Having had a very quiet weekend, I was more than a little disappointed when I had to get up to go to work on Monday morning. We had watched another episode of the 'After' shows that were broadcasted, following 'The Great British Bake Off', and I was, once again, wanting to spend the whole week in the kitchen. Alas, I knew the week would be busy, because we were going to be a man down starting Wednesday through to the end of the week, and this was going to be an impossibility. However, if we were not going to be a man down starting Wednesday through to the end of the week, I would still not be able to spend most of the week in the kitchen! The time that I had between getting up, and going to work, would have to suffice.
Work was quite overwhelming on Monday, and the phone was ringing constantly. About one in three calls was from a real person, and I berated the 'recordings' for wasting my time. Having 'caller ID', does not necessarily prepare you for the caller, as when some of our clients call, the display shows, "Unavailable", and when some of the robots call, it shows, "Law Offices", or something similar. However, as I am (and who knows who put me there) the first person designated to answer the phone, I was the one who had to deal with the calls.
Considering the heavy workload, we were able to leave the office before six on Monday evening, and went to the diner to enjoy a bowl of their magnificent tortilla soup. It is like chicken casserole with a kick! I maintain it is the best in Austin, and has, apparently, won awards to that degree! I have longed to attempt to duplicate the recipe, but it has been placed rather far down the list, with desserts taking up the first several pages!
Tuesday morning was set aside to cook. I smiled to myself as I opened the fridge to take out the eggs, as I had to move a pot of 'natural yoghurt' to do so. Years ago, during my former life, I watched a cookery programme called 'Ready Steady Cook'. Not to go into too much detail, but to set the stage, two people were called from the audience, each of whom had a bag of groceries, not costing more than £5, and two chefs made spectacular meals from the ingredients tendered, and items that could be found 'everyday' in a kitchen. One of the items that apparently could be found in everyone's refrigerator was, a pot of natural yoghurt! Other things were fresh herbs, (which apparently everyone had growing in planters on their kitchen islands - I didn't have a kitchen island either,) and a few other items that were, financially, out of my reach. I realised that I had finally arrived, because I now had a pot of natural yoghurt in my fridge, and although I had not yet got round to doing so, had planned to plant my kitchen herb garden. I do not have a 'permanent' island, but do have a cabinet on wheels, which floats around the outskirts of my kitchen!
One such item on my list of things to make, appeared on the 'after' Bake Off show. A Charlotte Russe had been out of my reach for mostly one reason. In my previous life, in England, it was too expensive for me to experiment. However, I now had all the ingredients to hand, (although natural yoghurt was not one,) and the time had come to line through yet another item on the 'one day I will make' index.
Two hours preparation was written on the piece of paper that I had printed off at the office, the previous day. I considered this to be rather a 'liberal' estimate, as glancing briefly at the recipe, I could not see how it would take that long. The two chefs on the television show had less than an hour to prepare it, so I was confident that I would be able to complete said task a little quicker than approximated, as I was not going to add the jelly that sits atop the luscious dessert. However, I had failed to comprehend that, perhaps, the chef who was 'in charge' of this particular dessert, had probably made it several times, and was a professional chef!
I mixed up the batter for the 'lady fingers', and was totally overconfident that this would not cause me duress. It was, after all, not much more than a Swiss roll mixture, and I can almost make those blindfolded! I had taken the time (which I don't generally do) to mark out the parchment paper, drawing five inch lines, two inches apart, so that I could pipe the mixture neatly, and evenly, (another two alien words in my kitchen,) and had bought some new nozzles for the experiment. As I am vaguely 'vertically challenged', my counter-tops were just that bit too high for me to be able to get the angle needed to perform the task at hand. I do, however, have a reasonable amount of floor space, and so the tins, lined with the marked paper, were placed one in front of the other, on the tiles. I picked up the bag filled with the batter, and somehow forgot that the consistency was not particularly firm. After swiftly returning the bag to the bowl, and cleaning the floor from drizzled uncooked cake sludge, I repeated my actions. Thankfully, it only took twice for me to realise that I would have to 'go to the mountain', and bring the bowl, with piping bag, down to the floor to continue. The words 'neat' and 'even' would not even begin to describe the runny blobs that went into the oven. If I had even hinted at calling the blobs, 'lines', I would likely be reprimanded by the compilers of dictionaries, worldwide! However, the sponge bits were in the oven and hopefully would form into manageable shapes.
It was without much forethought, but with much relief that I had decided to follow the recipe for a much larger cake tin, as by the time I had managed to cut the sponge shapes into something that resembled 'fingers', (somewhat 'neat' but definitely not 'even',) there would not have been enough to go round.
I noticed that time was marching on, and I would have to work quickly to get the bavois prepared. I separated the eggs, whisked them with the sugar, heated the cream and milk, followed the recipe to the letter, and whilst the mixture was cooling, got myself ready for work. What a wonderful piece of clothing the apron is! Why do I not have one? How simple is it to 'fold' cream into a milky omelette without splashing it, a) over oneself, b) over the counter tops, c) over the floor, and d) any other space not mentioned. The answer was, 'not very'! Each time I turned the spoon, a flick of mixture landed somewhere around the kitchen, anywhere but back in the bowl. The lady fingers, which had been stacked 'neatly', (well, at least stacked,) around the side of the cake tin, were now falling over, one at a time. I had flavoured the bavois with blackcurrant, and I was now dodging flying purple missiles that appeared to be 'fired at will' from the mixing bowl, which I had placed in the sink for safety reasons!
Eventually, the ingredients were combined into a mousse, and ready to go into the tin. However, as I mentioned, the tin was not ready for the mousse! I spent the next few minutes easing the sponges into place, then pushing them back against the metal, and finally pounding them with my fist to stick to the sides. Before they had a chance to regain consciousness, the purple peril was poured into the mould and covered, before being whisked away to the fridge, in the hope that it would set, and be served that evening, after we had enjoyed (I hoped) Chicken Parmesan, the preparation for which would have to be done when I returned home that evening. I called Dana to say I would be a little late.
Two hours after I had decided that two hours was a liberal estimate, I was faced with clearing away the pots, pans and other utensils involved in this mammoth task, and considered pressure washing my kitchen! I washed up, wiped down, and swept across, before going to get changed into something that did not make me look like a squashed plum, and headed out to work,vowing to buy an apron, or perhaps a plastic raincoat and sowester!
Shortly before leaving the office, that evening, Dana informed me that one of our three guests would be unable to attend our evening gathering, as an emergency had occurred, which he could not wriggle out of. He was rather disappointed, as he was looking forward to what he called the gastronomic delights that I prepare and the doggy bag with which I normally send him home. I assured him that he was not going to be missing much!
I arrived home much later than anticipated, and the chicken was slammed into the oven, without much grace. While I was unloading my dishwasher, and mentally listing the jobs still left to do, I received a text from a second guest. She would be unable to attend. Her son, who had returned from active duty the week before, had an appointment, and as she had been using his vehicle, whilst he was overseas, she was now without transport. She was very sorry, being that it was such short notice, and hoped I had not gone to too much trouble. I replied that this was not a problem. After all, dessert was my whim. I was only upset at not being able to enjoy her company. There would be other evenings to get together.
Shortly before the pasta was cooked, I received the message from my third guest. She was stuck in traffic, had to pick her son up from his job in an hour, and still had papers to run. Would I mind if she bailed!
Dana and I enjoyed Chicken Parmesan, with pasta, and enjoyed it so much, that I promised him exactly the same meal the next evening! After mains, we headed to the kitchen for the 'grand opening'. I removed the Charlotte Russe from the fridge, pushed the bottom of the cake tin up, a bit at a time, careful not to dislodge any of the sponge, and unwrapped the parchment paper from the freed dessert. It looked quite good. The fingers were not all exactly the same width but they were the same height. They were not all the same thickness, but they were the same height! The mousse appeared to be firm, and as I sliced through the bavois, I held my breath, just in case it splodged all over the counter. It did not. "This is amazing!" said my husband, as he swallowed the first mouthful. "Amazing, amazing? More amazing than the roulade? More amazing than the Hazelnut Meringue?" He gave me a confused look, wondering how to answer. "It is different", he said, cautiously. I explained that I had considered filing this recipe under the letter "N", for "Never again", unless he thought it was 'that good', that it was worth another go. As far as I was concerned, it was too much effort, for not enough 'wow' factor. He assured me that it had plenty of 'wow' factor, but did not want to put me under any pressure! After all, it was only a dessert!
I decided that I would, perhaps, attempt this disaster again, as I took the 'leftovers' into work. Everyone agreed that it was delicious. As no one was aware as to how it should look, I was quite happy with the outcome. I think the estimate of two hours was a misprint. I believe, 'two days' would be more appropriate, as I will need a good twenty four hours to recover after spending twelve hours making the lady finger sponges!
We did enjoy dinner on Wednesday. We arrived home rather late, and it was a pleasure to just 'heat up' the remains from the night before. I had kept some of the dessert in the fridge and my husband savoured it with the same enthusiasm. (Dare he do otherwise?) My real big failure was that I did not take a picture!
The rest of the week was a bit of a work blur. We arrived early, and came home late. However, we were thankful for being busy, as always, and I was able to swim three times this week, due to the overnight temperatures staying in the 70's. The water was slightly brisk, but bearable.
Saturday evening, we enjoyed a very nice evening with Joe and Gail. They had prepared a 'Columbus Day' dinner, with Spanish, Italian and Portuguese elements, and it was nice to enjoy different recipes, home cooked by my two excellent chef friends.
The next challenge awaits. My daughter is going to be thirty next week, and informed me that she cannot possibly make her own birthday cake. I agreed that this would not be appropriate and offered to supply the cake for her party. However, I was informed that as this was a special birthday, I was required, (yes, required,) to make something spectacular, with several layers. Once again, 'The Great British Bake Off' came to the rescue, as one of the contestants made her own fondant icing using marshmallows. I experimented earlier in the week, and it works! Now all that I need to do is decide exactly what to cover with this fondant. This may cause a very sticky start to ............... another story!