Week Six - Soufflé
I was riding the crest of a wave after last week's cake success and I became a self-proclaimed baking guru. Over the last week I have missed no opportunity to pass critical judgement on other people's cake making efforts and this has resulted in three unexpected consequences:
1. They say they are never going to make you any more cake
2. They ask you to make the cake in future
3. Your wife calls you a prima donna (classic baking envy manifesting itself)
So onto the final challenge…soufflé. I had never eaten let alone made a soufflé before. All I knew was that people talk about them needing to rise so this was going to be the key measure of success. My first minor hiccup occurred when separating my egg whites. After 6 weeks I now get in to the Paul Hollywood zone when doing this and like to put on a bit of an egg separation show to try and impress my wife and daughter. My daughter giggles and my wife shakes her head. I think there was too much 'show' this week and not enough 'separation' and I managed to end up with bowls containing both yolks and egg whites (with a few bits of egg shell chucked in for good measure).
My second minor hiccup occurred when I placed my soufflés in the oven. Somehow I managed to forget to start my timer and had to rely upon my weakest ability (judgement) to decide when the soufflés would be ready. To my astonishment they all rose beautifully (success!) and developed a nice golden colour. The end result seemed to get general approval, probably because none of us had any idea what that should taste like!:
“Tastes like a cheese omelette”
“Light and fluffy”
Overall friends and family score = 7/10
So there you have it, my final blog and on Saturday’s final I will be cooking for a distinguished panel including Raymond Blanc! I have no idea how my dishes will turn out but if all else fails I am going to chuck a fried egg on top…
Week Five - Walnut Cake
I love cake! In fact I can't think of any type of cake I don't love. I was really looking forward to this week's challenge as I knew it would be delicious if I managed to get it right for once.
I was fortunate enough to have my baby daughter for company in the kitchen this week. She seemed to enjoy her ringside seat and the sights and sounds of me trying to cook. She looked quite bemused at times (a common reaction to the sight of me cooking) but offered regular gurgles of encouragement.
My cooking got off to a bad start as my butter was not soft enough. I ended up with a compacted ball of butter and sugar within the whisk attachment and I then had to perform complex keyhole surgery with a butter knife and chopstick to extract it. I then gave the butter an impromptu massage to try and warm it up but it did not respond to my tender touch and the same thing happened again. After a second round of surgery I placed it on the radiator for half an hour. This did the trick and I was back on track…until I burnt my walnuts under the grill. I really need to stop using the smoke alarm as a kitchen timer! I was too lazy to toast another batch of walnuts and decided to brand them as ‘caramelised’.
From that point on everything seemed to go pretty much to plan and I enjoyed snacking on all the ingredients along the way. The cakes looked almost perfect when I took them out of the oven. I was on a bit of a tight schedule and found myself in the garden at 9pm doing bicep curls with the cooling rack to cool them down; it was my neighbour’s cat’s turn to look bemused when she witnessed this. This competition has resulted in me doing things I never imagined! Once cooled, I really enjoyed assembling the cake and was delighted with how it looked. I have to say it tasted pretty amazing and the feedback was brilliant:
“The top and bottom are excellent”
“Who made it??”
Overall friends and family score = 9/10!
Week Four - Pastry
After last week's dim sum disaster, I was optimistic that this week's effort could only be an improvement. I took the bold step of telling my wife that she could relax and put her feet up as I was taking charge of dinner. There was a look of scepticism and amusement on her face and she decided to share the news with her friends. Her scepticism was clearly infectious as they advised her to have takeaway menus on standby.
I was determined to surprise them and threw myself into the challenge. I was like a whirlwind in the kitchen leaving a trail of destruction in my wake. My wife looked on in horror as she saw her freshly cleaned kitchen being destroyed before her eyes. I'm not sure if it was concern for her kitchen or her dinner that prompted her to tell me to slow down and put some love in to my cooking. I took her advice, slowed down and genuinely enjoyed making the pastry. I have never even used a rolling pin before and Raymond's trick of using cling film made the pastry easy to handle. Completing the rest of the recipe was straightforward enough, though I did get quite distracted eating biscuits dunked in the left over cream. I had some pastry left over and I used some initiative and made a custard tart. I wish I could say I made fresh custard but I cracked open a tin of ambrosia instead.
I was pretty chuffed when the tart came out of the oven. I rustled up a nice salad to go with it and served it to my wife who I think was very impressed (but hid it well). Friends and family feedback:
“It's definitely edible”
“It's got a soggy bottom”
“Bit wet but tastes good”
“Clean my kitchen”
Overall score = 7/10
Whilst not exactly glowing endorsements, I am happy enough and feel like I’m back on track!
P.S: In case you were wondering, the custard tart was awful.
Week Three - Dim Sum
I was on a high after last week's meringue success and I settled down to watch the next video tutorial. It did not seem that daunting to me though my wife clearly felt otherwise and simply said "this is going to be a disaster". I was not fazed and embarked on what could be described as a game of two halves, with each half lasting an epic 90 minutes!
The first half was a magnificent performance. Everything seemed to go to plan and I was so confident that I even contemplated not weighing my spinach or chicken and using my judgement. I say contemplated, as the pharmacist within me took over and I weighed them meticulously. There was a moment where my confidence levels reached a crescendo. I'd managed to turn on the chosen ring of the hob without needing to check the markings to see which was the correct knob and I was tossing my frying pan of mushrooms just like the chefs on TV. For this brief moment in time I was king of my kitchen, oozing confidence à la Raymond and I believed I could cook anything! My first half concluded with me whizzing everything up in Woody (my Kenwood and I are now on more familiar terms) and I was a happy man.
The second half started off well as I was really enjoying putting the dough through the pasta machine but I then started to (literally) smell something wasn't right. The kitchen smelt like my mum's when she is making rotis and the pasta seemed browner than on the video. My wife then asked me if I'd used the right flour and the penny then dropped. I'd used the wrong flour but I'd come too far and there was no turning back! I proceeded to do my bit for dim sum diversity and assembled won tons of various shapes and sizes which I then boiled. The end result received a less than luke warm response and let’s just say there were plenty left over. In a desperate effort to save the day (and a rare act of compassion having seen the amount of effort I'd put in) my wife fried the won tons. You know you have made something awful when even frying it does not make it edible.
Family and friends feedback:
"Is it cooked?"
"They look like little rotis"
"Inedible, raw and doughy"
Overall score = 3/10 (for effort and the sauce!)
Week Two - Meringue Cake
This week's recipe looked pretty complicated so I asked my wife for some advice. Her unsupportive response was that she wasn’t getting involved and that I better not make a mess of her kitchen. She proceeded to ignore all my requests for guidance during the cooking process and only made brief sorties into the kitchen when she realised there was some chocolate up for grabs. Now that I have got my domestic issues off my chest, I will tell you about the cooking.
Now I have never separated an egg in my life and was chuffed when I managed to do it 6 times without any yolk casualties. Incidentally I am a big fan of eggs and have always held the firm view that there is not a dish in the world that isn't improved by adding a fried egg on top (I challenge you to name one).
By the time I'd whisked my eggs up in the Kenwood Chef and they were forming peaks I was over the moon and getting cocky. I was even brave enough to hold the bowl upside down above my head! I actually saw it as a 'win win' as egg whites are meant to cure baldness!
Once the meringues were in the oven, I made my ganache. This took some patience but the end result smelt and tasted great and I could not resist putting some in a cheeky digestive biscuit sandwich.
The meringues came out of the oven looking more eighties cracked artex than silky smooth but acceptable enough. The assembly then followed and I made the mistake of deviating from the recipe by toasting my almonds in a frying pan and this resulted in them attaining a fried egg aroma. That aside, I have to say the final assembled result looked pretty respectable!
Family and friends feedback:
"Good meringue, nice chewy middle"
"Strange hint of fried egg"
"I think I now have diabetes"
"The meringue thing is nice"
Overall score = 8/10
Week One - Brioche
Following a 38 year sabbatical from baking after making cheese straws in primary school, I was very apprehensive about making brioche. However, watching Raymond's video a few times and my sisters’ reassuring words, "it's easy and you'd have to be pretty stupid to mess it up", gave me some confidence.
Things started off well. I measured out all the ingredients lining them up beautifully just like Raymond. I mixed them just as he instructed and it looked fine. It was only when I took my dough out of the fridge that alarm bells started ringing. It was really sticky so I gave it another 30 mins. It then seemed less sticky so I decided to go for broke. The next 20 mins were spent trying to scrape the glue like dough off the grease proof paper and then get it all in the tin. Proving did not seem to improve matters greatly and it barely increased in size.
Once in the oven my spirits started to lift as to my surprise it actually started to rise. When I removed it from the oven it did not look evenly cooked but smelt nice. I tried to sell it to my friends and family as French rustic style brioche but they weren’t convinced. Their brutally honest feedback included:
"It looks like a dough clutch bag"
"I would not have a second slice"
"It's eggy and doughy"
"I would not say it's a complete disaster"
So not the best of starts; I am clearly ‘pretty stupid’ and in need of less honest friends and family. Things can only get better! Overall friends and family score: 5/10.
For Mohammed, a kitchen disaster tends to occur every time he enters his kitchen. A recent example includes Mohammed’s chicken in a honey and Soy sauce marinade. With the chicken looking anaemic in the frying pan, Mohammed decided to empty the bottle of Soy sauce onto the chicken. The final meal looked like the chicken had been caught up in an oil slick and somehow managed to taste even worse than it looked. Mohammed trained as a pharmacist and became a father in 2015. It was the birth of his first child that was Mohammed’s watershed moment, making him decided to enter Disaster Chef so he can learn to cook edible meals for his wife and new born baby.