Do you ever manage to land yourself in your own personal hell whilst trying to extract yourself from a different kind of own personal hell? Ha! You’re just like me.
Last Monday, I was supposed to join my husband and my sons on a nine-mile hike around the Lincolnshire Wolds in the name of some Scouting badge or other. I’d gamely agreed to come along. It was meant to be a family “walk”, and heck, a nine-mile walk is worth a couple of sessions of aerobic exercise, right?
So I thought, until the Bad Weather hit the week before. It suddenly occurred to me that nine miles trawling through muddy fields in the company of grumpy, sodden and cold kids (this was a Scout group event, not just our family!) might not be such a grand way of spending a public holiday. At the end of the day, I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to hiking. All right, I ‘fess up. I don’t care much for hiking. I’m not the most outdoorsy kinda girl.
What to do? I hit upon the glorious idea of providing “field support” by being the “base” who stays at home and takes emergency distress calls. Every field activity needs a base. Better still, to sweeten my husband’s and sons’ disappointment at my lack of participation, I offered to bake a cake for the post-hike BBQ. That turned out to have been a good idea until the one cake turned into two, then three, and oh, could I make a bread too, please?
Sure, says me. No problem. (Anything to get out of a hike, right?). Problem is, I hate baking. That may come as a surprise to you, considering how many foodie posts I’ve shared here, but I find baking really stressful. And most of the time, my gorgeous creations crumble to dust–literally–when they come out of the oven. You can see now where the concept of substituting one personal hell with another came from.
Nonetheless, I was committed. I agreed to make one tear-and-shear bread, one German marble cake with extra choc chips (older son’s choice), one Thuringian crumble cake (younger son’s choice), and one Guglhupf (hub’s choice). Madness!
Evidently, with only two hands, a few hours, and one oven, this required a plan. Being an organised person, I drew up a plan the night before, staggering all make cakes, rising, proo”f”ing (I am an author, after all), cooling and all that. A perfect plan. See for yourself….
BakeOff Impossible: The Plan
Except on Monday morning, my perfect plan was already obsolete before I started because it had occurred to me in the night that the marble cake would have to bake and cool completely before I could cover it in chocolate, and I would need to allow enough time for the chocolate to cool and set.
Here’s how the day went… in pictures.
8:oo am: Mise en place. Get everything ready, set the butter out to soften, and all will be just fine and dandy.
Ingredients at the ready, except for the chocolate powder, which I forgot to put out but still managed to use in liberal amounts.
8:30 am: Make and bake the marble cake: Instead of making it last, I whipped up my double choc chip German marble cake first and shoved it (gently) in the oven before addressing myself to the rest of The Plan.
Choc chip marble cake, ready to bake way before plan.
9:15 am: On to the bread: Thankfully, the breadmaker would do half the work for me. Bread safely deposited in breadmaker, not requiring any more attention for the next two-and-a-half hours, by which time everything else will be almost done. Yeah, right…
Thank goodness for breadmakers! Easy, peasy.
9:30 am: Thuringian crumble next. This one needs to rise twice; once in a bowl, and once rolled out. It’s very important to plan for this, you see. Hence my Grand Plan. It may not look like much in the bowl, but it turns into quite a lot later on…
Yeast-based base, as it were. Looks more like bread dough at this stage but will be delicious.
And here are the crumbles-to-be. No yeast here, just loooooots of butter. And sugar. And some flour.
9:33 am: Marble cake is ready! Woohoo! One (almost) down, three to go…
Proud cake mama!
9:45 am: Where was I? Where’s my head? Oh My Word, what’s happened to my kitchen? Did you know I hate mess? That’s one of the reasons I don’t like baking. Look at the state of it! But I keep ploughing on. There’s not much point in tidying up in between cakes, now, is there. And I had an alien visitor too…
Not my usual state of being…
E.T. was here. I think he wanted to go home… And I swear I had nothing to do with the writing. It just appeared. Honest. It freaked me out a bit!
11:30 am. Struggling Ever So Slightly. OK, quite a lot. What on earth possessed me to make a Guglhupf? While the Thuringian crumble is rising in the sun room which, owing to Bank Holiday weather, suddenly no longer has any sun, I am tackling the Guglhupf. Technically, this is a triple rising cake. Step one: Mix the yeast with the warm cream and see what happens.
Bubble, bubble. Toil and trouble. Ha!
I thought I was off to a good start there, but things got tricky when it came to mixing the rest of the dough. I won’t go into detail, but I had splatters on the wall, in my hair, on the floor, on the window…. and I am a Really Careful Mixer. Only I don’t have a KitchenAid. Just me and my handmixer.
There seems to be an awful lot of dried and glace fruit here. I just hope the dough rises around it, as advertised!
So off the cake goes to rise in the sun room, right next to the Thuringian Crumble. #FingersCrossed
12:30 pm: The bread dough is ready. The bread dough is READY? I haven’t even had a chance to have lunch yet! And this is when it truly fell apart, if only for a few moments. Two cakes failing to rise in the too cold sun room. One tear-and-share bread needing to be shaped and put somewhere to rise. No lunch had. Not even a sit-down. Heart pounding from too much coffee. I am NEVER going on Bake Off, ever. Not me, thank you very much.
Desperate measures. Improvised proofing ovens. Obviously I can’t bake anything in one oven whilst something is proofing in the other because the temp would go through the roof. *Tears at hair*
1 pm: Panic Stations. Nothing has risen to plan. Something needs to get baking, or the whole plan goes to pot. Improvise, Nicky, improvise. Keep calm. All right. Regroup. Bread needs to bake first. Then crumble. That gives the Guglhupf one more hour to rise, pretty please. Third and final rise is supposed to happen in the tin, so in the tin the dough goes. Good luck!
1:20 pm: There’s light. The bread is out. And it looks like it should. Two down, two to go.
One tear-and-share bread. A very forgiving recipe that never fails and always delights!
1:50 pm: The crumble is out. Slightly less professional looking than I’d hoped, but very tasty. Three down, one to go. And still there’s no more rise in the Hupf. I’ll have to take my chances. Feeling a bit calmer though. And the kitchen has been returned to normal. Nobody warned me this would be So Much Work!
Yum! I wish I could share the sweet scent of buttery chocolaty crumbles!
2 pm: While the Hupf is baking (she hopes), the marble cake is getting its finishing touch. Mmmm chocolate. Yes, I am licking the bowl. I deserve it. I need it.
One finished cake. If I’d had more chocolate, I’d have covered it completely, but this will do.
3 pm: The Guglfhupf is out. For better or worse, it’s done. It feels heavy and dense. I just hope it’s edible.
One Guglhupf, slightly smaller than anticipated.
4 pm: My completed spread. I DID IT!
A nice dusting of icing sugar will cover up many a sin.
Six hours. One bread. Three cakes. Mission accomplished!
Wow. I am all done, and all done in. So much baking. So much tidying! Here’s hoping I have an appreciative audience at the post-hike BBQ!
Postscript. The proof the of the cake is in the eating. And my Hupf turned out to be perfectly yummy. Maybe it didn’t need to rise as much as I thought. Maybe it did all the rising it needed. Who cares? It was lovely, according the the hiking Scouts and accompanying adults.