Category Archives: Disasters
Gong Hei Fat Choi! It is the start of the Chinese Spring Festival! Chinese New Year!
Mykie is half Chinese. Usually he doesn’t give a monkeys about his heritage…but if there’s food involved…
Wondercat was hosting “Come Dine With Me” so we decided to combine this with New Year and cook a FEAST!
Here’s a run down of what we made:
- Char siu bao
- Nai wong bao
- Dou sha bao
- Nian gao
- Char Siu Pork
- Crispy Belly Pork
- Honey Chili Ribs
- Sweet Ribs
- Kung Pao Chicken
- Garlic ginger broccoli
and we cheated a bit and bought…
- Siu mai
- Har gau
- Crispy duck
- Duck spring rolls
It’s fair to say we were busy all day!
All the savoury stuff turned out fine…better than fine, the char siu pork and belly pork were delightful!
We had a bit of an issue with the bao! Used far, far, faaaaaaaar too much dough and ended up with space hoppers! They were nowhere near as good as shop bought ones…back to the drawing board!
The nian gao was good…we didn’t have glutinous rice flour in so ground our own out of arborio rice (how’s that for ingenuity)! We added home made red bean paste and dusted with gold dust.
We made little sweet versions
and “lucky coins”
Here’s to a prosperous year of the dragon! Grrrrr! (that was a dragon noise BTW)
Continuing on with the experiments into fruit bread…
The thing about keeping a sour-dough starter (sorry, non-human baking assistant) happy is you need to feed it flour and water regularly…like every few days. Once the novelty of making crumpets and English muffins wears off you end up with a monstrous amount of starter!
So, Gloria had gained a few El Bees over the Christmas period (that girls a sucker for Walnut Whips and Matchmakers); after a trip to Harley St. for a touch o’ lipo she was back down to her usual size for a while (she’s like the fungus Janet Jackson). We had three options for dealing with the excess.
1) Give it away (Merry Christmas, have a bag of slop)
2) Throw it down the drain
Experiment 2: Big Mama Bread
So we had a pile of Gloria’s excess erm…thighs? We decided to see if we could just add enough flour to get to a dough consistency. About three parts Gloria flab to one part flour; then some spices and dried fruit and stuff.
Since she was in need of a feed I guessed it would be an eating-proving combo…she had to eat fast enough to pump up the dough…fork at the ready love?
We didn’t hold up much hope for this and after a whole afternoon with not much going on, we going to chuck it and call it a day…then she began to grow!
After a knock back, shaping and second proving she’d been reclining on her fat arse by the fire for about 9 hours (lazy bitch)…baking time!
Considering all the proving time she didn’t really do that much work…the crumb was still rather dense…but this is not too much of a tragedy for a fruit loaf…
Despite the total rising lethargy, she toasted well…
Unsurprisingly, when you make bread will mostly sour-dough starter, it tastes…god damn sour! This got mixed reviews from the boys, Mykie thought it was pretty scrummy and that the sourness was an acceptable contrast against the fruit, Simon thought it was a bit funky tasting.
Experiment 2 has been comme ci, comme ça. We learned it’s probably best not to use a heap of hungry starter and expect good things to happen (that should probably have been obvious).
If at first (or second) you don’t succeed…eat the evidence and pretend it never happened.
Hello, you remember Gloria, right? Our new born sour-dough baby that we hatched ourselves? We have had her in the bakery wired up and running on a tread mill for some fruit bread experiments…
We have baked three fruit loaves so far and messed around with different things each time. Sometimes we treated Gloria like a Queen and gave her everything she could want; sometimes it was a prison tickle in a cold bowl…
Experiment 1: HRH Gloria Bubbles
So, we treated her right…like a queen, queen of the yeast people. She was well fed and watered and frothing at the mouth (that’s a good thing); Fresh, warm with a sour yeasty smell…good for sour-dough, if she were human we’d be suggesting Canesten Combi. Her Majesty was massaged lovingly in a classic sour-dough ratio of:
- 1 part HRH Gloria Bubbles
- 2 parts liquid: we bathed her in a luke warm liquid whey that had been infused overnight with Fortnum & Mason Christmas tea; a whole beaten egg and some melted butter (only the best for Lady Bubbles).
- 3 parts strong white flour
we also provided gifts (like the wise men, as it was Christmastime) of:
- salt (great gift)
- cinnamon (getting better…just)
- ground ginger (keep the receipt)
- a bounty of raisins and sultanas (meh)
- a generous helping of candied mixed peel (Christmas morning is fun, fun, fun at Wondercat Bakery)
This, as you may notice was an enriched bread think “festive brioche” not “vajazzled bun” (whilst we are on that subject BTW, guess what our mother bought our sisters for Christmas?? INAPPROPRIATE!!!)
Gloria performed well at cranking out the bubbles. We played Michael Bublé to help her along…his Christmas album is totally delightful BTW (we were wailing along to it for weeeeeks…Santa Buddy put a Rolex under the treeee)! Don’t expect crazy fast proving like you get with that fast-action-fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants yeast, it takes ages to double in size; so long, that after we’d shaped the loaf it didn’t appear risen enough before bedtime. The next morning SHE WAS HUGE! Spread like a whore on a Harley. We couldn’t be bothered knocking back again so we just baked the gigantic loaf of oaf.
So the bread was a bit massive …
but it was very tasty! The crumb was fairly open and light the Christmas tea gave a yummy flavour and fragrance…and there was a slight sour-dough tang but not overpowering.
Experiment 1 was a mixed bag. Good for flavour, passable for texture…kind of disastrous for size and shape. But hey-ho we’re only human (well, kitty cats) and half the fun of baking stuff is learning how things work (the other half is the eating).
Back to the drawing board…
(what exactly is a drawing board? a black board? who says drawing board? *we actually just googled “drawing board” and it is a thing but we’re leaving our rando rant in to demonstrate our ignorance…this is a post on learning stuff after all)
Sooooo…after a night of revelry and much fine food, champagnes and cocktails (then span around on the Manchester Wheel) at Harvey Nichols we were for lack of a better word, fooked…
What do most people do on returning home from a night out? Probably not raid the Christmas sweets (well maybe you do, I’m not judging) then bake sour-dough bread.
I think we decided fresh bread would be AMAZING to wake up to New Year’s Day (in theory this is true).
So in the battle of “drunken stupor” vs “autonomic baking abilities” it was probably just in favour of the baking…I’m sooooooooo surprised there was anything edible in the morning.
What we did find on stumbling downstairs armed with a cracking headache, one slipper and one sock at 6am (for a much needed glass of water!) was a loaf proving in a tin!!!!
Still not sure how this happened but there was the scent of sesame oil in the air so we sprinkled it with some black and white sesame seeds and baked it!
A bit dense and doughy as I’m really not sure what was involved in the making of it or what sort of rising/proving time was involved but it tasted acceptable…actually it was rather nice!
So it appears we can actually bake with our eyes closed (or brain closed)!
She stood, nervous and quivering in her foamy gown. The beautiful débutante, Miss Gloria Bubbles turned to us and said “Wondercat, I’m ready”…
What better way for our new sour-dough starter to make an entrance than with some quintessentially English breakfast bread products; crumpets and English muffins…We always thought crumpets would take far too long to make at home, but, once you have a nice starter bubbling away they couldn’t be simpler (well, OK, buying them is still simpler).
The great thing about crumps and muffs (last time we use those abbreviations) is that you make them with excess that you’d otherwise be throwing down the drain: and we hate waste!
Gloria is one hungry lady, but as we feed her, she grows; every now and then we need to give her a bit of a nip and a tuck so she doesn’t take over the place…it is TOTALLY Lloyd in Space-The Science Project (how much did we love Lloyd in Space!?!?!)
We pretty much messed around with a few recipes to get a feel for things. We didn’t throw a hole-in-one (love a mixed-sports-metaphor) but we are well on the way to delightful bready goodness…a few more runs to score a knock-out!
Both crumpets and English muffins are basically a scoop of Ms. Bubbles, flour, a bit o’ salt n’ sugar and perhaps a little milk to thin things down…oh yeah, then a teaspoon of baking powder! Gloria is a acidic little madam so the baking powder gets her foaming at the mouth!
The first batch of crumpets were ridiculously thick. We didn’t realise how much volume the bubbles would provide so, we started about 2/3 crumpet height and ended up with monsterous triple thick (and stodgy centred) crumps; they were also a bit Gloria heavy so tasted too sour…a great first batch! The second were better but the bottoms got a little too bronzed as the pan had been on for a while (and was shit).
The English muffins were just crumpets flipped over to cook on both sides…who knew! Again they were whacking great giants but this we think, is more acceptable in a muffin!
So, we will be working on getting the ratios correct then we’ll post a complete recipe for perfect crumps and muffs (the abbreviations have grown on us).
So after a few weeks of not being able to look at a cake, bat an eyelid at a biscuit or glance at a gateaux we are back in the baking habit…oh happy day!!
We’ve been trying to rev ourselves up for a while but after two weeks channelling Takeru Kobayashi in China and thus returning looking like a giant cha siu bao; the Violet Beauregarde of the Far East if you will, we have steered clear of the kitchen.
But we’re back! Christmas has cracked us! After our traditional “Grand Opening to Christmas”-a trip to Fortnum and Mason for high tea in St James’s and a rampage through their decadent decorations (seriously, rampage…last year I managed to totally decimate a display of baubles…why didn’t I learn from classic cartoon slapstick and not take a bauble from the bottom of the pile!?); a freshly filled decanter of Pedro Ximenez and finally the erecting of the festive foliage…we could hold back no longer…
Chadong Panettone and Mykie’s Mincemeat
I’m not adding recipes as the panettone is a work in progress and the mincemeat is just a revamp of Nigella’s Cranberry Studded Mincemeat with a few tweaks.
So, panettone…bit of a disaster for a few reasons…
- I didn’t have a recipe I liked
- I decided to freestyle and make my own
- I used a tin that was too big
- I baked it totally wrong
Apart from that it was fucking marvellous!
So Christmas is here! Fragrance adverts are taking over the TV and there is tinsel everywhere (except our house, let’s be real people, we are not tinsel people)…(for some reason we’ve started calling it tinzel…well, tiiiinnnnzzzzzzeeelllll…it’s hilariously homo…try it, you won’t go back)
Three cheers for the return of the holiday season and the return of baked goods from The Wondercat Bakery!
It’s be like forever since we’ve posted because The Wondercat Bakery went to China!
We have so many new baking ideas and inspirations for major baking experiments…China is totally stingy with their internets so I’ve not been able to do anything! We are currently on the plane home so I thought I’d write up a tart we baked the week before we left.
The was massive oriental anticipatory excitement going on in the bakery and we had Mr Adam and Mr Jon over for a luncheon so we created a black sesame and coconut tart with bitter chocolate peanut pastry!
So, this was an absolute made up recipe from different whosits and whatsits galore (you want thingymabobs? I’ve got 20). The annoying thing about it was everything turned out so great (there will be more in-depth self back-patting to follow) until the last minute when we decided to pipe some rando flourishes with black royal icing that was hanging around; the black bled into the beautiful translucent white top…it soooo brought back University memories of gel electrophoresis…but frustratingly devastating…curse my lilly gilding! Curse it!!!
Apart from the rivers of grey ombre grossness it was a pretty looking thing!
The pastry was crisp, nutty and buttery and as bitter as Arlene Phillips when Alesha Dixon stole her seat next to Len (are you watching Strictly BTW?! Love the Grant! Love him!).
The sesame filling was smooth and set to a lovely consistency. Smooth and creamy, held into slices without resembling cut up rubber (I had mild panic about over-setting the fillings and creating something fit for the A La Carte Kitchen (if there were any doubts about my 30 years, that reference should put a stop to them)). The sesame gives a divine, nutty, slightly smoky flavour that is defined yet subtle. The one down side of using black sesame?…It makes things grey! Who really wants grey food? It is probably the least desireable colour for munchables…I have grey food here people, anyone for grey food?!?!
Luckily, this was accounted for. To add some lighter, sweeter notes to the tart and hide the strange alien greyness we made the coconut layer to give a beautiful glassy surface resembling the purest white marble (I know you are thinking WTF with the douchey descriptions, me too, but we’re 9 hours into a 14 hour flight so the springs in my brain have unwound themselves).
Again really happy with the set on the coconut, smooth, firm, but not like chewing on bathtub sealant!
The flowers turned out quite well. We will admit to smooshing a few in the making process and we did try smaller ones but they broke like a hymen during step aerobics (that’s a thing right? I blame the plane for the vulgarity).
We were so very pleased with the results as sometimes a DIY recipe can got totally breasts skywards…we had given this one a lot of thought so it was great not to throw it in the “never make again” pile along with the Orange Bolognese (that one was truly the worst thing EVER!). Creamy, nutty, mellow sesame giving way to the dark, bitter crunch of pastry then wrapped up in the light, sweet, richness of coconut and rounded by the richness of peanut!?!…PARP that will be the sound of my own horn.
Anyways, we are going now as the iPad is on 12% and we have numb arses!
I think the plan for the next few weeks is a write up of China, mainly so we down forget any of it but also to document the inspirations for future baking (it’ll be long and probably dull but this is our blog so you’ll just have to deal…or not read it, I’m not holding a gun to your head or anything); then, when we have recovered from 2 weeks of indulgence (and trousers once again can be buttoned up) we will start up the baking again!
Oh, forgot to say we have made up and baked a Christmas cake recipe so that’ll get a mention sometime…it is currently having a nice spa session in a bath of apricot brandy!
Laters people…we are going for a leg stretch!
ps. Yes this didn’t get posted on the plane…as there are plane rules that I’m sure need to be obeyed. That small flick of the index finger sliding flight-mode from off to on could have been the death of us all.
So, since we’re back and still jet lagged (5 days later! WTF) we can’t be arsed posting up the recipe for the tart. If you are interested I will do so leave a request in the comments.
Good to be home people!
Don’t worry, we’re not doing a crumble recipe fully…because seriously, who can’t make a crumble?
What we are doing is sharing a few tips to get a great crumble, an interesting crumble, the sitting on the washing machine of crumbles…
Most crumbles are good if not great. The squishy filling the buttery, sweet top, that middle section where the layers embrace each other and create the warm stodgy gloop of wonder. So, how can we improve? Texture, texture people! Texture, texture, texture!!!
What we want out of a crumble is all of the above, plus, an interesting nugget of something here, a crunch of joy there…something to literally get our teeth into! Because, let’s face it, crumbles may be a comforting delight but you could gum your way through most of them (and there’ll be plenty of time for than in our twilight years sat by the window in the nursing home).
So here’s how we make our crumble a bit more stimulating…
Crumble Top Wondercat Style
- 100g butter
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 200g plain flour
- 100g rolled oats
- 50g hazelnuts
- pinch o’ salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- seeds from a vanilla pod
- splash of cream or milk
- bit of brown sugar
- rub butter into flour until breadcrumby
- stir in salt, sugar, bp, vanilla seeds
- cut through a splash of cream just to get it sticking to inself
- grab dough, give it a squeeze (like honking on a boob possibly?) then plonk onto a baking tray
- it should be crumby in places, doughy in places, thick in bits, sandy in others
- bake at 170ºC until some bits are golden and crisp but others are still uncooked and stodgy
- leave to cool (ok, eat a little bit…it’s fucking scrummy)
- crunch up about 2/3rds (oh a fraction, I feel so 1970’s cookbook) of the hazelnuts roughly with a rolling pin
- take a zip-lock bag and put in the crushed nuts, the oats and snap up the biscuit stuff and throw that in too.
- take out anger with rolling pin on bag of stuff…don’t go too crazy as you want, no, REQUIRE boulders and nuggets of biscuit greatness
- pour onto your crumble filling, if it is very stir in a bit of melted butter to get it a little sticky
- scatter or arrange the intact hazelnuts on top
- sprinkle on a bit of brown sugar
- bake as your recipe says
So, Autumn is here, there is fruit a plenty and nipple-bitingly cold weather approaching! Go and make crumble!
Mykie’s folks have moved house in the last week so he popped around this evening…
So, my parents have left my childhood home! I went around to the old house the other day and got all upset remembering great times…like when mum and I smashed down a big brick fireplace with a sledge hammer when dad was away…and the time I threw a giant stuffed turtle down the stairs and knocked my sister flying through the door…oh the door…the door Kimberley and I shattered a Wily Kit action figure on when we couldn’t find a tennis ball so used the first thing we could find…memories!
I’ve been a little afraid that the new house wouldn’t feel like a family home so I went over today as I knew both my sisters would be there for dinner…
I also thought I’d christen (or since I’m an atheist, have an, erm, naming ceremony?) the oven and throw something together for dessert…seriously difficult when what little baking supplies that have been brought over are still in boxes; Here’s what I found:
- half a small bag of old SR flour
- a small bag of marshmallows from inside an Easter egg
- a bag of white chocolate chips
- a tin of strawberries
- a box of icing sugar
- luckily my folks had eggs and butter in the fridge
I found a microwave steamer to use as a mixing bowl and had no kitchen scales…the only baking tins I could find were a shallow frying pan and a loaf tin.
Some how I managed to throw together a white chocolate and marshmallow strawberry upside-down cake with strawberry glaze!
Not the prettiest but it OMG it was good! Strawberry and white chocolate are the Brad and Angelina of desserts and marshmallows are the bonus Jolie-Pitt children.
Today was the first time we have sat down and had a casual weekday meal together in as long as I can remember! No special occasion, no husbands, just me, my mum, my dad and my sisters…and how we laughed!
I completely forgot how much fun we have just hanging out together as a family! So, I’m not worried about the new house any more because it’s not what you leave behind that’s important (but saying that, we have left DOZENS of long dead pets buried in the garden…surprise new people!).
I am slightly concerned I may have poisoned everyone as that flour was OLD! 😉
This weekend at The Wondercat
Bakery Laboratory, we endeavoured to create buns LIFE!
“I had worked hard for nearly two
years hours, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body dough. For this I have deprived myself of rest and health consumed much Gewürztraminer and Jelly Belly beans.”
My assistant Igor helped me fashion bodies from dough and fruit:
- 25g plain flour
- 125ml milk or whey
- mix and heat together (microwave for about 35 sec) until a smooth and thickened
- leave to cool
- 375g bread flour
- 100g plain flour
- 75g sugar
- tsp salt
- 1 packet yeast
- tbsp sesame oil
- tbsp butter
- 150ml warm milk or whey
- 2 eggs
- mix flours sugar and salt in a bowl then mix in yeast
- add water roux and 1 beaten egg and mix together
- add the milk and kneed to a nice elastic dough (about 10 mins)
- kneed in butter and oil (about 10 minutes)
- put in a bowl, cover with cling and leave in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1-1/12 hour)
- knock the down back and kneed again (about 10 mins)
- divide into blobs (about 70g) keeping a bit for ears and tails
- roll each blob into a flat circle, put a tbsp of FILLING in the middle
- pull edges up over filling and twist together
- turn blob seam side down, shape smooth and put on lined baking sheet
- add small pointy blobs for ears and a little sausage for a tail
- brush with beaten egg mixed with water
- leave in a warm place for 30 mins
- bake 175C for 15-20 minutes or until nice and golden (turn down oven if ears are cremating)
- leave to cool then pipe a face with ROYAL ICING
“It was already one in the
morning afternoon; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle silk cut super-slim was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow tasty sugary eye of the creature open…”
Actually, forget the galvanism, we totally went the “Death Becomes Her” route; we used a potion and wore this delightful outfit:
SEMPRE VIVA! LIVE FOREVER!
All was going well, my creations were satisfactory.
Then they started running amok! Climbing over each other, setting sky+ to record X Factor…What a fucking liberty! Enough is enough!
We needed to find out what went wrong and put an end to their mischief.
We sent Igor to befriend them and gain their trust…
Then when their back was turned…
We captured one and began the vivisection!
It appears the problem was caused by moist filling creating quite a heavy, doughy crumb (which we found deliciously pleasing TBH) and over browning of ears and tails due to their small size.
The main problem with my creations was piping their features too soon. The warm dough made them “cry” and get a bit melty in the face region…WE HAD CREATED MONSTERS!
After learning of their inner-workings we were able to capture and contain the rest of them for further study.