Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Let them eat cake

I like the Aga. I feel like a traitor to the working classes when I say it but it is warm and it is the nature of things to cling to what is warm. It disappointed me last night though. I tried to make chocolate eclairs. It might have been ambitious but the Aga stands there like a giant reproach. "Use me," it says. "Call yourself a woman? Bake something, damn it." So you have a glass of wine and think: "I know. I'll make eclairs." I have never made them before but the recipe sounded simple enough. Melt butter and water and slowly bring to the boil, add flour all at once, beat in the eggs a little at a time. Admittedly, I did not think it made the "smooth paste" the book called for which you then piped in rows along a baking tray. More like playdo when it has been left out of its popping cup a while. Ever hopeful, I slid the tray into the roasting oven. Twenty minutes later, I pulled out bread sticks. The recipe had said leave room between them to expand. They did not expand. They shrank in on themselves outside the dark, hot privacy of the Aga. My husband said: "What are they?" I said "Eclairs. But I don't think the cream will fit." I thought about dipping one end in whipped cream and the other in melted chocolate but I did not think they would convince. I wanted to bake because the little ladies who used to live here, one in this house and one along the row, were coming up for coffee this morning. They had shortbread; I bought it.

Before they arrived though when we were still at breakfast, the builder walked in. He had started work cutting tarmac for the farm gates at around 8.30am and the chap renting the cottage next to us who arrived yesterday went out to complain about the noise. He told my builder he had paid "good money" to come away, having been told it was a "really peaceful" spot. Maybe it was, once upon a time.

18 comments:

sunshine said...

The Aga has always sounded to me like it has a life of its own, a personality, that one does not "buy" one so much as "adopt" one.

Does one, perhaps, have to train an Aga? Maybe establish a meaningful, longterm relationship with it, before it returns your love?

I think it was not your culinary gifts that were lacking. The Aga is just not convinced it should return your attentions, yet.

Lady What Lunches said...

Ha ha! It took my mum years to perfect her Aga cooking, then when she moved and no longer had one, she found she couldn't cook any of her old, favourite recipes any more! You'll get used to it...

Have you kissed and stroked it enough? They do need regular attention...

Iota said...

I think it's just trying to show you who's in charge.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Flamin' tourists along the row, eh, Wifey?

violincjj said...

Oh my eclairs did that once...did you use the right sort of flour? That was my mistake. Also I think when you cook the paste you need to do it for a longish time to make the grains expand in that chemical reaction thingy...

farming-frenchstyle said...

I had an Aga once - solid fuel - and I left some mince for the dogs in the bottom slow oven. As you can't smell anything with the Aga I forgot the mince was in until the middle of the night, or was it next morning? It was ok though, you just have to remember to remember!

Motheratlarge said...

That whole choux pastry thing is harder than it looks to bring off well, at least in my experience, though I'm no great cook. I really resent this pressure to magic up home-baked cakes. It really shouldn't be considered such a solecism to offer shop-bought cake! At a first birthday party the other month, the hostess took quite a ribbing from some of her ungrateful guests for proferring them shop-bought cakes. The ultimate hostessing sin. I thought that was very rude. Poor woman.

anudderwifeyintnorth said...

swap ya baby aga for a book on proffiteroles,seriously though they are bloody hard to make although him who must obey makes great ones

lady thinker said...

Giggled over this - great post.
I LOVE baking and cooking but I have never attempted Profit Roles. I usually slap together a quick easy- peasy boiled fruit cake and/or low fat yoghurt cakes. You just gather ingredients throw all into bowl whisk together and chuck in tins and bake. They are marvellously impressive cakes and everyone thinks I slaved over a hot stove for ages to make them. Please Don't tell 'em I haven't.

Mike said...

Oh my God, you didn't offer profiteroles to your Aga, did you? Agas are used to much more basic stuff than that, like brown bread, scones and buns. Here's a brilliant recipe for buns/cake, just throw all ingredients in food processor, process, scrape down, process, put in bun cases or tins and bake. About 15 mins for buns, 20 to 25 for cake. Butter(soft) 225g/ 8oz, sugar 225g/8oz, flour(self raising)285g/10oz, 4 eggs, half teasp baking powder, half teasp vanilla essence(or any liquer if you have no vanilla). GOOD LUCK!

Rob Clack said...

For all I post about Slow Food and proper cooking, we don't do baking in the Clack household. Nearest I get is throwing ingredients into the breadmaker a couple of times a week. And even that doesn't always work; The number of almost unleavened loaves of sunflower bread I've made beggars belief!

Anything that is really too difficult should be bought in and sod the critics!

mutleythedog said...

I would't bother with eclairs and choux pastry and the like.. make bread - if you like buy a bread mix and bake it up in the Aga. Or use strong flour and instant yeast...

The trick is to knead it well, it helps develop those all important wrist muscles....

Daniel said...

So, how were the eclair sticks? Did anyone eat them? Even if you wouldn't serve them to company, maybe the kids would eat them. When I was a kid, my 3 brothers and I ate everything in sight. My mother grew accustomed to our untrained tastes and developed into a fine industrial cook. What about baking sheet cakes? That's when you pour the batter in a big square pan, and when it's done, you spread frosting over the top, then you fluff a little flour through your hair, and voila, you're done.

Mopsa said...

Four dogs in the house at the mo - visitors have brought theirs with them. That's three long wagging tails and one button tail. And last night one of them wagged by the Aga and turned the damn oil flow off. Cold Aga, and beautifully marinaded chicken breasts in home-made Thai green curry paste waiting in the fridge. The barbecue creaked into action just in time.

Kaycie said...

I was shopping for a new refrigerator for my house in a local appliance store. Believe it or not, they had an Aga on display. In Oklahoma, no less. What a beautiful beast of a stove it was. I can see why you love it.

@themill said...

Why is liking an Aga betraying the working classes? Some farm workers cottages in these parts had Aga's put in them in the 50's. They have only becopme expensive since they became trendy.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

We've had a bad baking week here too. My youngest wanted to make cookies, but didn't want me hanging over his ten year old shoulder. I watched out of the corner of my eye as best I could, but there was something seriously wrong when they came out of the oven.

I guess only putting in half the flour called for will do that.

David Cornock said...

Do not feel a traitor to the working classes - no self-respecting socialist is complete without a posh cooker - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/wales/6365573.stm - or -
http://davidcornock.blogspot.com/2007/09/agas-4-all.html