Archive for December 21st, 2020

I have one word for my bakes this week: abysmal. Several other, equally horrible, words were said while the baking was going on. Let me explain.

The preheat was to make a holiday trifle with three distinct layers (jam or jelly, cream or custard, cookies or cake) in 90 minutes. Sounds easy enough. But the flavor options were pistachio, peppermint, cinnamon, coffee, and gingerbread. Guess which one I drew? The dreaded peppermint. Yuck!

I came up with a game plan. White rum cake with peppermint cream and blackberry jam. Like a holiday mojito. It all started well. I made a basic cake on a cookie sheet so I could cut it for the trifle. I added a good bit of rum and a dash of peppermint extract, because though I may hate it, it still needed to taste like peppermint.

I made the blackberry jam on the stove with some sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch (I should invest in pectin), and a few drops of peppermint extract. Stuck that in the freezer and then made a sweetened whipped cream with a couple more drops of the extract. I hoped that a small amount of peppermint in everything would give it the taste without being overpowering.

Here’s when everything went to shit. I bought 2 pounds of isomalt to make some red and white sugar ribbons. Festive and looks like a peppermint candy cane! Well, what I ended up with were slightly burnt fingers, a cleaning nightmare, and a few very short red sugar curls. The isomalt hardened so fast and I tried to reheat it in the microwave several times. I’ve done pulled sugar once or twice but never with isomalt. I always make my own because isomalt is so expensive. I wore doubled up latex gloves and they weren’t enough to protect from heat. It was a disaster. I had 30 minutes to assemble and do the decorations but instead, I spent 28 minute fumbling with sugar and 2 minutes to throw it all together. AND I was listening to the Script.

I had hoped the main heat would go better. Two hours to make a charlotte royale fit for Santa. I drew my flavor from the choices: raspberry, ginger, praline, chocolate, and pumpkin. Oh boy . . . raspberry. And another trip to the grocery.

The first thing I did was whip up a jelly roll cake. I was going simple. Vanilla flavored but colored green.

Then I started the bavarois on the stove. It’s basically a custard thickened with gelatin and lightened with whipped cream. I added pureed and strained raspberries to it. I didn’t trust the recipe I used so I doubled the amount of gelatin. Have I mentioned before how I’m grossed out by gelatin? It wasn’t thickening at all so I really hoped it would work. I put it on an ice bath and whipped some cream. When I went back to the custard, it was pretty firm. Maybe too firm. It was cold now so I folded in the whipped cream and stuck it in the freezer.

I was running short on time. The cake wasn’t even assembled yet. I made an American buttercream with more pureed and strained raspberries. It wasn’t very thick but I didn’t want to add more powdered sugar. Plus, I ran out of powdered sugar anyways. It wasn’t until after I assembled the 4-layer cake that I realized it was way too tall. Ugh! I should have listened to my gut and made the cake in a bigger sheet tray. Or at least split it into 2 layers. This was not going to work. I had seen some pictures of geometric charlotte royales that I was aiming for. Instead, cake got thrown this way and that into a bowl and I scooped out the bavarois from the freezer into the middle. I didn’t even have enough cake left to cover the top which would become the bottom when inverted.

I had 9 minutes left to make the twist: a baked element resembling a holly leaf. I wasted one of those minutes cursing my nonexistent baking skills, then made what was supposed to be a shortbread dough. Great. 4 minutes to bake. Yeah, it wasn’t going to happen. I tried, obviously. But the holly didn’t make it on the trainwreck of a charlotte royale.

I washed dishes, scrubbed the counters, and decided I was a shitty baker and can’t do anything right. But alas, I am not a quitter so I will be back for the final week. Pray for me.

P.S. I still haven’t tasted either dessert. I’m not sure I want to.


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