Sunday 31 August 2008

DB5: Dragging Arses Out Of Hiding Since 2008

Unexpected hiatus abounds!

I break my sorry silence with August's Daring Baker challenge - after totally failing to find the time to blog for two weeks, my long-standing fear of the DBers finally got me scurrying from my hiding place. You know how to get me to do whatever you want now; the threat of those Daring Baker hitmen always gets me moving...

In actual fact, it's not exactly the reveal date anymore, but I've decided it's still the 31st by virtue of the fact that I've not been to bed yet (late shift at work, sigh. And er, a trip to the pub afterwards, involving three separate people all trying and failing to teach me to play snooker. I managed to pot three balls eventually -out of about five games- but that does include the white one, twice). Besides, I couldn't let this post go by, not after all the effort to get it done.

In short: I woke up in a cold sweat two nights ago thinking the DB ninjas were lurking round my bedroom. Usually for a challenge I do it in parts throughout the month to minimise hyperventilation - for this one, I dragged my friend Alex round first thing in the morning and enlisted her aid asap.

(Alex gets a special mention today as Vice-President Camera-Owner; you may have remember me mentioning that my usual one died rather spectactularly a couple of weeks ago. It's now lying downstairs, practically with its feet in the air and its tongue stuck out. And yes, I could have got it fixed... but hello, I had eighteenth-birthday money to spend. In short: say hello to my new, shiny, beautiful Nikon D40. She is my soulmate. And also, apparently, female).

...But back to this month's challenge: chocolate eclairs.

Complete with choux pastry recipe with the fateful instructions: After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm.


There is no 'slip a wooden spoon handle into the door' when you're cooking on an Aga, Daring Bakers. It just doesn't happen like that. What does happen is improvising shifts of two baking sheets of blobby pastry between the roasting and baking ovens - at which point they did look rather impressive - while pretending you can't hear your friend Alex going, 'my mum always puts slits in them now so the steam can get out, so they don't collapse or go soggy' ('THE DARING BAKERS KNOW EVERYTHING, THANK YOU ALEX.') I am apparently a stressful person to bake with.

Predictably, my choux pastry then collapsed and went soggy.

Alex is too good a friend to sit around laughing smugly (after five minutes or so, obviously), so we left the flat and soggy eclairs in the simmering oven to dry out (at a very low temperature) for a couple of hours. They did go crispy and over-baked, yes, but at least I could pick them up by then. If you were wondering; this is why my eclairs are all ugly and mis-shapen. Sigh.

I'm not a total failure. I decided not to make the pastry cream chocolate flavoured, simply because I'm not a big fan of chocolate cream, and instead added the hazelnut praline paste of last month's challenge. And the chocolate glaze on these things is to die for, though admittedly Alex did most of the work on that, while I was flailing around and breaking my mother's sink.

And maybe I'm a sucker for punishment, but yes. I will try choux pastry again. Just on a real oven. A real oven, with a door I can leave open. I dream of such things.

Recipe for Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs here.

...I hope Alex helping is okay with the Daring Bakers, on reflection. Don't hurt her. Please don't hurt her. Or me. Or my camera.

Saturday 9 August 2008

Welcome To Wonderland: The Round-up!

Yeah, you all knew it would happen eventually, and here it is - the Welcome To Wonderland blog event round-up!

Hooray, &c. &c.

Before I go on, thank you so much to everyone who entered or even just expressed an interest; it really means a lot to me and I'm so chuffed that even one person wanted to get involved. I mean, obviously more than one person got involved (this would be a short round-up otherwise. I would be the only entrant). But you know what I mean.

So here goes!

First to the party is Sarah in Oshawa, ON, Canada, from What Smells So Good? Since you ask: Carnival Cookies (toffee pieces and amazing-coloured chocolate sunflower seeds? I'm there).

Savoury food has been in the minority of the WWW entries, as Nidhi in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA correctly predicted. She made these amazing marbled tea eggs on her blog, Charche Chauke Ke.

By merit of using a sushi-rolling technique to make these incredible patterned cookies, I hereby declare Rita from Portugal the official coolest person in the universe. Her blog is Clumbsy Cookie, and she made Shikai-Maki Cookies!

I love the colours in this Steam Layer Rice Cake on My Kitchen Snippets. This entry comes from Gertrude in the USA; definitely perfect Wonderland food ^__^.

Another person awarded coolness points now: Joelen from Chicago for making sandwiches with alcohol in them. These are Margarita Chicken sandwiches, and yes; now I'm eighteen all my food will involve alcohol in some shape or form. Take a look at Joelen's Culinary Adventures!

Another amazing cookie rolling technique now from CookeMila in Madrid, Spain. Thankfully with pictures as my Spanish isn't so hot; but Google tools tell me that the name of these cookies translates as Ode To Spring - Oda A La Primavera! So cute XD.

I have to admit I saw these Pac-man Cheese Crackers on Tastorama and totally fell in love; as an added bonus Natasha from Serbia shares my love for Noel Fielding (be glad it's me hosting here; she would have you all dressing up for this XD)

Isa in Santiago, Chile has combined two of my favourite things on her blog, Isa's Cooking, for this one (no, not Noel Fielding this time); cupcakes and miniature food! Her Red Velvet Cupcake Bites are completely adorable, particularly when dwarfed by a full-sized cake stand. All together now: awww... She's also right to guess I've never had a red velvet cake; really got to do that!

A small interval now for the story of a girl with a foodie dream... Simran of Bombay Foodie may not have been able to put her supercute mice together but I think I'll let her off for her great post. If you have any ideas how to stick ears onto hardboiled eggs...!

Cakelaw in Australia had completely the right idea when she turned to Hello Cupcake for decorating ideas - I think I need this book! She made these amazing Dali-esque Sunflower Cupcakes on Laws of the Kitchen. And can the girl have a round of applause - three and a half hours decorating time?! That's dedication.

I love these Chocolate Buttons by Rhyleysgranny in Ireland - so simple, but so adorable! And paired with pink milk, I think my life may be complete. They can be found on Tea And Wheaten Bread!

Great food for a party now (and actually, who needs a party; I'm just in the mood for one of these) - Aloo Samosas on Annarasa - Essence of Food, made by Apu in the USA!

All the fun of recreational drugs with none of the negative side effects now (unless you count a sugar high?); Psychedelic Pinwheel Cookies from Linda in the Netherlands on her blog, Make Life Sweeter. Is there seriously a book called 'Wacky Cakes and Kooky Cookies'? Why don't I own it?

...And because there's always a point in a party where clear instructions become necessary; 'Eat Me' Cookies from SilverMoon in Australia on her blog, Dragon Musings. I also love her idea of little meringue mushrooms with gummy caterpillers; you'll know who to credit if I can't resist making some!

Okay, so I went with two pictures for the next entry - from Morgana in Madrid, Spain - because there were so many options to go with and I couldn't decide which I loved most! She submits Cake... Anything But Balls and has taken the 'cake ball' idea to a whole new level - cake mushrooms? Cake whales? Cake... cakes? I'm so blown away, here.

Yes, these are mini cake ice cream cones!

As if I wasn't over-excited enough here, the fantastic colours of the Rainbow Cupcakes on Epicurean Escapism will have me on the roof. These come from Zhulaiha in Singapore, and I am in love with them, for obvious reasons. Truly a tale of rainbows and Wonderland.

And finally, my own entry - Chequerboard Cake! I apologise for the horrible photo (my camera, displaying its typical perfect timing, decided to break, so I had to use my sister's) but you can expect a post on how to put this cake together in the very near future ^__^.

...Okay, I'm exhausted (whaat? Constant partying takes it all out of me). But once again - thank you so much to all entrants, I've loved everything you sent me and all the effort people have gone to. All in all; a pretty great birthday present! I'll blog with the chequerboard cake later this week (perhaps on my actual blogiversary, if I'm organised enough XD) though it's a bit of a busy one : A-Level results, Driving Theory test, and of course, a real-life party to plan.
Thank you everyone!