Saturday, April 4, 2015

Failures Abound!

So, not to brag, but I've actually gotten fairly decent at cooking. The long stretch since my last post is a testament to most things working out. Or if something didn't work out, at least it wasn't hilariously bad. And the occasions where it WAS hilariously bad were so infrequent that I didn't tend to have my camera ready.

Well fear not. My culinary hubris has gotten the better of me and I have a new collections of failures to share.

First and foremost, the fruit tart.

So Wegmans does this amazing fruit & custard tart. I used to splurge and get the tiny $5 versions. The ones in this picture are probably at least $30.

My mom was awesome and made me a homemade version for my birthday. I drove 5 hours to come home, walk in to be hugged and fussed over, and in that 5 minutes of motherly attention, my mom burned the tart.....at which point she turned from June Cleaver into this.
I should have taken it as an omen. But honestly, once it had the custard and enough ice cream, you didn't mind the charred parts.

So it's actually a straight forward recipe. I didn't have a tart pan, but my mom assured me I could use anything.  The dough is just flou, butter, and an egg. HOW EASY IS THAT? 3 ingredients. I premeasured the butter, and it's hard to screw up counting ONE EGG....but somehow I must have miscounted the scoops of flour because my "dough" ended up like this.
I swear I sneezed and lost half of it. I tried adding a little moisture to get it to work together, but it remained stubbornly granular.  I decided I must have done it right, and it was the dough's fault for not looking right. So I said to hell with it and forced it into the pie plate.

Covered it in foil and baked it. Called my mom while it was baking and was politely grilled about how I could screw up measuring 2 cups of flour. (The 1 cup was dirty so I did several 1/2 cup scoops.....clearly just several too many). It actually did fine until I took the tin foil off for the last few minutes.

At which point I swore like my momma taught me.
I then commence to make the custard. I paid insane levels of attention knowing it could burn quickly and I couldn't risk BOTH elements of the tart sucking.

During all this, I had fruit thawing in the sink. As you can see in the first picture, the fruit should be vibrant, diverse, and bursting with color. But fresh fruit is expensive, especially in March, so I made do with frozen. Granted it doesn't quite have the same "Wow" factor.
In fact, it kind of looks (and feels) like something a butcher shop would throw out. I threw in cornstarch and whatever i could to dry it out and make it look more alive, but nothing short of glitter was fixing that. (Marketing Thought: Do they make food glitter?)

Also, between the tart, the custard, and the fruit, my kitchen is starting to look like a warzone. I just kept slowly shoving stuff to the left to make room, progressively knocking stuff into the sink like a broken conveyor belt of chaos.


Anyway, custard actually turned out quite well. I chiseled out the burnt parts of the crust and assembled my masterpiece. The picture in the cookbook was this:
....and I had this.
Granted no one sells "food porn", but if they did, I'd be lucky to get $1.99 at a truck stop for that sucker. My boyfriend, the "Human Garbage Disposal" was even hesitant to try it. But I'd spent so much time on it that I was determined to make it work. I buried it in ice cream and whipped cream and.....it was pretty good. The crust was dry, but it was like a shortbread cookie so it still tasted good. The fruit consistency was terrible, but mixed with the custard it wasn't as noticeable.  Still worth getting fresh though.

Worth the effort?: If I'd done the dough right, had fresh fruit, and the right tart pan.....yeah actually. And the custard is a double batch where the other half keeps well. We mixed blueberries in it later in the week for an easy dessert.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The fridge must die!

So for whatever reason I decided I HAD to use up "all the leftovers" in my fridge.  Since I don't cook much, I never have anything practical left over.  This time I had about 3 quarts of quinoa, because I had the logic of "it takes as much effort to make a cup as a bucket" without thinking of what I'd do with the bucket.

So after googling, I found a recipe for Quinoa/Ham/Chedder/veggie muffins. I don't have a muffin pan....or vegetables....but I bought ham and cheddar. Why I bought ingredients to help me GET RID of ingredients didn't strike me until I got home. 

Anyway, basically you mix it all together with egg to bind it and bake it to seal it into a muffin/patty. I ended up with so much of it I just crammed it into a pie plate and baked it as is. All things considered, I think it turned out okay.

Corners cut:
No vegetables  ----Skipped them. Who needs vitamins?!
No cheese grater-----hacked at cheese block with a knife and tossed in shreds
Ham cubes too large at purchase----Will warn people to chew thoroughly
No muffin pan----Put it in a pie plate and will try to pass it as a quiche....even if it looks like something that fell on the floor and dried that way.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Snickerdoodles

Wow, can't believe I haven't updated since September. For the record, I have been cooking things, but they were simple and didn't result in epic failures. Some were even down-right tasty. Perhaps this will eventually morph into a REAL cooking blog......eventually.

So I got it into my head to make Snickerdoodles. The boy had never had them, and I was in a cookie mood. I thought they were just sugar cookies with cinnamon, but apparently the secret yet crucial ingredient for them is "Cream de Tartar" which is a powder that comes from the inside of wine barrels and acts as a leavening agent and keeps sugar from crystallizing.

The internet insisted it's not "real" Snickerdoodles without it, so I shelled out $4 for a thing of it (To which my mother later told me I could have just bummed 2 tsps from a "real" cook) So I'll be making a lot of Snickerdoodles and merginue pie to get my money's worth.

I was also excited to use the Kitchen-Aid mixer my mom got me as a moving present. I've kind of been afraid of it because when I'd use my Mom's as a kid, I'd always put the setting too high and the food would go FLYING. So I'm sticking with level 1 to be safe.

So it was a pretty straightforward recipe. I decided to use "Joy of Cooking" since the internet had WAY too many variations. Whisked the dry ingredients together, creamed the sugar and butter before adding dry ingredients to the mixer. 

BUT THEN....the recipe said "combine 1/4 sugar and 4tsps cinnamon". I thought this was quite odd since I'd already added plenty of sugar. But I was tired so I tossed them in too.

If the recipe says so....
 So I take the mix and start making the balls.....at which point the recipe says to roll the balls in the sugar cinnamon mix. WTF?! It had said to combine all the ingredients....I think it was a reasonable assumption to think the last thing listed with "combine" was going to go in too. Cinnamon is pretty potent so I decided to skip putting in more and just bake them as is.  The cinnamon was already in them, how bad could it be?.....It also said to make the balls 1.25" inches and place them 2.5" apart, which I felt confident was a general suggestion.

FEAR MY GIANT BALLS!

All of this resulted in what I like to refer to as "Snicker-whoopsie-doodle"


They were dry as a hot sidewalk and about as hard, even though I slightly undercooked them. To be fair, they weren't horrible TASTING. I mean, let them soak in milk or something and you'd have a yummy mush.

 I texted a picture to the boy, at which point he excitedly responded "MEGA COOKIE!". Men.

Joy of Cooking is now on my shit list......though to be fair I should have read the entire recipe first.
What I probably looked like when I took the cookies out

So I swore vengence and started from scratch to make another batch, making sure to ROLL the cookies in the cinnamon/sugar mix. I was also sure to, you know, make them small enough so they wouldn't merge into a MEGA-COOKIE.

The result? Much better.

They're much softer (still a little crispy) and taste much better. I feel vindicated.....but I can't bring myself to throw the first batch out. Perhaps an interpretative art piece? Or I could market them as heating stones for reptile tanks





Either way, I'm sure the reaction of the boy will be this:
 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

MmmmPie (Part 2)

(This is a 2nd half of a post because Google is being evil!)


So I go through all the apples with varying degrees of success. Some of them I had to fix by hand with a knife, but overall it was still faster and better than peeling them all by hand. And speaking of hands.....I made it through 5/6 of the apples, and on #5, I was pulling the core off the spike, hand slipped, and I cut my hand on the core-er.
For anyone who actually EATS this pie: No blood got near the ingredients, fear not!
I was so close.....and yet so far. And by now, my kitchen is looking a royal MESS.

On the plus side, apple skins make a tasty snack
So I toss sugar and cinnamon on the apples and 1/8 teaspoon of salt per the recipe. They don't MAKE 1/8 teaspoon measurement because it's too small.  But every recipe must have salt. It's the LAW.

So I bust out the dough from the fridge and start rolling. It rolls BEAUTIFULLY (Crisco for the win!) I'm doing a dance because the dough is so perfect. I flip it onto the pan.....only to realize I hadn't put flour on the mat first.
I'm too afraid to peel back and look

NOOOOOO!!!!!!!
Oh the humanity!


So I basically resort to "patching" as best I can. By the end of it, my crust looks like a Frankencrust, having been butchered to save itself......especially after a similar problem happened with the top crust (I remembered the flour but botched the dismount from the mat to the pie tin)


So I use a fork to try and mash the crust into looking presentable. Overall, in the end it wasn't too bad looking (I added slits to vent after this pic).  Joy of Cooking suggested I could do cut outs to decorate the top.....I laugh at this. Just what I need on my Frankencrust is deformed Santa hats or whatever cutouts I can find.



WORTH THE EFFORT?

Um, well my kitchen looks like THIS:


And it took me.....well I'm not going to admit that, but it was an afternoon endeavour to say the least. But the pie looks okay. The crust burnt a little.....and so did my hands because at my Mother's suggestion, I took the pie out halfway through and tried to wrap tinfoil around the crust to protect it. I tried with mitts, I tried with foil.....it was just an epic fail of an attempt. So burnt crust it is. We'll see tomorrow if the boy likes it.


MmmPie

The title was inspired by a vanity license plate I saw once.

Anywho, this week was the boy's birthday. We celebrated Wednesday, but his family shindig is tomorrow. So I decided to try and make him an apple pie (his favorite).  Because we all know that the way to a man's heart is through his clogged arteries.

Now, I made him one earlier this year, but my mother supervised (to the point of physically holding my hands) so I felt that didn't count. On this one, I was GOING ROGUE!

So, a lesson I have yet to learn, is to pick a recipe before I start buying ingredients. I bought a 5lb bag of apples, only to find out I needed less than half that (Damn you Joy of Cooking and your tiny font!) I also had no Crisco, but I caved and bought some. (Suggestions of what the hell to do with the rest of it are welcome)

So first I chilled the crisco and butter. Not sure why you're supposed to do this, BUT YOU ARE!
This reminded me that I really don't know what the hell containers you're supposed to use for this. I end up using tupperware....plates....whatever I can get my hands on.

So I bust out my new food processor to make the dough. Toss in the flour (I don't have a sifter so I just shook it a bunch) After letting my fat chill, I start mixing it in. Joy of Cooking (JOC) tell me to put in half the crisco.....THEN (and only then) put in the OTHER half. What the hell difference does that make?!

Problem is, I didn't listen to my mother and got the smaller food processor. The following convo illustrated how this happened:

Mom: (in store trying to talk me out of smaller one)  But you'll only be able to make ONE pie crust at a time!"
 Me: DEAR GOD NO!

So yeah, long story short, there was room for the pie dough, but it didn't "stir" well because it was so full.  I had to keep opening it and manually flipping it, which kinda defeats the point of having a food processor.
The dough kept picking sides

But shockingly, the dough turned out okay.
So I toss those into the fridge to chill (at this point I realize I have no wax paper, so make do with tinfoil) Now, onto the apples


My mother was kind enough to give me an apple peeler/corer that looks like an ancient torture device, but is super awesome.  Basically you impale the apple on the spikes, start turning it, launch this blade at JUST the right moment as you keep cranking, and it peels, slices, and cores the whole apple. IF YOU DO IT JUST RIGHT. Fortunately I'd practiced with it when my Mom supervised my last pie.
What it looks like when it's perfect (Product Ad Pic)




  





NAILED IT!    

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Guest Edition: Let them eat cake!

Note: I've been all over the place this month, so I probably won't have any updates for a bit (*hears crickets*) So in lieu of my usual wit, I'm letting my co-worker KK post about her cake adventure. Enjoy!
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Inspired by this blog, I decided to create my very own guest entry.  Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve always considered myself a quality baker. I really enjoy baking cakes, breads, cookies...you name it! I come from a long line of women who have recipes memorized like the Pledge of Allegiance – so I have have some pretty big shoes to fill.

In my recent attempt to bake a simple butter cake with pudding filling and chocolate frosting for a summer intern’s birthday, I thought to myself “this will be a piece of cake” (I’m hilarious...I know). Turns out, it wasn’t a good idea to use a full cake recipe for each of the individual rounds of the cake (see picture below).  The cake literally looks like it was attacked by a toddler at their 1

I was so horrified by the appearance of the cake that I decided to serve the cake from a distance to save myself the ridicule from my co-workers. After much internal, self- deprecation came the dreaded moment when my co-workers took their first bite. Turns out, everyone thought the cake was delicious!

An old lesson re-visited...never judge a book by its cover!

Kinda gives new meaning to the term "Hot mess"

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Adventures of Target Chicken

I'm personally not a huge fan of chicken. It takes on whatever flavor you put with it, which is great, but so does tofu and I don't have to sanitize my counters for salmonella and god knows what else.  But the boy is rather fond of it (the chicken, not the salmonella) so I've been trying to get familiar with cooking it.

So I bought a bag of frozen chicken strips from Target.  I googled a Honey Mustard chicken recipe (as the boy and I both love honey mustard) and set to it. I knew people always raved when my Mom brines her meat (marinating in a salt and sugar water mix) so I did this overnight. In the tupperware, it looked more like an alien life form that was going to eat me as opposed to the other way around.

AHHH!!!!!!
So the recipe was pretty easy. Mix Dijon mustard and Honey (both of which I had!!!!) and pour over chicken and bake. Unfortunately, in my brine enthusiasm, I think I marinated too much chicken. Oh well. I crammed it all in the pan as best I could.
As Tim Gunn would say, Make it work! 
Then all I did was pour the honey mustard mix over......at this point it looked kind of like sewage. Hooray! That has to mean I'm on the right track....right?
......hooray
And the recipe didn't call for cheese,  but I decided to try it on half. So after baking, it looked like sewage with a cheese blanket on it.
As far as taste.....it was the SALTIEST DAMN THING I'VE EVER EATEN! I knew I'd used the same brine recipe my Mom did, so I checked the Target bag only to find the chicken has been pre-treated with a "flavor solution".......which translates to salt. So I basically had soaked salted chicken in salt water. 

The boy was a real sport and just mowed it down without complaint, although when I mentioned it was a little salty he looked as relieved as if I'd mentioned that yes, I too had taste buds and he didn't have to pretend.

I tried to reheat the leftovers the next day, and somehow it got even saltier. There were like, salt veins in it.

So it was easy to make, but sadly, still an epic fail. Perhaps if if I'd wrapped them in bacon like the recipe suggested.....