It was my birthday yesterday, so naturally I'd spent some time putting together a morning tea shout, taking advantage of the excuse to knock off as many recipes as possible.
Some months ago, I was given a three-tiered cake stand for a housewarming gift, and though I usually use it instead of a fruit bowl, I had never actually served anything on it. I decided to make enough to fill the cake stand, and just for the sake of completing another recipe, I figured I'd do a cake for my cake pedestal as well.
I made a start on Monday night, making some sweets for the top tier. I began with marshmallows (p220), dissolving sugar in water, then adding dissolved gelatine and bringing to the boil. This mixture had to boil for 15 minutes, so I made a start on my florentine caramels (p220) while it bubbled away.
Florentine caramels are sort of like a ginger fudge. You start with sugar, coconut, and ground ginger in a saucepan, then add golden syrup, butter and milk, and heat until the sugar dissolves. That bit probably takes the longest - it really doesn't take too much boiling to get it to the 'soft ball' stage, after which it's just a matter of beating until thick and pouring into a greased and lined tin.
The next recipe I wanted to make was custard squares (p82). I thought I'd get the pastry sheets ready on Monday night, so I'd only have to add the custard on Tuesday. I used bought flaky pastry - the kind in a roll. Cut in half, the roll made two reasonable-sized rectangles of pastry. There were a couple of cracks from when I tried to unroll it before it was properly defrosted, so I sort of mushed it together and hoped for the best.
The florentine caramels set very quickly, so it wasn't long before I had those cut into squares and packed away in an airtight container. The marshmallow was another matter. It was still quite sticky, and I suddenly realised I should have wet the baking paper before I poured the marshmallow in. I chucked it back in the fridge and decided to worry about it later.
After work on Tuesday, I went straight into the kitchen to make the custard for my custard squares. It was dead easy - just mix custard powder, sugar and a bit of the milk to a paste in a saucepan, then add the rest of the milk, some butter, and a beaten egg.
When the custard thickened, I poured it into a cool bowl, then pressed plastic wrap on to the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming as the custard cooled. Then I divided my cake mixture into two sponge sandwich tins, and got those in the oven while I dealt with that marshmallow.
It hadn't got any less sticky overnight. I didn't think I was going to get the baking paper off, but eventually it peeled away, albeit quite messily. I smothered the sticky stuff in icing sugar, and it cut into surprisingly tidy squares.
The custard took a long time to cool, but finally I deemed it cold enough to sandwich the pastry sheets together. After a bit more chilling, I dusted over some icing sugar, and carefully cut my custard squares. They weren't that beautiful, and there was oozed custard everywhere, but they were done!
At 6am yesterday morning, I was back in the kitchen, making a selection of the sandwich fillings. I tried egg, cheese and parsley; egg and spring onion; carrot and parsley; cheese and pineapple; pineapple and mint, and date and lemon. Some held together better than others, and they didn't stack on the stand as tidily as I'd hoped. It didn't matter; the stand was full. It was only at this point that I realised my display was sadly lacking in colour, in fact everything I'd made was in various shades of beige, white or yellow. Never mind, I knew it'd taste ok.
No one else seemed to think there was anything wrong with my presentation - generally the workmates were quite impressed, if only with the amount of food I'd provided. There was plenty there, but we still managed to eat most of it. Tai, a newcomer to our office, has proved himself very useful in the area of food disposal.
I thought all the sandwich flavours were pretty good - my favourite was the date and lemon, though it wasn't too popular with the others. The cake was nice, though my doubling up of the icing tipped the scales to the sickly side - maybe do a 1 1/2 mix if you're making this one.
So that's that: another birthday gone by, and another five recipes ticked off the list!
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