Huzzah! fellow adventurers, and welcome to another episode of The Great British Baking Show: Walton Edition! Join us this week as our bakers make their Cooking proficiency checks and whip up treats in honor of the world’s greatest role-playing game. Roll save vs. hunger; it’s time for Dungeons & Dragons Week!
Dungeons & Dragons has been around for nearly 50 years, and food has always been a part of the game. From the stereotypical (and absolutely accurate) portrayals of role-players gorging on Mountain Dew and Doritos late into the night, to the inclusion of fantastic creatures as in-game entrées upon which intrepid adventurers may dine, D&D is a game that runs on its stomach. Even The Temple Of Elemental Evil, the most famous – and infamous – adventure module ever published for any role-playing game, contained a chart to help Dungeon Masters feed their player characters. So in the spirit of the game which our bakers love so much, we took to the ovens!
To start our adventurers off right, Dan baked us this heart Spinach And Mint Frittata. I had never had a frittata before, and I was blown away be the deliciousness! Mandy and Mark were unhappy with the texture, which I did not understand, This is a egg dish and it had the texture of eggs. Then again, I can only assume that Mandy and Mark have more frittata experience than me, which is none. But the amazing thing was the way the flavors all worked so well together. It was simultaneously familiar and exotic. I wasn’t clear on how it related to Dungeons & Dragons, but the quality Dan produced needed no explanation. This was fantastic!
Mark supplied us with these excellent Trail Rations, perfect for the ranger far away from the easily had food found in taverns and pubs. These were part scone, part bread, and largely oatmeal cookie. I don’t remember what was in them, but I seem to remember that they were fortified with dried fruits and nuts. They were very tasty, but for some reason this is the only picture I have of them. Always one to go the extra mile for his character, Mark went so far as to wrap his bakes in an actual beeswax cloth, as befits their rustic, ancient origins and their need to be protected for travel. That kind of attention to detail earns extra experience points in my games. Well done, Mark!
When playing Dungeons & Dragons you roll a 20-sided die to determine how well your character performs. If you fail to roll above your target number (or below, depending on the edition of the game you’re playing), you fail at the action you were attempting. While most failed rolls simply mean what you were trying to do didn’t work out, many roleplaying groups, including ours, play by a common house rule which says that rolling a 1 on a 20-sided die is what we call a “critical fail.” That 1 means your character performs so badly that there are additional negative consequences beyond failing to accomplish your original goal. Critical fails are both treasured and reviled by role-players; we hate when we roll one, but we wouldn’t dream of playing without them because of the drama and excitement they bring to the game. But critical fails are not so fun when they happen in real life. So of course when we agreed to Dungeons & Dragons Week, a theme that I suggested, it only stands to reason that I would roll the biggest critical fail of my baking life.
This malformed blob of disappointment was my Dice Bag Cake. Not one single thing about this abomination turned out as it was supposed to. Not one. It was supposed to taste like lime. The cake wouldn’t set so I baked it for a few extra minutes, yet despite the extra baking time it tasted like raw flour. It was disgusting. The blueberry buttercream frosting I made broke in the mixer, forcing me to use canned French vanilla frosting at the last minute. It stank. I’m not commenting on its flavor, which was not good. I mean it literally stank. I sat by this cake while the bakes were judged, and it reeked. It was disgusting. Despite adding a touch of dry food pigment to make the cake look more like lime, the color was a bizarre alien green which cannot be found in limes nor anything else occurring in nature. Not on Earth, anyway. Worst of all, though, were my dice.
I found a set of silicone polyhedral dice molds on Amazon, and as you can see they are excellent molds. They produced perfectly angular dice shaped candies. And this would have been fine if I had used colored white chocolate, as I had intended. But I waited until the last minute, and the cake and candy shop was closed. So I used candy melts. In case you aren’t familiar with them, candy melts are a food-like substance that mimic the melting characteristics of white chocolate without ever tasting or looking remotely edible. They are foul. But I thought I could get away with it, because these candies were going to be filled.
My mom is a skilled amateur candy maker with decades of experience, and I always defer to experts. So I packed up my dice molds and headed out to the homestead to get advice from the master. I could see the barely concealed look of disgust as I laid down the bags of candy melts. She wasn’t wrong; she knew far better than I did that any confection that cost $1.87 a pound wasn’t even going to taste like food, let alone like actual white chocolate. Nevertheless, she agreed to help me, and was able to guide me on getting the proper melt consistency and on using toothpicks and various candy brushes to remove air bubbles and get an even coat in the molds. They wouldn’t look as good as they do without her assistance. But even she couldn’t correct my next mistake.
Again, the candy store was closed, so I asked mom if she had any fillings. She had only one, a new one, that she had bought to experiment with. Mom knows her stuff, and she always makes a test batch when using new ingredients. But I had waited until too close to the deadline, and these candies would be the experimental test run for mom’s new butter pecan filling.
Candy melts are nasty and far too sweet. Butter pecan filling is appallingly sweet. The English language is an inadequate tool for expressing how unpleasant these two substances are together, but I will nevertheless make the attempt. Here’s how to recreate the experience: get an extension cord and cut off the outlet end (not the plug; we will need to plug this into a wall in a moment). Remove the insulation from the last six inches of the cord, and roll the exposed metal wire into a rough ball. Set aside the extension cord. In a bowl, mix one half a cup of corn syrup, one tablespoon of your least favorite flavor of rock candy, and three full tablespoons of cheap vanilla extract. Cut a square of heavy aluminum foil six inches per side and roll into a loose ball. Place the the ball of aluminum foil in your mouth, then pour the contents of the bowl into your mouth as well. DO NOT SWALLOW. Plug in the extension cord, being careful not to touch the exposed wire. Begin firmly chewing the ball of aluminum foil, making sure to chew equal parts of the rock candy and metal with each bite. When the pain has become nearly unbearable, part your lips and begin to vigorously brush your teeth with the electrified ball of wire at the end of the extension cord. You now have an approximation of eating my dice candies. If you’d like to experience the cake itself, follow the directions above, but add a quarter cup of raw flour into your mouth before brushing. Now you know what it was like to eat my Dice Bag Cake, which is not only the worst thing I’ve ever made for the Baking Show, but quite probably the worst thing I have ever cooked in my entire life. Critical fucking fail.
Mandy made Meat Pies. I don’t know how else to describe these wonderful little empanada-like pockets of awesomeness, but they were extraordinary. I don’t remember what she put in them, mainly because as she was talking about them, I was busy shoving them into my gaping maw like a starving man. These were not only delicious, they somehow tasted medieval. I don’t know how that is the case, but they did. These just felt like something you would eat if you lived in the mystical realms of Dungeons & Dragons. I could totally see serving these to hungry travelers who meet in an inn to discuss a new adventure. And apparently I wasn’t alone, because Mandy’s Meat Pies earned her enough XP to level up to this week’s Star Baker!
Congratulations, Mandy, on a job very well done, and be sure to join us next time as our bakers put forth their best diminutive holiday confections for Christmas Tins Week! Until next time, bon appétit!