This past weekend, Don and I were invited to his bosses house for dinner. ‘Shit’, I thought to myself as I agreed not only to the arrangement but also for the offering of my services in providing dessert. Now, not only would I need to think before I opened my mouth, I would also have to create a masterpiece to impress everybody else’s mouths. Shit.
There is a reason why I am not a chef. Well actually there are two for now I will tell you the first. Pressure. Stand behind me when I’m chopping an onion and there will be blood, watch me sautee at the stove and there will be burns. I crumple and fall, like a soufflé when I’m out of my comfort zone. Cooking for my boyfriend’s boss was one of these out of comfort zone experiences.
I decided to cook my pistachio meringue roulade. What I love about this dessert is that it takes about ten minutes to prepare but for those who don’t cook, it looks like you’re a pastry chef. No pressure there. At least the day was relatively cool, so I wouldn’t have to endure the same humidity nightmare that I’d had previously this summer. So, I set to work whisking my whites until stiff, gradually adding the sugar to make glossy stiff peaks, folding through half of the pistachios and spread it on my parchment lined and greased Swiss roll tin. It was all going smoothly. In fact everything went smoothly right up until the point where having wrapped it delicately in foil, about to walk out of our apartment and Don turned to say “You hold the meringue, I don’t want to break it.”
Well you can imagine what happened next and I only have myself to blame. Usually I know to stand at least ten feet away from Don when he’s flagging down a cab. His wild and urgent gesticulations are like those from a person stranded on a deserted island having spotted a distant ship. We both saw the cab at the same time, and awakening the old waitress in me I took to balancing the roulade on my left forearm in order to raise my right arm for the driver to see. At the same time, Don pounced on the cab like he does his dinner and a flailing arm knocked the desert of balance and crushed it smack into my chest. God bless the person who created Eton Mess.
The dessert, was still a success, though not a pretty one- what is it with me and roulades? The other baking event that took place over the weekend was these chocolate revel bars. I made these for the first time years ago at University, and though they were good back then, I always thought that the oat mixture needed to be changed to make it less cakey and more crunchy. The filling is like chocolate fudge- feel free to omit the nuts and if you like a really thick middle, then double the filling. I have no idea why they are called revel bars- and I’m not sure what else to call them!
Chocolate Revel bars
The base and topping:
450g/1 lb butter
200g/8 oz soft brown sugar
300g/10 oz oats
350g/12 oz plain flour
rounded ½ tsp kosher salt (1/4 tsp table salt)
1 tin condensed milk
350g/12 oz dark chocolate chips (bittersweet)
2 tbsp butter
200g/8 oz chopped, toasted walnuts
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/ Heat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4. In a food processor, blitz together all of the filling ingredients to combine- gently knead so that it comes together (if you butter is soft then this won’t be necessary).
2/ Use half of the filling to line a 20 x 30 cm baking tin (at least 1 inch deep). Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Chill the remaining dough.
3/ Meanwhile make the filling. Mix together all of the ingredients (except for the nuts and vanilla) and melt over a double boiler. Fold through the nuts and vanilla. Spread the filling over the cooked base and crumble over the remaining topping. Place back in the oven and cook for a further 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove and let cool. These are best stored out of the fridge and eaten with in a couple of days (which shouldn’t be a problem.)