Like all* people of British extraction, my current fave is The Great British Bake Off, a TV program in which several ordinary people gather in a stove-equipped tent in a Stately Home’s garden and cook for four hours on Saturday and four hours on Sunday (edited down to an hour, or possibly ninety minutes – I’ve been so enthralled I’ve never actually wondered how much time is passing).
There are two judges, a little old lady and Gen X man with Gen X Guy Fieri frosted tips and Gen X goatee, and for no reason two presenters who have little to do – maybe ten sentences each per program – but since they seem joined at the hip, I assume if you hire one of them you get the other for free.
The majority of the baking is usual fare – “I used me gran’s recipe” is a common refrain - and the bakers have evidently practiced the thing, even if it’s a completely bizarre thing with quinces and mangoes and gouache (or whatever it’s called). However, one round is called the “technical” round and in it, all of the contestants are expected to follow a recipe they’ve never seen before, and produce an edible, attractive result. A couple of weeks ago, the recipe was a Marjolaine (which I’d certainly never heard of before) and so I purchased all the ingredients and we had a go ourselves.
I already owned a ‘food processor’ which I’d bought specifically because it said it would whip egg whites, but of course that was just an outright lie – blades don’t whip, they just chop. I did try it out again to see if I’d just got the wrong eggs or something the first time, and no, it just doesn’t do it. So I bought a proper five-quart KitchenAid mixer and tried again. Successful meringue followed.
Then I bought all the ingredients, as set out on this BBC recipe page, watched the program, read all the tips (as on this page and this page) translated from the British oven temps (as on this page) and we cooked the heck out of a Marjolaine. It’s four layers of a meringue-based thing called dacquoise (egg whites with roasted ground nuts folded in), with layers of buttercream (not American buttercream frosting, egg-yolk buttercream) also with nuts folded in, a layer of ganache (oh, right, that’s the word) then plastered with buttercream, pebble-dashed with nuts and decorated on top with piped ganache and rows of pistachios and slivered almonds.
It worked. The piping’s a bit wobbly, but the assembly was flawless. It tasted very nutty, expensive and fattening. STB reports that it lasted approximately 3 minutes in the work break room.
Cost: $405. (Possibly a bit cheaper if you don’t have to buy a KitchenAid mixer and a piping set.)
*Well, I didn’t mean you.