For my friend Lynne – Get well soon!
Simple! Ha! Marcus Wareing’s Home Made Jaffa Cakes recipe from Great British Chefs – recipe can be found here.
It sounds so simple doesn’t it? Make a tray of little tiny spongy things, cut them in half, take out a bit of the middle bit, blob some marmalade in there, dip them in melted chocolate, take a photo, give to one’s true love who has asked for them. Well, let me say this. NO! It is not an easy recipe. No, no, no.
What these great chefs don’t tell you is anything about how to stick the things back together, about how to cut the tops off the cakes so that they are straight, how to dip properly in chocolate, how to melt chocolate, any of it.
They pretend that it is easy but it is fiddly and stressful. Plus the instruction to use a muffin tin? My muffin tin is cavernous, an army of small children could sleep in it. Hmm…Maybe a mini muffin tin with teeny weeny holes? I made one batch in a jam tart tin and they came out all lumpy on top. Wet your finger and smooth the tops down, that should be in the recipe too.
So after a long tearful discussion with Brian, he went into the bowels of the garage and found a tin fetchingly named, a ‘mini morsel’ tin; one of my purchases, so far unused. This one he said, this will give you the same shape as the ones in the photo. I wept some more.
Desperate to console me, he went out and bought me a new handmixer. My thirty year old one died last year. He went to John Lewis, they had two that he thought were rubbish. He went to Comet; they had closed down. He finally went to Argos which had six and found one made by Wahl which seems to be pretty good. The trouble with the big ones is that they are too heavy and too powerful, what is needed for the ‘whisk one egg and 40 g sugar’ instruction is just a little ordinary mixer, the Kenwood can’t do small amounts like this.
By now I had no choice, readers, at this point I was committed to making these things, Brian had got the kit, I gritted my teeth, took some more painkillers and got on with making a mess. By this point the dog had given up and gone back to bed.
Armed with my mini morsel tin and my new handmixer I set to. Does anyone know about adding melted butter to densely whipped eggs and sugar. Is there a secret? Does one add it cool ? (I am guessing yes) does one add it in a thin stream? (I’m guessing yes) does one fold it in or beat it in with the mixer? (no idea) All I know is that my bowl of fluff deflated both times in the blink of an eye when I added the butter.
The mixture got very thick and almost solid once the flour and almond meal went in. The next challenge, portioning out tiny even dollops. I take my hat off to all you patisserie people, this is where I start to fall down.
On the plus side, once I had smoothed the lumpy stuff down with a wet finger in the mini morsel set up, the mini morsel tin performed well and released all the little cakelets without a whimper. Score one to me.
But how to slice the tops off neatly? You need a sharp knife and to hold them on edge so you can cut straight – that or a Black and Decker workmate for petits fours. You also need a sharp edged teaspoon to get the middles out or you break through the sides of these tiny little things. I have some elderly silver teaspoons worn thin with age and they have very sharp edges so I used one of those.
Marmalade? we have loads of jars so I blobbed this in the middles and attempted to stick them together. Ok that bit wasn’t too bad, fiddly but not impossible.
Then we come to the chocolate. Bain marie, ok, but the chocolate was in a bad mood and didn’t want to play. Did I learn anything from the last time I ventured into dipped chocolate land with those mint chocolate yo-yo biscuits? No, I don’t think so. Anyway I tried various combinations of fork (you have to be joking surely?) toothpicks, teaspoons, rubber spatulas etc. Dipping top down resulted in top detaching from base, pouring over was messy, rolling a bit hit and miss. There has to be something these chefs are not telling us. I reckon they say ‘easy’ and leave out instructions and ‘how to do its’ on purpose, leaving us poor mortals to stare dolefully at their perfect pictures with our chocolate streaked hands and our aching shoulders from over concentrating on inch sized bits of sponge goo and wondering forlornly how they do it.
So when you look at these photos, please don’t think this is easy, a mere bagatelle; it is an illusion. This was harder work by far than making a few loaves of bread. I doubt I will do it again for a while.
I also attempted to ‘food style’ it for you. With no expense spared I cut up some ikea napkins with their faux Marimekko flowers and attempted various artistic arrangements. The current fad for food photos seems to be to take a pic of half of whatever it is, and blur the background. The sun came out at various points so I scuttled out with my plate into the garden and the bees buzzed and the flies instantly came to see what was going on so I came back in. The things this blogger does, honestly I think she is quite mad.
Those of you who are wiser and smarter than me at making little amuse-bouches and petits fours will no doubt have sage advice to offer me. But I think the best advice if you want to make these is to do it when you have lots of time to spare and nowhere particular to go, adopt a Zen like attitude and you will be fine. Or not as the case may be. The case for non-attachment gets stronger each day and for buying Jaffa cakes in the shops like normal.
However if someone wants to come and show me how to dip, I will trade them for a bread lesson, serious offer! I’ll even put you up and give you dinner.
And just one last thing, don’t be fooled by photos, just like fashion photos it is as easy as one, two, three to smooth out the bumps and take out the fingerprints and even add chocolate where there was none. Just remember that. Here are two of my photos. All I’ve done is lighten and ‘retouch’. Brian will eat them whatever they look like and will be happy because he is a polite and decent chap. Take a look at the one on the far right, doctored in the first image and the original below.
The dog is fast asleep now and I have finished ranting and raving for one day. Wishing you all a happy weekend !