Today I tried to make strawberry rocky road bars. ‘Tried’ being the operative word. Because I am rather well-known for my culinary catastrophes: brick-like biscuits, disintegrating scones and short bread fingers that’ve emerged from the oven as dough balls; not forgetting the rice milk I once spent six hours preparing as a romantic gesture for Antonia, which she later told me tasted like sewage. Despite this, and that fact that I prefer savoury foods to sweet ones, I would much rather spend the afternoon stirring cake mixture than watching lentils browning in a pan.
The rocky road bar recipe which appeared in the May issue of ‘Vegan Life’ magazine (http://veganlifemag.co.uk/) should have been easy enough: there were eight ingredients (plain chocolate, golden syrup, margarine, strawberries, an apple, almonds, dried cherries and icing sugar to sprinkle on the top) and four simple instructions none of which involved timing or an oven; and I imagine most people (vegans and non-vegans alike) would have managed to go to their nearest supermarket, collect the aforementioned ingredients, and then gone on home to complete the task within … oh, half an hour.
Not me though.
To be fair, the rocky roads were not the first thing to catch my eye in the magazine. I’ d originally fancied making the double chocolate pie on the opposite page (59) – and that would probably have been a better bet seeing as I have an uncanny knack for making anything and everything that contains pastry turn out pretty much perfect – however,
despite the thrill of a pie crust made of Oreos which contained a rather yummy sounding strawberry filling, I was put off by the fact that the recipe was a tad more complicated, and more importantly, involved a food processor; and aside from the fact that I’m slightly scared of food processors (I like all of my fingers attached to my hands), it had been so long since I used mine that I couldn’t remember how all the parts fitted together.
However, having decided that I was definitely going to bake something today, I spent another full hour deliberating over all the different dessert recipes I could try out, before narrowing my options down to blue-berry choux pastry or rocky road. (I had been threatening to make choux pastry for months, ever since my friend, Sophie, gifted me the Welsh vegan cook book ‘The Voluptuous Vole’). And in the end, I decided that I’d go to the shops and make the choice whilst I was there, depending on whatever ingredients I saw first.
Stupid, stupid plan.
I understand that sometimes it is difficult to get a hold of certain vegan ingredients – things like silken tofu and egg replacing powder aren’t exactly thick on the ground. But chocolate? Blueberries, for god’s sake!?
I was lucky to get the last two punnets of strawberries in the second supermarket I went to (that was after the detour to two health food shops). And by the time I returned home, another two hours had past. I didn’t manage to get the dried cherries so I decided to add some kirsch instead (I had a quarter of a bottle left over from the black forest gateaux I made last xmas). And I didn’t see the harm in melting together the various different dairy-free chocolate bars I had at home (they were all dark chocolate even if one was espresso-flavoured and another had orange and geranium through it). I added some freeze dried raspberry pieces and cranberries too just for the hell of it, and when I licked the spoon I thought the melty chocolate mixture tasted damn good.
In all honesty, I don’t know what want wrong. I had a little trouble chopping the almonds and when I finally added them to the mixture the chocolate had gone a bit clumpy. When Antonia saw my creation the first thing she said was: ‘Oh dear, hen, it doesn’t really look like the picture in the magazine, does it?’
Earlier, I ‘d given my friend, Fiona, a running commentary on my shopping and baking experience; and I did say the rocky road bars were ‘either going to be marvellous or dreadful’.
I can confirm, they were anything but marvellous. In fact, in my opinion, my rocky road bars more closely resembled a muddy road, and they tasted like one too. Antonia, on sampling them, very kindly said they were ‘not that bad’, but added that the biggest mistake I made was baking enough for about sixty people when there are just two of us.