Sunday, August 01, 2010

DSC_0118 [psp] - The Red BrickQuotes from the day:

"Walk away from London" - Spoken in authoritative tones by me while on the phone, trying to navigate someone across t'eath from Sansada Hill. Much hilarity and heckling ensued.

"Oh sod it" - Spoken in defiant tones by me while on the phone, trying to navigate someone across t'eath, on line that was mostly Morse, only to find the signal hadn't gone quite as much as I thought.

For the record, I provided people with three maps that they could memorise or print out should they so choose, including an OS one with grid reference and contours and everything (and one with a dragon, a food processor, a sketch of an island off Venice). The nearest anyone got to doing that was the guy who was going to download the Corp.-O'-London PDF when he got to t'eath, but found he didn't have enough signal to do so.

Of the fourteen-yesses, two were never heard of and one failed to navigate so gave up and went home. Firstly, bloody poor show (she'd asked for nav help, so we arranged to meet at Canterburyormargate Tube station at 1.45, then sent a text just before 2 to say she'd be late, but because she was on a bus had no idea how late, but at least twenty minutes, which given I had to be about twenty minutes away by two wasn't really working for me), secondly, it seems she may have asked directions from someone else who was on their way to the party, and who arrived without needing umpteen "Can you see me now? Are you near people playing badminton? Are you by the tent? Is there someone by you with a kite? Can you see an oak tree?" conversations (my answers were generally "no" except for the last which was a "er yes" tinged with dread).

"Trees everywhere" - From the ever helpful Man Who Waits In Line.

"On top of the hill" - As spoken by me, repeatedly. Seems people have difficulty with "more up".

"On top of the hill?" - As spoken by the great many people who came with luggage (somehow it never seemed to occur to them that what they were sitting on and what they were eating and what they were drinking while moaning had also been lugged up the hill). So why all the way up there? Because it's got a good view, but also is less crowded, has long grass (no spiky stubble), gets more breeze on a hot day, gets more sun than the nearby fields late in the afternoon or evening [so the bit when there was no sun] and because I said so.

"Oh, it's actually good" - Spoken to me in surprise. Thanks. Spoken of the apple cake and that was before they tried the chocolate one.

"How many chocolate oranges died in the making of this?" - Spoken of the chocolate cake. And none did, just two huge navel oranges and three bars of chocolate.

So what did I learn?
- Arrange to meet somewhere with landmarks, signs and good public transport at a fixed time. Leave it about half-an-hour after you've told everyone you will.
- Carry flares and maroons, or possibly a flag with pole (or burn a path through the grass from the main entry points the night before).
- Provide navigational aid only in a previously announced window. After this turn the phone off and assume anyone remaining can cope with mapreading using a grid reference (people suddenly become a lot more capable when there's no other option).
- Delegate imperiously on everything.
- And when someone says they want meeting from Sansada Hill (wondering if "bunge" in Swahili is related to "bundes" in German) realise they may well appear from the opposite direction before you've put your shoes on.

Anyway, now the important bit.

Taking my inspiration from Stairs:

The Lactose-Intolerant-Intolerant Chocolate Orange Cake

For the cake:
8 oz. butter
8 oz. caster sugar
4 lg. eggs (yes, I know the other recipe said 6, but these are big and also there were viscosity issues I'll come to later)
2 oz. cocoa
5 oz. SR flour
2 zs. huge navel orange
2 ju. huge navel orange
6 oz. dark chocolate (well, one 150 g Green & Black's Cooks' Chocolate bar [72% cocoa mass, 43% cocoa butter]. Yes, we know G&B under Cadbury's are evil for putting milk powder in even the 85% cocoa, but the recipe's got cream in it so my brother's already ruled out. Green & Black's chosen because I didn't quite trust the Tesco Value Chocolate Flavour Cake Browning and the Patisserie Greenandgoldpackaging one was twice the price).

For the ganache:
200 g. dark chocolate
284 ml. double cream (yes, this is copied direct from something else, and yes, I'd guess this was something like half-a-pint).
2 tb. caster sugar

For the encasement:
3-400 g. dark chocolate
An equal volume of tart marmalade (how one knows which the tart one is when they all seem to be about 63% sugar I don't know. I went with the one on offer that wasn't Robinson's*. Can you tell it's something I never normally need enough to actually buy?).

For good measure:
XXX ml. double cream

Yes, I know the units are all over the place in this, and seriously misleading in some cases as I only bought three bars of chocolate, making 450 g in all (wow, I've just realised this thing has a pound of chocolate in it; no wonder it tastes nice). I think I must have used 100 g [4 ounces] in the cake, about 200 g for the coating and 150 g for the ganache.

First, copy down your ingredients from a defunct blog.
Then, check you've bought everything (including the cocoa powder because you've just realised the jar in the cupboard is a just-add-hot-milk one, not proper cocoa).
Then, realise the blog says "bake".
Then, having found a recipe that tells you how to cook a different cake, bake.

Oh, you're not going to let me get away with that? Ok, so adapted from BBC Good Food as linked above:

Oven on gas mark 3 or 160 degrees Celsius (if you can't use proper units you're not allowed to make it). Worryingly it says 140oC for fan ovens. Mine has a one of them, but as it took me several months to realise the thing has been grilling everything I put into it (I just thought fan-assisted ovens were vile and it lived up to that expectation), I'm not really sure what adjustments ought be made.

1. Melt the chocolate going into the cake with the butter (and the coffee dissolved in 125 ml of water, but we're not doing that bit). Either use the smallest hob on the lowest flame or use a bain-marie.
2. Sift dry ingredients into a separate big bowl. And by sift I took that to mean shake from a bag a couple of foot above, because, well, sieves are a pig to clean, even if I had one. And I include the zest as a dry ingredient because it's small.
3. In another separate bowl (these BBC people must have a dishwasher) beat the eggs into the buttermilk which we're also not using and that's not just because I don't know what it is or where to get it.
3alternativeversion. Fold the molten chocolate and butter into the flour and stuff (figuring that anything the involves adding hot liquid to raw egg might not go too well). Break an egg in and mix it in. Repeat. Think 6 eggs might be pushing it, so stop at four, with one on hand to add later.
4. Add the orange juice little by little. Realise many littles can make a lot. Decide it must be fine the recipe for a different set of ingredients says it's meant to be glossy and runny. Be quite glad you didn't add any more eggs.
5. Wonder if you should have drunk some of the orange juice. Start eating the juiced segments instead.
6. Ignore your misgivings and the instinct that's screaming for you to add more flour and perhaps some whipped egg whites and pour into your freshly washed then pre-greased cake tin because you've only got one and hope it doesn't leak out of the bottom (I think it's an eight-inch tin, round).
7. Stick in the middle of the oven.
8. Studiously don't look in the oven for quarter of an hour past the minimum given in the range of times of a different cake (so at about twenty-to-seven, or 75-minutes after you put it in if you insist on doing things that way).
9. Open door, stick knife in (the cake, not the oven or your nemesis), pull it out clean and wonder what that means.
10. Leave to cool while resting on a tin of tomatoes (to get the side off) because it turns out that your slightly obsessive landlord appears to have thrown out the grid from the grill along with anything else that might have been touched by a reasonably pleasant if slightly lax ex-flatmate thus scuppering one's impromptu cooling rack plans (yes, I know the really imaginative domestic godless would have woven a self-supporting airing structure out of forks, but I had been baking for most of the day and that would have meant more washing up.
11. Go and stare mindlessly at the internet for an hour.
12. Make your slash and ganache.
13. Oh, all right then, cut the cooled cake which is still surprisingly hot and not particularly cakey looking inside, transversely twice, or once in my cake and then lift of the self-detaching top to leave three discs. Try not to wonder about the lava tubes near the top nor the bituminous tendencies of lower down.
14. Glug a good amount of cream into a saucepan and add the sugar, and stirring bring almost to the boil (yes, this is a helpful you'll only know when it was right when it's not instruction). By the way you can so pretend it hasn't curdled because you put it in the freezer without thinking if one takes glug in its dig and thump sense.
15. When beaten to a less flakey consistency (that beige electric whisk with the dusty smelling motor that somehow left a house with you through being still at the packing stage when the moving stage came comes in handy here).
16. Pour over broken chocolate (that is chocolate you have broken up, not chocolate sold in the style of those vast mythical boxes of biscuits from childhood/Shopper's Paradise).
17. While that melts, apply your beater (mechanical, a beatiel, not a companion of Mellors) to some of the remaining cream to make it liquid enough to impersonate whipped cream.
18. Beat the chocolate cream. Apply both cream and darker cream to various layers and sandwich together.
19. Melt any leftover chocolate, this time in a bain-marie because you're a bit tired and this way if you forget to pay attention you'll set fire to a plastic bowl or your hand before the chocolate catches.
20. Dollop in the appropriate half-jar of marmalade.
21. Stir.
22. Stick in the freezer because making a runny chocolate coating for a cake, in a south-facing kitchen, with windows closed because there's a man outside with a circular saw throwing out screams and plumes, on a sunny day in late July, in southern England, in a city with a strong heat island effect... well, it just needed to go in the freezer.
23. Apply thickened chorange paste to the cake. Keep applying. Push it back up the sides. Dump it in the freezer (thank you flatmate who works in a restaurant so never has food at home and so has never used his drawer).
24. Reapply and apply more chocange paste (name clearly varies with consistency).
25. Decorate according to family custom (there was an Easter Christmas cake at some point, ask my brother).
26. Transport across London. Do try not to leave it on its side while you put the other two cakes upside-down.
27. Serve.
28. Bask in the surprise that your closest friends have that something you made tastes quite nice.
29. Keep the smile fixed while they debate whether it's more a torte than a cake and what exactly constitutes a torte and whether it was the acidity of the cake or the heat of the day that caused the whipped cream layer to curdle (look, it tastes like cream and so what if it happens to feel like cheese?).
30. Remind yourself, safe in the knowledge you'll never make this again unless it's for something, to practice next time so as to be able to ascertain the quantities that make for a more cake-like cake.
31. Realise that the next allowable birthday celebration is in 2036 (something happened at my brother's seventh, thus moratoriumising any subsequent, and clearly I have to stick with precedent when it comes to the spacing of celebrations).
32. Blast through the birthday far too fast, and carry cake home (the carrot, reflex, matched the apple, obtuse, and the chocolate just avoided being acute. The Lego cake was right-angled, oddly, as was the flapjack).
33. Spend the next week eating cake.
34. Be surprised about how healthy your face looks, given the amount of fat and sugar you've been taking in.
35. Still not finish putting things away a week later.
36. Realise some things don't change much regardless of age.


* Or even Robertson's. The one that doesn't have the golliwog on.

Mmmmm.... cake.
If I promise to make the cake, will you retrun here?!
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