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Phew. What a palaver.
This week’s cakery episode has proved beyond all doubt, assuming I had any in the first place, that the type of complex, delicate dessert-making one would require to work in a fancy restaurant, say, or to entertain a minor member of the Royal family, is not really my forte. I got a little cocky, I admit. ‘I bake now’, I thought, ‘it’s time to crank it up a notch’.
My attempt at cranking came from a friend at work, who brought this marvel into the office last week: a chocolate and ginger tart, from the BBC Good Food website. It was so impressive looking, and so self-evidently out of my league, that it seemed an ideal candidate. It also contained at least one Silly Item (something you’d only ever buy if you were making this: in this case, liquid glucose), and one of those vague-on-purpose recipes that assume you already know exactly what you’re doing. A false assumption in my case, I need hardly say.
The base of the tart is chocolate pastry, which I approached with a small measure of confidence after the pecan pie. What I didn’t know was that chocolate pastry is approximately 14.5 million times harder than normal pastry. It simply doesn’t stick together. After a frustrating couple of attempts to lever it over the pie dish, where it crumpled into a pile of shattered dreams, I engaged the services of the Other Half, and wielding two spatulas apiece we got it into the dish mostly intact. I did a bit of emergency surgery on the gaping holes, and it was ready for the freezer-lentils-oven routine. In the meantime, I melted white chocolate in a bowl, and dark chocolate and the glucose in a saucepan, and the Other Half whittled lumps of ginger out of our ancient jar of conserve. Ever so helpfully, the recipe called for ‘four lumps’ of ginger, without specifying how big the lumps were supposed to be, so we made a guess. I had a similar problem when it asked for lightly whipped cream – how long is a light whipping? (A question I’m sure more than one public school boy has had occasion to ask in the past.)
On and on it went, with cooling and melting and mixing and chilling, and I ran from bowl to microwave to stove in increasingly sweaty agitation, till eventually we had to shut it in the fridge and watch an episode of Merlin to recover. Once we’d calmed down a bit we let it out again and ate a slice. It’s absolutely yummy. And so it should be, the little attention-seeker.
Deliciousness: It’s beautiful. But very, very rich: eat it in small slices for maximum appreciation and minimum nausea.
Complexity: Despite the dismissive ‘Moderately Easy’ rating given to it by the BBC, this was the most nerve-wrackingly complicated dessert I’ve made so far. With the exception of the chocolate pastry, none of the steps are especially difficult in isolation; there’s just a lot of them. I found it very helpful to have more than one pair of hands.
Washing-up pile: An astonishing thirty-one items. For special occasions only, methinks.
Casualties: My hitherto untroubled blood pressure.