When was the last time you left something in the oven for too long?
Something where timing really matters, that is. I don’t mean slow-roasted shoulder of pork or a melt-in-the-mouth stew – dishes which work well with the odd inattentive slurp and stir every half hour or so – I’m talking food that is measured in minutes, where ‘too long’ can result in a complete catastrophe and clouds of smoke billowing from the cremated contents of your oven. Cakes and cookies, biscuits and bread – let’s face it, pretty much all baked goods – fall within this category; just a few minutes too many can mean the difference between a feather light sponge and piece of cardboard, a lovely loaf and a lump of lead.
The best example I’ve ever seen of something being left to bake for too long involves my Mum and a (now infamous in my family) hot cross bun. When I was little, we’d often have rolls for breakfast on the weekend. Rather than putting them in the toaster we’d warm them in the oven; the bread stayed soft but the butter would melt instantly on impact, making a simple yet indulgent change from the usual toast of the working week. Sometimes we’d branch out – croissants from the local bakery if we were feeling fancy or special seasonal produce such as hot cross buns, but only a few weeks either side of Easter. You might see where I’m going with this story when I tell you that the hot cross bun in question was discovered at some point during the Christmas holidays . . .