Oh what a challenge!
I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking when I joined ‘The Daring Bakers’ forum. Obviously, I wanted to get some new ideas and try a few things and that wasn’t an issue, knowing I was traveling overseas only a month after joining however should have been more of a decisive factor at the time. However, I figured I had some time before leaving I could squeeze in the first challenge, I would be back in time in September to squeeze in that one too most likely, August on the other hand was a bit more of an issue. Whilst it is allowable to make apologies a couple of times a year, I’m always one to try and avoid using my free pass ‘unnecessarily’. The ‘challenge’ was set….. find the time, ingredients AND a kitchen.
I knew during August I would be staying with family so thought the opportunity might present itself to fit this month’s challenge in, depending on what it was. Choux pastry swans? When I saw that it was the ‘creative use of choux pastry’ I thought “You beauty, I can manage a bit of choux”. I make choux pastry with my students several times a year so I knew it was a relatively simple process. No challenge here really …or was there?
I overlooked the basic rules of baking when I considered this, the two most important ingredients ….accuracy of ‘measuring’ and ‘temperature’. At home I’m sure this would have been a breeze, I know exactly where to find things, I have my digital scales and measuring cup sets, an oven that I cook with all the time. Easy Peasey. Someone else’s kitchen? Hmmm.
I grabbed my recipe and off I set. First step …preheat oven. “Ahhh, ummm, Gas Mark????” At home we cook in ‘degrees Celsius’ , at a stretch ‘degrees Fahrenheit’ converted. Gas mark? Help! My hosts (and guests) didn’t really know how to convert the options to degrees either. Hmmm, “What do you put it on for a roast?” I asked, figuring this would have to be close to what I wanted. We settled for ‘Gas Mark 7’
I was aware I was in someone else’s kitchen, with a social gathering looming and neighbourhood guests around, making a big fuss about doing things my usual way wasn’t what I wanted to do. Let’s just get this done in as quick and unobtrusive way as possible. I used the guide on the packet for my 110g of butter. For the water my measuring jug was a large 2L one, and for my flour I used the same jug to ‘guestimate’ the 150g I needed. It was a bit more than a ‘tea cup’ so I figured I must be close. I usually use an electric beater but a hand whisk it was (I need to work off this holiday eating somehow anyway). My final consistency was a bit runnier than usual which made piping (using a zip-lock bag) a bit more of a challenge, but no matter ….too late now.
Inspired by our travel, my ‘design’ of choice was ‘Nessie’, the Loch Ness Monster. I got some sort of dinosaur-type shape piped onto the trays and into the oven. They were looking rather good, puffing up nicely and browning well. I got them out of the oven and FLOP, once the air cooled their structure collapsed. Clearly I had done something wrong …probably related to my dodgy flour and liquid measurements. Opening them up a little and letting the inside dry out some more wasn’t an option, I could barely cut them open. I won’t post the recipe, I will give it another go when I get back home to see if it works better with a little more accuracy.
In the end however I did end up with something that somewhat resembled ‘Nessie’, the Loch Ness Monster.
Filled with a simple custard cream and topped with a green-coloured white chocolate ganache (it went a bit wrong, again using equipment I wasn’t used to) and topped with a few ‘spots’ I didn’t think they turned out too bad given the circumstances.
Two of the guests were Scottish …what were the chances? ‘Nessie’ however passed the Scottish test and was rated a pass by them. That’s good enough for me!
Challenge complete : ) Here’s hoping next month’s challenge is something ‘jet lag friendly’ ; )