Sunday, 14 February 2010

Degrees of (baking) success

So, I'm not quite sure why I have such an urge to keep blogging about things which hover between disappointing and disaster, but such an urge I appear to have.

As a prelude to a post on this weekend's baking - which actually was quite a success - I present last weekend's baking - a bit of a wash-out all round. I would have posted last week, except I was on a 'leadership' course, where I was encouraged to reflect on teamwork, my 'core self', and the difference between leading and managing. Most of it such utter nonsense that all it left me with was a steely determination never to end up in any job where I have to mix with anyone who spouts that kind of jargon non-ironically.

Anyway, back to the baking poor show. First, there was soda bread. I hadn't the requisite three hours for my usual bread recipe, so I tried my hand at soda bread for the first time - instead of yeast as a raising agent, it uses baking powder so is a lot quicker to knock up. It looked ok, it smelt reasonable, but when cut it crumbled into little chunks, and if you managed to somehow end up with a slice, and even to get some butter somewhere on top of it, when eaten it reminded me more of cake than bread. We ate most of it so not a total disaster, but somewhere near.

Next came the Seville Orange Tart. I couldn't resist buying some Seville oranges, as you only really see them in the shops for one month a year. But, still having marmalade in the cupboard from last year's batch (which was great - see recipe here), I didn't feel like any more and plumped for Moro's Seville orange tart instead. It was on the next page from a dark chocolate and apricot tart my sister's made several times to great acclaim, so I was hoping this might also turn out to be a winner.

Alas not. My orange curd looked promising, but once in the oven it rudely refused to colour and set before separating, and on removal from the oven looked like a lumpy, greasy, spotty mess. It tasted better than it looked, but just like a lemon tart, so I couldn't really see the value in using seville oranges. I'd rather perfect a really good tarte au citron. Disappointing.

The tart required 6 egg yolks, and I don't know what else to do with excess whites but to meringue them, so that was the third project of the weekend. Here's where this entry segues neatly into next, because both include a recipe I have committed to memory. With meringues it is this:

To each egg white, 50g caster sugar
Whisk egg white until stiff
Whisk in half of sugar bit by bit
Fold in remaining half of sugar
Bake in very low oven about 1 1/2 hours

Now, these weren't in and of themselves a failure - they looked quite perky and magical, and I experimented with coconut in some, and lime and lemon zest in others, both of which were quite pleasing. They were crucnhy and sticky and chewy. All good stuff. It's just - I don't really get meringues.

On our course we divided people up into introverts/extroverts, intuiters/sensers, thinkers/feelers etc. What would have been more interesting I feel would have been to divide us up into those that would buy a meringue and those that wouldn't.

I see them in bakeries and cafes looking perfectly delightful, but I don't understand why you'd want one over a cake or a flapjack or a toasted teacake. I mean, they don't go with tea, surely! They're really just a way of eating neat sugar, and they splinter all over the place, leaving you with little sugary crumbs everywhere (or is that just me and my appalling meringue-eating habits?...) Do you understand the appeal??!! If so, please do enlighten me...


  1. Pavlova is yummy though - which is a big merigue with fruit and cream on top!! One of the australian things I really like

  2. I don't get meringues either. Too sweet. I made a load and ate them all because they were there but wasn't convinced. Maybe one day I'll understand!