I "met" Margaret Fulton in the oddest way. About fifteen years ago I lost an entire box of cookbooks during a move and I was just devastated. Naturally, they were some of the ones that I love best and often out of print, so one of my daughters helped me to find replacements. One of those books - the one with the stupendously good recipe for Plum Pudding that I've always used - was a book called Everyday Cookbook by someone named Margaret, so when my daughter turned up a book called Everyday Cookbook by Margaret Fulton on eBay one day we were quite overjoyed. It was the oddest thing though . . . as nice as the Everyday Cookbook by Margaret Fulton was, it wasn't the RIGHT cookbook. Not a single page was as I remembered. Many of my most often used recipes simply weren't there. As it turns out, there are TWO Everyday Cookbooks, one by Margaret Fulton from Australia and one by Marguerite Patton from the UK, both long out of print. Both very dependable. Who EVER would have thought?!
Margaret Fulton is not well known here in the US, but in Australia she is a household name. She holds the Medal of the Order of Australia and the National Trust has named her one of the 100 Living Australian National Treasures. Margaret has written more than 25 cookbooks over a 50+ year career. Margaret Fulton Baking: The Ultimate Sweet and Savory Baking Collection
is her latest, a collection of more than 300 of her most treasured recipes, collected over a lifetime.
This is a beautiful book - one of the most beautiful in my entire collection. Every page has a background of muted blues, greens, violets or yellows that reminds me of the sun, the surf, the sea - an ocean of calm on a sunny day. There are full-color photographs of many of the recipes, but the book is also graced by a number of lovely drawings that add immensely to the overall look of the book. Every recipe is well laid out and the font is easy to read even without reading glasses. There is even a pale green ribbon bookmark to help keep your place. Altogether one of my favorite books.
Fulton presents a wide-ranging selection of recipes, many of which I've seen nowhere else. Others are new, uniquely Australian takes on old favorites, like the Victoria Sponge topped with a Passionfruit Glaze. Margaret Fulton was born in Scotland, so there is a very nice selection of Scottish baked goods - a Shortbread recipe that is beyond compare, Floury Baps (a breakfast bun) and Nairn Butteries, rolls that some claim are better than French croissants, among others. Some are recipes she's collected during her extensive travels - Amaretti and Siena Cake from Italy, a Danish version of Strawberry shortcake, cakes & confections from Finland, Germany and France. You'll even find a few recipes for things that Margaret Fulton considers to be among the best contributions to traditional baking by the USA. Margaret Fulton has a lifetime of baking experience and generously shares tips and tricks to make baking easy on nearly every page.
You'll find recipes for all skill levels, but most are readily accomplished by even fairly new bakers. As is so often the case with British, Continental and Australian home baking, recipes tend to be smaller than you may be used to seeing here in the United States. They are generally less sweet too (cakes frequently have just a glaze, a dusting of powdered sugar or a bit of cream rather than frosting) and often less complicated - homey but sophisticated enough to serve to company, easy to make but classic in flavor. Very few of the recipes require anything that might be termed a hard-to-find ingredient, most relying on pantry staples and perhaps some fresh fruit or cream.
I do find it disappointing that the publisher has chosen not to provide a Look Inside feature for the book, so yesterday I decided to bake a cake from Margaret Fulton Baking: The Ultimate Sweet and Savory Baking Collection
so that I would have pictures to show you. (I've turned them into a very short video.) Here's the recipe
Sour Cream Streusel Cake
60 g butter, softened
3/4 cup (165 g) caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
300 ml sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 cups (300 g) plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt, sifted
2/3 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (75 g) plain flour
1/2 cup (110 g) brown sugar
75 g butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 20 cm square cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper. Ensure there is an overhang of at least 2 cm above the rim (See Tips).
To make the streusel topping, combine all the ingredients in a bowl, using a fork or fingers, until crumbly. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating continuously, until the mixture forms a smooth batter. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat on low until just combined.
Gently fold the combined flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the butter mixture. Spoon into the prepared tin and sprinkle with the streusel topping.
Bake for 40-45 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before lifting out carefully and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
(Margaret Fulton Baking: The Ultimate Sweet and Savory Baking Collection, page 245
The cake came out stupendously. When my son-in-law came in I asked if he would like to take half home and his eyes just lit right up. "Oh yes!" he says. "We love coffeecake." (SHHH! I didn't tell him there were pecans in the topping. He thinks that he doesn't like nuts other than peanut butter. My daughter tells me that even the crumbs are gone.)
So WHY, you might ask, did it take me months to get around to writing this review? (Margaret Fulton Baking: The Ultimate Sweet and Savory Baking Collection
arrived on my doorstep at the end of September, 2012.) Well, you can blame that on the single most important page in the book. Page 8.
All of the countries that used to be part of the British Empire, including the United States, use some form of the Imperial Standard measuring system as their basic unit of measure - or at least they did until most of the world adopted metrics. Many places have also modified Imperial Standard to make it their own. So, here in the US we have four quarts in a gallon while elsewhere, a gallon contains 5 quarts. Australia is no exception. While all the rest of us use a standard that says three teaspoons equal a tablespoon, in Australia it is a matter of law that one tablespoon contains 4 teaspoons. Grandma discovered this nasty little fact buried in teeny print in the copyright of another Aussie cookbook she's acquired. That teaspoon can definitely make the difference between triumph and absolute culinary disaster, so it is important to know about.
It also seems that "1 cup" is not the same in all places and that you may, in fact, have several different "1 cup" measures inhabiting your kitchen. It was Margaret Fulton who really brought this home to me, right there on page 8, where she says "a set of four graduated metric measuring cups comprising 250 ml cup, 1/2 (125 ml), 1/3 (approximately 80 ml) and 1/4 (60 ml) used to measure dry ingredients."
250 ml cup? HMMMMM . .. if you've been mucking around trying to change recipes back and forth from metric to standard and back again, that 250 ml in a cup will surprise you just as it did me. And if you happen to have a fairly new set of Kitchen Aid measuring cups handy, you can see why right on the handles, which now have the mls listed along with "1 cup" and "1/2 cup". "Standard" US cups as produced by Kitchen Aid have a 1 cup measure that contains a mere 237 ml- almost an entire tablespoon short of the Australian standard. That shortage can make a significant difference over the course of several cups of flour.
So, Grandma set out to find a set of measuring cups that exactly matched the Australian Standard as given by Margaret Fulton. She found but two on the US side of the pond. (You'll have a much easier time here in the UK.)
Of course it did occur to Grandma somewhat after the fact that one can simply measure using a scale. Virtually all digital scales these days measure in both ounces and grams, making the conversion of recipes from one system to another unnecessary. And in the end, that is exactly what I did.
One other thing that I should mention. Large eggs are not the same everywhere you go. Margaret specifies hers at 55-60 grams. I weighed every egg in a carton fresh from the store - US Grade A large - and got weights that ranged from 51 to 63. Pretty much any two averaged out to the 55-60 grams each. US Grade A Large are UK Medium.
Grandma's $0.02? I'm delighted with Margaret Fulton Baking: The Ultimate Sweet and Savory Baking Collection
. Beautiful to look at, easy to cook from, full of unique recipes I've seen nowhere else. Highly recommended.