Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A big hug of a scone

First published Canberra Times 25 April 2012

Photo by Steve Shanahan

If you aren’t part of my Aunt Maw Maw’s extended circle of friends, or a pal of my many cousins, or belong to the Life Activities Club of Geelong, then you might not have tried Aunt Maw’s date scones. She is a legend in that wide circle, and her date scones are her pièce de résistance.

She’s one of those cooks that hail from the Margaret Fulton and Australian Women’s Weekly era of baking, with a consuming belief that eating cakes, biscuits and slices, with a nice cup of tea at the kitchen table, can make the world right.  Her baking skills are widely known, with classic jam tarts, lamingtons and lemon slices the order of the day.

Although tiny in stature, Aunt Maw Maw’s convictions and generosity are larger than life. She has a strong belief in the good of everyone, and conversations always start with a joke. In all the years of knowing her, I can’t ever remember her having a cross word with or about anyone. If you’re looking for something that sums up what she is truly, uniquely like, you don’t need to look past her role in the Life Activities Club as chief Hugger. She hugged everybody.

Her repertoire of recipes has grown with her years of involvement in charity shops around Geelong. It was a reflection of her generosity, her capacity to hug and perhaps, the quality of her date scones, that made it a sad privilege to be part of the standing-room-only crowd at her funeral recently.

When Uncle Harold went searching later for her recipe for the date scones, he found it tucked into a copy of the Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook, covered in flour, food stains and dog-eared. No prizes for guessing this was the right one.

Well, Aunty Maw, I only hope you forgive me for the height of my scones. They will never be like yours.

Preheat the oven to 230C.

2 cups of self raising flour
½ tspn salt
60g butter
¼ cup sugar
¾ finely chopped dates
1 egg
½ cup milk, approximately

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the dates and sugar. Beat the egg and add to the dry ingredients with sufficient milk to make a soft dough. Place on a floured surface and knead lightly.

Pat out to approximately ½ inch thickness and cut into squares with a knife.

Place into a greased 28 x 18 centimetre lamington tin butted together closely. Glaze the tops with milk. Bake in a very hot oven for approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Makes about 12 scones.

This was Maw Maw’s recipe, but I used a food processor to rub in the butter and added the dates, sugar, eggs and milk until it was mixed to a dough ball. I then tipped it out onto a floured surface and followed the instructions in the recipe.