Photo by Patricia
I think we all appreciated how easy it was to make these meringues. Actually turning the meringue mixture into something resembling twigs was more difficult, especially if there was a hint of humidity in the air. But we gave it our best shot, and ended up with some tasty twigs as well as some amusing stories.
As you can see in the above picture, Patricia's cookies looked "stunning." She is as comfortable with a piping bag as she is with most things in her kitchen, so her twigs are a model of Platonic twigginess, although she did have some trouble removing them from her Silpat-lined baking sheet (parchment worked better), She also had a lot of breakage and advised planning for that if you want to long, slender twigs to make an impression. (The broken pieces taste just as good).
Kim's experience was almost an exact duplicate of Patricia's. Like Patricia, Kim had been want to make these meringues since the day she picked up her copy of The Baking Bible: "such a breeze" to make and "so beautiful," she thought. She was not counting on the fact that they wouldn't release from the Silpat liner and "almost all of them broke." Kim used tangerine oil instead of the suggested raspberry flavoring and enjoyed the "gentle orange flavour." Even though "nothing sticks to Silpat," these did, and Kim "finally gave up." But I think she still liked the broken cookies.
Aimee also had a Silpat problem. (One moral of this roundup seems to be to use parchment rather than Silpat when making these twigs). She described hers as being more like "kindling than branches," and although they were "super cute" and "tasted really good," they weren't tall enough to display in a glass. Aimee used coconut flavoring, which she liked a lot. Also besides being "light and tasty," they're gluten-free.
Jen had sort of the opposite problem. Yes, she acknowledged, Rose does warn against making these meringues in humid weather. But it had been a "wonderful week of sunny and dry days." So she wasn't really paying attention when the "clouds rolled in and the rain came back." Sounds almost Biblical, doesn't it? So as the humidity reached 96%, "the twigs got stickier and sadder and less like twigs and more like failure." (But if you look at Eliot's happy face, "failure" is not the word that comes to mind).
Vicki said "it looked like a storm hit" her birch twigs. She attributed this to having "zero patience with piping." (I do believe that Vicki and I are sisters under the skin.) Still, they were "very simple to make" and "very similar to eating cotton candy." Her "delicate twigs" look delectable.
Rachel "splurged" on the French raspberry essence, which she appreciated for its natural raspberry taste, not like raspberry flavoring. Rachel made these as "the perfect treat" for her book club, where everyone loved "that they provided a lot of taste without being too filling." In fact, she said, there was more agreement about the deliciousness of the meringues than about the merit of the book.
Have you ever noticed that blogs about baking failures are sometimes hilarious while blogs about baking successes are less so. For proof of that, look no further than to Catherine's account of her "meringue birch smudges." "It must have been either hubris or stupidity that led me to attempt the Meringue Birch Twigs recipe from the Baking Bible. Especially when every time I open the freezer door I'm confronted with the miserable, chewy failure of the dattelkonfekt.... Especially when Rose herself warned the Alpha Bakers that these become bendy rather than twiggy in humidity. Especially since the experiences of my fellow Alpha Bakers confirmed this. Plus it was piping. I'm not sure which of the excuses I prefer. Why don't we call it the triumph of hope over experience." Not being in Darwin, I can express no opinion on the actual merit of Catherine's meringue birch twigs. But you've got to admit she wrote a funny blog post.
Next week: The ChocolaTea Cake. I only have one thing to say: stock up on chocolate. The ganache itself has one full pound of chocolate in it. And of course, it's a chocolate cake. Better stock up on eggs too. Eight of them in the cake. It sounds glorious.