Sunday, 12 April 2009

A little bit rock 'n' roll

I was late up this morning, putting off rising for a while to sit up in bed with a book and some very good fresh coffee.

So breakfast was equally late. It was around midday when I took a couple of soft-boiled eggs and sat down in front of the telly.

On UKTV Food, which I switch to often for inspiration and education, was a programme called The Ace of Cakes. 'Ah', I thought. 'Baking. Since I'm going to do some baking in a little while, I'll watch this while I eat my eggs.'

It was about a company called Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, which is run by one Duff Goldman, who looks more like a member of Motorhead than a chef (hence the show title). He and his staff have taken cake decoration to new heights, and thus the programme is a cookery show meets American Chopper, although Goldman, for all his metal look, couldn't hope to compete with the real deal, Paul Teutul Sr.

And of course, the soundtrack to the fast and mobile camerawork was a bit metally too.

So, thus inspired and motivated, I descended on the kitchen, donned my apron and popped Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies on the deck.

I can be a bit rock 'n' roll too.

I don't know whether Cooper really goes with a classic French apple tart, but who cares?

And if the tart might itself seem too conventional to be really 'rock 'n' roll', then baking is not yet a convention for me. So there. Put that into your blender and purée it.

The pastry is a sweet shortcrust with vanilla, as previously. Then, while that's resting, I make crème pâtissière for the first time. Take caster sugar and egg yolks and beat until they're wonderfully smooth and a pale yellow. Then add a little plain flour and some cornflour and beat that in. Then heat milk and more sugar with vanilla (seeds scraped out, but the pod in the milk too). When that's just about to boil, strain gradually onto the egg, sugar and flour mix, stirring in. Return to a clean pan and keep stirring until it stiffens, and then for a minute or so more. Take a small amount of butter and stir in. Leave to cool.

I blind bake the pastry case and then fill it with the crème pâtissière, before topping, in a fan pattern, with thin sliced of cored dessert apples. And then into the oven for 30 minutes. Later, when it's cooled completely, I'll melt some top-quality (French) apricot jam and glaze the apples.

A glance at the clock says that the afternoon is shooting past. Manchester City are on telly at 4pm, so dinner has to be started before then. I'm doing chicken – a recipe from the River Café Two Easy book. I take the bird and remove the bagged giblets (not forgetting that I actually don't want to throw them away just yet, because they can go in the stock pot later), then stuff the cavity with handfuls of sage and rosemary and thyme, plus half a dozen cloves of garlic and half a lemon (the thyme and the half lemon are my additions to the recipe, but I had them in and they'll go perfectly). Then the bird goes in a dish – the tightest fir possible – with 200ml of water. And then into the oven at a very low 80˚. It'll get an hour before being turned over, then another hour before being turned again and then another hour after another turn. After that, the heat goes right up, butter will be rubbed into the skin and vermouth added to the roasting dish. I tell you, it's melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous.

And there'll be the apple tart to follow.

Now just how much more rock 'n' roll can you get?


  1. Ace of Cakes is must see every Thursday during its brief season every year. Glad you get to see it too.

  2. Thanks Irene. It was a first for me – I caught another episode later this afternoon. They do make amazing cakes – somewhat beyond Mr Kipling!