HOME baking is sweeping the nation and it seems everybody is making cakes and scones and pastry. James Marston meets Suffolk’s own star bakers.

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Try these at home

Jane’s oaty crunchies

Ingredients

175g sugar

175g margarine or butter

40ml/two tablespoons of golden syrup

175g porridge oats

175g self-raising flour

Half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

Method

Melt the sugar, margarine/butter, and syrup in a saucepan over a low heat.

Leave to cool slightly

Stir in the oats, flour and bicarbonate of soda

Shape in about 24 spoonfuls and place well apart on greased baking trays

Bake for 15-20 minutes at 180C.

Cool on a baking tray for five minutes.

Gill’s shortbread

Ingredients

8oz (225g) plain flour

4oz (115g) corn flour

4oz (115g) icing sugar

8oz (115g) butter (very rich) or 4oz butter and 4oz hard marg (not so rich)

Caster sugar to dust

Method

Blend all together in a food processor until fine crumbs. (If no processor is available, then rub in fat to dry ingredients as you would pastry.)

Tip into greased 7-inch tin and press down as tightly and smoothly as you can.

Bake at 170C for 15-20 minutes – should be pale golden colour, not brown. While hot, sprinkle with caster sugar and cut into pieces. Leave in tin to cool for a while before transferring to a cooling rack.

Keeps really well in an airtight container and also excellent to freeze.

After just a morning’s work there’s delicious shortbread and lemon drizzle cake, an iced coconut cake, chocolate marble slice, fruit slices, a ginger sponge and an impressive coffee sponge just waiting to be devoured.

It all looks like a lot of hard work and effort.

But these ladies make it look easy.

That’s because they have been baking since they were girls and baking comes as second nature to Gill Denny and Jane Sago.

Both members of the WI – Jane is vice chairman of the Suffolk East Federation of Women’s Institutes while Gill is federation secretary – they are up to their elbows in flour and eggs at Jane’s home in St Mary’s Close, Bramford.

Neither are surprised at the current interst in home baking sparked by tv shows like the Great British Bake Off.

Jane, 63, said: “I can remember baking cakes when I was about ten or 11. I was taught by my mother. It’s something you just picked up. We did it at school – in those days they taught domestic science.”

She said among her favourites is a chocolate marble tray bake and that she finds baking relaxing.

Jane said: “If I feel a bit fed up I’ll bake a cake. Baking is fashionable again. I always bake when I’ve got the family coming. I bake when I feel like it now, but, when the children were small I used to bake on a Saturday afternoon without fail.”

Jane, a WI qualified cookery judge, is due to take up the mantle of baking expert Mary Berry as a judge in the Great Suffolk Bake Off – organised in aid of St Elizabeth Hospice.

She said: “I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ve always been a fan of Mary Berry and I often use her recipes. She is quite realistic in her approach to baking.”

Jane said she will have a go at most things but, by her own admission, struggles to make a decent pavlova.

She added: “My advice to anyone having a go at baking is, it doesn’t have to be perfect.”

Gill, 50, a self-confessed cricket teas expert, still uses a shortbread recipe she learnt at school.

She said: “I can make sponges and pastry but I’d struggle with something like a croissant – but, with baking, the more you do it the better you get. Practice is the key, never give up.”

As she took some shortbread out of the oven, Gill said she is pleased baking is back in vogue.

She added: “Let’s hope it’s not just a fad. Bought cakes just aren’t the same, they are too processed and far too sweet and you don’t know what’s been put into them. We aren’t fans of additives and preservatives.”

Gill often bakes in batches and uses the freezer to store her baking.

She said: “I’ll often pop a cake in the oven when I’m doing dinner – home baking is economic and it is easier than you think.”

• For more information about the Great Suffolk Bake Off, visit www.greatsuffolkbakeoff.co.uk

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