My name is Kate Ross and I coordinate image content for Publications at the National Library of Australia and find cooking about as confusing, chaotic and stimulating as I do tackling infamously difficult works of Australian literature.
In approaching both, I usually hope that a bit of courage and a lot of enthusiasm will see me through.
For a dinner party with some other White-buffs from the Library, I decided to attempt the Java Macaroon. Living in a post-Masterchef and Adriano Zumbo Australia, an entire macaroon cake was something I could not go past.
The first step was to measure out the body weight of a young pug dog in almond meal, sugar and icing sugar.
½ lb ground almonds (almond meal)
1 lb sugar
6 egg whites
3–4 oz butter
½ lb icing sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 heaped teaspoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Use an 8” tin with removable base. Mix ½ lb ground almonds & 1 lb sugar. Beat slightly, till they are frothy but not stiff, the whites of four eggs and add to almonds and sugar. When well mixed, add unbeaten whites of two more eggs and beat again.
Keep back about one quarter of this mix for a garnish and pour the rest into the prepared, well greased tin, and bake in a moderate oven (340 deg. F, 170 C) for about an hour or until inserted skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool before removing from tin. Mix reserved uncooked mixture with equal quantity of butter, and when cake is cool spread over top, then glaze with coffee icing.
I made the executive decision to quadruple the quantity of instant coffee as I figured that the human race must have increased its collective caffeine tolerance level by at least that much since White wrote the recipe. Personally, I thought this was a great idea, until everyone at the dinner party woke up at four in the morning. I’d probably recommend sticking to White’s quantities…
It seemed to me to be a bit of a mad genius move to spread some of the uncooked mixture over the top of the cake underneath the icing. Strangely it seemed to work, though I really couldn’t say how or why!
My favourite of White’s novels is The Vivisector which is a staggeringly expressive tribute to visual and tactile experience. I love how beautiful an artist Hurtle Duffield is and how horrible a human being. In The Vivisector, White explores the potential destruction of personal relationships by the artistic life. I like to think that perhaps cooking would have been the perfect foil for Hurtle. For what creative endeavour could be more artistic, more present and more sociable? White himself must have known this – the proof is in the java pudding!
What’s the verdict?
For a killer sugar and coffee kick at the end of a meal, I’d recommend this puppy. Mine was a tad overcooked and over-caffeinated which brought my rating down to humdrum, but I’m definitely going to have another go.