Tags: Christmas, cookery, cooking, eggs, German Christmas biscuits, zimstern
Health warning: This post has nothing to do with health.
Why do I do it? Every year at round about this time, fooled by a mixture of Christmas Spirit and the Great British Bake-Off perhaps, I make the same mistake: I believe I can cook … or at very least bake. I’m sure I used to be able to bake, once, a long, long time ago, before hubby, before RA, before old age … well OK, middle age, but I’m feeling old right now. Maybe I’m just imaging it though. I know I did some nice scones … once …
Anyway, my one cook-athon of the year is New Year’s Eve and I fancied making some biscuits as well as my usual main meal.
This year I’d carefully ruled out all the things I knew I couldn’t tackle on the cooking front – out went anything to do with melting sugar (after several burned saucepans and unbelievable pongs over previous years); out went anything to do with melting chocolate, (after several attempts at mousses that turned into gritty messes). But this recipe, courtesy of The Telegraph, looked simple enough.
Even though it looked simple, I thought I’d better try it out in advance.
I think I was mistaking brevity for simplicity. The brevity, I soon realised, was due to the fact that the recipe was written for people who know how to cook. How silly of me to think I was one of them. Mind you, I probably didn’t help myself because I was using our new food processor.
You start off in this recipe by making a meringue mixture. I’ve done that before. I’m sure I have. Heck, I make Snowqueen every year*. But I’ve always used a hand whisk.** This time I wanted to try out the new toy. It has a main bowl, a midi bowl and a mini bowl. Knowing how eggs fluff up when they’re whisked, I thought I’d use the main bowl. Hah! Other people’s eggs might fluff up – mine sat there for five minutes looking, well, runny – just like they had five minutes before straight out of the egg. Funny, I thought, it’s really not whisking very fast at all. I thought it would go much faster than that.
‘ Doesn’t sound well,’ commented Hubby, from his perch in front of the telly.
I gave it some thought and decided that it clearly wasn’t working in the main bowl, so perhaps I should try the midi bowl. I put the midi bowl on the kitchen counter, took the main bowl carefully off the food processor and tipped the egg into the midi bowl.
At this point it would have helped, really helped quite a lot, if I had remembered that there was a hole in the middle of the bowls for the motor to go through.
I didn’t quite have egg on my face, but I did have it all over the kitchen counter, on the glass counter saver (which didn’t save the counter) and dripping onto the floor, which hubby had only washed a few hours before.
Taking a few deep breaths and staying calm, so calm that hubby doesn’t actually even know about this bit, and won’t until he reads the blog, I decided there was still about an egg’s worth left in the bowl, so got another egg out of the fridge, added the white to the midi bowl and plugged the whole lot into the food processor Or at least that’s what I thought I’d done. It went whir, whir and nothing moved. At this point I dragged hubby away from Warehouse 13 to come and investigate. We stood scratching our heads and trying to make the various bits of whisk look like the whisk in the instruction book, which, as is the way of these things, is nearly all picture with very few words. After much head scratching and some hilarious attempts at combining the bits, I realised that a key component was still attached to the main bowl whisk, now sitting in the sink.
So I whisked the eggs into soft peaks. They made beautiful soft peaks. Then I added the sugar. Well, it doesn’t tell you in the Telegraph recipe that you have to add it a bit at a time, because it’s written for people that can cook. If you don’t add it a bit a time, the whole lot collapses into a runny mess.
It collapsed into a runny mess.
‘You’d better see if Delia has a fix,’ suggested hubby. I knew there were no fixes when a whisked egg has un-whisked itself, but I thought I’d have a look anyway. Basically her advice boiled down to ‘Don’t under-whisk the eggs – but don’t over-whisk them either or they’ll all collapse. And add the sugar an ounce a time, whisking all the time.’
Nothing else for it but to start again. Hubby, supportive and sympathetic, suggested I stopped and had a coffee first, but no, I knew better, I wanted to carry on.
So, more eggs, this time into the bowl without mishap, more nice soft peaks.
‘Make sure you can turn the bowl upside down and the eggs don’t fall out,’ says Delia. So I did that. Only I’d forgotten that the whisk was in bits and a bit fell off when I turned the bowl upside down. I made a grab for it. It was HOT. I managed not to screech so hubby doesn’t know about that bit yet either. Still, things were looking up; the eggs looked lovely. Woohoo.
I started to add the sugar a little bit at a time. I was really careful. Really, really careful. Itty-bit at a time – whisk, whisk, whisk – another itty bit. I kept checking. It looked lovely. Glossy, peaky, beautiful … I kept adding sugar, I kept whisking …
Can you see what’s coming? I was being so careful that I’d completely forgotten the ‘don’t over-whisk them or they’ll collapse’ bit.
It collapsed into a runny mess.
On top of that the kitchen was in an unbelievable state – it looked like it had snowed indoors. If you’ve ever cooked with icing sugar you’ll know what I mean. Even enormous cat was liberally decorated with icing.
I threw a wobbly – hubby supportive and sympathetic – ‘There, there penguin, it’ll be OK.’
‘IT WILL NOT…’ (I’m a real charmer when I get into a bad mood!) ‘ONCE IT’S GONE, IT’S GONE!’
‘Well time to stop now. Sit down and have a coffee’
‘LIKE I HAVE A CHOICE? We’ve run out of BLOODY EGGS!’
So I had a coffee – with ill grace! And hubby, bless him, quietly went and washed everything up before I even realised what he was doing!
Maybe it’ll be Snowqueen for New Year’s Eve pudding again then …
Or maybe I should stick to what I do know how to do: crochet.
* A meringue-based ice cream. I’d forgotten that I actually buy the meringues ready made from the supermarket.
** Later realised this was to whip the cream for the Snowqueen. Cream, I can do.