Love Letters – A Spectacular Failure
No, I’m not digressing from food to matters of the heart here, don’t worry. Although I’d probably fail miserably at writing a love letter, too. But let me explain. Around this time last year, my godmother came up with a cookbook that belonged to my grandmother and was published after World War II. I browsed through it, and the one thing that I noticed first was that the old measurement decagramme (decagram in the US) was used throughout the book. Which is no problem, because you just add a zero at the end to get your gram(me) measurement.
The next thing I noticed was that the recipes aren’t divided into ingredients and method sections. You read through the recipe to find out how much of everything you need. Which is no problem either, because – third thing I noticed – the recipes are very short and to the point, some of them only 8 lines long. Which leads me to the fourth thing – they are so short that they don’t even mention cooking or baking times, nor oven temperature! Which made today’s baking experiment a little more interesting. Or should I say prone to failure.
The writing style is quite interesting, too. Okay, I’ll be a bit un-pc and say it’s quite funny. For our century, at least. And maybe thinking things like that produced bad karma and is the reason for this baking failure.
Below is a 1:1 translation – right down to the somewhat commanding sounding instructions – of the original recipe, but you’ll find my more user-friendly ramblings further down, although I doubt anyone would want to try this after they read what went wrong. Unless someone out there can tell me exactly what it is that went wrong – comments and inputs more than welcome!
“12 Dgr butter, 14 Dgr flour and 4 eggs are to be mixed together and formed into 20 nut-sized balls, and left standing overnight! [The confusion starts here: the size of what kind of nuts? Hazelnuts? Walnuts? Coconuts? 😉 Kidding… And yes, there really was an exclamation mark at the end of that sentence!].
The next morning each one is to be rolled out thinly (oblong) and filled with the following filling: 4 beaten egg whites, 12 Dgr vanilla sugar [Did they have this after World War II, or did they make this themselves? What to do? 120 g of vanilla sugar – I decided to just mix 60 g of regular sugar with 8 x 8 g packs ready-bought – and not inexpensive – vanilla sugar], 12 Dgr ground almonds or hazelnuts, then the filled, rolled out pieces of dough are to be folded together like an envelope and sealed shut with an almond.”
That’s it. The original German text is only seven lines long. Needless to say, there are no pictures in this book… But I thought that apart from the few uncertainties mentioned above this sounded really easy, and translated it into a 21st century version.
I mixed together butter, flour and eggs, then was confused right away because that mix didn’t make for a proper dough but a very soft one, the consistency similar to that of buttercream. Not wanting to give up, I used a very small ice cream scoop to make 20 walnut sized balls. The “leave overnight” instructions I interpreted as refrigerate overnight. I was still hopeful this could work. Nevertheless, I made provisions for a Plan B.
The next day it was pretty obvious that rolling out the dough balls was not an option. They had become a tiny little bit firmer during refrigeration but in no way resembled a dough that could be rolled out. So, Plan B. Which was to make the filling, then stick a finger into the dough balls to make a little hollow, spoon in filling, close up. Bake. Yeah, that would have been too easy, I guess…
Having whipped egg whites pouring in sugar while whipping is something I have done hundreds of times. The bowl and whisks were clean, free of fat, but the egg whites wouldn’t stiffen. My guess is that the vanilla sugar I used was probably too coarse, maybe I added it too early to the egg whites considering its consistency. Whatever the cause, I couldn’t believe that this had gone wrong, too.
On to Plan C. Mix in the ground almonds, put mixture in mini piping gadget, stick into dough ball, pipe in mixture, decorate with an almond. Bake for 20 minutes at 170°C (fan oven).
As you can see in the pictures, the result could be called quite ugly. Luckily you can make almost anything look better in pictures. As for taste, I would describe it as “a very eggy pancake like taste with an astonishingly delicious filling”. Totally edible. But so not worth making…