The school year is nearly over, so my JTE and I thought we could give the kids a break by doing a cooking class. He wanted me to teach them to make something traditionally British, as long as it wasn’t rice pudding. Another ALT made rice pudding at school once and it didn’t go down well at all; rice for dessert is a huge no in Japan! It’s something that I actually find quite confusing because they have loads of sweets made of rice, although it’s usually pounded and not cooked like normal rice. So I opted for scones as they’re really easy and exceptionally British and I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like scones.
Baking is not a thing in Japan at all. I realised this when shopping for ingredients and found that self-raising flour and caster sugar don’t exist. There is not nearly as much variety in cake decorating things either… no jelly diamonds or silver balls?! What on earth. Managed to get my hands on some baking powder though so my scones still had a future.
They faced another hurdle however due to Japan’s minimal baking habits: ovens. I think the majority of Japanese homes are equipped without them, and instead people buy toaster ovens for heating things like pizza and bread. I actually bought a small conventional oven when I got here and it’s awful but at least I have the option to cook things without frying or boiling them.
Because there aren’t any ovens in school (only a micro-combi one) my JTE asked me to bring mine, and he’d bring one too. I got to school and he’d brought a toaster oven. “How many scones do you think we can cook in it? Ten? Twelve?” he asked hopefully. The tray was big enough for two slices of bread, so we decided to make the scones a little smaller than normal. The second and third years gathered in the home economics room, and we got started. The easiest part was just mixing everything together, and I had fun showing them how to make the flour and butter into breadcrumbs using their hands. They were very unsure at first but once they got stuck in, they did a good job! However when we started putting the scones onto the trays, they started rolling doughballs in their hands to make neat little spheres. I quickly explained that you can just tear a bit off and plop it on the tray and they were amazed that such little effort went into its presentation.
The actual baking was the most stressful part; we ran over time as I expected, so for the next hour I ran back and forth between 3 “ovens” located at different ends of the school (I have no idea why we couldn’t have just moved them to the same place) making sure that the scones didn’t burn while the kids were in class. Only being able to cook a few at a time was a pain as the baking trays were so small. But we did it! The toaster oven was a bit precarious though and I wouldn’t recommend one for baking! I heated up the top and bottom bulbs but the top one got hot VERY quickly and the baking paper (and scones and possibly the school) would’ve died a terrible death if I hadn’t been watching it.
The students came back just as I was setting up the tea table. I put cream and jam out but the cream wasn’t quite what I thought it would be when I bought it. It looked a bit like clotted cream, as it was kind of solid but soft enough to spread, and it had “milk cream” written on the lid. I tried a bit off the spoon and it was overwhelmingly sweet and more like buttercream than anything else, but the kids didn’t seem to mind!
Some of them tried their tea the English way as everyone drinks it black here, but they weren’t exactly overwhelmed by it and I don’t think they’ll be converting anytime soon. Probably because I used Japanese “breakfast” teabags and (unintentionally) low-fat milk… Not quite the proper cuppa.
I was just glad they enjoyed them! I told them to slice the scones lengthways and spread the cream and jam on each slice (I didn’t say in which order as I’ve heard convincing theories that support both). Some ate them like a sandwich. I’d occasionally seen scones in bakeries in the bigger cities but they didn’t look the same as English ones. I don’t know what they tasted like because the buggers didn’t even save me one! I had a burnt one earlier, which didn’t actually taste too bad, so hopefully the non-burnt ones were okay. They ate them all too, which can only be a good sign. As I was clearing up, one boy took the jam dish before I could and tipped the remains into his mouth. Ugh.
But hurray for baking success! Next time I’ll probably just make flapjacks though…