This past weekend was the first one in several weeks wherein I have been both at home and without an editing deadline breathing down my neck, so I celebrated by spending much of it in the kitchen. My back is not best pleased with me for this choice.
I cleaned out the refrigerator, disposing of the last of the jars and pots of condiments that we hadn’t used in years–in over a decade, in some cases–but which my mother would never permit me to get rid of, along with a very small volume of food that was no longer edible. (I’ve been trying very hard to stop wasting food for a number of reasons, primary among these being the amount that gets wasted in the U.S. every year; this has gotten easier as I’ve been replacing ready-made foods with simple ingredients and home-made things, but I did come across half a packet of hotdogs that I thought my father had consumed one week when I was away, but which had instead slipped down behind a drawer and really doesn’t bear thinking about…)
After that, I cooked. I did a batch of wheat bread, which turned out disappointingly soft–despite being baked all the way through, proved first by a thermometer and later by slicing through a loaf, as it cooled it began to sink under the weight of the top crust, so both loaves have sort of a squashed, rounded shape where they should be tall and crisp at the sides. I think I’m using water that’s too warm for the sponge. I did a batch of blueberry muffins, also disappointing–there was nothing wrong with the bake, but the recipe did not yield the results I was looking for. I like a cakey, dense blueberry muffin; these taste good, but they’re very airy and didn’t rise very well, just sort of spread out a bit over the top of the muffin cup and stayed flat. Also, the blueberries turned the batter entirely violet, despite being rolled in flour and added at the very end. (Both the wheat sandwich bread and classic blueberry muffin recipes can be found at the America’s Test Kitchen website, https://www.americastestkitchen.com/) I also made some tuna salad to go with the bread, but there’s nothing particularly exciting about your average tuna salad. A friend of mine does a delicious version with diced apple and walnuts–if I can get the recipe from her, I’ll post a picture of that some time.
Sunday is usually my big baking day, as I am insisting on reviving the tradition of the Sunday Dinner in my household, and I have started doing a fancy-ish dessert to go with it. This week I also woke up to find that we were out of the Mary B’s biscuits we usually have on a Sunday morning, so I made a batch of quick cream biscuits (also from ATK). They were good (and they keep well), but not as good as proper buttermilk biscuits.
I made a large batch of tabbouleh for the coming week–it looked much the same as my last batch, so I did not photograph it–then I got started on the dinner and dessert.
I used this recipe to start from for my Somerset pork, but all the recipes I looked at being so wildly different (and none of them matching my memory of the dish), I used it more as a guideline than a set of instructions. I used cubed pork tenderloin, floured and seared in a pan before baking, and one thinly-sliced onion, similarly (briefly) sauteed before adding to the casserole dish. I then added two cups of hard cider, about a teaspoon of dried thyme leaves, two tablespoons of cream, and about 3/4 a cup of flour (including what had been used for the pork) to whisk into a sauce. This was a little too much flour, I think, even though it was thinned out in the process of baking; 1/2 a cup would have done. Finally, I peeled and chopped two granny smith apples and stirred them in with the pork and onions before pouring the sauce over and putting into a 350 degree oven for an hour. It turned out quite well; I did roasted potatoes and carrots and creamed spinach to go with it. (The creamed spinach was supposed to be a spinach souffle, but under no circumstances could what I ended up with be described as a souffle–I didn’t chop the spinach up finely enough, and there was too little of it.)
Then came the chocolate roulade, which I actually had to work on in stages throughout the day. I used a Mary Berry recipe, which can be found here.
It went smoothly enough in the beginning. I let my eggs come to room temperature during the morning, and I measured the solid chocolate using a a scale and melted it exactly as the instructions said to, instead of being lazy and just putting it into a saucepan on low heat.
It was all very pretty until I put it into bake, and found after 25 minutes that the batter was still very much batter. As I’ve mentioned before, I do have a talent for silly cock-ups. I realized later that when I had glanced at the required temperature, I had screened out the “C” in my mind and just assumed it read “F”–I’m used to using recipes designed for UK kitchens, but when I see a set of conversions I tend to assume the highest temperature given is the U.S. one, instead of reading it properly as I would if I were working. When I found my batter still wet, I increased the temperature to 300F and baked it another 25 minutes. This was not a good thing.
The end resulted tasted quite good, but did not qualify as a roulade by any stretch of the imagination. The heat should have been 350F, and I suspect 20 minutes will do rather than 25, next time. I managed to persuade it into something slightly resembling a log–at least Mary Berry said that the cracks would be “part of its charm”. This one turned out extremely charming by the time I was finished. It wasn’t so much light as a feather as rather dense, and the specified amount of cream was at least a third more than I needed, so there was plenty left over for my hot chocolate this morning. It did look a good deal more appetizing when sliced and accompanied by fresh raspberries, although still clumsy.