In Australia during the turn of the century, cooking was carried out using very basic ingredients. Locally produced Mutton, beef and fish were cooked with a small amount of pepper and salt and served with vegetables, herbs and fruit taken fresh from the garden.
Many families had their own chickens so eggs were plentiful and due to the many dairy farms and house cows in the town’s surrounding areas, so too were milk and butter.
Staples that were purchased, and often in bulk, were flour, tea and sugar. Flour was used in various ways to spread the meat and vegetables further. It was plain flour so yeast or cream of tartar with bicarb of soda were added as natural raising agents.
Two items that were commonly cooked were scones and damper. They were quick and easy, delicious, economical and fed many.
We discovered in our kitchen that there are so many things a cook could do with basic scone/damper dough and we have added our favourite variations.
We have kept plain flour with natural raising agents in the recipe, which can be replaced with self-raising flour. The dough needs to be put into the oven more quickly when using natural raising agents. We have also used raw sugar, which is the least processed form of cane sugar. A modern variation we’ve added is pizza base, which basic scone dough is ideal for. Cooks then didn’t have scone cutters so clean fingers were used to shape the dough.
Basic scone dough and all its variations.
SCONES / DAMPER
2 cups of plain flour (unbleached white or wholemeal)
2 level teaspoons of cream of tartar
1 level teaspoon of bicarb of soda
1 level tablespoon of butter
1 cup of milk
Sift the flour into a large bowl. Using an extra fine strainer (sometimes known as a coffee strainer) sift cream of tartar and bicarb of soda into the flour. Rub butter into the flour mixture. Pour in milk and using a metal spoon mix into soft dough. Place dough onto floured board and then flatten it out a little (gently). Cut the dough into squares with a metal knife. Make them round by shaping with your fingers, place on a greased tray and bake in a preheated oven for approx. 15-20 minutes at 180-200˚C.
Add 1/2 to 1 cup of dry fruit and 1 tablespoon of raw sugar to the basic dough.
Add 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped dates to the basic dough.
CHEESE AND HERB SCONES
Add ½ to 1 cup of grated cheese and chopped fresh chives to basic dough.
After rubbing butter into flour, add ¼ cup of sugar, 1 egg, 1 cup of cooked pumpkin and mix to soft dough.
Mix the dough with ½ cup of milk and ½ cup of water. Knead lightly once or twice on a floured board and cut 2 slits in the top. Place on a greased tray and bake approx. 30 minutes at 200˚C.
Roll out basic scone dough, put on greased trays and top with a sauce and what you have available. Bake in preheated oven approx. 30 minutes at 200˚C.
Roll out basic scone dough. Spread with filling or paste. Roll up like a Swiss roll and slice. Bake in preheated oven for approx. 15-20 minutes at 200˚C.
Cut basic scone dough into squares (handle lightly) and roll into balls. Boil in sauce or place on top of casseroles or stews.
GOLDEN SYRUP DUMPLINGS
Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 3 tablespoons of sugar to basic scone dough and make into dumplings. SAUCE: Bring to boil 3 tablespoons of butter, 1 ½ cups of water, 2 tablespoons of golden syrup, ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) of raw sugar. Simmer dumplings in sauce mixture approx. 20 minutes.