The dessert I made last night kind of imploded. You’ll see what I mean by the end of this post. This morning as I stood in the kitchen, surveying the aftermath, and wondering “What the hell is that?”, three irritating platitudes sprang to mind:
- you learn more from your mistakes than your successes
- cooks can eat their mistakes
- too many cooks spoil the broth
The über-annoying thing about platitudes (aside from how often one hears them) is when they turn out to be true. Measure twice, cut once. Ugh, spare me.
Last night I made three separate disasters. It would probably have been a good idea to stop after the first failure, but I went for the hat trick anyway. Because I am committed. Since the post I was planning for today isn’t coming, you’ll have to make do with my latest failures.
#1: Let them eat cake!
the incredible collapsing birthday cake ™
This beauty was Boyfriend’s birthday cake. He loves oatmeal cake, and I had never made one before. He gave me the recipe used by his family and it seemed easy enough. Where did it all go wrong?
Probably my selection of a bundt pan for a cake with a heavy batter. Never doing that again. Ripped apart by its own weight when I removed it from the pan. This resulted in a panicked call to Older Sister # 3, who suggested “Turn it upside down and frost like a motherfucker, he’ll never notice!” — it’s true, he didn’t.
#2: Oh fudge!
Hmm that certainly isn’t normal. Never seen that before.
Tyler Durden called: “Where’d the fat go??”
I was melting chocolate on low heat to make fudge, and suddenly, this strange oily substance rose to the surface. “Okay,” I remember thinking, “what’s up with that? Did it seize?”
Treating it like seized chocolate failed miserably. I think the result speaks for itself. I turned off the stove and came back to observe later. All of the fat had risen to the surface and congealed. This was a nightmare to clean.
#3: Rage on the marble slab
“Burnt cream” indeed!
This was particularly upsetting, my beautiful crème brûlée, ruined!!
Normally this lovely custard is topped with a thin layer of sugar, like a pane of rich brown glass. But this is what happens when using cane sugar that hasn’t been thoroughly dried, and too much of it. The glass-like quality turns into a lump of burnt rock.
#4: The invisible mint sauce
On a whim I decided one night we just had to eat lamb with freshly made mint sauce, despite the fact that neither of us had ever cooked lamb before, or made mint sauce. But that was okay, we had a bag of fresh mint picked from a friend’s garden.
I’m still not sure where I went wrong, but all the liquid evaporated, leaving soggy mint leaves (and no sauce) behind. This was served on undercooked lamb and raw potatoes, attempts to broil Parmesan potatoes… did not work out.
#5: Pillars of the cake
coming soon to a restaurant near you, Torn Bottom Cake! ™
This was a double layer chocolate cake for my friend M. Both layers were mysteriously missing large chunks of their batter, which was stuck to the pan. That seam along the bottom right is where half of the cake ripped entirely off and got smashed back on.
Now, before baking this cake, I made sure the pans were well greased and dusted with cocoa. I used my ninja frosting skills and filled all of the holes with buttercream frosting. Birthday Boy didn’t notice. BUT I KNEW. >.<
#6: A square of two gingerbreads
1st attempt: gingerbread top loaf!
As you can see, I did not actually use a square pan, oops. And half the loaf remained in the pan. After a few days I tried again, confident that if I used the correct pan things would go my way.
Certainly not “just like Mom’s.”
2nd attempt: it’s all over but the crumbs now
My first two gingerbreads were disasters. Dare I try a third?
#7: The cookies are (not) rising
peanut butter flat breads ™
molasses spice flats ™
What we have here is a failure to rise. The cookies are expanding out but not up. Despite making dough that included two leavening agents, my cookies never rose.
Boyfriend would disagree that these are disasters because they tasted good. I believe that if it doesn’t look proper, into the disaster pile it goes.
#8: Bread on a wire
- Save time on slicing, make “cracked loaf” ™
For the busy household, cracked bread saves precious minutes of the day, who has time to slice a loaf of bread anymore??
#9: So easy a child could make it
1st attempt: never do this on the stove
Confession: I’ve never made Rice Kripsy squares. Awhile ago (okay a long while ago), I picked up some marshmallows, planning to make them. And completely forgot about them until the other day.
I looked up the official Rice Kripsy square recipe, which says to use a stove top. It seemed so easy. Unaware that stale marshmallows do not react like fresh ones, I got to work. I called up Mom to chat and tell her what I’m making. She suggests using the microwave instead.
Too late now!!
I glance at the clock, and the sauce pan, wondering why over 25 minutes have passed but the marshmallows have not melted. At all.
Boyfriend walked in the door. “What is the amazing smell?”
I am feeling proud of myself, still unsure if the weird brown mass in the pan is normal.
He walked over to the stove. “What the hell is that?”
I calmly explain it’s my first batch of Rice Kripsy squares, obviously!
He looked at me, puzzled. “Why aren’t you using the microwave?”
I explain that the Kellogg’s website said to use the stove.
So he calls up his mother. We have now consulted two mothers plus the official recipe. It’s a group effort now. There is no way this can fail.
He helps me pry the strange buttery marshmallow mass from the pan, and get started on a new batch, using a glass bowl in the microwave. Boyfriend was kind enough to microwave and stir, microwave and stir.
I wait, wondering when the marshmallows will finally melt. Then I turn around, and see him pouring the cereal into the unmelted marshmallows.
“What are you doing!?!”
“They’re not melting, they’re just shrinking!”
“And you thought it was a good idea to add the cereal anyway?!”
2nd attempt: “There is only one Lord of the Squares, and he does not share power!”
Now I am confused, sad, and downtrodden, complaining that everything I bake turns to hell.
Boyfriend hugs me and says, “No, no, you can make stuff I can’t even pronounce and it’s delicious, we’ll get fresh marshmallows and try again.”
I am reminded why I care for Boyfriend so much after this pep talk. Every cook needs a cheering squad.
#10: If a cake implodes in the oven, does it make a sound?
the cheesecake that wasn’t
And finally, here is the result of last night’s poll. After two failed batches of Rice Krispy squares, I was determined to make something, anything, and plus I had just asked my readers to vote in a poll and felt commited at this point.
Because I had a vision. I wanted to make an apple cheesecake, on a bed of honey graham crackers, with a layer of homemade caramel sauce and minced apple, and a cream cheese filling mixed with apple sauce and honey.
Oh, how beautiful it seemed in my head! And you know, it does taste pretty good. But from the moment I took it out of the fridge and began slicing it, two great cracks appeared, and it slid apart. In fact, it seemed liquid.
I consulted Older Sister # 2, who determined it was probably a combination of too much liquid, not enough cream cheese, and not enough cooking time. This makes sense.
This morning I showed the fallen cake to Boyfriend who (if you can believe it) laughed in my face. He says he didn’t laugh and he doesn’t remember laughing – possibly because he hadn’t drank any coffee yet? Whatever!
I’m going to try again, and it’s going to work, and maybe, if you are really nice to me when you get home, you can have some.
Keeping those silly platitudes in mind, I have realized three important truths:
1. Eating your mistakes when they are raw is foolish.
2. When attempting to make something new that everybody in the world knows how to make but you, do it before anybody else gets home.
3. If you don’t remember when you bought the marshmallows, maybe get fresh ones.