23 Jan 2013
Why? Because while not all-out failures - I still ate some of them, and there were glimmers of wonderful flavours - they were not quite right.
Let's start with the sponge pudding (above). I actually have a terrific recipe for a similar pudding that I have successfully made many times, but cooking is as much about trying versions as sticking with old faithfuls, so I gave this a go. It looked so light and fluffy in the recipe picture, I was impatient to make it.
All proceeded smoothly until the timer went off and I pulled it from the oven - a lovely golden brown colour, but nowhere near cooked. So I covered it with foil to prevent further browning, and in for another ten minutes. Nope - try another ten minutes. Grr! At which point impatience of a different kind overtook me and I turned the oven up from 180 to 200 and blasted it for another ten. By which time it came out like a tough chewy sponge that you use to wash the car (not that I've tried to eat one of those, but you get the idea). Tasted lovely, with lemon zest flavouring the sponge, but the tough texture and inaccurate cooking time meant the recipe went into the bin and I didn't finish the pudding. I'll stick to my old faithful.
I tried to redeem myself with the raspberry meringue slice (shown in the first pic). Hmmm - where to start? First, I don't think you should bake on a day that is 35 degrees, so maybe I should take some responsibility there. The butter wasn't softened - it was slurry. The egg whites wouldn't co-operate. The berries turned to mush before they even entered the oven.
Apart from all those challenges, the recipe specified a large swiss roll tin, but I had a hard time getting any of the layers to reach the sides of my considerably smaller slice tin. And again, the cooking times didn't match up - it took precisely twice as long to cook as the recipe specified.
But worse, everything was soggy. The base was cooked (the skewer came out clean, eventually) but because all the layers were assembled and cooked at the same time, the juicy berries saturated the raw cake base. Perhaps if the base had been cooked first, then topped with the berries and meringue, the sog factor could have been prevented. But I seriously doubt much could save this recipe.
So why did I share these failures with you? I guess because it's all too easy to fall for the myth of the perfect cook or a fail-safe recipe. Because everyone has an off-day, or an off-recipe (once you have attained some level of cooking skill, I firmly believe you should always blame the recipe). Just because I write about what I cook doesn't mean it's always rosy - sometimes it's a bit tough and chewy, other times it's sweet but definitely soggy.