Happy Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday to everyone in the states! Unfortunately, they do not know what Mardi Gras is over here, although they do celebrate “Pancake Day” today. It’s really as simple as it sounds: today, everybody eats pancakes. To me it sort of goes along the lines of Fat Tuesday because you are eating up all your rich foods of sugar, flour, milk, etc. before the fasting of Lent starts. However, I made a king’s cake to bring into work, and nobody knew what that was either. And it was quite the ordeal to bake the king’s cake, but I will get to that later in the post.
First, I want to give y’all a tour of our place! We finally got it mostly set up this past weekend, so we snapped a few pictures. The first two pictures are of our living room, from opposite views.
Next, we have a couple pictures of the kitchen. The fridge is a really good size for over here, especially because we saw a lot of places that had a dorm-size fridge as their normal fridge. And no freezer at all! So we got really lucky with this one. The oven is a lot smaller than we are used to, but it’s okay because all the pans and casserole dishes are smaller, too! And the oven has a convection option, which is amazing! I’ve never used a convection oven before, but I think I’m sold. It cooks things so much faster and more evenly! We have a very tiny dishwasher, but since we only have like 6 dishes to put in it, it works out just fine. Finally, the “laundry machine” is in the kitchen. It is also smaller than we are used to (go figure!), and it supposedly does both the wash and the dry. I haven’t quite figured out how to use it, but this weekend I attempted to run a load, and it was displaying that it would take 9 hours! Well, I took it out before the 9 hours were done, and the clothes were still slightly damp, but I thought it was good enough. We don’t have a user manual for it, so I will be going by trial-and-error. Oh, and the little kitchen island is one that we built from IKEA!
We will continue the tour to the bathrooms. I know this is exactly what you want to see (not!), but I have to post about the heated towel racks! These seem to be commonplace, and I love them! You get out of the shower and the towel feels like it’s fresh from the dryer! Or fresh from an American dryer, definitely not fresh from the “laundry machine.” Maybe that’s why they are popular over here, because that’s the only way to get a nice, warm towel. Anyway, here are pictures of our two bathrooms.
Finally, a couple pictures of our 2 bedrooms. First is the guest bedroom, and then our bedroom. Please note the IKEA wardrobe with two panel sliding doors, and one glass door because Doug and I built that! It was quite the effort as the only tool we had was one screwdriver. We even used that screwdriver to hammer in the 72 nails that were required for the back of the wardrobe. We also had to take the entire bed out of the room so that we could assemble it in there.
So that’s pretty much the tour of our apartment, or should I say “flat.” It’s not that big, but it’s a really great size for us. Plus, we have the guest room and guest bathroom, so if you want to come visit, let us know! You have a free place to stay in Derby!
So now I will discuss (or rant) about my troubles in baking a king’s cake, so if all you wanted was the tour, you can stop reading here.
This past weekend, I was sad that I wasn’t able to celebrate Mardi Gras with all my friends in St. Louis, so I wanted to celebrate in some way. “I know,” I thought to myself, “I’ll bake a king’s cake!” Of course, around this time of the year in America, you can just buy a king’s cake at the store, but you definitely can’t find them over here. So I decided I would bake one and I looked online for a simple recipe.
I found one that uses crescent rolls in a can as the dough, and then you make the filling out of cream cheese, brown sugar, raisins, and pecans. The icing is a simple powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and milk/cream. On Sunday afternoon, we headed to the grocery store to do our normal grocery shopping, and I was armed with my list of ingredients for the king’s cake that I wanted to bake that evening.
Well, we got to the grocery store at 3pm, and it turns out that they were closing in an hour, at 4pm! Good thing we got there when we did. So we were frantically doing our shopping, which is not as streamlined as in the states simply because we don’t know the layouts of the stores yet, and I went in search of my baking ingredients. I finally found where the vanilla extract should be, but there wasn’t any there! I even saw the label for it on the shelf, but none was stocked! So I asked someone who worked there, who checked in the back, and informed me they had no vanilla extract in stock. Strike one. I decided that was fine because we could just stop at another grocery store on the way home. Nothing is too far here, so we wouldn’t really have to go out of our way.
Next, I went in search of the crescent rolls to use as my dough. I could not find dough anywhere! They don’t have Pillsbury! There were no cans of biscuits, cinnamon rolls, cookies, and especially not crescent rolls! Strike two. But I figured since we were already going to another store, I would just check there. This store must be weird, right?
After we checked out there, we headed to another grocery store nearby, arriving around 4:15pm, only to find out that it was closed. It also closed at 4pm! Strike three! We started to sense a pattern, so before we went anywhere else, we checked our iPhones (yes, we finally got cell phone service on Saturday!), and found out that EVERY grocery store closes at 4pm on Sunday. Wow. Great. I figured I would not be making my king’s cake that night, but I told myself it would be fine because I would make it on Monday after work, and that would work out better because then I could bring it into work on the actual Fat Tuesday.
So even after striking out on Sunday, I decided to go in search of my vanilla extract and crescent rolls on Monday after work. At the first grocery store, I had a half-success because I was able to get the vanilla extract. Yay! However, they again did not have crescent rolls. And when I asked the employees in the store, they thought I was describing something off of Mars. They had no idea what I was talking about.
At this point, my hopes of finding crescent rolls were really starting to fade. However, I decided I would try one last place: Asda. Asda is the superstore of the UK, and it’s even owned by Wal-Mart. I figured this American-like store would certainly have crescent rolls. I trekked to Wal-Mart (after dropping Doug off at home… he was done searching), and much to my dismay, I could not find crescent rolls. No dough in cans at all.
But I would not give up. I had come this far, and I was going to make this king’s cake! I decided I would have to make the dough from scratch, something I have never, ever done. Luckily I had my iPhone, and I was able to google the ingredients I would need. I bought the yeast, flour, sugar, and other stuff I needed (which was a close call as they only had one thing of yeast), and finally headed home.
If you have ever made dough from scratch, you know it is not a simple thing. I had to mix the yeast with milk and sugar until it was all foamy, and then after making the dough, I had to let it sit for two hours to let it double in volume. And even after rolling it out and filling it with the filling, I had to let it sit for another 45 minutes! All this on a “school” night! It was not easy going, especially since my recipe was in American units, and all my measurement tools were in British units. Did you know that an American cup does not equal a British cup? So I had to keep converting things, and it was quite tedious. The king’s cake was not done until after midnight, and even then, I messed up the frosting. I was making green, yellow, and purple frosting, but the purple actually turned out brown. Apparently I didn’t mix the red and the blue properly. Oh well, here is a picture of the king’s cake. The people at work seemed to enjoy it.
My coworkers all ate the cake, and I educated them about Mardi Gras. Oh yeah, and here is another thing I couldn’t find: a little tiny baby to hide inside. So instead, I put a dried bean inside (also hard to find b/c apparently all the beans are in a can… and they eat baked beans at breakfast!). My coworker Dhiren got the piece with the bean in it, so I told him that he will have good luck for a year, and that he has to bring in the king’s cake next year! Thank goodness because no way am I trying to bake that cake again.