Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

It's never too late to learn to bake with Mrs Simkins                                                        March 2010  

It’s Never Too Late to Learn to Bake with Mrs Simkins

Cooking with Mrs Simkins: How to Cook Simple, Wholesome, Home-made Meals Popular cookery author Mrs Simkins is recognised for her straightforward writing and easy-to-follow recipes.

Her work, which includes a weekly column in the popular Blackmore Vale Magazine in the West Country, is based on a lifelong interest in food and developing new recipes plus over thirty years cooking for family and friends.

See Mrs Simkins Suggests... for kitchen equipment suggestions

Her first book ‘Cooking with Mrs Simkins’ is out now and available from Amazon. Her second book ‘Tea with Mrs Simkins’ will be published in September.



Baking may be one of those things you have always meant to do but have never quite got around to. Maybe you do bake but feel you could improve a bit more. Maybe you are an accomplished baker already but just love trying out new recipes or new ways of doing things. Whichever applies to you, I hope you will find something in this monthly column that will appeal!

SconesThis month, try your hand at baking scones.

Scone recipes can vary: some use self-raising flour, some plain flour with bicarbonate of soda, some with baking powder. Try this instead – use plain flour and make up your own baking powder using bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar at a ratio of 2-1. Your scones will be much lighter and fluffier. Look at the other pointers mentioned below as well and you’ll be all set for scone success!

Making Scones

It is really easy to make scones at home but all too easy to convince yourself that you can’t. This may be because scones can end up flat or hard and tough or have that bitter tang on the tongue of too much bicarbonate of soda. The scones from the re-rolled trimmings are never quite as good as the first ones so try to minimise re-rolling if you can.

During the summer (not at the moment, obviously!) if the weather is very hot and heavy you may find your dough is a bit sloppier and stickier than normal and maybe even a bit ‘curdled’ looking. This makes the dough more difficult to work with but the finished scones will still taste good.

Points to Bear in Mind

  • Try not to over handle the dough, this makes them tough
  • Roll the dough out quite thickly: a good three-quarters of an inch or generous couple of centimetres, otherwise you will have a flat biscuit
  • Warm the milk to lukewarm to help them rise well
  • Don’t overcook or they will be hard
  • Using two parts of cream of tartar to one of bicarbonate of soda will help them rise beautifully, give an extra fluffy texture and avoid any possibility of the bitter tang mentioned above


This makes about 8-9 scones (if you want to make more, make separate batches, rather than one big one, it’s easier to handle)

225g (8oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
40g (1½oz) softened butter
25g (1oz) unrefined caster sugar
150ml (¼ pint) semi-skimmed milk, warmed slightly

For fruit scones, add 75g (3oz) of raisins or sultanas or a mixture

Preheat oven to 200C (fan oven) or equivalent.

Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a bowl large enough to give you room to manoeuvre, rub in the softened butter, stir in the sugar (and fruit, if using). Mix the milk in gradually, an ordinary dinner knife works well.

Knead gently and place on a floured board. Roll out quite thickly (see above), with a floured rolling pin, and cut out with a 6cm (2½ inch) cutter: a fluted one looks professional. Re-roll the trimmings and cut out again.

Bake on a greased baking sheet, for 8-10 minutes until well risen and golden brown on top.

SconesCool on a wire rack. Eat with butter or strawberry jam and clotted cream or with thin slices of cheese.


These are best when completely fresh but you can freeze them. Allow them to cool completely, put in a freezer bag, secure the top and store in the freezer.


Alternative view Mrs Simkins Suggests...

Panasonic SD 255 Bread Maker £97

I’ve been making my own bread with a bread machine for the past eight or nine years. At the moment I’m using an older model than the one recommended: the Panasonic SD 253. Before that I had the version with the raisin beep rather than the raisin and nut dispenser. I use it almost every day and I don’t know what I’d do without it!

Making your own bread at home is really easy if you have a bread machine. All those stories you hear about people buying bread machines and hardly using them probably come about because they have never given themselves a chance to get used to it. You have to be prepared to have a few practise runs.

Start off with the rapid program that takes a fraction under two hours. This makes a milder, less yeasty tasting loaf that you might like better at first anyway.

Make a permanent place for it out on the worktop: so it is handy and available.

Give yourself a few days to get to know how it works, practise making several loaves, and get into a routine with it. It only takes two minutes, literally, to put the ingredients into the machine. Get into the habit of putting a loaf on when you know you will be around two hours later to take it out: that’s all it takes!

You can then progress to the other programs: apart from ready baked loaves, your bread machine will also mix the dough for you to make your own buns, fruit breads, rolls and pizza bases.

See ‘Cooking with Mrs Simkins’ for a comprehensive section on making your own bread with a bread machine.




Advertise on

LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti