If you are a foodie with a sweet tooth, chances are you have been watching the British Bake Off and salivating over the delicious sweet and savoury concoctions. The model custard tarts showcased by Mary and Paul this week were an example of not only technical perfection but culinary excellence and were made obviously so by the disastrous attempts of most of the bakers. Tarts refused to leave their tins, they were sloppy, uncooked or scrambled, and watching desperate measures of positioning a custard mess in such a way that would disguise an undeniable failure had my family and I laughing hysterically.
Part of the reason why these technical catastrophes were so funny was because we have all been there. Behind the success of one cake lurks all manner of going-wrongs and results we’d rather forget. My twin once made a batch of biscuits, left them in the oven to cool and my mum then turned on the oven for the evening meal, resulting in a twice cooked, blackened set of good-for-nothing snacks.
So now, it’s my turn. Here are my baking adventures that were so colourful they will stick forever and provide piles of amusement.
1) I baked some almond and raspberry cookies. They were so promising. A mix of ground almonds, flaked almonds and cookie with a dollop of raspberry jam in the middle. Unfortunately, I made the rookie mistake of cooking the biscuits on two layers in the oven. One set came out perfect, the others had black bottoms. I spent the afternoon salvaging them by slicing off said bottoms, which unfortunately did not prevent the taste of charcoal from pervading them.
2) Upping the game a little, my next project was a loaf cake which had cranberries and orange in it. After pricking the top with a cocktail stick and drenching the cake with orangey syrup, I was convinced this cake was the height of sophistication. A few slices along, I discovered the middle of the cake wasn’t cooked properly and had sunk, resulting in a sticky undercooked and holey centre. Less elegance, more a dumpy doughy doh! moment.
3) My twin had, a couple of weeks previously, made a delicious tray of flapjack which had the perfect gooey consistency. Determined not to be sidelined, I made some for our weekend away in the Gower. I followed the recipe to a T and watched in delight as my golden rectangle appeared out of the oven. Later I was informed, to my dismay, that the trick was NOT to follow the recipe but to bung in a load more golden syrup to achieve this magical gooeyness. And so my flapjacks suffered. Actually I couldn’t pretend they were flapjacks. It was a crumble with no filling. A tasty crumble, but scooping sticky oats out of a plastic bag whilst hiking over Worm’s Head is not quite the same as munching an actual cake.
All these recipes had a lot of promise, and whilst they weren’t complete disasters, you could get away with saying there was something left to be desired in all of them. But, in these cases, my family loyally (and bravely) ate them, because I made them with love and with aspiration for mind blowing results. So I learnt a few lessons. Cook on one layer of the oven, don’t open the oven door, and don’t follow the recipe. But where there is food, there’s often love, and where there’s love, there’s always laughter.