For someone who doesn’t bake much, I’ve been doing quite a bit lately. Tis the season and all that, I guess.
I’m having a few friends over for prosecco and cake tomorrow, and having guests always makes me fancy my chances of producing something good. And, if I start early enough, I still have time to go out and buy something if my home-made efforts don’t work. Which is always possible, given my tendency to improvise and my usual failure to check if I actually have all the ingredients in advance.
There were three things on my agenda – a couple of small bite-sized things, and a pav.
This comes straight from The New Nordic, that cookbook that seems to have been dominating my kitchen lately. They’re uncooked and basically a mix of butter, sugar, ground oats, cocoa and the flavours of your choice.
How: Beat 100g butter and 140g caster sugar for about 5 mins, until light and fluffy.
Add 150g rolled oats (I quickly ground mine first, not too fine) and 1 tsp cocoa powder and the rest of your ingredients. His recipe has 60g chopped cranberries (I used dates instead) and 40ml coffee. Not being a coffee fan, I wasn’t keen on that option, but he made it clear that these can be endlessly improvised. In fact, there is a cafe in Stockholm that makes nothing but and has 20 different versions.
Beat for about 5 mins.
Roll then into small balls. He coated his in the petals of young daisy flowers (truly. It’s all about the foraging, apparently). Not having a bunch on hand, I used coconut, which he also says is a popular choice at the moment.
Verdict: Easy and delicious.
I had another go at these to see if I could do them better.
How: I dropped the molasses and stuck with straight honey. I added in some chopped dates and a few chopped incaberries (I had bought a small pack to try and I had no dried apricots this time). The first lot I made seemed similar to the classic German Christmas Pfeffernüsse in flavour (though mine were more like the crunchy texture of Ginger Nut biscuits), so I shaped the biscuits like Pfeffernüsse this time. Without the molasses, this new lot were lighter in colour and texture, and seemed surprisingly close to the real thing.
Verdict: A definite improvement and very more-ish. Especially with coffee (I’m told).
Pavs look so pretty, and they are so modern-day wicked with all that highly processed sugar that they’re pretty much irresistible. I used to make pavs when I was a teenager, often using those little commercial pavlova egg-shaped packs that seemed so popular for a while.
They always seem to give a lot of bang for their buck, in terms of effort required for a spectacular finish. And you can cover any imperfections with a stack of cream and the most colourful of fruit.
How, version 1: I followed a Donna Hay recipe out of a recent Sunday Style magazine, put aside for just this purpose. I figured she should know how. (The only difference between the recipe linked here and the one in the magazine that I followed was the amount of cornstarch – 2 tbs in the mag, 3 tsp in the link – a big difference.)
Verdict: Undercooked, with liquid leaking from the base. My oven seems to run a bit cool and I hadn’t allowed enough for that, clearly. Still edible though, with a nice crunchy top and lots of marshmallow. I’ve tipped it over, marshmallow side up, and topped it with a little cream and fruit (kiwifruit, home-grown blueberries and passionfruit).
How, version 2: This time I followed Stephanie’s recipe, which was basically exactly the same, except for less cornstarch (2 tsp) and adding a few drops of vanilla. This time I pushed the temperature up a little higher (160C) for the first half of the cooking time to compensate for the undercooking.
Verdict: I’ll wait to see when I cut into it. It certainly didn’t weep or produce droplets on top, so I think it’s fine, but with not too much marshmallow. I topped this one with more cream, raspberries and redcurrants. I think it looks magnificent.
Later verdict: By the end of the day, there wasn’t any of either pav left, and I discovered that quite a few people prefer the gooey, marshallowy version.