From guest contributor and now friend, Rhonda of Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia, who has also contributed Pitlai—Ayurvedic wegetables with dal.
Recipes from my Grossmutter: a collection of recipes from Hahndorf women of today and yesterday, 128pp.
compiled by the Women of St Michael’s Lutheran Primary School Auxiliary, Hahndorf
Fox Publishing, Hahndorf, 1976
Cooking on page 64
Peggy was actually home in Canberra for a brief respite between overseas adventures, and I had planned a weekend there, so it was time to arrange a get-together. Despite Peggy being a friend of my daughter-in-law and having attended the wedding five years ago, we didn’t really recall having met. An afternoon tea was decided upon, and I volunteered to bring both my daughter-in-law and some contributions to the afternoon tea spread.
So, off to the cookbooks I went. I decided to choose from books that a) were likely to have recipes that worked and b) were likely to have suitable recipes on either page 32 or page 64.
Years ago, my mother and father visited the Barossa Valley in South Australia, an area first settled by immigrants from Germany. The Barossa proved itself to be an ideal area for growing wine grapes, and so was one of Australia’s first wine growing regions. It’s also a very beautiful part of Australia, and attracts many visitors.
While there, Mum bought a book put together by the descendants of those first German settlers. The book is titled Recipes from my Grossmutter: a collection of recipes from Hahndorf women of today and yesterday. Grossmutter is the German word for grandmother. I knew those five years of learning German at high school would prove useful one day!
Turning to page 32, I found no recipes, but only a drawing of a curved pig scraper along with the explanation that it was ‘a relatively sophisticated tool that was generally used by coopers when making barrels’. We are thus left with the question as to why it was called a “pig scraper” and not a ” barrel scraper”. But yes, you are right, I digress. Luckily, on turning to page 64, I found success. There I found six recipes—fruity slice, gran’s bubble biscuits, honey biscuits, honey snaps, jam crunchies and kiddies delight.
The bubble biscuits and kiddies delight called for Rice Bubbles and Corn Flakes, so I ruled them ineligible. My grandmother’s would never have used any such thing, and I doubt that the Barossa Grossmutters would have either. The fruity slice and honey biscuits both sounded good, but I also needed to consider that I would be making these in my son and daughter-in-law’s kitchen, which doesn’t contain much of the baking equipment that I am used to having on hand. I needed a recipe that was easy, that used little equipment and few processes. Arnott’s Biscuits used to make a honey snap that was one of my favourite biscuits. Unfortunately, when Arnott’s was taken over by an American company, honey snaps ceased to be made. So the decision was made.
The book was printed in 1976, during the changeover from Imperial to metric measurements. An ounce (oz) is equivalent to 25g but, as my scales also measure in ounces, I weighed everything at home and took it with me to Canberra. This is the recipe.
2 ozs honey (50g)
1 oz sugar (25g)
2 ozs butter (50g)
2 ozs flour (50g)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Melt butter, honey and sugar. Add other ingredients. Stir until smooth. Drop in teaspoonfuls on cold tray. Bake in a moderate oven approximately 10 minutes. Leave on tray to cool.
How it played out
I had planned on making these with the help of the 3-year-old grandkid, as he likes to help in the kitchen. But he wasn’t feeling well that weekend, so wasn’t really interested in helping, although he was very interested in watching. The biscuits were quick and easy to mix and put on the tray.
Watching them bake was the best part! Almost as soon as they’re put into the oven, they puff up, and stay that way for almost the whole of the baking time. Just before they’re done, they flatten again.
The 3-year-old was fascinated, sitting on the floor with his father in front of the oven door, watching this process through the oven window. The biscuits start to brown very quickly towards the end of the baking, and need to be watched carefully, so that you can whip them out of the oven before they start to blacken at the edges. They were ready after only 8 minutes.
When cool, they are delightfully crisp and buttery, with a slight gingery flavour. They are even better than the ones that Arnott’s made, and I could easily have eaten the whole batch.
What I would change next time
The honey I used was bought at the Old Bus Depot Markets in Canberra a few months ago, and labelled as Pooh’s Goo. It is from the goo bush (thryptomene hexandra), a native plant found on the western plains of New South Wales and thus, I felt, appropriate for a Dubbo resident making honey biscuits in Canberra. It proved to be a little too strong-tasting for these biscuits (although it’s one of my favourites on toast), and I have since made them more successfully using a milder honey.
Two cents from Peggy
I loved these biscuits and could have eaten the whole batch too. I didn’t find the honey all that strong, but then I love strong flavours. Note to self: must lure Rhonda back to Canberra soon with her milder-honey version (just to compare) and a photo of the grandchild spellbound by the magic that’s going in the oven.
I also owe Rhonda some big thank yous. Not only for her afternoon tea recipes (stay tuned for her passionfruit banana tart), but also the three old-fashioned cookbooks she gave me from her own collection—a lovely and most appreciated birthday present.
And finally, be sure to check out my Where to Next? travel blog.