When Ina says “How Easy is that” I always believe her, albeit with a cynical air. She says it when boning a duck, carving a joint, baking a three tier wedding cake or making Baba Au Rhum. No matter the complexity, it’s easy and flavourful or so she says. Now, I don’t disagree per se, but I have too many tales of baking gone bad to have avoided any demons. And pastry and meringue are two of them. They are in many ways my primary demons, now bread is not so much a demon as a beast I have tamed!
Now I’m not a coward, so have decided to tackle these two notoriously challenging baking feats. Firstly, I tackled the meringue. Since I began looking through Nigella.com I have been drawn to a chocolate and raspberry pavlova. Note to reader, I decided to make this on a trip to Aldi where I could not buy fresh raspberries so I got strawberries instead. Just as good, I’d say.
So I followed the recipe. Egg whites beaten to a soft peak, adding caster sugar spoonful by spoonful, until the egg whites were stiff. I was a bit nervous about what a soft peak and a stiff peak looked like. I decided to google it, and I got a visual aid. It’s amazing, I had not thought to do this sooner. As lovely as the words satiny sheen are, they don’t help a novice who has taken meringues past their prime before back into a separated watery mess.
I could see what a stiff peak looked like. I took the whisk off my stand mixer and gave it a twirl in the egg whites to see if it held the peak. It did. I was excited. I then had to beat in cocoa, a tea spoon of balsamic vinegar and some chopped dark chocolate. I was nervous about folding, but I think it helps, gently does it.
The mixture was thick, chocolately and promising. I popped it into the oven for an hour or so, and then cooled it still in the oven. It came out cracked and slightly flat. As a cake and bread baker, it made me a bit unnerved. I don’t think I knew what I’d made. So I beat some cream and chopped some strawberries into quarters, and decorated the disk, finishing with some shavings of dark chocolate. It was glorious. I loved it. As did Pete and Suzanne. Pete had seconds, I showed restraint, so I can have some more today. Chocolate, light meringue, cream and fruit? What could have gone wring? I’m so excited to have got this right. It means I can next time, and the time again. I have a broader repertoire now! Bravo!
In a yin and yang way, I have balanced out the experimental with the familiar. That is, 48 cupcakes baked, and a loaf. Yes, 48. And in true me style, I didn’t go easy, ie two mixes of 24. It was 4 mixes of 12. Espresso and walnut, red velvet, vanilla and lemon. And I didn’t stop there. 4 different frostings, sugar paste daisies, glitter and the precarious transportation to Hillsborough. Part way through I just wanted to never have to wash my mixer bowl again. And my lemon frosting was quite loose in comparison. However, it was a resounding success. Daisies are simple actually, and looked suitably cute on the cakes. I was chuffed. Andrea Barber I understand was very happy, so that’s all that mattered. Well, her and me, I do have standards!
So now to pastry. I’m writing this as it chills before I attempt to roll it out. It will be a steak, mushroom and red wine gravy pie. Fingers crossed folk. I’ll update when I’ve had a go.
Update: pie is made, but yet to be baked! Pastry has worked very well, an Ina recipe no less!
I have managed to use my bunny cutter to decorate the top.
So far, so cute. I will finally update with the finished pie!
Major pie success! Ok, so the bottom of the pie was a little soggy as I think I needed to reduce the gravy a bit, but otherwise it was very good. Very flaky.
So a day of major success. How do I best end this day? Pavlova.
As long as there is pavlova Pete and I will be happy.
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