Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A book review, of sorts

Last week it was my turn to host our reading group, this comes around about once a year as there are 10 members of the group and we have 10 meetings a year. We meet once a month but chose early on to have a longer break in the Summer and just have a messy night out at Christmas; where, if we do talk about the book, no one can remember what was said anyway!

I hadn't made the last meeting due to all 3 men being at a cricket practice session and Little Miss being too young to stay home alone. At this time of the year the group know I'm battling against the tide to get out of the house!

Anyway they'd had a good meeting in March and the chosen book was delivered to me.
 It was this.....

A very odd choice!
Now I love a good read and didn't see the appeal of a cookery book. I have enough of those already and cook, or more accurately bake, a lot.
I hadn't watched the TV series either so it was all a bit baffling.
Anyway the message which was delivered with the book, was that a challenge had been thrown down too. We were to browse the book, read and bake whatever we wished, but for the next meeting we should challenge ourselves to make something we'd never made before. Well once the gauntlet has been thrown down (or should that be oven glove?) I'm not one to shy away! Life is a little hectic at the moment so I flicked through on a couple of evenings for inspiration. I eventually settled on croissants, the ham and cheese variety. I thought something savoury would be a good idea as the majority of the book was sweet. I checked the ingredients and I had pretty much everything already so I waited for the morning of the meeting.
Monday last week was the appointed date, I don't work on Mondays but after the weekend, especially after the Easter break, there was a lot of tidying and cleaning to do.
Mid morning I thought I'd make a start as I assumed there would be "rising time" - it was a bready kind of recipe. However the bit I'd failed to notice was the method, halfway through I came to the bit which said "leave to stand overnight"!
Oh dear! A bit of a disaster; by this time I was very red in the face and flustered, tea towel in one hand, duster in the other - goodness knows where the broom was!
I madly flicked through the book again for anything I could make in the limited time I had left. Melting moments looked easy enough - but this is not an easy book! I mixed the required ingredients (leaving the half made croissant mix for another day) and forced it into a piping bag with twirly nozzle. I only use piping bags occasionally so just keep a stash of disposable ones, I squeezed and squeezed but no matter how hard I tried the mix was too thick to push through. The piping bag split and I was covered in goo. I tried again with a new bag and the same thing happened, three more times! I eventually removed the nozzle and made the opening a bit wider on the last piping bag.
That worked and I artistically twirled my mixture into several "dog-turd" kind of a shapes! They were baked and had to be sandwiched together with a kind of buttercream, not ordinary buttercream of course. A buttercream icing that involved making a roux, cooling and mixing. All this seemed to do was dumb down the sweetness of the icing though.
They were finished in time for me to do the ballet run (boys x 3 at cricket) and I arrived home with about 10 minutes to spare before the group arrived.
I needn't have worried about my disaster though, as each person (except 1) came through the door they all said, "oh what a day I've had" or "I must explain the disaster-on-a-plate I've brought with me"
We did however end up with a table that looked like this...
So it wasn't all bad, we had a tea party!
On the table there is a tarte au citron, battenburg cake, rum baba's, stilton, spinach and new potato quiche, wholemeal bread, rum and raison cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies 
and my melting moments. Quite a feast!
And we all agreed that this is the most talked about book for months. However not much of the talk was good, and no one wants to buy it (we had library copies). All the recipes seemed over complicated and time consuming. Everything tasted ok, not spectacular but ok. None of the recipes warranted the time they seemed to take and could probably have been made in half the time using a different recipe, and tasted just as good.
We did however, all leave the meeting a few pounds heavier!
We are now reading my choice which is....

It wasn't my first choice, in fact it was about my seventh choice! The library couldn't supply 10 copies of anything I asked for so suggested I pick something from their "recommended reads for reading groups" list - I shut my eyes and pointed! So when I collected it from the library it was a surprise to me too, I couldn't remember what I'd ordered. I'm not sure about it really, it doesn't sound like an uplifting read - I'll let you know!
Anyway have a good week, I hope you're all seeing some sunshine.
P.s.  As an update to my last post, I'm afraid despite my best efforts I saw no celebrities on the Norfolk Broads. I don't know anyone who did either,
maybe the tourist board were just having us on?!
P.p.s. I eventually got back to the croissant mix on the Thursday and finished them off - they weren't worth the wait!


  1. Well what an unusual idea for a book club!Not sure how I would feel if someone in my book club did that!!! Sounds more like a baking club! (Hmmm, now there's an idea....)
    Our village book club doesn't supply the books, the hostess just tells everyone what she has chosen and we are left to beg, borrow or steal it! I usually get the kindle version! It is certainly making me read books I wouldn't normally choose (not always a good thing!!!)
    Actually, all the husbands refer to it as the Girls Wine Club!!!
    Angie x

  2. Your book club sounds a lot more interesting than ours! I've never watched the British Bake-Off and, after reading your book review, I don't think I'll bother - I can't abide by baking/cookery books that make things more difficult than they need to be. I did laugh at the piping bag incident though!
    I think your book choice sounds interesting from the title, so it'll be good to find out what you think of it. Our current book club read is The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry; I'm about 70 pages in and not sure whether I like it.

    1. The Harold Fry book was recommended to me but the library said it was "too new" for me to reserve 10 copies - I'm not using the library next time!

  3. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face a la dog turd shapes and the P.P.S. If looking for book club reads have you read "The Woman Who Stayed in Bed for a Year" by Sue Townsend and "The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" - both great reads.

    1. Thanks June, both those books were on my list for the library but both too new apparently. The group agreed that we don't always have to use the library now as quite a few of them have a kindle so it's not so expensive to buy. I've got the Sue Townsend book waiting to be read, just got to find the time....

  4. we call our book club the stress free book club..you do not even have to buy or read the book to drink the wine!!!
    your feast looks lovely!

    1. Wine seems to be the most important part of any book group, we call ourselves a support group most of the time, books are a sideline!

  5. My last book club always picked books that made you feel awful at the end, and sometimes all through it. How much more fun a cookbook would have been! Add the snacks and wine, and I would join.

    1. There are always snacks and wine Beryl, come and join us....

  6. That made me laugh, imaging you with all the recipe ingredients dotted around in amongst having all the normal household jobs to do!
    Well done for persevering though.
    Lisa x

  7. As an avid reader I have no idea if we have a local book club to my shame, but what a great idea :o)
    What a pity the croissants weren't worth the wait though Jay. I have to admit too that I love to read cookery books (though not necessarily cook!) and have a rather large collection.
    Hope the rest of the week goes well.
    Rose H

    1. I started the group with a couple of friends and it's now been going for around 10 years (can't believe that!)- at least I know I'm doing something social once a month even if I do nothing else!

    2. Now that's set me thinking... :o)

  8. How cool though that the book led to an activity especially an eating activity which is always the best kind! I might suggest something like that to my book club. We always have the best discussions about the books we don't like. The books were like we only talk about for half an hour then dissolve into celeb gossip...

    1. I think we centre around eating, drinking and gossiping activities more than anything else!

  9. That's a fab idea from your book club! The baked goodies all look great too. I have read the other book you mentioned, it was a few years ago now but I think I quite enjoyed it.
    M c