Ah, the trials and tribulations of baking and cooking are plentiful. Ninja says I am never happy with what I create in the kitchen. I always think it hasn’t come out well: I’ve burned it, I’ve ruined it, I am disappointed with the way it looks, or the way it sank in the middle.
“I can’t serve this, I am not serving this,” I declare frequently, when preparing for a meal with friends. Ninja rolls his eyes and reassures me that it is delicious (or so he says) or that it looks fine, and I should stop being so silly. Nine times out of ten I do serve it, whatever it may be that week, everyone likes it, and I forget about my earlier crisis of confidence.
I suppose I am a bit of a perfectionist in my cooking, but in my mind there exists a fair equation: if I invest time in the kitchen, spend money on good ingredients and follow the recipe, even with minor changes, then the only just outcome can be a delicious pot of soup, a tender, juicy piece of beef, or a perfectly golden batch of cookies etc. etc. Doesn’t this equation make sense? Does anyone else think like me?
Perhaps this is why on the rare occasion when something I bake goes seriously wrong, and it is sadly relegated to the rubbish bin, I am really quite disappointed. Not only do I hate throwing away food, but it is a waste of time and effort, a case of “slaving over a hot oven'” for zero gratification. Luckily it doesn’t happen often.
When I was having my huge baking fest a few weeks ago for my brother’s goodbye party, I decided to branch out and try a few new things. “If you don’t try new things, you will never expand your repertoire,” I told myself sternly. I chose a recipe from a charming, but quite old fashioned book I grew up with, ‘The Entertaining Cookbook’ by Evelyn Rose (published 1986). Orange crisps, described as “delicious little biscuits” seemed simple enough, and something a little different from the usual chocolate overload.
Indeed, the biscuits were delightfully easy to make. Still warm from the oven, I eagerly popped one in my mouth. They were pleasantly sweet and crumbly, with a lovely orange twang, but as I finished chewing and swallowed, my smile faded. What was this strange bitter aftertaste?
I was immediately suspicious. Usually, I would blame the recipe, but Evelyn Rose’s recipes are solid – it’s a well known fact. It must be ME! Oh NO! Not quite trusting my taste buds I had another and another (I managed four despite the terrible aftertaste!) until I decided that something had gone wrong here. I definitely couldn’t serve these! The aftertaste was that bad and sadly they ended up in the bin (but not before I’d taken some photos of them!)
So where did I go wrong, and why am I telling you about these biscuits if they were such a failure? Well here’s the thing: until that bitter, slightly chemical aftertaste spread through my mouth, crinkling my face with confusion, they were really delicious! I believe the problem ingredient is the finely grated rind of 1 orange. Either I must have forgotten to rinse the orange, meaning it had some kind of chemical or waxy residue, or perhaps it was a particularly bitter orange. Next time I would include half the amount of orange rind, or a drop of orange juice instead. If anyone has any suggestion where this strange and bitter aftertaste may have come from, I would be interested to hear.
So, despite this batch ending up in the bin, I will be trying these again, I really WANT them to work!
by Evelyn Rose
150g self-raising flour
125g butter cut in 2.5cm chunks
50g caster sugar
finely grated rind of 1 orange (or less??)
1. Put the flour, sugar and rind in a bowl, add butter and rub in by hand or machine until a dough is formed which can be gathered into a ball.
2. Pinch off pieces the size of a small walnut and roll between the palms into little balls. Arrange 2 inches apart on ungreased trays. (I always used baking paper anyway)
3. Take a large fork and dip it in cold water, then press down on the balls first one way and then another. This will form biscuits about in 1cm thick.
4. Bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes until a pale gold in colour. Remove from the oven and immediately sift with caster sugar.