Here be dragons…

Over on Dragons & Jetpacks we have a thread (Geeky Bakery) devoted to all things geeky to come out of the kitchen.

It is a place to share (read ‘politely brag’) about the awesome things we have created that have been inspired by the books we have read, games we have played and films and TV we have watched…

…and we have some super talented people! Book-shaped cakes, Haunted House cakes, biscuits and faerie cakes… I must stop or I will start to drool – go check it out and show us  your bakes!

I love food and books so what better than food inspired by the books we love. I often find that food and feasts are so well described in science-fiction and fantasy, it really immerses you in the cultures and situations of the story and you can almost taste the food as you read.

I keep planning to cook up a feast based on something I have read, but the usual suspects often get in the way; time, money and space (a 50×50 squared preparation space does not leave much elbow room).

So earlier this month over the May Day Bank Holiday (UK) I decided to make a salt-dough dragon. Ok, so I wouldn’t advise eating it, but it still required some cooking so I’m saying it counts as baking! It was messy but the benefits as a rainy day activity are brilliant. You can leave your sculpture to air-dry or oven-dry it, and with the ingredients costing under £1, if I mucked it up I could give up or bin it and try something else.

I found a really easy recipe online which was basically:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup lukewarm water

I used more than this to use up all my dubiously cheap salt but just made sure I kept the ratio the same.

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Making the dragon turned out to be easier said than done, I realised once my dough was ready that I didn’t have an exact shape in my mind and aside from making short-crust pastry for mince-pie cases, I’ve never really dealt with dough! Salt-dough is an interesting beast, it feels really gritty (not so pleasant if you have cuts and scratches), and is really dense and heavy to work with. As I started trying to shape a dragon like you would with clay or modelling clay, it kept wanting to sag back into the kitchen surface. In the end the dragon pretty much made itself organically as I had to work with the nature of the dough.

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As my hands were absolutely covered in sticky dough and the saggy nature of the dough meant that I have no more pictures until it was ready to bake. My little dragon went into the oven at 100 degrees centigrade for a few hours to dry out. I was pretty happy with the result, until I realised that I had constructed a double-jointed dragon as I had folded the wings up the wrong way – d’oh! However they were so fiddly and heavy that I’ve cut myself some slack.

When I touched the cooking dragon I pretty much squeaked with excitement – my dragon felt warm and slightly rough like some kind of dragon hide, just like the fire-lizards and dragons are described in Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. As these dragons and fire-lizards are; gold, bronze, brown, green or blue in colour with whirling, colourful eyes, I decided to paint mine.

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I decided to go for copper with gold eyes and highlights. Unfortunately I only had water-based metallic paints – not the best choice, but the way the paint spread and ran was pretty hypnotic and in the sunlight the metallic sheen is gorgeous. Though I do wonder whether it would have been best to leave off with the paint, it was a fun experiment in non-edible baking!

Have you made anything out of salt-dough before? Any tips? Head over to the thread and let me know!

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