Hello, my name is Amy and it has been 64 days since I’ve last baked-and-blogged, or as my friend would say, “boke” (his suggestion for the past tense of “bake”).
In case you didn’t know, the pandemic is still going strong, and actually stronger now that we’re all navigating the second wave. Obviously that means I’m still working from home which means my only in-person co-workers are myself which means if I bake anything, I have to eat it all.
This isn’t a great system.
Especially because I’m not moving around as much and I’m trying to be healthy.
But it’s also the month of eating everything that’s bad for you, so I’ve loosened the aforementioned rule of giving up sugar. Although I am still trying to eat in moderation, and that means hiding chocolate from myself.
Fun fact: As a child, my mom would hide sweets from us in the top cupboards, and this system has continued into adulthood. I would regularly hide my chocolate in the cupboard above my fridge thinking it’s harder to reach and therefore I’d eat it less. I only realized this week that this childhood-established system is useless for deterring a six-foot-tall woman. So now I’ve put the chocolates in the bottom corner kitchen cupboard because I absolutely loathe that cupboard. It’s where I put everything I use irregularly. The result? I’m eating less chocolate.
Back to the recipe.
Since I’m by myself and don’t want to have to eat twelve sausage plaits, I am working on my fractions and doing half a recipe.
I’ve also chosen to ignore the first few steps. I have made shortcut puff pastry before and it was not the best. Store-bought is good every time and saves me a day’s work.
It was hard for me to know how to divide the puff pastry because the recipe at no point mentions a store-bought alternative, so I took a guess and did a quarter pack of frozen puff pastry. I set that out to thaw and then jumped to step four: putting the mushrooms, salt and pepper into the food processor to create a paste.
Mushrooms aren’t usually my favourite. The flavour is okay, but I find the texture to be rubbery. If it’s cut up small enough in a stir fry or on a pizza, I don’t notice it, so I thought maybe a mushroom paste would be perfect for me.
Additionally, since I don’t normally eat mushrooms, I’m not sure which variety is which. The recipe calls for chestnut mushrooms, so I stood in the grocery store and did a quick Google Image search before grabbing the white mushrooms because they looked the same.
Once the paste was created, I added the thyme (probably too much because I eye-balled adding dry thyme instead of going with the fresh thyme as instructed) and then I put it in a dry frying pan and cooked it until all the moisture had evaporated.
(By the way, the resulting texture reminded me of ground beef, and I wondered if mushroom paste would be a good meat alternative. But first I’d have to see if I even liked the flavour.)
With the mushrooms set aside to cool, Paul’s next step was to cook up the onions in butter and sunflower oil.
I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned this in another post (and even if I did, I would be shocked if you remembered), but I don’t love onions because they make me cry. I know you’re about to say that onions make everyone cry, but I have friends who are able to chop onions without needing to take breaks to wipe away the outpouring of tears, open windows to get some fresh air, and ultimately be forced to very carefully cut through the blindness and stinging pain of onion eyes. For whatever reason, I react a little less strongly to shallots, so instead of red onions, I went with the option that does not make me weep.
Paul said they’re to be “thinly sliced” so I did what I thought that was and added it to the butter and sunflower oil, along with half the amount of brown sugar.
After a chunk of time (Paul said 20 minutes, but I honestly have lost all concept of time in 2020), the onions looked properly caramelized, so I did as he instructed and added a little bit of sherry vinegar (which was pricier than I thought, but now I never have to buy it again) and then removed them from the heat.
Then I began to roll out the thawed puff pastry. Here’s where things get interesting.
Up until this point, I had been assuming I was doing a half recipe and would therefore end up with six sausage plaits. I rolled out the dough, checked my measurements, and found I had thawed enough dough for two.
Weirdly, though, the filling worked. I took the mushroom paste and instead of dividing it between six, I divided it between two. I took the half-portion of ground pork, put on disposable gloves, and formed two sausage shapes to place on top of the mushroom paste.
I should confess that I did omit one step and one ingredient at this point: black pudding. I was supposed to cut up black pudding and add it to the pork sausagemeat. I also don’t know how sausagemeat differs from ground meat, but I went with basic ground pork because I could not find pork sausagemeat and I did not feel like scooping meat out of sausage casings. And since I had struggled to find sausagemeat, I was not about to go into store after store to find black pudding.
Plus, black pudding is also known as blood pudding and that is just simply disgusting. Sorry, Brits. I just cannot understand the appeal.
I scooped out the caramelized onions to place on top and, again, there was the perfect amount for two.
Somewhere, somehow, measurements went wrong. But this time, the error worked out in my favour!
I braided and plaited, brushed them with egg and sprinkled them with sesame seeds before popping them in the preheated oven.
*20 or 30 or however many minutes later*
I checked and checked and rechecked, but I really didn’t want an underbaked sausage plait because that means undercooked meat and that is to be avoided at all costs.
I don’t fully understand how the pork gets cooked through within the puff pastry wrapping. I get very worried, but considering the dark colour of the pastry and the bubbling juices, I figured it was fine.
I also really don’t understand the obsession Brits have with meat and pastry. I enjoy it occasionally, but it seems like the number one method for eating meat in the U.K. Beef wellingtons, sausage rolls, Cornish pasties, meat pies, salmon coulibiac, the list goes on.
That being said, I actually did enjoy the result.
Puff pastry is perfectly flaky and buttery when store-bought. The flavour combination of sweet onions, pork, thyme and mushrooms was umami-tastic. It was a nice comfort food for a rainy winter day, which is probably why Brits have comfort foods like pastry-wrapped meats more often than I’m used to.
Although I also live in a rainy climate, and I quite enjoy pastry-less meat meals.
Oh well. I shouldn’t judge. Each to their own. And this time I enjoyed it. (Much more than the giant sausage roll.)
Thanks for reading this whole thing! Wishing you and yours a lovely Christmas season, even if it does look a little different.