Well my latest baking attempt was very…. interesting to say the least. My dad’s girlfriend, let’s call her Whitney, offered to teach me how to make a chocolate ganache. so I decided to do Mary Berry’s Chocolate Traybake as my cake base (although I didn’t make it in a tray, I made it in a 9in circular pan).
So, I got to my Dad’s house to bake and apparently Whitney decided that we were also going to make eclairs. Now, this was a welcome surprise because I’ve never made choux pastry before, however I’m still not entirely sure I know what I’m doing with it.
Whitney seemed to be in a rush as soon as I got there and had taken everything out in preparation for baking (I’m never this organized). She was excited to see that I had made the cake (apparently she assumed I wouldn’t…? I love baking cakes) and we started by cutting out a piece of circular cardboard and a circular piece of wax paper. We then made some whipped cream and covered the cake and then froze it (which honestly I’d never even thought of doing when trying to decorate a cake).
We started running into technical difficulties when she set me to the task of making the choux pastry. She had me heat milk, butter, and salt on the stove and then add in the flour once it was all combined. Now, I know that it’s supposed to form a ball as you cook it down and “follow the spoon around” but knowing this, and actually knowing how it’s supposed to look are two completely different things. When I asked Whitney if it was done, she kept saying “use your best judgment” while staring at her computer. I had to severely bite my tongue to keep from saying “I DON’T HAVE ANY JUDGMENT WHEN IT COMES TO THIS!!!” And when she finally came over to look at it (after I had been rapidly stirring it in the pot for 10-15 min, she said that I should stop stirring because I should have stopped about 10 minutes ago…. Helpful.
After beating in the eggs to the dough, I found out exactly how difficult it is to manipulate choux pastry. We tried to put it in a piping bag and it became this sticky horrible mess to the point where you could barely slide anything down. Then came the actual piping of the pastry. She had elected to use a really spiraled piping tip and I hadn’t ever seen anyone use a piping tip like that for eclairs or cream puffs before, but I went with it anyway. But as I started piping out the long lines for eclairs, she starts yelling at me because apparently I’m supposed to swirl them and create circles, so I had to scrape the batter off the wax paper and start again. I asked her why we were making circles if we were making eclairs and she looked so confused and told me that we were making cream puffs (in case you don’t know what an eclair looks like or a cream puff looks like). I’m pretty sure I stared at her blankly for a few seconds before I told her that she had said earlier that we were making eclairs. She was like “Oh, well we’re making cream puffs now”, and proceeded to pipe swirls instead of lines.
Once they went into the oven, we moved on to tempering the chocolate, which she trained for years to do. I was most excited for this part since I’ve never seen anyone temper chocolate and I was excited to see how it was supposed to be done. The only problem… we didn’t have a double boiler. We made do with boiling water in between two ceramic bowls. Now, I really don’t know the tricks to tempering chocolate at all, nor do I know the temperatures, however I’ve heard that you should never put the chocolate in the microwave. She decided to do this. The chocolate never became glossy (which might also be due to the fact that we used milk chocolate. Apparently tempering is best with dark chocolate). Whitney became very frustrated at this point because she was mad at herself for putting the chocolate in the microwave instead of letting it melt over the hot water.
After the tempered chocolate was left to cool so we could cut it, we pulled out the cream puffs. They looked alright, but I’m not sure if they were supposed to puff up the way they did.
Next, with the rest of the chocolate, we created the ganache. Whitney decided to stir (because I apparently don’t stir fast enough), and I poured the heavy cream into the chocolate. It became lumpy and at this point she was practically screaming expletives because it’s supposed to come out nice and smooth (not that I’ve ever made it before, but that’s what I’ve read). So we heated the mixture a little bit more over the hot water and it seemed to become the correct temperature. While we let this cool, we took out the frozen cake to give it another coat of whipped cream. I wanted her to show me how to make it smooth around the cake (like a lot of the gorgeous instragram videos), and she told me to just keep trying to make it level. In my experience, there’s usually a trick to doing this, but she just insisted that I’d have to keep trying.
So, at this point, I’ll admit that I was frustrated. And she was frustrated. It was all very stressful dealing with each other. We don’t really connect in general, and this just added more fuel to the fire. So the actual process of putting the ganache on the cake and all of the decorations became a rather aggravated yelling session in which she said things like “Quickly! Quicker than that! Spin the cake tray faster!!” and I responded with “I’m trying! This is the first time I’ve done this!!” And let me just tell you that we got ganache, crumbles, almond slices, chocolate pieces, and whipped cream EVERYWHERE.
At the end of everything, the cake looked wonderful and it tasted glorious, and the cream puffs were delicious (except for the banana split ice cream inside, which was my dad and Whitney’s idea. I hate fake banana flavoring). And the rest of the day was spent silently cleaning as we tried not to be too irritated with each other.
I would definitely try these recipes again, however probably not with Whitney for a while. I appreciate her taking the time to teach me, and it gave me an idea on how the texture should be for the choux pastry and an idea on how to decorate cakes, but we don’t really suit each other personality wise and I feel like it might be less stressful for us to eat together, rather than bake together.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your day!