The Woodcutter’s Tale or a bad workman blames his tools…

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I have been delaying starting the christmas cooking as long as possible, because I’ve committed myself to a number of things that scare me, my Mum’s christmas present will have to wait for a later date as it’s not unknown for her to drop in on these pages from time to time (“Hello Mum” waves frantically in an interweb direction) the friend I have been cooking for this afternoon does not…so…

I have been making a lot of gingerbread lately, it’s easy to do and you can freeze the dough until you are ready to use it. When it’s cooked it will store until you are ready to decorate it and turn it into iced biscuits, christmas tree decorations or a gingerbread house.

I’d chosen to start with a very simple house. Since its made by rolling lots of “sausages of dough together which then spread on the tray and give you something resembling a log cabin I thought Spider would be interested – he also might enjoy the fact that chocolate gingerbread when uncooked looks a lot like “poo”, a substance that 4yo find hillarious…but no, ITV2 had decided to put “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” on and I couldn’t entice him into the kitchen.

So I set to alone….things I have learned

  • trees consisting of 5 parts each are fiddly and time consuming to cut out and to put together
  • sheets of gingerbread made up of rolls of dough joined together have a habit of coming to pieces in your hands
  • I was right to be scared of having to play with icing…

Confession time:  I do not like icing things. Mainly because my icing set has a habit of coming to bits when faced with anything harder than cream or butter icing…today was no exception, royal icing was a step too far, I squeezed too hard and ended up with icing everywhere except on the gingerbread.

I scraped out the icing into a bowl and then dumped the icing set in the bin…should have done it years ago…

Continuing with a palate knife and some hot water I just about managed to get the house to stick together and disguised a lot of the crumb that now littered the plate by sprinkling the lot with icing sugar snow – ahhh, finished, but wait, wasn’t the cottage meant to be surrounded by trees ? How on earth can I stick the trees together when i can’t pipe a thin line of icing ?

Fortunately there was a teenager around, a teenager who likes playing with food…Teenager introduced me to the joy of microwaved sweet sugar glue which we smeared over as many of the tree pieces we could and bunged them on the plate – covering our bodging with even more sugar snow…Teenager was pleased to accept the remains of the gingerbread and the flakes in payment for his inspiration and went away happy…I collapsed with a pint of tea !

It looks very much as if Spider made it with my help…if people assume that I won’t tell them otherwise…tomorrow I’m shopping for icing equipment I can rely on as the next 2 cakes involve much more icing.

The on again off again birthday cake

The birthday party cookery for various reasons has not been going as planned, but I’ll write about that another time possibly. The main thing I wanted to do this week was to make a basic sponge cake and to then ice it in the shape as a skull and cross bones – really simple and easy, the only difficult bit is trying to turn the white fondant icing the right shade of black.

Anyway this week has not been good for me, I wake up tired, I am tired all day at work, I go to bed tired and I fail to sleep as there are far too many things floating around in my head. So last night when I was meant to be making the sponge cake I was instead trying to have an early night, which didn’t work out for various reasons (see yesterday’s post)…I left the butter out intending to make the cake in the morning, but as I mentioned previously someone tried to be helpful and tidied it away back into the fridge for me – and my hand held mixer can’t cope with fridge cold butter (how I miss my kenwood mixer).

At lunchtime Flapjack Queen phoned up to say that the party bags we had bought ready filled cos its cheaper are actually quite small and 2 slices of cake probably won’t fit in the bag…I agreed with her that instead we would break with small people’s party tradition and serve the cake up after the rest of the food for eating then and there. I also decided that I would copy her idea and turn Spider’s birthday cake into a pile of cup cakes instead a la Nigella.

7.30pm there was a further change of plan back to the original skull and cross bones cake due to the difficulty of persuading a certain small boy that it would be better to have the big cake on his actual birthday when he has his second party “family only”…

So spent the next 30 minutes trying to make 12oz of victoria sponge cake mixture in a too small bowl with a hand held mixer and then fitting 4 cake tins in the oven…there was more mixture on me and the walls of the kitchen by the time I had finished.

Anyway, early start again tomorrow…may be an even earlier trip to Saino’s or Tescbury if the fondant icing I’ve had in the cupboard for over a year turns out to be off…or anything else goes wrong between now and 2.30pm…

Yo ho ho me hearties, I’m off to bed to dream of pieces of eight and making people who cut you up in traffic walk the plank…