Niamh is always on at me to do baking in the flat, something that’s a bit of a struggle due to space, lack of equipment and the small oven that doesn’t have the middle shelf that every damn recipe tells me to use. Regardless, we had another attempt today. Needless to say, it didn’t go quite to plan. As ever.
Courtesy of the local library, Niamh came home with a copy of The Best Ever Baking Book by Jane Bull. A nice volume, not too many recipes, most of which are quite simple and require the most basic of ingredients and kit. So we picked up one or two things from Morrisons (being stuck behind two of the world’s slowest people at the self-serve) and enlisted Austin’s assistance. The recipe chosen was shortbread, and the ideas in the book suggested adding chocolate, peanuts, sweets and so on. All good.
OK, major issue one is that I don’t own any scales. I keep meaning to get some but I forgot (again) today, and I don’t even think the local Morrisons sells them anyway. Instead we decided to use maths and science to work out the ingredients. I think this is where it started to go wrong. Actually, caving to Niamh and agreeing to make the shortbread was probably the beginning of the end, but here we are.
Butter comes in 250g lumps, so I used a ruler to divide the block into five and sliced off two of them to give us out 100g. Caster sugar and flour both seem to have similar densities as water, which I found when I poured them into a measuring jug. 500g of each was a shade over 500ml. Convenient. Using this method, we got 50g of the former and 150g of the latter. Ish. Or thereabouts. Approximately.
Next came the mixing, which Austin thoroughly enjoyed (when not fighting Niamh off as she wanted to keep trying the raw mixture). We then took blobs of this and mixed them with various ingredients to make a ten biscuits (the recipe said 24), popped them onto a baking tray and popped them into the oven.
By ten minutes it was obvious things weren’t going quite to plan. Looking through the oven window it seemed we weren’t making biscuits but soup. Instead of crisping into bite-sized chunks, the shortbread was flattening out and bubbling like a pale witch’s brew. We ended up with one large segmented, soggy cookie; greasy and soggy and loaded with sugar it comes as no surprise that Austin wolfed down all of his, Niamh pretended to like hers and I ate my share out of sheer stubbornness and unwillingness to waste the ingredients. I’m going for “too much butter”.
Maybe I should get some scales.