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The Not-So-Great Defector Bake Off Trembles And Weeps Through Biscuit Week

A well-made Custard Cream cookie from the show, with a clean stamped pattern that says "CUSTARD CREAM."
Screenshot via Netflix

Welcome to The Not-So-Great Defector Bake Off, where Kelsey and Chris attempt to complete the technical challenges from the newest season of The Great British Bake Off in their own home kitchens, with the same time parameters as the professional-grade bakers competing on the show.

The second week of the 14th season of the beloved television series The Great British Bake Off aired last week. The theme this week was biscuits, or cookies. During last season's Biscuit Week contestants were asked to make small batches of something called Garibaldi Biscuits, which we of course flawlessly executed. British and American preferences tend to diverge when it comes to cookies: Over there they like a crisp, dry cookie that breaks with a pronounced snap; over here we like a gooey, soft cookie that is the size of a dinner plate and weighs four pounds. It's good that we do not use the same word to describe these two things.

Wherever you fall on this important cultural divide, it must be acknowledged that the crunchy "biscuit" is much more suitable as a challenge of a person's technical baking ability, which after all is why we are here in the first place. Getting a crumbly and crunchy but not bone-dry finished texture is a matter of careful mixing, careful temperature control, and careful timing, of being prepared and watchful, and above all of knowing how it is that the ingredients are meant to interact, chemically, over the course of the bake. If you're going for a sludgy American-style cookie, you can salvage a poorly considered dough by simply giving it the bare minimum of baking time and serving it more as a stew than a portable foodstuff. If you screw up the dough for a shortbread, what you will have at the end will not at all hide your errors. It will simply not be shortbread, and will instead be gross and bad. Shortbad. Grossbread.

You can see how this might pose a particular challenge for distractible goofball home-baking bloggers who understand basically all baking processes as mysterious alchemical magic.

The challenge for Biscuit Week was to make Prue Leith's Custard Creams, a fancy and ornate sandwich biscuit that we understand may be popular and even possibly beloved among the English. As red-blooded Americans we were, of course, entirely clueless.

Chris Thompson: So, Kelsey: Custard Creams. Did you have any idea what these are when you learned of this technical bake?

Kelsey McKinney: Well, the thing is, no, I did not. You sent over the words “Custard Creams,” and my brain very rapidly spun through a litany of 1980s bad stand-up joke formats before giving up and resigning myself to my future. Did you know what they were?

CM: I did not. The word “cream” in a cookie is something that I am familiar with, so I was anticipating a sandwich cookie. But the word “custard” in a cookie is something that I have never encountered before.

KM: To be honest, despite doing a whole season of this already, I’m still not really sure what “custard” is. In my brain I just substitute it with the vanilla pudding I used to eat out of cups at my rich friends’ houses in elementary school. 

CT: What’s funny is, in this challenge, you were pretty close, as we shall see when we get to the ingredients. 

KM: Well, I should note that before we got started on this bake, I texted my friend’s boyfriend Max, who is British and lovely, and demanded he explain his culture to me. Because I had NO IDEA what these were and respect the game enough to not Google. He told me they are “slightly fancy,” “yellowy beige,” and “have an ornate design on the outside of the biscuit.” So I decided that they are exactly like vanilla Oreos. 

CT: There can be no making sense of British culture. It’s madness. Your basic Custard Cream is a sandwich cookie, with shortbread biscuits and a filling of crème au beurre, which is French buttercream. It's the kind of thing that a cocky amateur baker could assume would be a breeze.

How were you feeling, confidence-wise, coming off of last week’s successful Cake Week bake?

KM: Man, last week I was feeling AMPED and ready. This week, when I got this intel and saw just how few ingredients there were, I felt twitchy and nervous. How did you feel? 

CT: This is a weird thing to admit, but I was worried after the success of Cake Week that possibly we have become too good at baking, that our bakes will be too solid week to week and that our blogs will be less interesting for it. That’s perhaps more information than is wise to put into a published blog, but I have come to suspect that our readers—who profess to like us and our work—would prefer to read about our houses burning down while we scream and die, if we’re all being honest.

KM: I mean if we become too good at baking, then everyone should give us a parade. But I guess I am a little bit worried about that as well. What if we are just so good and so loveable that no one can laugh anymore and then our bits fail? Scary!

CT: I think something that we learned during this bake is that I, at least, am still a pretty catastrophically bad baker. Thank God!

KM: I think it’s safe to say “we.” Before we even began this week, I knew people would be mad at me! That’s fun! Shall we discuss shopping and ingredients?

CT: Let’s jump right in there.

Ingredients and Shopping

CT: So apart from one single ingredient, this was a pretty straightforward shopping list: eggs, flour, vanilla, butter, sugar, etc. But there's one surprising ingredient in there, included for both the biscuit dough and the custard filling: Custard powder. Would you like to explain this ingredient to our readers?

KM: Well, the thing is Chris, I would, but I still don’t know. My brain filled with fury upon reading this ingredient and I immediately decided that I would not even attempt to purchase this and would instead find whatever in my deep pantry could substitute for it. I have had a very stressful couple of weeks and do not have the energy to battle with CUSTARD POWDER. What did it end up being?

CT: So apparently there is a popular product “across the pond” known as Custard Powder. It’s essentially a pre-mixed thickener, made of cornstarch and milk solids, flavored with vanilla, and colored yellow with annatto. You add hot milk and sugar and stir for a while and what you get is a decent custard. It’s not too different from Jello pudding mix, now that I think about it. But the point is that this is not something you or I had seen before or would’ve easily been able to lay hands on. Since both the biscuit dough and the custard filling required this ingredient, we were forced to get creative. How did you approach this challenge?

KM: I was feeling obstinate and testy. Even as we were discussing this you were very skeptical of my plan and I knew in my soul that everyone would be mad at me. But I googled “substitute for custard powder” and learned that it is a thickening agent and also that it is vanilla flavored. And I was like, “Great, I can invent that.” And then I went to my little cupboard and I found cornstarch (a thickening agent) and protein powder (vanilla flavor). So I just mixed those together. Voila! 

CT: Very clever of you to turn Custard Creams—a shortbread cookie filled with essentially a wad of softened sugar-butter—into a health food. 

KM: Listen, every winter is Ass Winter. Now is the time for Gainz. We must join our brethren in Swole Season, and who is to stop me from making the cookies a protein snack simply because I am too damn lazy to buy whatever “milk powder” is?????? Can you explain what you did? 

CT: My solution to this problem was to buy a bag of milk powder, which I then mixed with cornstarch and the seeds from a vanilla pod. With all due respect to your protein mix, I think my "custard powder" was, for all intents and purposes, real custard powder. I did not bother trying to make it yellow, a false coloring that I view as dishonorable. My finished cookies were not very yellow, which I now understand was something Prue was taking very seriously in her judging.

KM: The false yellow coloring I also view as dishonorable, but the protein powder is yellow-ish so that with the egg yolks my cookies became very yellow.

Kelsey's ingredients gathered on a countertop, with a food scale and a thermometer.
Photo by Kelsey McKinney

CT: The only other thing on the shopping list that proved challenging was a custard cream biscuit cutter and stamp, which would give the cookies a distinctive appearance familiar to the British. Even if I could find such things, I would not ever consider purchasing them, as an American.

KM: Imagine spending our company’s American dollars on a “biscuit stamp.” We respect our coworkers too much!!!! Did you have any stamps? 

CT: No, nothing. I hunted around both in my little baking cupboard and among my child’s toys looking for something that could work as a baking stamp. My plan from there was to just not bother with a design, but eventually I sort of improvised something. You?

KM: The only stamp in my house was the stamp that Trey was given when he became a structural engineer. It is used for stamping important documents in lieu of a signature. I very highly considered using this stamp for my biscuits but then I considered a future in which the engineering board of the universe became mad at me and destroyed his career over some biscuits, and I got too scared. Later, when I told him this, he told me I could have used it. This is my greatest regret in this bake. 

CT: On no!

KM: So much for trying to “protect your partner’s career”!!!! 

CT: Shall we move into the bake itself?

KM: Let’s! 

Stage One: Mixing and Chilling Dough, Making Custard

CT: The first stage of the instructions said to “make biscuit dough.” Very descriptive. We were given a very tight 90-minute time limit for this bake. Prue's one verbal instruction to the contestants was "Use your time wisely," said with that mischievous half-grin. This was all so intimidating. The thing we are worst at is having wisdom.

KM: OK before we get to that part, I have to admit something. May I? 

CT: Uh oh. Yes.

KM: So I realized that the instructions said “softened butter” only after I started the timer, and I just think this is important for context here. I threw the butters into the pre-heating oven thinking this would make them soft, no problem. And it did. I was right.

BUT. It also melted some of the butter onto the floor of the oven (I was frantic, I forgot to put the butters on a tray) so while this whole next situation is happening, I want you to imagine my fire alarm saying “There’s smoke in the kitchen,” while I frantically turn on the overhead vent and dart back and forth. 

CT: Oh my god!

Kelsey, I also have to admit something. It was literally only just this minute that I realized that the directions clearly call for softened butter and not chilled butter, both for the custard and the dough.

I swear to you that until this moment I thought the butter for the dough was supposed to be chilled. This explains a lot of what happened wrong in my bake. FUCK.

KM: Oh my god. You’re joking. You used chilled butter? 

CT: I used chilled butter, yes. I chopped up my butter into cubes and then fucking put it into the freezer to chill. Not just for my custard, but for my dough.

KM: No!!! NO!!!! This makes so much sense now. I was so confused how you kept saying your dough was “like pie dough.” 

CT: Welp.

The idea here is that we are making basically shortbread biscuits, which need to be very crumbly and light. I don't remember whether I've ever successfully made shortbread before but here I defaulted to some baking tricks that I remember from other projects, like pie dough and rough puff, which call for cold butter.

I mixed my wet ingredients in my stand mixer (egg, vanilla, and sugar), then added the flour, and then finally added the so-called custard powder.

A metal mixing bowl holds a crumbly mixture of flour, sugar, egg, custard powder, and vanilla extract.
Chris's dough, immediately before the ill-fated decision to add ice-cold cubes of butter.Photo by Chris Thompson

And then by hand I mixed in my goddamned frozen butter, and I was specifically very careful not to over-mix the dough, so that the butter wouldn’t melt. I kept imagining Paul looking up at me over the table and saying "It's been over-mixed." I sincerely thought I was outsmarting the judges, spotting the first likely point of failure and making the right call to avoid it. God help me. God God God.

KM: OH NO CHRIS!!!! This is so upsetting. My butter was so soft from burning the bottom of the oven that I didn’t even cube it, I just tore it off in little clumps with my hands. It did not take me very long to get my doughs mixed up in the stand mixer and into the freezer. But this did not make me feel calm at all for some reason.

Oh, this has also reminded me that I still don’t have any vanilla extract. I did not go to the grocery store before this bake. I’m living in chaos. 

CT: Kelsey. I will airmail you one of the seven different bottles of vanilla extract from my pantry.

KM: No, it’s OK. I’m supposed to go to the grocery store this week. I didn’t need it anyway because I had the vanilla protein powder, which is famously vanilla flavored, and luckily needed to go in both the dough and the cream. 

CT: Hilariously, I was feeling pretty good about my dough when I put it into the freezer to chill. How were you feeling? And how much time had elapsed at this point?

KM: I think my dough was in the freezer within 20 minutes. I was darting around like a little demon. My plastic wrap somehow lost the little metal teeth that allow you to cut it and trying to tear that shit with your hands, let me tell you, does not work. It was like I was being attacked by a swarm of bees. How much time had elapsed for you? 

CT: I’m checking the Slack logs and it appears that my dough went in for chilling at the 17-minute mark.  At the time I was worried that this had taken too long, but in retrospect I was doing fine. Except that my dough had huge, huge clumps of cold, unmixed butter studded throughout. This was a terrible mistake, as I was to learn later.

KM: Wow. I can’t believe we figured this out. I was so confused how this had happened to you! 

CT: It’s funny, I want to be a good sport and not study the instructions too closely before starting the bake, but that is a very important detail that I got exactly wrong.

KM: Wait. Here’s a question: Do you read all the instructions before you begin? 

CT: Yes. Generally the first thing I do after starting the timer is I read the instructions. But in this case (and in all cases) I should've double-checked the ingredients list, because it very clearly says that the butter should be “cubed and softened,” both under the biscuit portion and the custard portion.

KM: Damn. Owned by the lists. This is something I think you should be excused for because in the tent they give the butter to them softened. No one has to encounter their own ingredients in the tent. We are being mistreated. 

CT: Yeah!

Kelsey, did you proceed straight into custard-making once your dough was chilling?

KM: So, I really debated this for like a full minute. Because it felt like I didn’t really need to make the custard so far ahead of time, but also I was terrified that I would fuck it up somehow and need to do it twice. So after debating for a minute, I did go straight into custard making. I had decided my dough should chill for 30 minutes before I touched it again, so I went custard mode. Did you? 

CT: I had a similar concern. I was worried that if I made my custard too early that it would somehow go bad from sitting out too long, or that if I refrigerated it for too long that it would become too difficult to pipe later on. But I really didn’t have anything else to work on and I don’t think I could’ve just stood there reading blogs, knowing the clock was ticking, without having a nervous breakdown. So I launched into the custard. In the end I think this was the right move.

A challenge for this part was that we needed to heat a sugar syrup to a pretty exact temperature (239 degrees F), which is always frightening. I'm researching this after the fact and learning that this is the temperature range for soft fondant, fudge, pralines, and Italian meringue. I'm still not sure at all how this makes it the right temperature for a custard thickened with cornstarch, but in all cases I will follow instructions, like an automaton.

How’d you manage this one?

KM: At least they gave us the temperature! They don’t always do this! I had a problem here because I do have a sugar thermometer but I stole it from my mother who certainly got it in her wedding registry which means it is old as shit. The recipe only wanted essentially four tablespoons of syrup made, but the tip of my thermometer could not reach all the way down into this shallow pool of syrup.

Using a janky old metal thermometer to track the temperature of sugar syrup.
You can see how this would pose a challenge.Photo by Kelsey McKinney

I had to use a meat thermometer, which was really not ideal. This part was very stressful for me. I felt like years of my life were slipping away! 

CT: Yeah, this was stressful. I wanted to be a Good Baker and so I started my egg yolks in the stand mixer and then got my sugar and water into a small saucepan, but like you I discovered that the syrup was so shallow, and I was really worried because I couldn’t seem to keep the tip of my thermometer from resting on the bottom of the pan. Ultimately I do think that I was able to keep it to the right temperature, but I was a quivering mess throughout.

KM: Yes! I was literally holding my stupid thermometer delicately in the liquid and above the lip of the pan. It was a nightmare. 

I also put the egg yolks in the mixer going thwap thwap thwap with the whisk. But then once my syrup got to temperature, I could just see in my mind’s eye myself pouring the syrup in there slowly and the eggs scrambling. I am currently very disgusted by scrambled eggs (some kind of mental illness I developed during the pandemic from eating too many of them that I hope will go away) so I put my syrup into a little glass dish and let it cool down to like 150 degrees before pouring it.

Using an instant-read digital meat thermometer to check the temperature of sugar syrup.
Photo by Kelsey McKinney

Did you pour yours hot? 

CT: Oh wow, that was very cool-headed of you. I was too afraid to wait, so I went straight in.

To me this process highlights an area where a stand mixer really can be a big pain in the ass. On the one hand, it’s nice not to have to pour and manually whisk at the same time. On the other hand, the angle that is available for pouring while your stand mixer is whisking is so narrow that you wind up pouring hot sugar syrup down the inside wall of your bowl, and it starts sticking to the side of the bowl and the little bit that the whisk grabs gets flung all over the place, so that a solid quarter of all the syrup is splashed all over the side walls of the bowl and never actually mixes with the yolks. And then you have hardened sugar crystals all over the damn bowl! Awful and infuriating.

A stand mixer furiously whisks egg yolks and hot sugar syrup.
Photo by Chris Thompson

KM: This is such a good point, and also part of why I poured it into the little glass bowl. All my pans are so fucking heavy. I can’t hold them that high at that weird angle for so long! Once my sugar syrup cooled a little, I basically held the glass bowl inside the metal bowl and slowly poured the syrup into the whisk. This didn’t really help much because the hardened sugar crystals just stuck to the whisk. We can’t win! 

Then, I put in my protein powder/cornstarch mixture, and moved to the butter. I really liked this part. It was so fun to put the butter in there one little clump at a time and watch it become silky. 

CT: I did not experience this joy, at least not right away. Because my butter was very cold, when I put the first couple of cubes into the mixer they just sort of thumped around and I stood there with a stupid look on my face, panic rising into my cheeks.

KM: No! You used cold butter for this too?

CT: At first! But it was instantly obvious that this could not be right. I ran over to the instructions on my laptop, and realized my mistake. I was whimpering at this stage.

"oh jesus, the butter cream""i fucked up so bad""the instructions say 'unsalted butter, cubed and softened'""but i read it as 'unsalted butter, cubed and chilled'""so i am in hell"

I took my plate of cubed butter and jammed it into the microwave, and heated it in 10-second bursts until the butter was soft enough for use. In the end this didn’t cost me more than a minute or two of sheer panic. Everything eventually worked out with the custard, more or less, as far as I can tell.

A buttery yellow custard with dots of vanilla sits at the bottom of a messy metal mixing bowl.
Photo by Chris Thompson

KM: That was very smart. I forgot I had a microwave until just now. I should have done that. My kitchen was still smoky at this point from the burned butter. 

CT: The thought of attempting this bake in a smoky kitchen with a blaring fire alarm is causing my blood pressure to spike, even two days later.

KM: Well the fire alarm doesn’t blare. It’s much creepier and it talks. It says, “There’s smoke in the kitchen. The alarm will sound. It’s going to be loud.” Then you have to run over and hit the button and then it says, “Smoke alarm silenced.” 

CT: Oh my god! That’s somehow worse!

KM: It’s very spooky. I hate it! I did not choose this. The house was like this when I moved in!

The other problem I encountered at this point was that I also don’t have piping bags or piping tips. I have never owned either, so that’s not surprising. But usually I have regular Ziploc bags that are big enough. This time, though, I only had the sandwich size, which I know from past baking challenges will explode if you try to ice with them. So I had to use a sous vide Ziploc bag that I had. But this was very hard to open. My hands were shaking because I was scared. I had to use my teeth. 

Kelsey's crème au beurre sits inside a zipper food storage bag.
Photo by Kelsey McKinney

CT: Wow, you’ve got the whole catalog of Ziploc products. 

I was also very rattled by the time my custard was finished. I was shoveling it into my piping bag—I have a box of real-deal piping bags—when I realized that I’d forgotten to put the tip in place. This doesn’t really matter so much, except that my psyche was very brittle at this point and realizing that I’d forgotten a step just further damaged my confidence.

I assume you were ready to move to the next stage with your dough at this point? Shall we?

KM: Yes! Let’s move into the terrifying part. 

Stage Two: Rolling, Cutting, and Baking

CT: What happened?

KM: Well. I finished with my buttercream, and there were five minutes left on my arbitrary 30-minute timer. So I did some dishes because if I stood still, I thought I was gonna vomit from all the darting back and forth and being so stressed. When the timer went off, I removed one dough and rolled it out. This went fine. But then I was looking at all this dough and thinking about trying to cut it into rectangles that were the same size with the pizza cutter (which was my original plan) and it seemed so impossible. I was panicking! I did not have time to panic! So I went into my drawer and found a ravioli stamp and just used that. 

One thing I’m proud of is that at the beginning of the bake, I put my parchment paper-lined baking sheets into the freezer, so they were very cold, and I could just plop my cut-outs on there, inside the freezer. What did you do here? 

CT: Well, this is where I ran into disaster. And I want to distinguish between disasters that will inevitably ruin the bake and disasters that may not ruin the bake but will totally ruin a person’s mood for 24 hours. I did not yet know if this was the former type of disaster—I suspected it would be—but I knew instantly that it would be the latter kind.

KM: Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. What happened? THE BUTTER? 

CT: The fucking butter! I rolled out my first dough and stood there looking at it and I just knew that this could not be right. It was like a brown Dalmatian. All throughout were these huge yellow-white smears of unmixed butter, and I understood that if I cut cookies out of this and then baked them, that the butter would melt away and my biscuits would just be little crescent shaped disasters.

Rolled-out biscuit dough with large pale smears of unmixed butter throughout. This dough would never have worked.
Really a bad scene.

Because I still didn’t realize that I was supposed to be using softened butter, I assumed that the issue was that I had not mixed or kneaded the dough thoroughly enough. But the thing is that you are not supposed to really thoroughly mix or knead shortbread dough, otherwise the glutens do science things and the dough becomes tough and loses that crumbly quality.

"oh no oh no!""my dough is all fucked up too""i'm dying"

But lacking any better course of action or really any fucking clue whatsoever, I simply gathered my rolled-out dough into a ball and began smushing it to smithereens between my hands and fingers. I then threw it back into the freezer, pulled out my other dough, and did the same. This cost me a lot of time. It was not unrecoverable, timing-wise, but it was unrecoverable in terms of quality and texture.

KM: Sometimes I forget that I am extremely not a baker because I do not understand any science at all. But this makes perfect sense and I’m impressed you clocked it immediately and adjusted. That’s what winners do. 

CT: Thank you for saying that. Here I would like to note, however, that I am in fact a huge loser.

So you rolled out your dough and used a ravioli cutter to make biscuit shapes, and put them onto a cooled baking sheet. How long did you cool them before baking? And what was your temperature for the bake?

KM: I started at 350 preheated (with butter-smoke flavoring). And I let them freeze on their trays in the freezer for 10 minutes before I put them into the oven. The went in the oven with 29 minutes left. Somehow I had miscounted so I had 28 biscuits instead of 24. I’m still unclear how that happened to be honest. 

CT: Under other circumstances this might’ve been a fortunate mistake, but you never really know in the moment. It always just hits as OH GOD I FUCKED THIS UP.

KM: I remember thinking: Prue will say my biscuits are too thin. Which is hysterical because the only person to judge my biscuits is me, Trey, and the whole internet. What did you do to your oven?

CT: I was at the 48-minute mark when I realized that my dough was a disaster and decided to re-knead it. I think I gave it a maximum of five minutes to re-chill, and then pulled it, rolled it, and cut it. It was still far from perfect. I used a large piping nozzle as a cutter, one that I have found works well for this sort of thing. It was at this point that I had the deranged idea that I should put some kind of design onto the biscuits, since the recipe calls for a decorative stamp. I used a chopstick and a paring knife to put little smiley and frowny faces onto my raw biscuits, 12 smiling and 12 frowning, so that each completed cookie could have one of each.

Close-up of cut ovals of raw cookie dough, with frowning faces cut into them with a chopstick and a paring knife.
Approximately how I was feeling at this point. Note also the large blobs of butter visible in the cookie to the right.Photo by Chris Thompson

I next put my cut, raw biscuits onto my baking sheet, intending to put it into the freezer for one final chill, only to discover that the sheet doesn’t fit into my kitchen freezer at all. I was so flustered and miserable at this point that I angrily socked my biscuits into the oven and resigned myself to failure. I assumed they would just melt into little blobs.

KM: Oh wow. I think if I had been at the 48-minute mark and realized that, I would have had to stress cry. That’s so stressful. I'm obsessed with the fact that you put the smiley and frowny faces on them. I wish I had done this. It’s so cute. 

Once my biscuits went in, I was like “wow my neck feels weird.” I almost always wear two necklaces and I guess the frantic darting back and forth caused them to twist all up so I was being strangled! I had to stop and untangle them while the biscuits were in the oven. I thought they would take 10 minutes to bake. My necklaces were finally untangled just before the timer went off, thank god. 

"I DON'T KNOW""I AM SCARED""my butter cream is delicious i'll give it that""lol i've been darting so much that my two necklaces got tangled and tried to strangle me"

CT: Imagine explaining to Defector’s serious and professional operations people that a staff member died from baking cookies, for a blog.

KM: "Hello Jasper, I have gone to the hospital because I choked myself trying to bake. Prayers up." 

I began to panic again when the timer went off because my biscuits were clearly not done. You were like you’ll know by the smell but this was naïve. My entire kitchen smelled like burnt butter!! I turned the temp up to 375 at this point, which I should have done to begin with. 

CT: My biscuits also went into the oven with about 29 minutes left in the bake. It’s interesting that you increased the heat in your oven. I went the other way: My oven had been preheated to 350, but I was afraid that this would be too hot, so when I put the biscuits in I turned the heat down to 300. I’m not sure this made any difference. I didn’t bother with a timer because I figured I’d know by their color whether they were done. I’m glad I chose this method because it meant that I needed to check them often, which was how I eventually knew that it was time to rotate my pan. I wound up pulling the biscuits out of the heat in batches, because evidently the left side of my oven is much hotter than the right.

I also knew from checking that certain of my biscuits would not quite have the clean lines and professional look that Prue was after. The butter!

One of the frowning cookies has melted right through the forehead, due to a pocket of unmixed butter melting out the bottom.
Photo by Chris Thompson

KM: Wow! You learned something! I also turned mine around at about the six-minute mark. Somehow mine were not ready, though. I ended up baking mine for a total of 14 minutes and I was so stressed about it that I shoved them straight into the freezer upon exit from the oven. I could not put the hot pans in the freezer so I had to put another baking sheet in there and then shift the parchment paper off one pan onto the other. 

CT: It’s neat how close we were in our times, despite taking very different routes. It appears that my biscuits were in the oven for about 15 minutes, and I also threw them directly into the freezer. I had to transfer them to plates in order to accomplish this, but by this point I was emotionally ready for that hurdle.

How much time did you have left when you began assembly?

KM: I felt I was cutting it very close. I let them cool until I hit the 11-minute mark. This was very stressful. Then, when I pulled the custard from the fridge it was too cold to pipe. So then I frantically warmed it up between my hands in a panic until it could be pipped. 

CT: The final sprint! A tension-packed finale!

Stage Four: Assembly

CT: My custard was also too cool for piping, but I didn't initially identify this as the problem. I thought it was some sort of pressure differential thing having to do with the pocket of air down at the tip of my piping bag. It was only after I violently forced some custard out of the hole that I realized that it had the texture of peanut butter. I also made a second cut to the tip of my piping bag in order to widen the hole, which eventually made things much smoother.

Yellow custard squeezed in a swirl pattern onto the interior side of a cookie, sitting next to a filled, completed sandwich cookie.
Photo by Chris Thompson

KM: Yes! That’s exactly what happened to me. It got better as I went but the first few were rough! Luckily, the shape of my cookies somehow made them spin when I put the custard on them, so it was very easy to pipe the custard on. Thank you, accidental physics!

CT: Yeah! This stage was very comfortable and satisfying, despite my cliffhanger segue above. As the custard warmed in my hands it got easier and easier to pipe, to the point where I was worried that it might become too loose before I finished. But no, it really was a breeze to get these piped and assembled in time. I finished with 41 seconds left on the timer. I felt like hell. You?

KM: I did one silly thing in assembly, which was that I piped very thinly because I was afraid of running out, and then hadn’t piped enough so then I had to go back and pipe more. Because of this, I finished with 14 seconds left and was covered in sweat. 

CT: I think my piping was also too thin, in the end, because I used half or less of my custard. I did not go back for another round. My cookies would’ve been so thick with custard filling if I’d used all of it, and I was exhausted. 

The Finished Product

CT: So! How’d your cookies turn out?

KM: I am honestly kind of proud of my cookies. They have a fun shape because of the ravioli stamp, and they taste pretty good! How were yours? Show cookie? 

CT: I am not at all proud of my cookies. They both look stupid and are clearly poorly made. Pale and uneven and unevenly baked. Even the smiling ones look sad. Wistful, even, for what might've been.

12 completed Custard Cream sandwich cookies, showing smiles and frowns, including one that is badly mangled.
Photo by Chris Thompson

There’s no missing that one melted fellow, whose frown is well-earned. Show cookies?

KM: I love these smiley faces. I want to eat them. I wish I had stamped mine Here are my cookies:

A plate of finished Custard Cream cookies, shown from the top.
Photo by Kelsey McKinney

CT: They look so nice, Kelsey. Even color, fun shape, just a nice looking sandwich cookie. Very professionally done.

Kelsey's finished cookies, piled on a plate, shown from the side.
Another look at Kelsey's lovely Custard Cream cookies.Photo by Kelsey McKinney

How were they to eat?

KM: I don’t really like the experience of eating these cookies. The custard squirts out the side like an ice cream sandwich unless they are very cold and then they hurt your teeth. Bad cookie idea. 

CT: I agree. The custard isn’t a very suitable filling, to me. It's very loose and very greasy. And the custard and biscuit parts have basically the same butter-and-vanilla flavor, so they’re not all that interesting to nibble. Even my small child handed her cookie back to me after a couple bites, distressed about how the custard had gotten all over her hands and cheeks. Not a great cookie, England.

KM: Yeah. It is very one-note! It also—I’m sorry—needs salt! Even a little bit of salt would have helped! Luckily for me, my cookies will at least provide me with protein, so that’s not nothing. 

Kelsey holds a finished Custard Cream, showing its thick filling of glistening custard.
A healthy treat!Photo by Kelsey McKinney

CT: Eating a Custard Cream with one hand while doing bicep curls with the other. That’s the Swole Lifestyle.

Kelsey, were you aware that next week is Bread Week?

KM: OH MY GOD I DID NOT. This is thrilling. Like Oprah, I love bread!

CT: I’m sincerely very excited about this. What if they let us actually bake bread this time? Can you imagine?

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