I break my sorry silence with August's Daring Baker challenge - after totally failing to find the time to blog for two weeks, my long-standing fear of the DBers finally got me scurrying from my hiding place. You know how to get me to do whatever you want now; the threat of those Daring Baker hitmen always gets me moving...
In actual fact, it's not exactly the reveal date anymore, but I've decided it's still the 31st by virtue of the fact that I've not been to bed yet (late shift at work, sigh. And er, a trip to the pub afterwards, involving three separate people all trying and failing to teach me to play snooker. I managed to pot three balls eventually -out of about five games- but that does include the white one, twice). Besides, I couldn't let this post go by, not after all the effort to get it done.
In short: I woke up in a cold sweat two nights ago thinking the DB ninjas were lurking round my bedroom. Usually for a challenge I do it in parts throughout the month to minimise hyperventilation - for this one, I dragged my friend Alex round first thing in the morning and enlisted her aid asap.
(Alex gets a special mention today as Vice-President Camera-Owner; you may have remember me mentioning that my usual one died rather spectactularly a couple of weeks ago. It's now lying downstairs, practically with its feet in the air and its tongue stuck out. And yes, I could have got it fixed... but hello, I had eighteenth-birthday money to spend. In short: say hello to my new, shiny, beautiful Nikon D40. She is my soulmate. And also, apparently, female).
...But back to this month's challenge: chocolate eclairs.
Complete with choux pastry recipe with the fateful instructions: After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm.
Oh. Oh, REALLY.
There is no 'slip a wooden spoon handle into the door' when you're cooking on an Aga, Daring Bakers. It just doesn't happen like that. What does happen is improvising shifts of two baking sheets of blobby pastry between the roasting and baking ovens - at which point they did look rather impressive - while pretending you can't hear your friend Alex going, 'my mum always puts slits in them now so the steam can get out, so they don't collapse or go soggy' ('THE DARING BAKERS KNOW EVERYTHING, THANK YOU ALEX.')
I am apparently a stressful person to bake with.
Predictably, my choux pastry then collapsed and went soggy.
Alex is too good a friend to sit around laughing smugly (after five minutes or so, obviously), so we left the flat and soggy eclairs in the simmering oven to dry out (at a very low temperature) for a couple of hours. They did go crispy and over-baked, yes, but at least I could pick them up by then. If you were wondering; this is why my eclairs are all ugly and mis-shapen. Sigh.
I'm not a total failure. I decided not to make the pastry cream chocolate flavoured, simply because I'm not a big fan of chocolate cream, and instead added the hazelnut praline paste of last month's challenge. And the chocolate glaze on these things is to die for, though admittedly Alex did most of the work on that, while I was flailing around and breaking my mother's sink.
And maybe I'm a sucker for punishment, but yes. I will try choux pastry again. Just on a real oven. A real oven, with a door I can leave open. I dream of such things.
Recipe for Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs here.
...I hope Alex helping is okay with the Daring Bakers, on reflection. Don't hurt her. Please don't hurt her. Or me. Or my camera.