More specifically, you must invent the part of the universe that evolved into the part of the human psyche labeled “patience with recipes”.
I am usually a very patient cook. I can layer and oil hundreds of filo pastry single sheets with tai-chi smoothness. I can roll out pastry, loop it over the rolling pin and unfurl it into a pie dish like a happy labrador’s tongue. I have even been known (because I don’t own a set of beaters) to whip meringues by hand. I always read the whole recipe first, to check if it says ‘meanwhile’ anywhere. ‘Meanwhile’ is recipe-book-speak for ‘you should have done this bit earlier and now your dough needs an hour to prove but the filling is already congealing and you really should read the whole recipe first, you douche’.
I am making coconut chocolate tarts from a recipe by [redacted famous chef who often appears in weekend newspaper magazines]. The recipe book is called something in the vein of ‘Fast and Fresh’, or ‘Quick and Comforting’, or ‘You Really Should Read The Whole Recipe First, You Douche’.
‘Place the egg whites, sugar and coconut in a bowl and mix to combine them. With wetted hands or a spoon, press the coconut mixture into eight deep muffin tins, covering the base and sides to make a shell.’
I am all over this. I press the mixture firmly into my muffin tray, and pop it in the oven. And because I have read the whole recipe first, I know that later on it tells me to ‘make the filling while the bases are cooling’. I’ve got your number, [redacted famous chef].
‘Place the cream in a saucepan over medium heat and heat until almost boiling. Remove the cream from heat. Add the chopped chocolate and stir through until the chocolate has melted and the filling is smooth.’
It doesn’t explicitly state in the recipe that I need to eat massive spoonfuls of this mixture while it’s warming, but I’m well-trained in reading between the lines in these sorts of recipes. Sorry if I’m mumbling, I’ve got a mouthful.
After the prescribed 8-10 minutes, I have a look at my tart shells, while making several brilliant jokes in my head about ‘tart shells’. They are supposed to be ‘golden brown’. They are, in fact, ‘golden brown’ on the edges but still ‘very white’ on the base. I am calm. Perhaps it’s like making biscuits where they seem squidgy and undercooked straight out of the oven, but harden up as they cool. I make several more brilliant jokes in my head about ‘tart shells hardening up’, and look back at the recipe.
‘Cool the shells for 1 minute then gently remove them from the tin.’
I rest those coconutty little whipper-snappers and then gently slide a knife down the side of one shell to detach it. The ‘golden brown’ sides slide up neatly, leaving a perfect ‘very white’ circle of tart shell still glued to the base of the tin. I have more of a ‘tart ring’ on my hands now. Resisting the urge to make yet more brilliant jokes in my head, I calmly pop the muffin tray back in the oven to give them a bit longer. The filling is starting to develop a skin (which my interpretation of the recipe requires me to eat), so I warm it on low.
Ten minutes, a modicum of swearing, and a few more ‘tart ring’ events later, the bases of the shells have finally turned the prescribed shade of brown. I personally have turned an unanticipated shade of pink, as the edges of tart shells are now of a colour somewhere between ‘chocolate brown’ and ‘charred remnants of sanity’.
The filling is starting to develop its second skin of the day, so I get the tray out of the oven and gently slide a knife down the side of one of the eight remaining shells.
When I say ‘gently slide a knife’, what I actually mean is ‘attempt to wedge a knife between tin and shell and discover the more well-cooked parts have welded them to the tray like dried Farex to a baby bowl’.
It won’t dislodge. I shove the knife a bit harder and an entire shell shatters. I make a carefully crafted comment about [redacted famous chef] and her mother’s possible dealings with members of the animal kingdom. I turn the tray upside down and twist it, hoping to crack them out like ice-cubes. Nothing.
And this, dear reader, is where I fail to invent the universe.
More specifically, it is where I fail to invent the part of the universe that evolved into the part of human psyche labeled “patience with recipes”.
I slam the muffin tray down onto the bench and stab at the remaining shells with the knife; eruptions of failed burnt sugar chips spray across the kitchen. I throw the recipe book at the sink and shatter an unsuspecting cereal bowl. It’s the bathroom scene in Punch-Drunk Love all over again, but with less toilets and more coconut.
I heave in a great, ugly breath, take a quick look to make sure the cat isn’t around, and finally hurl the knife at the floor as hard as I can. By some miracle it sticks in the floorboards point down with a humorous BOINNNNNNG, and quivers gently.
I snort. ‘Cool,’ I say aloud. ‘I should join the circus.’
‘Pour the chocolate filling into the coconut tart shells and place in the freezer for 10 minutes or until the chocolate filling is set. Serve with coffee or berries as a dessert.’
Or, if you will,
‘Pour yourself a glass of wine and eat the remaining chocolate filling and shards of coconut tart shells with a spoon while standing up at the stovetop. Spend 15 minutes trying to pull the knife out of the floor. Add "buy new muffin tray" to shopping list. Return to lounge room and continue reading Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.’
Now, would anyone like the recipe?