I have two problems. Well, I have many. But there are two of a culinary nature, on which I hope some kitchenly types might offer advice.
1. Owing to the choux wreath I have an imperial shitload of leftover eggwhites.
2. I am going to a neighbour for dinner tomorrow[*] and am requested to bring a pudding.
[*] Yeah, a neighbour. Not a friend who lives nearby, an actual neighbour whom I have only met as a result of the geographical proximity in our dwellings. Yeah, in London. No, I didn't think that was allowed either.
It may surprise people who know me to hear that I watch The Great British Bake Off. Yes, I know everyone and their biscuit-loving dog watches it, but I am famous for my non-TV-watching. I do, I admit, watch it in a slightly half-hearted way (I'm at least a week behind) but for me that's a pretty major commitment.
I am perhaps less famous for my massive love of Viennese whirls. So when (several weeks ago now) they featured as a Technical Challenge[*], I watched it and figured that it didn't look all that difficult at all, really. This was just before my knee went all icky and peculiar, so I felt I probably had enough walking in me to make Viennese whirls.
So I set a timer for 90 minutes and headed to the kitchen. The GBBO contestants had only just squeaked in under the hour-and-a-half time limit, and I had been surprised. Surely it couldn't take that long? The challenge was to make 12 "sandwiches" (two biscuits, glommed together with butter cream and jam) having made everything (including the jam) from first principles.
On the plus side, I'd watched the programme so had heard the experts' advice, and I had a rather fuller version of the recipe from the BBC website. I didn't have a pair of highly critical judges waiting to get on my case, and I didn't have camera crews, tension or drama to contend with. And I was in my own, familiar kitchen.
On the minus side, I didn't have everything nicely laid out for me and would have to locate ingredients and equipment as I went. And I'm not actually any great shakes as a baker. So I figured it would all even out, and 90 minutes was a fair challenge.
ChrisC did try to make it fairer by sporadically getting in the way, pushing a camera in my face, asking daft questions and providing corny jokes. Mercifully, it turned out he wasn't actually filming so the footage is not available ;)
I started making my raspberries into jam, and hit the first snag: GBBO contestants never suddenly realise that some terrible shopping list omission means they have run out of granulated sugar. Well, it's only jam. Soft brown will surely work just as well. Actually, the recipe called for "jam sugar". Sod that - (a) I don't have any, and (b) jam in my house gets made with granulated. Or, of course, soft brown if that's what there is.
Maybe if I'd used jam sugar (which I believe has added pectin) the "boil for 4 minutes" would have even been accurate. As it was, it took more like 20 before the jam showed the least inclination to set. Dammit. Behind schedule already.
(As a side note, in this case I would have been much better off with the sketch-recipe given to actual contestants, which just said "make jam". Instead, I followed the detailed directions without registering that it asked for 25% more sugar than I would have put in. It also made considerably more than was needed, so now I have a large quantity of outrageously sweet jam.)
Next up: make, pipe and bake biscuits. That icing sugar box looks rather empty. Oh dear. I'm pretty certain that Viennese whirls' sugar requirements are quite specific. I looked rather dejectedly in the Spare Things Cupboard and found that for once the commissariat was functioning correctly, and there was a new box waiting.
Then we hit snag 2. Ordinarily, my approach is that if I've made some biscuits then you can have one if you'd like, but you don't get to complain if they're a bit mis-shapen or different sizes. But I was playing by the rules here, so that meant 24 "identical" biscuits, and that they had to be piped rather than dolloped.
I dug out a piping bag, and a star nozzle, and realised very quickly that my star nozzle (size unspecified) is not "medium". It's designed for piping little fiddly icing bits, not biscuits. No amount of violence was going to get the biscuit dough out of that nozzle in a coherent manner. Ah well, I'll just use the piping bag as is, without a nozzle. So my biscuits were not as beautifully swirled as your average GBBO judge demands.
I made the butter cream while they were in the oven. I took them out, and fanned them and glared at them, and at around the 80 minute mark made a decision. I couldslap the butter cream and jam in them and be done in 90 minutes. But they were too warm, still, and the butter cream would melt. So I decided just to accept I'd very slightly failed, went and had tea, and then assembled them later (again, without the requisite star nozzle for the butter cream).
Then Cathy came round with a bottle of vinho verde, which turned out to go beautifully with Viennese whirls :)
1. I am not the stuff of which GBBO contestants are made.
2. I really do not care that much about presentation so long as something tastes nice.
2a. Apparently neither do my guests (or perhaps they are just polite).
3. I actually prefer Viennese whirls as plain biscuits, without the jam and butter cream.
[*] Note for anyone who actually isn't familiar with GBBO: it's a competitive cookery show. Each week there is a section where the contestants have to make a particular item, for which they haven't been able to prepare, from very minimalist instructions.
I noticed a month or two ago that Itsu had produced a cookbook, and requested it for Easter.
( Itswho? )
( Trying it out )
Anyway, at the weekend I picked up a red cabbage at the greengrocers with the intention of braising. Sunday didn't go quite to plan so the cabbage with Sunday dinner just got boiled[*], but later in the week there was time for braising.
I no longer live in the house with the cookbook I used last time, so instead used this recipe. Well, I say used. More read, and then approximated. And gosh, isn't the cider I bought from the lovely microbrewery in Lancashire explosive when you open it?
Anyway, braised red cabbage is still awesome (I had it with sausages this time). But my new discovery is how exciting it is if you put sour cream on it. One bowl hot red cabbage, one dollop sour cream... an excellent accompaniment to a plate of ham sandwiches.
[*] .. which with the kale and the carrots did mean that the rather random and unplanned dinner served to leathellin was borderline psychedelic in its multicolouredness.
(For those of you who don't: I basically never watch telly. I struggled a little to find the GBBO on the V+ box's catch-up TV menus because, er, I don't think I've ever interacted with them before. And we've had the V+ box for four years.)
Having mentally filed GBBO under "reality TV", without having ever seen it, I was surprised to find that the contestants all appeared to be normal, likable people. And the judges - though sometimes harsh - seemed out to offer honest criticism rather than ritual humiliation. I could still live without all the dramatic pauses and close-up face shots, but overall I enjoyed it.
And, like (I imagine) a substantial portion of the country, I set on this weekend ( to see if I could do a better job of custard tarts )
I was breaking eggs, and separating them. Doing it the sensible, grown-up way my mummy taught me rather than the slapdash way I often do: crack egg, separate into small bowl, examine for blood specks, those weird white blobby bits, bits of shell, etc, then tip into bowl you're actually going to beat egg whites in.
Which was just as well.
Egg 1: Managed to break yolk on cracking, got yolk in the white (=> no good for meringue).
Egg 2: Off. Yes, really. I've never actually met an off egg before, despite being a bit vague on use-by dates. It was immediately obvious something was wrong, as the white was twice as runny as it should have been. And it smelt bad. But, weirdly, it didn't smell "of rotten eggs".
Egg 3: Managed to break yolk. See above.
Egg 4: Success!
Egg 5: Success, but what an awful lot of blood needed to be fished out.
Egg 6: Success, but when I threw the shell into the bin I missed, and it splatted all over the kitchen floor.
Conclusion: do not try to separate eggs in a hurry. I've never managed to do the shell-juggly separation thing successfully, but I'm not usually quite so incompetent. I use a plastic egg separator, which I hear is frowned on in some circles. Disappointingly, I'd finished by the time ChrisC came in and reminded me that the coolest way to separate eggs is with a water bottle. I even have a bottle put by for just this purpose :(
(Those of you who worry about food waste will be delighted to hear that eggs 1 and 3 were stored safely in the fridge and turned into tamagoyaki for my lunch box today. The yolks of eggs 4-6 (and also 7-9, I was making two bases) are in the fridge awaiting a more convenient season. I think their destiny is probably custard, unless anyone wants to suggest exciting things I should do with 6 egg yolks.)
Now I just have to get the bases to Lancashire without mishap. And I have to hope that the rather lovely holiday cottages we're staying in have an electrically-powered means of whipping cream, or I'm going to look quite silly and have rather weary arms...
(If mishap occurs, I shall delete this post and claim I was going to make Eton mess all along.)
( Soup suitable for hot weather )
It's a "no bake" cookie recipe, which basically involves glueing your dry ingredients together with butter, chocolate and peanut butter and then refrigerating[*]. I commented that I'd never met that style of biscuit recipe before, and was curious to try it.
Today, a colleague rolled in with some cookies made, he assures us, without mealworms. He swapped in chopped pecans instead. They're actually really nice - though I suspect they will devolve into goo very quickly if not kept in the fridge.
They are, however, leading me once again into the dangerous Peanut Butter Heresy. The PBH goes like this:
I like peanuts. I like satay sauce. I like peanut-butter cookies. I like the chicken dish my mum makes with peanut butter. I even like the ghastly Reese's peanut-butter cups. Therefore I must like peanut butter.
I am, right now, thinking that I should really give peanut butter another go, because surely I will like it.
In times like this it is important to remember: I have been down this route many, many times and I do not like the damn stuff. Despite all logic, it is improbably, unimaginably vile. Every time.
[*] No flour - it does have oatmeal in, but I imagine that could easily be swapped out for something else, so this sort of method might be an interesting route to gluten-free cookies.
We waste no time round our way, so barely four months later we checked whether our excellent local butcher would sell us sausage skins. He would!
So, here are the raw ingredients:
( Contains raw meat, so don't click here if you don't want to see that )
( And the rest... )
Of course, the biggest problem in our household when undertaking this kind of project is solving the question: what music do you listen to when making sausages? After the Adam Green song which mentioned "sausages and eggs, and hot and sour soup" we kind of ran out of ideas. Later on, we clutched at straws with the "hot dog, jumping frog" of Prefab Sprout. Better suggestions welcome :)
Preliminary results from the beery-cake investigation board are now in.
( The report is quite long. It does contain pictures of cake. )