Sunday, August 19, 2012

Done and Dusted

Gawd Strewth! Thank goodness that's over. The kitchen was sweltering yesterday what with the humidity, high temperatures AND the oven on all day. Asked B to plug in one of our portable fans to blow a cool breeze over me as I worked. Very pleasant.

This morning baked five batches of scone mix (four prepared last night, egg/milk added when ready to make/bake. Four should have been enough, but have found that keeping the dough at least half an inch thick when rolling, it doesn't make quite as many. They needed at least 50!
Have to say that each time I make scones, they get better and better. This time added a little more liquid to make a softer (but not sticky) dough, and this seemed to help.

Yesterday put the melted chocolate on top of the eclairs and then returned them immediately to the freezer. Then set about making the quiches. 'They' needed 70 portions, but as my estimate was around 60 (when made) and I am very generous with my servings, am sure they will squeeze an extra 10 out of the five trays.
Make a Quiche Lorraine (bacon, cheese, with halved sliced tomatoes on top); a Three Cheese Quiche with Red onion (Red Leicester, Cheddar, Double Gloucester); Asparagus; Spicy Cheddar with Sweet chillis and Chorizo, and (canned) Salmon with Watercress.
The egg 'custard' that was added to make up the filling varied according to each quiche. Sometimes just eggs and double cream, other times eggs and creme fraiche with cream, or eggs, cream cheese and cream. Well seasoned and have to say they all looked extremely good. Pity I didn't photograph them. But there will be more made another day I am sure and can do it then.

When cooking the quiches, first blind-bake the pastry cases, and even these are improving as now I prick the bases before covering with paper (and use greaseproof not parchment as the latter tends to keep the base slightly damp. Then either fill with old dried beans, but yesterday - after finding a big money-box full of copper coins (pennies and twopenny pieces) used those over the base to hold the paper down. Not only are they heavier than beans, they also get a lot hotter, so the base ends up very flat and almost as crispy as the sides.
After removing the beans/coins and paper (these then used in another pastry case waiting to be baked), brush the hot pastry with beaten egg, all over the base and half-way up the sides. This seals an tiny hole or crack (pricking the base can often lead to a hole needing 'filling' with egg). Once or twice the pastry cracked in the corner, and then I wet the place with egg and stick over a thin piece of saved raw pastry to form a seal, then brush this also with egg.

One of the worst things that can happen is a pastry case leaking, especially when cooked in a loose bottom tin as some of the liquid usually escapes and then drips down to the oven floor. Either stand the tin on another tin, or on a piece of foil, then wrap the foil tightly up the sides of the tin, then this traps any leakage and often prevents it.

It is not easy to lift a large quiche into the oven without tipping it, so I tend to place the tin on a large flat baking sheet (this could be preheated), and this is easier to put in the oven and also remove the quiches (or anything 'pastry' that is likely to crumble when touched hot).

The meringue 'nest' turned out really well. The first batch were OK, but thought the egg whites should have beaten up with more volume. But then I beat them up in a glass mixing bowl (grease free). The next lot were beaten in a metal mixing bowl (wiped round with half a lemon to make sure that was grease free) adding half a teaspoon of cream of tartar to the whites (this is supposed to help them hold up - and it did work!).

Drying out the meringues took several hours, but worth doing if you want to keep them white. i set the oven to 50C, and they came out the colour they went in. Put them - whilst still warm - into freezer bags and then folded over the top and sealed so none of the humid air would turn them soft and sticky. Two days later they are still dry as a bone.

The eclairs were gorgeous (I ate a broken one, filled with cream of course), and even though piped to no more than ring-finger length, they really rose up high and also lengthened. Was able to make five large eclairs from the one-egg mixture. Had I realised how large they would grow, could have made at least a couple (or three) more.

All have been carefully packed away (me taking charge of this as the eclairs/meringues are very fragile and I didn't want B putting heavy things on top. The pre-sliced ham also sent, so now all I have to do it wash up the bowl and utensils used today (yesterday my spare time was spent washing what was use, and again, and again. Started work at 8.00am yesterday and the last pot washed and the food wrapped and what needed chilling was chilled etc, and it was after 8.00pm before I left the kitchen to sit in my chair in the living room.

Have to say none of it was quite exhausting as the previous 'bakeathon', so maybe I'm getting my sea-legs and each time things will become easier.

The catering committee have invited me to their Tea by the Sea, and it seems rude to refuse, so my daughter will collect me early afternoon and take me (B being busy helping). I could have gone on Norris, but B forgot (for the umpteenth time) to recharge the scooter, so don't want to risk getting stick half-way there (or back).
With daughter returning to have supper with us (am sure neither she nor B will feel much like a 'proper meal' after eating the sandwiches, scones, cakes etc), can't prepare anything until everyone is back here. Do have chilli con carne in the freezer which will thaw and reheat within half an hour, and that with some pitta bread and an avocado salad might suffice. Plus home-made ice-cream for afters.

Tried some of the ice-cream made recently in my machine, and - as usual - it was rock hard when removed from the freezer, but as I'd frozen it in individual pots, didn't need to thaw out the whole lot, just the one portion. Timed it and in 20 minutes it was just perfect. Still frozen but soft enough to scoop with a spoon and very, very creamy. No ice crystals at all.
The temperature today is again going to be hot, they say 90C in the south, so will give the ice-cream 15 minutes at room temperature, or perhaps half an hour (or more) in the fridge before eating.

Now to your comments. Stores don't allow scooters to be booked Les, because people sometimes don't turn up, and the time needed for shopping with one is not the same for everyone. Dare say I could take my own scooter into Morrison's, but mine has a very tiny basket, and if I go to a supermarket is would always be for a larger shop than my basket would hold.
As to supermarkets promising to refund the difference if their price is higher than another stores, well I can't be bothered with faffing about with that. When money is really short and every penny counts, then perhaps. But not at the moment.

A welcome to Vixen 307. I've checked the size of the scone cutter I use -well sort of. You see I have two sets of cutters (one set metal, the other plastic). Both contain cutters in several decreasing (or increasing) widths. I've always favoured metal cutters, but when we moved here mislaid them, so bought a plastic set. Useful in that these are fluted at the bottom, and plain at the top, so can be used either way. They also have the width measurement printed on each cutter. Eventually found my missing metal cutters, and have now gone back to using these as they seem to cut through dough more neatly.
The metal cutter (unfluted) that I use to make the scones for the 'social' are fractionally larger than a similar plastic cutter (in that it just slides over the top of the other, with only the thickness of paper between the two). The plastic cutter is 2 1/4 inches wide or 58 mm. So if measuring in mm/s then possibly 58-60mm would be about right. I also like to keep my dough at least half-inch thick when cutting. Could be even thicker, but as they rise well enough, this seems about right.
Think it was Eileen who told me that placing scones fairly close together helped to make them rise evenly and also help to get a flat top, and have to say this does seem to work, although as my oven seems to heat unevenly, so one side gets cooked faster than the other, have to move the scones around so they brown evenly (and also turn the quiches for the same reason) towards the end of the cooking time.
I would dearly love to buy myself a new cooker (B would never fork out for a new one), as the main oven is really too high to be able to reach into without me catching my arms against the front edge of the drop-down door. Think I must have burnt myself five times yesterday trying to get large tins out of the oven without spilling the contents.

Regarding using oil (instead of butter/marg) when making crumbles. Am sure it would work as I've used oil instead of solid fat when making cakes. Also - when in a rush - sometimes add melted butter to the crumble, instead of rubbing it into the dry ingredients. This also seems to work although chefs recommend roughly rubbing the butter into the 'dry' using finger tips, so it stays fairly coarse, and this gives the crumble more flavour as it melts.

Am sure you will understand that as I'm going out this afternoon, and still plenty of tidying up to be done before the family arrives for supper, I've now got to take my leave and 'get on with it'.
Not sure where the sun has got to, it is very warm, but overcast, but a bit of a breeze, so hope it will improve later.
Not sure that I'm happy with hot weather when it comes to serving tea to the masses. Have asked B to tell the 'catering committee' to keep the eclairs in the fridge until about half an hour before serving, then they will still be chilled with no danger of the cream 'going off'. I really am not happy when others take control of the food that I've prepared as i like to see it through from start to finish (or from my kitchen to someone else's mouth) as only then am I sure all the 'elf and safety food hygiene laws are kept to. I sent a pile of disposable gloves with the food, so lets hope they use them.

Have to go, enjoy your day, hope we'll meet up again tomorrow when I can tell you how it all went. TTFN.