Monday, May 10, 2010

7 in 1 - all thanks to Mum

May 9: Mothers’ Day. Mum and Dad were coming to Christchurch for the day, so Mum and I planned a decadent high tea at Nana’s as a change from going out for a meal or afternoon tea.

Much deliberation was required as to which recipes I would choose for my contributions to the repast. We wanted to make everything bite-sized so we could have a number of options and still be able to try them all. Mum was contributing savouries, asparagus rolls, fudge brownie and mini cheesecakes. I eventually settled on cream puffs (p81), cupcakes (p47) and sausage rolls (p195).

So on Saturday afternoon, I rolled up my sleeves and started with the cream puffs. These are basically blobs of choux pastry (p79) filled with cream. The choux pastry was surprisingly easy to make – just boil up butter and water, mix in the flour, then beat in eggs one by one. You need to be fairly persistent with the beating – the mixture gets very thick by the end of it and it’s quite exhausting keeping that wooden spoon moving.

Eventually I had achieved the nice glossy mixture described in the recipe. I spooned it onto oven trays, trying to keep the blobs of mixture nice and small. I had to estimate the cooking times, since the ones given in the recipe are for chocolate éclairs, and my cream puffs were considerably smaller. The idea is to cook the puffs until they are nice and golden, then turn the oven down to 120° and put them in again to dry out. This was a bit tricky since I had several trays of cream puffs, so at least one tray sat out for about 20 minutes before going back in for the ‘drying out’ phase. The resulting cream puffs were still slightly moist in the centre – I suspect I they should have had slightly longer in the oven.

The cream puffs done, I turned my attention to the sausage rolls. I’d got out a couple of sheets of bought pastry from the freezer, and mixing up the filling was only a couple of minutes work. Sausage meat, parsley, onion and tomato sauce, mixed together in a bowl: done.

Since I wanted to make the sausage rolls very small, I chopped each pastry sheet into three sections about 8cm wide. Not wanting to make my piping bag all gooey with sausage mix, I scooped it all into a ziplock bag and snipped off the corner. This was excellent for piping the filling down the centre of each piece of pastry. A little water brushed on to make the pastry stick, and I rolled them up and brushed each roll with an egg yolk/water mixture.

After that, it was just a matter of chopping each long roll into little bite-sized portions and getting them in the oven. Again, I had to keep an eye on them, reducing the cooking time because of the size. But after about 10 minutes I had a tray full of tiny little sausage rolls. Very tasty too – and quite irresistible. My quality control testing got a bit out of hand really, but it didn’t matter; there were still plenty left over for our high tea.

Lastly, I embarked on the cupcakes. I’d decided to split the mixture and make 2 of the variations of the cupcake recipe: butterfly cakes and chocolate cupcakes. It wasn’t difficult to do: I creamed the butter, sugar etc in my mixer, making sure I got lots of air into the mix for a nice fluffy cupcake. Then I just separated the mix into two bowls before adding the dry ingredients.

I’d got some small cupcake cups form Bin Inn, which luckily happened to fit precisely into my mini muffin tins. One muffin pan each of chocolate and plain cupcakes went into the oven. They came out looking absolutely perfect, so I set them aside to cool and left the icing and filling for the morning.

On Sunday morning, I set about icing my cupcakes. I began with melted chocolate icing (p77) for the chocolate cupcakes. This very rich, decadent icing is made by melting chocolate, cream and a little butter together in a double boiler, then beating the melted mixture until thick. This took longer than I’d anticipated, especialy since my eggbeater kept jamming up (grr), and I’d only just finished icing my chocolate cupcakes when Mum and Dad showed up.

I hadn’t intended to ice my cream puffs, but since I had quite a bit of leftover icing, I decided to give each cream puff a little icing. Mum kept getting her finger into the icing bowl, like a little kid – in the end I gave her the rubber scraper to lick and put a lid on the leftover icing.

The next step was to make butter filling (p76) for the butterfly cakes. We had to play around with this one, as there really wasn’t enough butter in the recipe to make the smooth creamy filling I needed. I added more butter and beat it thoroughly, but it was still a very stiff mixture. Mum stepped in and added a little hot water, after which it easily mixed into a lovely creamy filling.

I cut the top of each of the plain cupcakes, cut the sliver of cupcake in half, and used blobs of butter filling to stick them on as ‘wings’. Despite the cupcake tops being slightly crumbly, this worked perfectly – they looked so cute!

Having decided to fill the cream puffs later, we packed up everything and headed to Nana’s. After a light lunch and a drive to the gardens to feed the ducks, we returned to Nana’s for a cuppa. Or thats what she thought, anyway. Nana had no idea what we were up to, and Dad successfully kept her occupied while we whipped cream, reheated savouries, dug around in her cupboards for plates, and laid everything out on the table. She was really quite surprised when she got up and saw the feast laid out before her!

Despite the huge amount of food, we managed to get through most of it – though none of us wanted any dinner! All of my efforts (and Mum’s) were very successful – I’d recommend any of the recipes I made. I think the cupcakes would have been nicer if eaten on the day they were made, but that really wasn't an option, time-wise. They were still very yummy – especially with that chocolate icing.

When it was time to leave, we packed up the leftovers, leaving Nana with a heap of bits and pieces to last her for the next few days. Since I still had a couple of dozen unfilled cream puffs at home, I grabbed the last of the cream with the intention of taking my leftovers into work.

I didn’t have time to fill the cream puffs in the morning before work, and I didn’t want them to get soggy anyway. So I bunged everything I needed in a chilly bag, including the leftover chocolate icing, and come morning teatime at work, I was standing at the office sink in an apron, whipping cream. Mum had brought up her hand-held electric beater, which she claims she doesn't use. Certainly I'll get some use out of it: no more struggling with a silly eggbeater for me!

Luckily my workmates are used to such idiosyncrasies on my part, and none of them were likely to complain anyway. I softened the leftover icing in the microwave, and thinned it down with a bit more cream. Once the cream puffs were filled and stacked in an enticing pile, I dribbled the icing all over it. It looked pretty impressive, if I do say so myself!

I’d wondered if all the cream puffs would get eaten, since there were still quite a few of them and we had a number of people away. I needn’t have worried: they went like hot cakes. So that’s got those out of the way.

Thanks to Mothers’ Day, I managed to get 7 recipes under my belt in one go (choux pastry, cream puffs, chocolate cup cakes, butterfly cakes, sausage rolls, melted chocolate icing and butter filling) Not bad going for a single high tea!

1 comment:

  1. Was a pretty good effort really, the challenge will be to find something else as good next year!


Popular posts this week