Having the first few things I cooked from 'The Great British Book of Baking' turn out so well gave me the false sense of security with my baking that it was actually really easy. Either that or I had finally discovered my superpower!
Shortbread, especially, looked incredibly easy to make. Throw everything but the butter into a bowl and mix. Add the butter and rub it through with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. Then cook. Easy!
The reality was not quite that straightforward...
260g plain flour
100g caster sugar
40g cocoa powder
a pinch of sea salt
200g unsalted butter
(Cook at gas 4 for about 25 minutes)
There are often moments, when you're cooking something new, when you stop and think 'hang on, I've missed something'. Rubbing the margarine into flour should (in my head at least) be followed up with adding liquid until it becomes pastry. For shortbread biscuits, though, this is not the case. The mixture is cooked exactly as is - in a breadcrumb-looking mixture of fat and flour. When it was ready, I squashed the mixture into my one and only oven pan and put it in the oven, intrigued as to what it would look like when it came out.
When I took the mixture out I was quite impressed - it looked great! It felt a little spongy to the touch but as this was the first time I had made shortbread I naively assumed the mixture would settle once it cooled. It wasn't until I had decanted the whole thing out onto a dish and sliced into it that I saw just how undercooked the middle layer was. Clearly, it should have been baked in a much shallower dish than the one I have.
I decided to slice each section through the middle to form much thinner biscuits and put them back in the oven for a few more minutes but sadly by that point the damage had been done. I did manage to eat a couple of the slices, warmed in the microwave and with some yoghurt to soften them up. A better suggestion I was told was to eat them with custard. Regardless, I fear many of these shortbreads may just end up in the bin.
Evidently, some recipes really cannot be adapted to suit your requirements. If I had thought about the depth of the tin I could have simply cooked the mixture in two sittings but instead what I got was something which was at first undercooked, then - after all my meddling - rock hard.
It might be time to buy a second baking dish…
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