Thursday, March 05, 2009

Rock Buns on a Hot Summer's Night

It’s hot. It’s dark. It’s nearly nine o’clock on a fierce summer’s evening and I’m in the kitchen, next to a hot stove, baking rock buns. Is this early onset dementia or just plain madness? No, it’s just yet another class bake sale.

With three kids in the school we now have a bake sale just about every other Friday and we’re supposed to send them in with some sort of marginally healthy baked goods or fruit or yoghurts to sell to the other children to raise funds for their class trips at the end of the year. Usually I get the children to bake something themselves, but today it was just too hot. After a schizophrenic February that couldn’t decide whether to be autumn or summer, March has decided to go all out to compensate, with a series of 40C days.

So instead of setting my son to work baking this afternoon, we staggered down to the pool to cool off and then couldn’t tear ourselves away. Late supper and then bed straightaway, meant that the baking was down to me.

Still there is something soothing about rubbing cool squares of butter into silky smooth flour in a gentle repetitive motion, when not even a breath of breeze enters through the gaping open doors to cool the house down after the heat of the day. Hot fingers seek out the fridge-cold chunks and it takes less time than usual to rub them in.

Rock buns are a very undemanding baking recipe. A little bit more or less butter or flour and they still turn out fine. I even completely left out the baking powder one time and they still tasted good. They don’t take too long to mix up and only 20 minutes to bake, so are a good solution to late night baking and their gentle spiced aroma is calming, with reminders of cool Christmasses that seem very far away.

I might have posted the recipe before, (I’m coming up to my three year blogaversary and my first ever post was about baking in the heat of a late March day, so I’m beginning to suffer from déjà vu here) but I’m sure it could bear a repeat if I have, so here it is.

Rock Buns Recipe

2 cups self-raising flour (or plain flour + 2 teaspoons baking powder)
pinch salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon mixed spice
125g / 4 oz butter
½ cup sugar
¾ cup mixed dried fruit / fruit cake mix
1 egg
2-3 tablespoons milk

175C / 350F

Sift together the flour, salt and spices. Cut the fridge- cold butter into dice and rub them into the flour, until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the mixed fruit and sugar. Beat the egg and milk together then stir it into the dry ingredients. Mix till it starts clumping together. Use a bit more milk if it is still too dry. Place in rough heaps on a greased baking tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes until light golden brown. Cool on a rack.

If you don’t have fruit cake mix you can just use any combination of raisins, sultanas and candied peel or try experimenting with some variations that include nuts if you like.

Please excuse the flash photo here. I know I won’t get around to it in the morning and the whole batch will be whisked off and devoured at school, so this is the only chance to record them!

They’re cooling on the counter now, to a sound track of whirring ceiling fans in the children’s room, frenetically revolving sprinklers on the lawn outside, passionately chirping crickets somewhere in the house and dogs panting heavily in an attempt to cool down. This is the kind of evening where a midnight swim wouldn't go amiss, but I think I'll probably just melt elegantly into the sofa with my book now, before the mozzies hound me to seek the solace of the mozzie net and ceiling fan in our bedroom.


  1. Oh Kit, you are making me so homesick. I love this kind of South African summer and I miss it soooo much. Egypt is also hot but the lifestyle is so different, there is no comparison. You are very lucky, enjoy it!!!!!!

  2. Yummy mighr give the recipie a whirl this weekend !

    THanks for sharing - Vanessa (UK)

  3. Well heart sinks for bake sales...I hate saying goodbye to a tray of warm gingerbread!

  4. Oh Kit you just helped warm my poor old bones this FREEZING cold morning, at 1 degree Farenheight. Images of swimming in a pool on a torrid summer day. Ahhhhh...Congrats on your 3 year blogversary! Doesn't seem possible it's been 3 years. I recall your first comment on my blog...advising me on a homepathic remedy for my youngest daughter's respiratory illness. It's been wonderful blogging with you ever since! Your rock cakes prepared on a hot summer night... and all your cooking adventures/writing is awesome! :)

  5. Crickets. I had no idea how mich I'd miss them till I arrived in the UK with its dead quiet nights (police sirens aside!!). Your description makes me LONG for an African summer...


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