Friday, 14 February 2014

Happy Valentine's!

I'd like to wish everybody out there a happy Valentine's Day.

And we all know that Valentine's Day means.... Goose eggs!

That's right. Forget chocolates. Forget flowers. Forget romance. For Valentine's Day is traditionally the date when geese start laying.
(At this point our broody hen, Elvis, takes a huge gulp, as I have threatened to give her some goose eggs to hatch out!)

Not all geese can read the calendar correctly and we have friends whose geese have, for the last three years, started laying some time in advance of this, even as early as late December.
But our geese are cleverer. They at least have waited for February and it was not really a surprise when I received a text last weekend which simple read 'Goose egg!'

The ganders have been slightly more macho of late, baring their teeth, honking and stomping, at each other and at humans! But in reality they are not too aggressive and have not yet started to defend the nest. Maybe this will change when one of the geese decides she wants to sit.

For the moment at least, we furtively remove each egg which is laid, however carefully the geese are to hide them deep under the straw in their nest. They really do make the most enormous omelette or boiled egg!

Blokes Baking
Now, you may be thinking that I shouldn't be talking about goose eggs on such a romantic day. Well, there is a little bit of romance left in these old bones. For last night was the second ever gathering of the Blokes Baking Group which I run. I had deliberately moved it forward a day so that we could all make romantic bakes for our loved ones.

Piping skills in action
- just like using decorators caulk and a cartridge gun!
It took quite some searching to find a couple of recipes which would be fitting for the occasion. I finally settled on Red Velvet Whoopie Pies and Chocolate Florentines. These recipes would test out our skills to the limit and quite possibly beyond. Piping bags were involved, as were electric hand whisks.
Never mind though, it was just like using a DIY cartridge gun and a plaster mixer! And trowelling the cream cheese icing between the whoopie biscuits was just like brick laying.

Well, actually, I did a run through the night before so that I could find all the pitfalls. This helped considerably with the Whoopie Pies, the second batch being a considerable improvement on the first.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies - suitably romantic!
(The beer bottles in the background are to keep the table cloth on)
The Chocolate Florentines though were a different story. On Wednesday's practice run, everything went smoothly until I spooned dollops onto oiled baking trays. It was immediately obvious that the toffee mix was going to spread everywhere, especially when it had to go in the oven for ten minutes. Less immediately obvious was the fact that there was an infinitecimally small time margin when it could be extricated from the baking sheets. On one side of this millisecond, it simply disintegrated. On the other side, it was hermetically sealed to the baking sheets. We ended up scraping it all off, reheating it and putting it into Yorkshire pudding trays, without much success. We did manage to bind some of them together using melted chocolate, but it was not a very successful salvage job.

So when it came to Thursday evening, when I was supposed to be the expert, I made a few tweaks and rather unwisely stuck to the same recipe. I substituted the margarine (cheapskate) for butter and tried silicone baking trays and others lined with oiled parchment.
Carefully spooning out the Florentine mixture!
Again, though they appeared better before going into the oven, again the toffee just melted into a sea! At least those in the silicone trays, after a quick blast in the freezer, did come out in one piece. The ones on the baking parchment, however, had inseparably bonded with the greaseproof paper.

Oh, how I wish that whoever compiles these cookery books would actually try out the recipes first, following their own instructions.

Anyway, enough was made for us all to make a fitting romantic gesture in the morning. Brownie points were definitely earned and we had a great evening into the deal!

If you want the recipes for these dishes, please visit the Blokes Baking Blog.

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