbage left. I was tempted to poach it up with butter and bacon, but on its own that didn’t feel like a lunch. So I got out my trusty recipe book for ideas . . .

Recipe Bookrs

Well, I have never cooked Borscht, but hey! I had fresh beetroot in the fridge, too. So let’s give it a whirl, I thought. Off I started, faithfully following the recipe. There was a point in time when the kitchen resembled a slaughterhouse, and my soup wasn’t ready for lunch, but I pushed on.

The recipe called for caraway seeds, but I didn’t have any of those, so I substituted the closest family member I could think of. There’s another home-schooling lesson, biology or botany, I can’t remember which. Although when I went to school, I think they were rolled into one. Anyway, the bottom line is I put in dill, although I only had the tops, not the seeds.

By the time I finished, my mix was fairly fibrous, so after I faffed around with a skimmer for a while, I gave up and stuck a blender stick in. Within moments, I had something that looked like the raspberry coulis that a fancy restaurant dresses their desserts with.

Bortsch Soup (3)rs

I don’t know what happened to the cabbage, because my borscht tasted full-on beetroot. In fairness, I hadn’t weighed my beets, so perhaps I’d overdone what the recipe called for. So, pending further inspiration, I stuck my puree in the fridge for another day.

This morning I sauteed more cabbage, and added bacon, a spoon of brown sugar and some cumin.

Bortsch Soup (1)rs

Then I had another look at my recipe book. I hadn’t noticed the accompanying picture in yesterday’s haste. Well! My soup looks nothing like the picture! On the other hand, on the very few times I’ve eaten Borscht (and I think that dates back to Russia, 1978), I don’t recall it looking like a glass of cranberry juice. My recipe book is broken into seasons, the idea being that it is cheaper to cook what is in season. I wondered why it was in the Spring section . . .

Bortsch Soup (2)rs

Anyway, I’ve just come back from buying a loaf of crusty bread from our pop-up store downstairs (Bill “shouldn’t” eat it). Today is the shop’s last day, as the area is now being converted back to its original purpose – a restaurant (10 people per sitting, 2 per table, 3 one-hour sittings each). I’ve a tub of sour cream in the fridge, so hopefully that will tone down the soup, and I’ve just heard Bill come back in from trying to fix something electrical in the car. He was an electrician in a previous life. But he was never an auto-electrician. Then again, I was never a baker or a chef.

The things one gets up to in lock-down.

Okay, I’m off to serve him my experiment now.

Bortsch Soup (4)rs


26 thoughts on “Home-School Science Experiments

    • They are tasty, but best eaten on the day, so next time I will make them HUGE. Such an English tradition – Devonshire tea – but it has spread around the world. And the little bit of lemon juice has added to the flavour of this batch. In fact, nice to eat without any jam or cream.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I adore beetroot so I could have eaten all of that. I bet it tasted delicious. Scones and Victoria sandwich cakes are what I usually just bake but I’ve loads of cook books. Your scones looked really good and had risen very well. Liked your cake tin too! Hope you have a good weekend. Marion

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  2. I’m super impressed — especially with the borscht! Your old cake tin is impressive all by itself. A reminder of the good old days…whether they were always good or not. I love your new photo ID!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Apparently the artist, born in 1932, was inspired by what he saw around him in his upbringing in country Queensland. That group is playing marbles. The new photo is cropped from a selfie I took. I’m looking a bit chubby in the face, but they say the camera does not lie. Better lay off the scones 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I hope you found all that cooking therapeutic and not a chore. So much baking going on in UK there’s been a shortage of flour, yeast and caster sugar! When did it become necessary to use caster sugar (that’s fine sugar don’t know what you call it in Australia?) and not just sugar?

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    • It was a bit of fun. Got me away from the computer. We do call it caster sugar. I can tell you, when I was a young teenager and only had a wooden spoon or hand-operated beater – creaming the butter and sugar as the first step in cake baking was MUCH easier with the finer sugar. And probably the larger granules affect the final texture.
      These days so many people use a cake mix, they wouldn’t notice the difference.
      There’s been an uptake in baking here also (and gardening), but our grocery shortages are almost over. Maybe the toilet paper index will become a “thing” for measuring consumer confidence.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been experimenting too. This morning my porridge was a little runny so I crumble up a weetbix and stirred it all about. It was good. I’ll do it again. A pleasant blend of tastes, but I know my children would probably have been unimpressed.

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  5. Glad to see real scones. These days there are variations, but I prefer the original. And when I was eating them – with cream and jam. Yumm.
    Gwen that borscht looks delicious. Much nicer than a strained version that tosses all the good stuff out. My mum used to add eggs. That was really rich and lovely. But you wouldn’t want to make it too often.

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    • I had another this afternoon, just with a little butter. The lemon taste came through very nicely. It was unexpectedly tasty ~ Almost like that lemon myrtle stuff you get in some fashionable biscuits. I’ve never thought of doing that before (then again, I’ve never made Flo’s pumpkin scones, either).
      Your story of Mum’s recipe reminds me of the one and only time I tried to make the Greek Avgolemeno. Boy! Do you have to be quick with the egg addition. But I’m guessing your mum put in hard-boiled eggs?
      By the way, isn’t gluten-free low calorie? LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just as well I’d had breakfast when I read your response. That scone sounds lovely. The eggs in the borscht would have been prepared in a similar way to Augolomeno. I haven’t asked mum for that recipe. I can’t afford to be tempted. 🤭
        Keep it under your hat 🤫, Gwen, but it’s well known in food over eaters anonymous circles that gluten free is low calorie.

        Liked by 1 person

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