It’s hot outside. Seriously, ridiculously HOT. Which means that when I got to the Whalesbone on Friday night I tried to find any job that would allow me to work in the walk-in. Other than putting piped butter in individual butter dishes – – there was really absolutely no need for me to be there. Nope. All of my tasks were to be completed in the prep kitchen. Kshonze informed me that it felt like it was about 45 degrees down there… and I didn’t have a fan. I think I literally dragged myself there… just the thought of that kind of heat drains a person.
However – Charlotte bribed me with some pretty fun tasks:
1. Make graham cracker base of cheesecake bites sundae topping
2. Make sponge toffee, again a sundae topping option
3. make mini doughnuts
4. start on the cherry cordial
Everything was pretty much a dessert and I hadn’t made 3 out of the 4 things ever… so time to learn new things! Whoot Whoot!
I’ve made many a graham cracker base in my life – so this didn’t take long and was super easy. And it turned out – super buttery and nice and thick. I was stoked.
Then it was time to start on the sponge toffee.
Jenna’s sponge toffee recipe
Charlotte recommended that I make only 1/4 of the recipe… her fear of it overflowing and burning my hands was something that I appreciated her sharing with me. So a quarter of a recipe I made. Which I’m glad for since it totally didn’t work out!
I followed the directions to a tee… I calculated 1/4 of the recipe – and then I measured everything out accordingly. Sugar, corny syrup, vanilla and water – check! Kshonze came downstairs and made sure that it was getting to the right stage in caramelization. It looked right… it smelt right… it was time to add the baking soda. WOW! The syrup expanded and lightened up and was beautiful… so I dumped the entire thing onto a large cookie tray (already covered in non-stick spray) and there… it fell flat. It tasted great (Richard and Sean said it was the best they’d ever had) but was hard, and crunchy and thin. Not an air bubble in sight. Sigh.
attempt # 1 – it fell flat… literally
I brought it upstairs and we decided it was worth trying a second time. Only – the entire recipe.
OK… I was ready. I re-sprayed a cookie sheet and set it aside. I sprayed my wire whisk (since it gets covered with the sticky sponge when I whisk in the baking soda), pulled out a clean pot and started measuring out my ingredients. Again – sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and water. Bring to a boil, allow to reduce until it is just about to carmelize – again, Kshonze would run down and make sure I was on the right track. And then… it was time. Baking soda was dumped in, pot was removed from heat and WHISK!!!!!
the whisk after the sponge toffee attacked it
This time it became even bigger (duh! obviously… bigger batch!) and when I dumped it onto the tray… it looked better. I had high hopes. Time to let it cool and harden and see how if I succeeded in creating air bubbles.
attempt # 2 – a little better
As you can see… It kinda, sorta turned out. Little pockets of air formed and it was considerably thicker than the first, failed attempt. Upon close examination (and obviously taste-testing), Charlotte and I decided that it tasted like a crunchie bar – the only thing missing was the chocolate… next time ;0)
As a side note, I was informed that when it’s humid it’s very difficult to produce proper sponge toffee (merci Celine pour l’avis)… see.. it wasn’t just me!
Time to start on the mini doughnuts. I’d previously rolled out the mini doughnuts from already prepared batter; but this time I was making the batter, rolling them and then storing them in litre containers with lots of flour.
I will admit – this was a fun task. The batter is fun to make – crème fraiche and a little butter moisten the flour and sugar combo. Oh yeah… and they add freshly grated nutmeg. Does that ever smell delish! Once I had stirred the dry ingredients into the wet ones it was time to flour my hands a little (making rolling the doughnuts much easier and less messy) and get into rolling mode. It took me about 40 minutes to roll out 2 L’s worth of mini doughnuts.
Aren’t they pretty?
Yeah… I’m pretty proud. Especially since I didn’t have to attempt this recipe twice in order to get it right.
Finally it was time to start on the cherry cordial. Charlotte had been working on these cherries for a couple of days – and it was my turn to pour them from the smaller bucket into a chinese strainer and into a larger bucket – pounding the juices and some of the flesh into the final product – while also ensuring that the seeds and the tails didn’t fall through.
It was surprisingly more difficult than I anticipated. I assumed that I would have finished that entire bucket in an hour, maybe 90 minutes… but alas, no. Only half of it was done.
beautiful, bright cherries… they tasted as good as they look… trust me
Picture it… The large bucket sits on the floor, the chinese strainer, resting on top and a quarter full of cherries; I grab a large wooden spoon, lean over the bucket and just start smashing. I felt like I was in an I Love Lucy episode… you remember the one right? When she is stomping on grapes? Yep. I felt like that, only I wasn’t using my feet, I was pounding with my hands. At one point I even used my hands to squeeze the juice out of the cherries, and then would pick through discarding the pits. My hands were bright red… it was awe-some!
my I Love Lucy moment
That pretty much took up the entire evening… graham crackers, sponge toffee, mini doughnuts, and the beginnings of cherry cordial. A-MAZ-ING eh? I thought so! Oh… and then Platonic Jeff and friends showed up – my last 5 sundaes of the evening. And they all wrote me little messages on the order form. Pretty cool don’t you think? I thought so too :0)