Ah, 2014! Another prospective year for Cooking Adventures. I got way off base last year and didn’t keep up with my expected blog posts; one new recipe a week. I’m hoping to keep myself up to my first year’s standards of telling entertaining kitchen stories as I learn to cook and bake on my own. This week, my challenge was to tackle a trifle. Not literally. That would be rather messy. Now, I’m all for layering desserts. They just mean some of the best little desserts being combined together into a mega dessert. This time, I decided I was going to make almost everything from scratch (with exception of the blueberry muffins–I’ll explain why). This means homemade lemon custard and whipped cream. Devilish and delicious, those two are… Never did I think I’d spend my evening saving drowning egg yolks and wrangling with a possessed hand-mixer. Every day is a new adventure in the kitchen…
It’s been a crazy week. Correction: It’s always a crazy week. But this week, I happened to catch the cold from hell. I haven’t had one this bad in quite some time. I’ve gone through about four boxes of Kleenex, a bag of throat lozenges, a pot of chicken soup, several cups of herbal tea, and a week’s time… It’s still here, clinging like an obnoxious splotch of dirt to a white pair of pants. It’s been nearly a month since I’ve committed to standing in the kitchen for so long and attempting such a complicated recipe. But, it’s a new year and I was ready to get back on track with everything.
First things first. I had to do the dishes. I tend to let them build up until I have something resembling a kitchen apocalypse. So…that took some time. My cat, Lemon Jelly, tends to not like me doing the dishes. He gets panicked, as if the sink might overflow and then drown the apartment. So, he hangs out in the kitchen, usually pacing, boring holes into me as he watches my every move. When he does make a noise, it’s usually not so much a meow as it is a high-pitched whine/squeak. And just so it isn’t lost on you, when I mean he “panics”, I mean it in the fact that he tends to lose control of his bodily functions. So, by the time I was done with the dishes, the whole kitchen smelled like Dawn and cat fart, the kind able to render a family of water buffaloes unconscious.
After stepping outside for a little while to cleanse my system of the toxic stench, I returned to start work on the trifle. In a saucepan on the stove, I mixed one cup of sugar, three tablespoons of cornstarch, 1/2 tsp salt, and four egg yolks together. Now, I happen to think of myself as being a master egg separator using the eggshell juggling method so popular in cooking. Usually, I just do the whole act over a garbage can and forget about saving anything that happens to fall. I decided this time that I wanted to save the egg white for later consumption. But really, when I think about it now, the whole reason I eat eggs is just so I can devour the egg yolk by savagely gutting it and eating it with toast. Those egg whites will probably haunt me for a while…
I found a jar and carefully cracked each egg over it, passing the egg yolks from one side of the shell to the other and then adding them to my saucepan…until I got to the third one. This one missed one of the shells and plunked into the soupy sea of egg white in the jar. I knew I could leave it, crack open another and just continue along on my merry way…but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to let that one egg yolk beat me. I reached in with one of the eggshell halves and attempted to fish it out. This would have been easier if the jar opening had been bigger. I was finally able to scoop it out like a survivor from the egg Titanic, using just the tips of my fingers precariously holding the eggshell. Triumph. Yes, I am proud of myself. You would be, too, if you’d experienced that harrowing rescue in real time. Moving on.
Once all of the eggs were taken care of, I turned the heat on the stove up to low and mixed all of the ingredients together in the saucepan. After a little while, I turned the heat up to medium, and stood for the next fifteen minutes, swirling the yellow mixture with a whisk and watching “Cake Boss”. Once the mixture had thickened, I turned off the heat and let it sit on the back burner to cool. I cut a lemon in half and squeezed both halves into the custard…including a couple seeds which were soon lost within the mixture. I also added 1/4 cup of melted butter and 1 tsp. vanilla to the custard, stirred everything together (still no luck locating the seeds), and put the saucepan into the fridge to cool for the next two hours.
After doing more dishes, conquering another bout of odoriferous cat butt cologne, and making myself some dinner, I resumed work on the trifle. This time, my sights were set at creating the whipped cream. The directions for this step are fairly simple: in a mixing bowl, mix together two cups of heavy whipping cream and 1/4 cup sugar with a hand mixer. For anyone that might have missed my November cooking adventure, an incident with marshmallow crawling up inside the hand mixer (much like The Blob) caused me to have to take it out of commission for future adventures. It’s since been sitting in an isolated spot in the kitchen as if it’s the dunce in the corner. Making whipped cream without a hand-mixer… I could see this was going to be a lengthy process. I took up my whisk, seated myself in front of my computer and an entertaining video, and went to work stirring the ingredients together. Stirring. And stirring. And stirring. And– My hand started to quake from all of the exertion. I tried mixing with the left but, let’s face it, I’m not ambidextrous and trying to make it move in a circular motion was pushing it.
I decided to try hooking the mixer back up and giving it a go, despite the probability that it would catch fire and smell like roasted marshmallow. I pushed both beaters in, plugged it in to the plug behind me, and started into the mixing. The thing sounds like it’s made with an outboard motor. The higher I turned the setting, the more I worried the bowl was going to shoot out of my grip and across the kitchen. Finally, one of the beaters fell out and I had to stop to put it back in. Within seconds of starting it again, the beater fell out…again. This time, I wrenched it in, and started it up, satisfied that it wasn’t going to pull anymore beater shenanigans. Then the cord popped out of the wall.
After another ten minutes of cursing, beating, and silent prayers (that sounds so much worse than it actually was!), I finally had something resembling whipped cream. I added the required 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract to it and then was finally ready to assemble my blueberry trifle. On the bottom of the glass bowl, I tore apart two blueberry muffins (with some freaking amazing blueberry filling in them) and layered them along the bottom. Then, I took a bag of thawed frozen blueberries and spooned a few heaping spoonfuls over the top. Next, 1/2 of the whipped cream mixture went over the blueberries and then the lemon custard over that. Much more difficult to do than it sounds. Then, more blueberries, more blueberry muffins, the whipped cream and lemon custard mixed together to create a heavenly lemon franken-cream. Top it off with some blueberries and lemon rind for garnish and voila! A decadent, and delicious sight to behold.
Next week on Cooking Adventures, I’ll be tackling Chicken Parmesan Baked Pasta, something warm and wonderful for this bitter and icy winter! Stay tuned!