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Sunday 1 December 2013

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Culinary Shenanigans

I've been toying with the idea of backdating this post so it appears on the 23rd November rather than today, but realised there's so sense in trying to rewrite the timeline of this blog. It would have been nice to have posted this over the Doctor Who Anniversary Weekend but the content this post deals with was actually made over the course of the 23rd and 24th anyway, while the plan was to make up some cupcakes and some truffles, then scoff them all while watching the 50th Anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor.

So... Just over a week late, here's what happened...

My girlfriend had previously brought round a whole stock of Lakeland's exclusive Doctor Who silicon cake pans and ice cube molds, as well as the Dalek cupcake wraps and toppers (colourful ones, based on the New Dalek Paradigm). All we needed was some food colouring (red, orange and blue) and a piping bag, and we'd be well on our way to making a selection of Dalektable* cupcakes to gobble up whilst glued to the screen. I also suggested using the ice cube tray to make some Doctor Who truffles, since it's been a while since I last larked about with chocolate.

It didn't all go smoothly... The first problem was that the Morrisons where I now do my usual weekly shop didn't seem to stock any red food colouring. I'd have expected blue to be hard to find because it's quite a weird colour for food, while red is surely pretty common these days. In the end, I had to make a brief second trip out, to my local Sainsbury's, to get the red colouring.

Next up, while the cakes themselves worked out very well - we just made twelve using two standard cake pans rather than the silicon molds (they're not as well-suited to having icing piled on, since the character designs on top would be covered over) - the icing was where it started to go wrong. Perhaps I should have known better than to expect a £2 piping bag to hold together, but the darned thing started to split before we'd even done three of the cakes, and was completely unusable by the time I finished the first six. We ended up only producing plain vanilla icing because of this, when the plan had been to (hopefully) make three of each colour.

Now, granted, I used ready-made Betty Crocker icing... but it had been out of the fridge for most of the day, and was easily soft enough to be piped right from the start. The piping bag I bought had a very thin heat-sealed seam, and split gradually further as I worked, even though the icing only got softer while the bag was in my hands. I'd have taken it back were it not for the fact that I already had a piping bag I wasn't aware of, and this new one came with seven nice, metal nozzles, which are a massive improvement on the three crappy plastic ones that had been packaged with the other bag. A quick switch-around, and I'll be ready to pipe icing again next time...

Thinking about it in retrospect, making three extra colours of icing would have required an awful lot more time than we allowed for the project, since the piping bag would have needed washing out after each group of three had been iced. As it was, we finished these just in time to start making our dinner, which was then ready just in time for the Doctor Who special.

Still, they turned out OK... and the two plates of cupcakes were further decorated with Jelly Babies, in a nod to a certain former Doctor who made an unexpected appearance in the show.

The truffles were also not quite right. Where my previous attempts used bricks of Willie's Cacao chocolate, shattered by hand, we tried an easier option this time: bars of Fairtrade 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate.

That it was far easier to melt should have clued me in to its vastly different makeup - far more cocoa butter, for one thing - and the final mixture of chocolate, butter, honey and egg yolk was much runnier than any previous truffle mixture I've made. This did make it easier to pour into the mold - which is always good - and it still set perfectly well - which is also good - but the truffles ended up much, much sweeter than I'd have hoped. It's not that the honey was the most potent flavour, but it certainly came close and, without the coating of cocoa powder, these could have been almost unbearably syrupy. As it was, I could only eat a couple at a time... which was, I suppose, true of the last batch of truffles I made, just for a very different reason.

The molds were Daleks (naturally), the TARDIS (just as naturally) and K-9. All were reasonably detailed molds, and the truffles came out with minimal breakage (the Daleks' dome lights broke off quite easily, as did the lantern on the roof of the TARDIS, but the bulk of the detail came out well. Dumping them all in cocoa filled in a lot of these details - most annoyingly the 'K-9' lettering on the side of the robot dog and many of the TARDIS window panes - but the end result turned out well... And the truffle mixture left over from the nine molded characters went on to make at least a dozen 'balls' of truffle.

* Excellent food/Doctor Who pun courtesy of my girlfriend