I love baked goods. I own a lot of cookbooks. I look at baking blogs. I like to try to make something from the pages/posts of these books/blogs. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Spiderboy had been run off all eight of his little feet during the September school holidays, so on the last Sunday, when I asked him, “So, shall we go out on the harbour on a ferry, or stay home and make butter from scratch?” it’s really no surprise he wanted to stay home and you know, potentially lick a bowl.
The idea for butter-making came to me while Spiderboy and I were reading his home reader. The story was about two kids who made butter by – wait for it – shaking a jar with cream in it – for a reeeaaally long time. Great school holiday project, I noted, but who has the time to shake a freakin’ jar for that long. What am I? Amish? There had to be an easier way.
So I googled “Making butter from scratch” and came upon this informative post on Not Quite Nigella, called “Made from scratch: Make your own butter.” NQN’s Lorraine uses an electric mixer, so it takes two minutes to turn cream into butter. It almost seems too simple to be true, but I’ve tried it and it really works. I used a hand-held electric beater and it still only took about two or three minutes. The instructions are all on Not Quite Nigella, but here are my pictures:
The day before I made butter, Spiderboy and I were in the supermarket. I was lingering in Chilled Dairy exploring my cream options, when a man suddenly appeared next to me. He was holding a pot of double cream. Was he the devil in disguise? “My name’s Kevin.” He extended his hand, so I duly shook it.
“Let me tell you about something really delicious,” Kevin/devil-in-disguise whispered. “You get a slice of white bread, and you butter it. Then you get some jam. Strawberry. Then you pour cream all over it. It’s delicious. it’s easy. Think about it next time the little fella wants a treat” he said, motioning to my son climbing all over the trolley.
“I’m not trying to pick you up,” Kevin/devil continued. “I just thought you might like to hear a good idea.” Have I got a sign on my back saying, “Got butter and cream? Talk to me!” I wondered.
The next day Spiderboy was quite excited about the butter project. After I’d done some housework and after we’d made Peppa Pig Cupcakes, I announced, “It’s time to make the butter!”
“No, I want to dress up as Superman and jump off my bunk bed.” he announced. Who am I to argue with the vagaries of five-year-old life. Here’s a picture:
Now that I had a moment’s pause, I thought I’d better google ” Heart Attack symptoms: women” before I made the butter. Well, you can never be too careful. I decided to go ahead with my fully-loaded full-fat DIY project, where the main ingredient was fat.
So there I was, whipping double cream, while waiting for Tina Arena to appear on Sunday’s repeat of Dancing with the Stars and tying to negotiate with Spiderboy over what he could watch on You Tube.
“Come on, I’m making the butter, I’m whipping the cream!” I informed Spiderboy, who was now glued to my iPad.
“I’m whipping the butter, do you want to see? Look! Whipping! Cream! It’s nearly butter! LOOK!”
“I’m just playing this game now Mum”.
“OK, but you’re going to miss seeing the cream turn to butter. Look, it’s happening!”
“Muuum, I’m playing this game now.”
“OKAAAAY… but I’m about to do more whipping so if you want to hear your game you’d better go out of the room for a minute…”
A minute later, I said, “Look at the butter I made!”
And then Spiderboy cried. ” I wanted to make the butter! I can’t believe you made butter without me!” he sniffled.
“Darling, I told you I was making the butter. Look, you can pat it with these spoons to squeeze the buttermilk out.”
Spiderboy calmed down and patted the golden butter between two big wooden spoons. Then a big blob fell onto the chair he was standing on. But it was only for three seconds so we picked it up and pretended it never happened.
“This is boring!” he declared after a bit more patting, and went to watch TV.
My butter was ready, but I just couldn’t eat it. I didn’t have any nice bread. I put my butter away, in the fridge on top of the Lurpak, a really delicious Danish butter. My butter will keep.
The next day I bought a fresh loaf of white sourdough. ” I’m too scared to try the butter, ” I said to Spiderboy. He agreed. And his favourite food is “Vegemite-toast-with-margarine-but-not-the-butter-melted.” (That’s how he asks for toast every single time. It’s endearing. No, really).
But I pushed through my fear and tried my butter anyway. I tasted the tiniest bit on the tip of my pinky. It was smooth, creamy and a little bit bland. The butter, not my pinky. I had added a pinch of salt to the cream before whipping but it probably could’ve done with some more. Then I spread a bit of butter on the bread, and had a few bites.
It was quite nice. I couldn’t quite believe I had made a supermarket staple from scratch, that it was actually a real thing, and edible. But since I had whipped the double cream myself, I could see the butter for what it really was – almost pure fat. And it was strangely off-putting. Even for me.
So I’m back onto the Lurpak. Somehow, I don’t think of the fat when the butter comes out of a tub that I buy in the supermarket. Completely illogical, I know.
Have you ever made anything from scratch? Did it live up to your expectations?
I saw some really cute panda-face cupcakes on Housegoeshome, so I decided to have a go for the recent Federal Election day cake-stall at school, because they were just so cute, and importantly, looked easy enough.
Still, when I was at the supermarket buying my ingredients, I bought a pack of ready-made cupcakes with brightly coloured icing, just in case I got lazy. I could always scrape the icing off and decorate them like pandas, right? But then I remembered we had to list the ingredients. How could I give the P&C a list with preservative numbers on it? So… I baked.
Spider Boy and I mixed the dry ingredients, sending flour and cocoa everywhere. We mixed in the eggs, milk and hot water, exactly to the amount specified. But somehow, the mixture seemed too runny. I commented on this to Spider Boy, who said forlornly, “Oh no, it’s going to be another disaster!” dramatic much? Totally my fault.
“It’s all right,” I told him, “we’ll just add some more flour”, realising the powder spillage before might have had something to do with the runny mixture.
It all worked out in the end though – miraculously, the little cakes rose into perfectly formed little chocolate hills.
To decorate the cupcakes, the recipe called for “white confetti sprinkles” and a “black edible ink pen” for the eyes, but I couldn’t get those things in my little local supermarket so I used a bit of vanilla frosting with a dot of black writing icing that I had in the cupboard.
I also used dessicated coconut instead of “sanding sugar” (whatever that is) to create a furry panda effect. I thought dessicated coconut looked furrier than sugar, and anyway, did we really need the extra sugar on top? (I know, I’m constantly surprising myself). The original recipe called for 1/3 cup of oil, but being a big fan of butter, I melted some of that instead.
In the end, the cupcakes were probably the best I’ve ever made. Great chocolately taste, melt-in-the-mouth texture, perfectly formed. But because my vanilla frosting contained quite a bit of butter, it did have a slightly yellowish hue, giving my pandas a slightly jaundiced look, but still, they were cute and fluffy enough.
A long way from cupcake disaster indeed.
Click through to the recipe here. Or to check out other panda-inspired food go to http://theverybesttop10.com/2013/09/13/panda-inspired-foods/
Did you have any Election day baking success?
You might remember my cheesecake disaster from last week: the rubbery, salty garbage-tasting lump with flesh coloured gelatinous globules in it that actually made me dry-retch when I tasted it.
It should have been so easy. It was a no-bake cake. I had borrowed a cookbook from the children’s library. Five-year-old Spider Boy and I had chosen a strawberry cheesecake recipe to try. From a children’s cookbook.
We followed the instructions to the letter. The recipe called for “I package (85g) strawberry gelatin” (spelt gelatin without the ‘e’ – it was an English cook book). I went to the supermarket and asked for gelatin. “You cook with it” I helpfully informed the man. But they didn’t have strawberry gelatin, so I just bought a pack of “gelatine” (spelt with the ‘e’) – “clear and unflavoured” it said on the pack. The fresh strawberries in the mix will be enough to flavour it, I reasoned.
Things began smoothly. Spider Boy and I smashed plain Nice biscuits in a zip-lock bag and rolled them with a rolling pin. We melted butter and poured it over the biscuits, then smooshed it together.
My packet of gelatine had five sachets each containing 10g gelatin. I had bought two boxes so poured eight sachets into my simmering strawberries, sugar and water mixture.
The fact that the spoon I used to mix this strawberry mixture stuck to the plate after the glop had cooled down, should have served as a warning of the no-bake disaster that was to follow.
As I poured the rapidly-becoming-rubbery mixture into the whisked cream cheese, and started folding rubbery-strawberry-sauce-with-gelatinous-lumps into the cream cheese, I knew things had gone horribly, horribly wrong. It was at this point I stopped photographing the steps of this recipe. It was like how I imagine half-set lumpy concrete to be. I tasted a bit on the tip of my finger. It felt like rubber, it tasted salty. The texture was a bizarre rubbery, lumpy mess, concrete-coloured peppered with flesh-coloured gelatinous strawberry blobs. It looked like offal, and tasted how garbage on garbage day would taste, but with salt. I had a sinking feeling it had something to do with all those sachets of gelatin – clear, flavourless, undissolved gelatin.
But, optimist that I am, I thought maybe the texture and taste of the mixture would somehow improve after it was spooned carefully into heart-shaped little tins that were already lined with buttery biscuit base. But no, it looked no better. Oh well, I thought, let’s see what happens after they’re “set” in the fridge for a couple of hours, as the recipe dictates.
An hour-and-a-half later, Spider Boy called out to me, “Mum, look at the cakes.” I went to the open fridge where Spider Boy was crouched by the bottom shelf, peering and poking at the cakes.
It was a cheesecake disaster.
“It’s a total disaster!” declared Spider Boy.
A vastly different story to the food on Lorraine Elliot’s Not Quite Nigella blog. I’ve marvelled at her recipes, I’ve been impressed by the photographs of the outcomes of said recipes. For example, one spectacular recipe post about Cronuts (a donut-croissant hybrid), stated the degree of difficulty was hard, with six to eight hours of work – I do admire the culinary commitment displayed on Not Quite Nigella, but I could never cook something that took six or eight hours. The results of Elliot’s cooking are impressive, if the photos are anything to go by, and I’m sure she is a lot more like Nigella than “Not quite”. It is the people like me, those who love food, and try to emulate those delectable cookbook photographs with our cooking, but somehow miss the mark, who are not only “Not quite Nigella”, we are “Nothing like Nigella”. In fact, some of us are “Nowhere near Nigella”, as far away from Nigella as it is possible to be. The only culinary thing I have in common with Nigella, is that I love food.
I had so been looking forward to cool creamy strawberry smoothness over a buttery biscuit crumb base. How bitterly, bitterly disappointed I was.
I showed my mum the recipe and she pointed out that when the recipe called for “gelatin”, maybe that actually meant jelly crystals
So now, a week later, armed with a fresh packet of strawberry Aeroplane jelly, I will try again. I will keep you posted.