Our new hand held electric beaters have arrived and I’m very excited that we can use this time saving device to make our cakes. Marguerite Patten, with her expert no fuss recipes has just written another book called 500 recipes for Electric Mixers and Blenders, so I’m reading them her Introduction.
‘I have tried to convince many people that mixers save time, trouble and money as well as enabling you to prepare dishes that normally could be too complicated for a busy housewife.’
Busy housewives! What do I tell the boys? But Marguerite has some tasty recipe ideas including something new for my lessons on that wretched Invalid cooking – Liver soufflé made from liver, white sauce and eggs. Can’t wait to try that out!
They’ve gathered at my demonstation table to watch and hope I’ll hurry up so they can get cooking.
‘Today we’re making Swiss Roll, and carrying out a speed test to see if the new electric beaters can beat the rotary and wire balloon whisks.’
Swiss Rolls take a whole morning to make, cook and roll up. The preparation time is in proportion to the tasteless, dusty, dry cake that you get at the end. Corner shops sell delicious Cadbury’s Swiss Rolls, coated in chocolate and filled with butter cream, which are far superior to anything we can make. But a Swiss Roll is a high level, much admired cooking skill revered by EXAMINERS. Get it wrong and you bake a flat, dry biscuit. Get it right and you get a dry, rolled up, spongy cake. SHE WHO RAN AWAY was seriously into cakes as there are hundreds of Swiss Roll tins silently stacked and neglected in the store room – enough to open a cake factory.
A very important fact for cookery lessons – Swiss Rolls are cheap – you only need four ingredients – eggs, sugar, flour and jam and these emergency rations come from my store room. Everyone can join in and no-one has to spend their morning doing boring worksheets. These four ingredients provide hours of cooking entertainment and for once I don’t have to listen to excuses.
‘I left me stuff on the bus, miss.’
“Me nan says she doesn’t eat them sorts of cakes.’
or the very sad yet serious
‘We haven’t got the ingredients.’
And if they don’t want to pay for the cake, I’ll sell it to the highest bidder in the staffroom.
Whisking eggs and sugar is our first task.
‘Crack the eggs into the bowl with the sugar and whisk until thick.’
Like the best Blue Peter demonstration, I have done one earlier. If they have to watch me laboriously beating eggs and sugar there’ll be thumps and falling off stools with boredom.
‘The eggs leave a trail when ready and you can write some letters with it. We’re going to randomly allocate who gets which whisk and you must time how long it takes to get creamy like this.’
I tip up my glass mixing bowl for them all to see the thick eggy line on the top.
Sylvia hands out the whisks – she knows my random allocation rules. The boys like a competition If you regularly act tough and misbehave and you get the wire whisk which will take AGES = some of the boys = Bert and Kevin if he ever appears. Have the occasional lapse in lessons and you get the rotary whisks which can be quick = some boys and a few girls = Vicky and Carol. The well behaved plug in my new electric beaters, which Marguerite says saves time and trouble = students like Alice and some keen boys.
Random allocation is a bit like dog training. Behave for me and you get treats. Strain at the leash and it’s going to be tough and time consuming for all of us.
‘OK let’s start whisking.’
The room hums with competitive beating and Sylvia and I wander round inspecting the foamy trails.
‘When it’s ready you can write letters in it.’ Some hide their bowl before I check their letter choice.
‘OK now fold in the flour with a FIGURE OF EIGHT using a metal spoon. And gently so that you don’t knock out the air.’
This is another ritual skill that must be followed to get the most marks FOR THE EXAM. Figures of eight. Pieces of eight. I’m like a squawking parrot repeating the mantra.
But the figure of eight flour folding, metal spoon process is one of the most hallowed techniques in cake making. Ask any cake maker and they will agree.
‘Now spoon into the tin and bake.’
The room soon fills with warm aking smells. Swiss Roll is quicker to cook than to make, but once it is ready all hell breaks out turning it from flat cake to its rolled up triumph.
‘Tip it out onto your sugared tea towel. Quick, while it is hot. Take off the greaseproof paper, cut off the sponge edges, spread with jam then ROLL AND HOLD.’
I am the Sergeant Major and Sylvia is my Corporal marching round the class as they cut, spread then push the cake uphill over the jam.
‘HOLD. Do not look at it yet!’
‘OK, undo the tea towels.’
This is like taking off the blindfold at a hide and seek party. We are dazzled at the array of golden rolls of fluffy sponge with their dusting of caster sugar and spiral of oozing red jam.
‘Onto a frilly doyley for marking please!’
This fatless, purposeless sponge only keeps it’s freshness for a few hours. As the boys shuffle off, I see them take huge spongy bites leaving a ring of sugar crystals stuck around their mouths.
Nobody with any sense makes Swiss Roll these days. The key to success is to whisk the eggs and sugar until they are creamy and delicious, before folding the flour in very gently IN A FIGURE OF EIGHT!