Today I bring for your reading pleasure –
A Recent Day in the Life of My Kitchen.
It was a sunny, mild day. Perfect for a bit of leisurely baking. TRH (The Retired Husband) and I had had a full day of Christmas baking only two days before. Something a little less intense was called for.
Images of dainty, bite size chocolate meringues swam in my head. Perfect. I recalled with pleasure watching the magic of the meringue puffing up in the oven. An airy, delicate crunch of heaven.
That was the plan.
(Side note – at this point I do need to confess that meringues are not my specialty. My memory may have been slightly – ummm – altered with time. I have made them exactly twice in my entire life. More or less successfully. Put it this way – they were edible. Not dainty. Not pretty. Edible. )
It was an easy recipe. Three ingredients. Icing sugar, cocoa, egg whites. What I failed to notice were the side notes in the recipe. The ones that refer you to another recipe for how to actually make the meringue mix. Oooops! In hindsight that was probably the beginning of the slippery slope downhill.
I simplified the process. Throwing all the ingredients into a bowl, I mixed it together vigorously. Too sloppy, I thought. I had read my own side note to remind me to make the dough a lot denser. Marzipan density, to be precise. So I did. In hindsight (isn’t that a wonderful thing?) I realised I had never, ever read the recipe properly. Which, in hindsight, gives me pause to wonder how they ever worked at all.
At this point I had a brainwave. More flavour was needed. So I added a teaspoon or two of vanilla essence. Now those of you who are familiar with icing sugar will know that it melts into nothing. A drop or two extra of any liquid will make a huge difference in the sloppiness of the mix. In went more icing sugar. That slope was getting steeper and slippery’ier.The instructions were to roll it out to 1/2cm thickness and cut tiny, dainty circles. It said to use icing sugar instead of flour for rolling to prevent the dough from sticking. So I lashed generous amounts of icing sugar onto the kitchen bench and merrily rolled away. The last bits of dough were so much easier to work with – pure, beautiful, marzipan dense chocolate icing. No doubt, in hindsight, this was yet another mistake.
Neatly I placed the cut meringues onto a couple of oven trays. Close together. They weren’t going to spread I figured. I put them in a pre-heated oven. And sat to watch the magic happen. They rose. They fell. They rose again. When I took one tray out to check, the middle was still sloppy. And I burnt my finger with hot sugar. Back in they went.
I sat and had a cup of tea. Must have lost track of time. Bad mistake. I could smell burning. Oh-oh! Rushing to the kitchen, I pulled the trays out of the oven. Burnt crisp on the edge, the meringues had not just spread , they had dripped over the edge of the tray. I was looking at two trays of a single mass of gloopy, messy burnt meringue.
Ever the optimist, and not wanting to burn more fingers, I left them cool for a while. Perhaps not so wise. As I carefully lifted, or rather, tried to life one off the tray, I discovered it was stuck. Not just to its mates, but to the baking paper which was also stuck to the oven tray. Taking a deep breath, I gingerly tugged on the paper. My hand slipped and sank into the vacuous cavern that was the inside a meringue. Crrrunch.
Not being willing to admit defeat, I continued lifting meringues off the tray. Burnt underneath. Surprisingly some of the marzipan dense meringues actually seemed OK. I placed the best of the bad bunch into a container. I must admit by now I was starting to feel somewhat disgruntled.
I would like to say that this was the end of the disasters. Alas, I cannot.
What happened next is etched forever into my memory. In slow motion, as I lifted the container of salvaged meringues, I watched it lazily spiral, fall and spill its contents all over the kitchen floor. I guess you would know that meringues shatter easily on impact. They did.
Tess came running. While I went to fetch the broom she munched and crunched her way through God knows how many. It’s chocolate, I screamed at her. Being a sensitive soul, she dropped what was in her mouth, looking at me with enormous guilt in her eyes, wondering what she had done wrong. After all, the edible bits on the floor belonged to her. NO! I said, NO MORE!! Perhaps a little, well, a lot more forcefully than was necessary.
I was seriously rattled. I not only had burnt meringue, I had the best of them smashed all over the floor, and a potentially poisoned dog on my hands. Apart from having had a massive sugar hit, I am happy to report Tess is OK.
I threw the smashed meringues into a double layered greens compost bag. Just as I placed it on the servery sill for disposal, TRH opened the window to take out the rubbish. He reached for the bag. It split, spilling the meringue shards all over the sill. I glared at him. He glared at me I can’t take them like that!
To be honest, I have no recall of what I said to him. Whatever it was, he went off without another word to find a container to sweep them into. When I returned to the kitchen, the sill was clean.
In the meantime I took the oven tray to the laundry to soak. Sometime later, I went to check. The water was black. Burnt bits of sugar were floating on the surface. Tough measures were called for. A steel scrubber, my magic glooph cleaner (Gumption) and my vented ire had that sucker scrubbed back to almost pristine condition.
I then sat down and wrote in my cookbook –
Just to make sure I would never be tempted in some demented delirious state to ignore this single warning, I added more to each side, with additional skulls and crossbones. My cookbook is now as traumatised as I am.
I would like to say this was the end of it. But, alas, it’s not. I steeled myself to cook dinner. A simple meal. A meat sauce and pasta. It was gluten free. The pasta. I know, I really do, that it needs to be cooked with a little more care. Did I do that? No. I left it too long, in not enough water. When I went to check, it was a gelatinous, gooey, gluey mess. By morning it had solidified into a single, solid mass. We ate microwave rice instead.
I said to TRH I will never, ever, ever cook or bake again!
© Raili Tanska
Slow and deep ….
(a reminder to me from me)
Image credits – Pintrest