I’ve mentioned that our ex-neighbour’s wedding reception will be held on our front field. Over the last few days, the Sage has been mowing a substantial part of it, ready for the marquee.
It was a surprise in a way when I realised that our two family weddings took place before I started blogging and I can’t remember what, if anything, I ever said about them. The receptions for both Al’s and Weeza’s weddings took place on the field and were quite similar – hog roast and ceilidh band both times. I did more of the food for the second wedding though. First time round, we got a caterer to provide for vegetarians and do the puddings, but Weeza wanted me to when it was her and Phil’s turn.
I can’t remember what I cooked for the veggies, though I think one of the dishes was stuffed peppers, but the dessert was straightforward. With the number of guests coming, I had to start cooking well in advance, and Weeza chose something simple: meringues, poached fruit and ice cream. Since I bought the ice cream (I did offer to make it, but Weeza was adamant that it was too much work) I have no idea what I did with all the excess egg yolks, I simply don’t remember, but meringues do have the advantage of keeping well in tins. I poached twenty or so peaches or pears at a time and froze them.
I cooked the vegetarian dishes on the afternoon of the reception and had a working party to make salads in the morning.
The more astute of you might wonder what I was doing, cooking on the day of the reception – thing is, it wasn’t the same day as the wedding but the day after. We are all meek and modest people of course, and neither Dilly nor Weeza wanted a big occasion with lots of guests, though they did want a big celebration afterwards with all their friends. But what Weeza did want instead of a wedding cake was a croquembouche.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you about my first experience of making a croquembouche, which was when I was about fourteen years old. It’s easy enough of course, being numerous choux pastry buns which you can fill with cream or mousse or whatever you want, but they are supposed to be stuck together into a conical shape with caramel. You can buy moulds for them, I’ve seen them, but I think that’s cheating a bit – though it’s quite understandable if you’ve ever tried to make one in the classic way.
You make the caramel in the usual way of course, and then you dip each choux bun in it and construct this cone. It’s a lot easier said than done. I tried it with the bun on a fork, held in tongs and then, disastrously, in my fingers. It was inevitable, I suppose, that after a few of these I dipped my finger in the caramel. It wasn’t boiling in terms of caramel, but it was way, way above the temperature of boiling water and, although I was too busy at the time to take much notice, it turned out to be the most painful burn by far that I’ve ever had. And it wasn’t much good anyway, I found that the caramel hardened far too quickly in the pan, that the buns didn’t stick together very well at all and in the end I admitted defeat. We had made some raspberry mousse to serve with it, and we piled that in the dish and constructed the cone of buns around it. It was fine, although it was a bit spready by the time it was served.
So this time, I copped out. I decided that the bloomin’ buns would be stuck together with a dab of cream and that I’d drizzle the caramel over the whole. And then I’d make spun sugar to go on top. Not that I’d ever made spun sugar, of course, but I’m nothing if not over-confident.
I had a to-do list, natch, and I got through it all over the weeks leading up to the wedding, all except one item – that is, practising the spun sugar. I think I knew all along that it wasn’t going to happen.
So it was that we returned to our house – just the two families, none of the other guests was going to arrive until the party the next day – and I went out to the kitchen, looked up how to make spun sugar, made it, spun it and piled it on the croquembouche.
Darlings, bring it on. It was fine. It wasn’t … well, obviously it wasn’t professional standard, it wasn’t even gifted amateur, but it looked pretty good and I was quite satisfied. And it tasted good, obv.