Monday, 6 January 2014

Baking enthusiasm revived by spectacular birthday present

Having had two years of intense university study the pleasure of baking was set aside as a time-consuming luxury, but now that my lovely children bought me a food mixer for my recent big birthday my enthusiasm is revived. I am now eager to improve my cooking skills and overcome my fear of culinary failure. I have began baking again.

This is my industrial-strength food mixer:

This was the first time I had used a modern mixer. The contestants on Bake Off all seem proficient in the use of this equipment, but I had no idea where to start. I started with the manual. I learned what the different beaters were for and what speeds to use. What puzzled me was why the manual insisted that after setting the speed back to zero the mixer had to be unplugged before doing anything else. Why did they not just add an on/off switch? Once I had learned how to change the beaters, remove the bowl and tip up the motor unit I felt I could trust myself to give it a go.

I made the yorkshire puddings for this dish.The meal is a medallion of sirloin steak on roast vegetables with a red wine sauce topped with yorkshires. It should have been one big yorkshire, but I didn't have the right size tin. I added the broccoli because I felt it need a green vegetable. The yorkshires were good, but the quantity was so small in the mixer that I think I should have just used a fork.
Lesson number 1: Small quantities are best done by hand.

Next experiment - chocolate macaroons sandwiched with dark chocolate ganache. These were the best macaroons I had made to date, although still not perfect. There was not much of a foot and they were uneven sizes.
Lesson number 2: Mixer is great for whisking. Next time I will use a piping bag, and warm the ganache instead of using it straight from the fridge.

This was a Mary Berry recipe. She calls it Tarte Amandine. It is a pastry base spread with mincemeat and covered in a frangipane topping. I made the pastry in the mixer, but mindful that James Martin says that making pastry in a mixer overworks the gluten and doesn't make a good crumbly, short pastry, I finished the crumbling by hand. The best part of the mixing the frangipane in the mixer is that Mary Berry said there was no need to wash the bowl after making the pastry, thereby saving time. It looks heavy to eat - like a bakewell - but is actually very light and makes a nice dessert with a scoop of ice-cream. I made two and froze one.
Lesson number 3: Experiment with mixer versus hand-mixed pastry to see if there is a difference in texture.

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