The puff pastry was made for (one of) the party of the year, and the week had only just started. Samantha's birthday was on Thursday, and she had been planning a joint birthday and Halloween costume party for the weekend. I had been commissioned to make sausage rolls, a cheese jalapeno loaf, another loaf of my choosing, as well as a 'mummy' to house her spinach dip. She had seen a picture! Let me explain about my daughter and pictures. She sees a picture of something, anything, and within no time at all she manages to create the finished product. Assuming (and sometimes it is correct) that she inherits her talent from her mother, she shows me a picture and expects me to create the finished product with the same level of expertise! I do try! The 'mummy' was a loaf, shaped with a head and body. The middle was to be scooped out and the 'dip' placed in the crevice. I accepted the challenge, and wrote down everything I needed to achieve within the five days before the weekend.
Monday was a holiday, but as the courthouse was open, so were we! However, Columbus Day (and I am not going to go into the political correctness as to whether Christopher C. discovered, found, invented, or just stumbled across this giant land mass that we now know to be the United States of America) is recognised by most schools in our area, and the post office. Suffice it to say, there was no mail, and traffic was very light. Dana told Samantha and Jason that they could go home, at midday, as they would not be receiving additional work due to their being no post, and the phones were not ringing with their usual level of frequency. I, on the other hand, did not get 'let off', as my work was rather constant. Electronic mail had not stopped, and our process servers were kept quite busy throughout the day. I did take 'time out' to go swimming, and as I walked to the car I noticed a slip of paper by the driver's door. It was a 'patient's copy' of a medical report. Very few cars were in the car park and I did not recognise the name on the top of the sheet. However, the outcome of the scan that was supposedly given was not positive, and I thought that this may have been dropped by accident, and should be returned to the patient. After swimming and returning to the office, I called the facility that had issued the report. Explaining that I had just found the slip in the parking lot of my office, the telephonist asked if I was the patient. I replied in the negative, and once again told her that I had found this piece of paper next to my car (giving my address) and wanted it to be returned to the patient. "Are you the patient's doctor?" the young lady asked. As nicely as I could, I told her that if I was the patient's doctor, I would return it to the patient myself . "Do you know the patient?" she continued. I repeated the events, as simply as I could, with great effort not to sound condescending, explained again that my part in this scenario was merely someone who had found some 'lost property', and wished to return it to the facility where the diagnosis was made, so that they could pass it on to the person to whom it pertained. Eventually, the penny dropped, and I was given the address (which was not on the paperwork, because if it was, there would be no need for the phone call!) of where to return it, so that it could be dealt with! I was exhausted! It had been a very long day, and we were only part way through the afternoon! Of course, the telephonist had no idea that I had been commissioned to make sausage rolls, two loaves of bread, and a mummy!
I calculated my weekly timeline with great precision. I had also planned to make a couple of loaves for my neighbours who were hosting our monthly 'neighbour get-together' on Thursday; Samantha's birthday. Samantha had been expecting some visitors from Oklahoma to arrive on Thursday, to partake in the weekend's frivolities. My duty as a mother was going to be relieved as they were going to go out for dinner as a foursome (or five as I think they were bringing a child). However, due to circumstances beyond their control, they had to cancel. My motherly duties were reinstated, as I sensed a note of disappointment (despite weak claims to the contrary) that the day would go by without at least a moderate bang. Therefore, I promised that Dana and I would join Samantha and Edward for dinner to celebrate her 29th birthday despite it being on the third Thursday of the month, ergo 'neighbour get-together' night. I did not consider 29 years ago, that there may have been a conflict of interest with the date, but I didn't really have a choice in the matter. As I put my bread 'starter' in its starting position on the counter, for its twenty four hours fermentation, I thought about how it would be possible to be present at both events! The fact that my neighbour's have opened up their home, and spent time making soup and snacks in a special effort for the condo-community, I felt it would be rude not show my face. We would socialise for an hour before heading out to a restaurant to meet the kids. Eating later than I usually prefer would be a small sacrifice to meet all requirements!
One lot of bread was started Wednesday. The 'black and white' twisted rye was somewhat of an experiment, but I was confident this would turn out to be a winner! Making Samantha's birthday 'cake' was slightly more adventurous! The master cake baker really did not need a traditional baked item, and I thought it would be better to make her something from the 'old Country'. The chocolate biscuit fingers that my mother used to make were always a great hit with adults and children. The mixture of crushed dark chocolate digestives, sugar, golden syrup, drinking chocolate and butter is certainly not on any dietitian's list, but it tastes divine! After melting the butter, then adding the sugar, syrup and chocolate powder, dissolving all into a sticky liquid, the biscuit crumbs are added and it is poured out to 'set'. As I was melting the butter, I received a call from Samantha. She had intended going straight into the office, (as I was going to drive myself in after my nail appointment,) but realised that she wanted to collect something from my house before doing so. Turning the light under the mixture to higher than I had intended, in order to get the 'cake' made and out of site, I asked her, "Where are you, now?" in an attempt to sound merely curious. "Stuck in traffic", was not really a sufficient answer, as the traffic could have been a few yards away from the entrance to our condos. Stirring the liquid, willing the sugar to dissolve, and the liquid to thicken, with one hand on the spoon and the other blindly fishing around in the cupboard for a tray, I asked again. "At the same place when you last asked", was not really a sufficient answer. The goo thickened and I left the stove in search of some parchment paper, which was viciously torn from the roll, in a shape that was not one seen in a geometry class, and flattened as best it could be into the tray that had been retrieved. "Have you moved?", I asked, attempting to sound nonchalant, but obviously not succeeding, as my daughter was waiting for an answer to a question she had posed, concerning something that I had not heard, due to my not wanting to reveal the surprise birthday treat! "See you soon", she said, rather abruptly, and put down the phone. "How soon?" was not answered, and the biscuit crumbs were poured into the saucepan, as well as over the counter top and floor! The mixture was stirred briskly, poured into the receptacle, covered and safely hidden in the fridge and I was sweeping the floor furiously as she entered through the back door! When she left, I retrieved the 'block' and scored it into 'logs'.
My daughter's 29th birthday arrived, and Dana took the unassembled 'cake' into the office, so not to arouse suspicion. I had decorated her room with banners the previous evening, and she was duly surprised! The twisted rye was still rising and a second lot of pastry had been made for Jerry's birthday on Monday. (Jerry, one of our servers, is allergic to sugar, and new ideas are constantly being sought for his surprise 'cake'.) I went into the space at the back of the office, that we use as a kitchen area, and closed the door. Samantha commented that I was not particularly subtle in my actions, and I knew that she would be watching my every move. I took the chocolate fingers and arranged them into a 'Jenga' tower. I was rather pleased with my handiwork, and placed two logs either side of the tower, and stuck two candles in each. I exited the kitchen, made signs at Dana, which again were most unsubtle, and he gathered the crew around awaiting my signal. I had not taken into consideration the fact that the logs which held the candles would move, and the candles would be precariously close to the tower, causing it to melt! I had to rearrange the candles and tower a few times before departing from the kitchen leaving the crew standing around in a very obvious stance! The 'cake' was a success! The tower was dismantled quite quickly after the candles were blown out, as everyone partook of the delicacy.
Samantha took me home at the end of the day, as I had to cook the 'twisted rye', and let it cool before taking it along to my neighbour's home at seven. The loaves were placed in the oven, and I started another project. It suddenly occurred to me from where my daughter's perception that I can look at a picture and recreate its image, actually comes! I had seen on a social media site, a video of puff pastry apple roses. 'Simply....' it started. Take the pastry, roll it out, brush on some apricot jam (jelly) and place the cooked apples along the top. Fold, then roll. It looked very simple on the increased speed video! The first attempt was a dismal failure, as the apples would not bend. I cooked them a little longer, and understood that I was not an experienced chef, and should have sliced the apples in the food processor, and not by hand! The fourth rosette was quite acceptable, and by the time I completed the batch, I was an expert! By the time Dana returned home, the kitchen was spotless and I was ready to head out to our 'soup evening'.
The evening was a delight. We spent an hour in the company of our neighbours, and met a couple of people whom we had not yet had the pleasure of meeting, and before long we had to bid them all farewell and go to meet Samantha and Edward. Our meal was delicious, and as we were eating, a group of English accented people arrived. After we had finished our meal, Dana approached their table and asked from which part of the United Kingdom did they hail. It appears that they were technicians for the up and coming Formula 1 race, next weekend, and had arrived in Austin a few hours previously. When I said that I had lived here for eleven years, having married a Texan, they said that it was a very good decision, (to move....they did not comment about the marriage!) as they 'loved' Austin. It was their third time to visit, with their team and they were going to go to Mexico and Brazil after this race, but their love for the Austin track was beyond any track they had visited! Austin was, apparently, their favourite place! I found it both funny, and delightful, that out of all the places they had been, Austin was the top of the list.
Saturday morning saw me in the kitchen from the time I got up until the time we took the dog to the Dogtoberfest event. Sausage rolls were rolled, bread was baked, and the mummy was cooked to perfection. Minus its bandages (which I had intended to create out of pastry or cheese, but forgot the details in the course of preparing everything else!) it looked vaguely like a body! I made the mummy using yeast rather than one of my starters, (after the twisted rye, I used the other starter to make the jalapeno cheese loaf, and a cheese and onion loaf,) and had forgotten the process! I had to refer to my old bread recipe book for instructions! However, it was a success and the bread tasted pretty good too!
The dog enjoyed Dogtoberfest, despite being somewhat overwhelmed. We walked him through several department stores, where he received much praise for being such a 'handsome fellow', and he was surprisingly very well behaved as he strolled through the designer footwear and apparel! Many other pooches received the same amount of attention from some staff, dependent upon their breed. Frank lapped up the fuss made, and held his head high. Not in costume as many were, he still managed to make heads turn!
Dana and I arrived at the costume party, bread in hand, in costume! I was 'cat woman', and Dana was Samantha, complete with red wig, (as she had dyed her hair red for her outfit,) birthday t-shirt, and odd socks! He said he felt ridiculous, but everyone knew instantly who he was meant to be! The food was delicious and Samantha had surpassed herself with her cake baking. We left after a while, taking Frank with us, (although I told Samantha that if Dana were really her, he would leave the dog with its grandparents....who were not there as they were 'cat woman' and Samantha!)
The cooking will slow down to the everyday dinner variety next week, apart from the sausage roll preparation on Monday for Jerry's birthday. I have the batch of pastry ready, and am wondering if I will have any left to experiment. However, as I only have an hour or so in the morning to 'play', the chances of making something outrageous are slim! I am hoping that during the week I will be the winner of one of the contests I entered to attend the Formula 1 race, which will be followed by a concert by the one and only Elton John! I will let everyone know whether I was successful, in ....... another story!