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Well, what a travesty that was.
I had a startlingly bright idea when I sat down to consider this week’s baking effort. How about millionaire’s shortbread, but replacing the shortbread with the softer biscuity stuff from last weekend’s lemon bars? I’ve made Nigella’s millionaire’s shortbread before, and it wasn’t too difficult, as I recall, but the soft caramel oozing between layers of hardened shortbread and cooled chocolate made it almost impossible to cut properly. The caramel kept dripping out of the side, like trying to slice an overstuffed tuna mayo sandwich when you’ve put a foolish amount of emphasis on the mayo.
The solution, I thought, was to make the shortbread softer. So I made up another batch of the lemon bar base using the same method as before, and put it in the oven. It’s the first time I’ve ever mixed-and-matched when it comes to recipes – I don’t at all have a natural sense of what can be substituted for what, so stick to the book like it’s holy writ – and I felt incredibly daring. What a terribly rebellious cook I was. Just like James Dean, only with less hair gel and more spatulas.
I wasn’t quite sure how long to cook the shortbread; for the lemon bars it’s only in the oven for fifteen minutes, but then it goes back in with the lemon topping for a further thirty-five. I kept it in for 25 minutes, in the end, and decided it looked done. But then – oh, then – came the caramel. This was supposed to be my favourite part. Condensed milk and I have a very deeply felt connection, and adding butter and golden syrup to it could only add to the experience, I was convinced. Nigella recommends melting the butter first, and then adding the condensed milk and golden syrup, and boiling the whole lot for a few minutes in the microwave. A relief, as the alternative is boiling for several hours in a pan, and I’m not sure anyone loves millionaire’s shortbread that much.
Well, I followed the instructions. I stirred manically every minute or so. And after seven minutes had gone by, I realised something had gone horribly wrong, and by ‘something’, I mean ‘the butter had curdled into cheese’. Just like with my disastrous pecan pie, remember? Except that time I seriously over-melted the butter, and this time I thought I’d been careful. Not careful enough, it seems, because instead of gloriously thickened toffee, I had a bowlful of cheesy lumps. SOB.
Since I didn’t want to waste the shortbread, I melted the chocolate anyway and spread it on top, thinking that this was quite a lot of effort to go to just to end up with chocolate biscuits. Then, one fridge spell later, it emerged that this hadn’t worked either. The shortbread was too hard. The chocolate layer was too thick. They wouldn’t even stick together long enough to cut out a square. And oh, the ruination of a whole tin of condensed milk makes me want to cry. I would’ve eaten it as it was, if I’d known.
After this terrible blow to my self-esteem, next week I will be making something I’m sure I can make. Stand by for roast dinner cake. Oh yes.
(Thankfully nothing is ever truly a failure in our house: the Other Half, while admitting that the toffee had the appealing consistency of Welsh rarebit soup, still decanted half of it into ice cube trays ‘to make sweets’. He is threatening to have the rest of it on toast. You have to admire the ingenuity.)
It isn’t yet time for my weekly kitchen episode, but since I promised to put the bad on here as well as the good, I give you…this.
Oh dear. Oh dear. I’m not sure the photograph does this monstrosity justice. It is, believe it or not, supposed to be the pecan pie I made a few weeks ago. I’ve made the pie once more since then, and it turned out wonderfully. Today was supposed to be bring-your-cake-to-work day, for Children in Need, so I thought of all the Children that were in Need and decided to make it again. Unfortunately, I only had a very small window of time between arriving home from work and leaving again for a church activity, so had to whip through it very speedily indeed. Well, I’m not a natural at whipping, as regular readers of this blog will remember.
Here is my catalogue of shame:
- I accidentally used warm water to bind the pastry, rather than cold. It immediately morphed to the consistency of melted rubber and glued itself to my fingers.
- The rolled-out pastry wouldn’t fit over the pie dish properly, and kept breaking into fragments.
- While trying to sort out the pastry, I forgot about the butter that was ‘softening’ in the microwave, and rescued a flaming tub of golden lava after a few minutes.
- Calculating that I didn’t have time to measure out and soften more butter, I used the lava anyway (don’t EVER do this).
- When taking the partially cooked pastry out of the oven, I fumbled the dish, popped out the removable bottom, and flipped the pie case onto the oven top. It smashed, rather a lot.
Et voila: Pecan Frankenstein. Look at the way the butter separated on top of the pie. And the pie crust looks like something made by an idiot. With his eyes closed. Using his FEET.
In addition to the fierce embarrassment of making something so vile it cannot enter a human mouth, I’m also feeling exceedingly guilty about failing to help the Children in their hour of Need. Not a success, from any angle you care to look at it.