My favourite cousin and his family are in town, people. I love them but for the fact that they don’t eat eggs. A choice which I heartily endorse except when it comes to baking for them. Not only do they love dessert, but my SIL was my go to person in my younger “I don’t know how to boil water” days. Barely out of college, pretending at my first job, I was perpetually hungry and mostly broke. I had keys to their place and a standing invite to every home cooked meal, a licence which I shamelessly made the most of. When I started dating SG, they were the first family I introduced him to. They heartily approved, rather they insisted that I married him. You can see them beaming in our wedding pictures and we went onto live literally a few doors away from them. Many meals (I wisely kept the keys) and many years later, we moved cities, leaving a great relationship behind, albeit with some wonderful memories. So then tell me, if such people roll into town, is it not cause to bring out the baking pans and whip up some dessert?
Yes. But I should have done it the night before. I was due into work on Saturday afternoon and the morning was the only window we had to meet and greet. So I get up nice and early, and…
- Realize over the morning cuppa that I don’t have the cream to make the cinnamon roll biscuits I was planning to make. Panic. The tea turns cold
- Scramble for another eggless recipe that does not involve fruits, cream, yeast, and too much time or patience – all being in short supply
- Find this recipe courtesy Smitten Kitchen and heave a sigh of relief
- Decide to substitute the shortbread recipe with this eggless one and believe if I have done it before (I have some photos for proof), I possibly cannot go wrong. Error #1
- Proceed to make the dulce de leche using the oven. The only thing I got right in the entire disaster. Oh wait, I made only 1 cup, 2/3 of what I should have. Error #2
- Make the dough for the shortbread. Figure that if I have to scale down from 9 by 13 to 7 by 7, halving everything should do the trick. Error #3 was not paying enough attention when they taught volume and area math back in school. Thus, end up with an oddly thick shortbread base
- Bake the pastry for 30 minutes. Error #4. Scale down the recipe but not reduce baking time. End up with a hard biscuit base, but blithely not realize and continue. Like a train wreck
- Get on with the nuts. Replace peanuts with cashews. Actually get the complicated sugar process bang on. But Error #5. Inadvertently get the pinky into hot sugar. CURSE.
- Proceed to go from bad to worse
- Not having silpat, choose butter paper to lay out the candied cashews. Error #6. Paper adheres to the sugar and refuses to come off. SWEAR
- Not wanting to poison favourite family with bits of paper, patiently remove bits of paper with careful application of water. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and I am already late. Call up and inform SIL. Sob a little
- The husband is ready to leave, but does not have the heart to be angry looking at my piteous condition. I now have bits of candy, some cashew, and lots of flour decorating my person and adding character to my hair. (Little known fact: Hot sugar is stronger than superglue.) By now, I also have a wide eyed look and am periodically waving the burnt pinky at the clock in order to slow it down.
- Gloop on the ducle de leche and scatter broken bits of cashew onto the short bread base
- Start on the chocolate layer. Error #7. Use ¾ the chocolate dictated, as I am low on chocolate and very low on patience. Error #8 Ask the husband to break up the chocolate bar while I get the butter on. He eats a lot of the chocolate
- Frantically pour the chocolate layer and grind up the remaining candied cashew for a sprinkle. Refrigerate. Call again and inform that we will be later than the late previously estimated. Run for a shower
- Error #9 Husband leaves to start the car, while I cut the bars. Ahem. Hack the bars. Stand on them and thump them! Throw them against the wall! Okay, I do only the first. But cry quietly as they refuse to cut. Realize all the errors I have made while the husband starts to glower
- Depart and keep crying. Collapse into SIL’s arms on arriving and plead her to bin the bars
To be honest, they don’t taste that bad. I can only imagine how great these will be if I got the proportions and the shortbread right. Once I get over the trauma and feel less sticky, I shall make these again. Give or take a year.