Friday 31 October 2014

Walnut whips and babies have something in common

After Himself brought home Walnut Whips to cheer her up after the birth of her baby, Sophie White came to realise that children and confectionery are more than similar

Sophie White

Published 09/06/2014 | 02:30

'Walnut whips will always remind me of this time because Himself would bring them home to me to cheer me up.'
Sophie White

During my stay in hospital having Yer Man, the Bitchherd managed to breach the fortress of security that is the recovery ward and breezed in on a Sunday morning.

They looked, to my morphine-addled and sleep-deprived mind, uncannily like the original supermodels. I'm talking Naomi, Christy and Cindy in the flesh. Basically, they were all just wearing nice jeans and had blow-dried hair, but I was bowled over by their perfection. I, on the other hand, looked like a wrung-out, old Jeye cloth.

If they were shocked by my appearance, they hid it well, cooed over the baby and then hightailed it before the burly head midwife could give out to them again. A few days later, one of them rang me at home to see how things were.

Let me add a visual context to this call. When she rang, I was lying on my bed staring at the wall. I'm not even sure where Yer Man actually was, presumably in the care of Himself, or some other person capable of picking him up without dissolving into hopeless tears.

"I don't know what I've done to my life," I said in a blank voice that she barely recognised. "So, it's not great?" she asked tentatively. "No, not great," I replied and hung up.

Later, I realised that I had been too real with her that day. This is why nobody tells the truth about motherhood – we need others to join us in our hell. I had passed through to the other side and, until one of them joined me, I would need to protect them lest I scare them off procreating altogether.

Postnatal is referred to like it is a temporary state, but, really, it is one of life's watersheds. My mother is nearly 30 years postnatal and claims to have still not recovered.

When I first searched for any feelings towards Yer Man, I found nothing, and this terrified me. Every day, I tried to practise and train for loving him. If you are a parent and this makes no sense to you, then you are one of the lucky ones.

Walnut Whips will always remind me of this time, because Himself would bring them home to me to cheer me up. In a kind of a detached way, I marvelled at the fact that I needed "cheering up" when I was clearly so lucky to have a healthy little baby in my arms.

Since then, I am glad to report that Yer Man is really growing on me and I have learned that, for me, Walnut Whips and babies have something in common. I like the ones I make myself the best.

Walnut-Whip.jpg

Home-made Walnut Whips

Makes about 12 mini whips and LOADS of marshmallows!

Ingredients

200g (7oz) dark or milk chocolate (whichever is your preference)

12-shape silicone mould

450g (1lb) caster sugar

200ml (7fl oz) cold water

Sugar thermometer

25g (1oz) (2 x 12g sachets) powdered gelatine

100ml (3fl oz) hot water

2 large egg whites

Spray cooking oil

Approx 200g (7oz) icing sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 half walnut for each whip

Caster sugar to coat marshmallows

Method

Melt the chocolate in a microwave or a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Using a teaspoon, line the sides of your moulds (I use silicone ice trays) with the melted chocolate and leave to set, reserving some chocolate for the tops.

Put the caster sugar and the cold water in a deep pot over a low heat to dissolve the caster sugar. Then increase the temperature to bring to the boil.

Resist the urge to stir. Place the sugar thermometer in the syrup and continue cooking until the temperature reaches 120°C, about 10-15 minutes.

While the syrup is heating, dissolve the gelatine in the hot water and beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Line a small baking tray (about 30cm x 25cm/12in x 10in) with greaseproof paper, spray with a little cooking oil and, using a sieve, dust with about one-quarter of the icing sugar.

Once the syrup is ready, remove from the heat and carefully add the gelatine mix. Even if this is quite set, it is fine, as it will melt down in the syrup. Set the whisk to a low setting and carefully pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites, whisking all the while. Then add the vanilla extract and increase the speed. Continue whisking for 5-10 more minutes, until the mix is thick and glossy.

Fill the chocolate moulds with the filling and pour the rest into the lined tray. Use the rest of the melted chocolate to seal the top of the mini whips and pop a walnut half on top of each before the chocolate sets. The whips are ready to eat once the chocolate is completely set.

For the extra marshmallow, leave at room temperature for at least four hours before dusting with one-quarter of the icing sugar and cutting into cubes. Toss in the remaining icing sugar and store in an airtight container.

Home-made marshmallows are worth what may seem like a sticky rigmarole. They're like sweet clouds of heaven!

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