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Churros were the very first pastry-related food that I remember making on my own.  If you could even call them that.  They were more like one inch long pieces of formless, half-cooked dough covered with sugar and cinnamon.  Despite their grotesque appearance, I brought them to school to for a class potluck.  Of course, nobody touched them, despite my efforts to convince my classmates that they were edible.  Apparently, this is how my best friend from high school remembers first meeting me—waving finger-like churros into the air.

My next baking project was a big batch of oatmeal raisin cookies for my high school boyfriend’s birthday.  These I made with painstaking patience with my toaster oven (because my mom refused to let me use the big kitchen one).  They were literally rock hard.  They tasted almost as if a bunch of raw oats melted together to form dry, dense saucers.  They were so hard and scratchy that your gums and the roof of your mouth were tender if you tried to chew too many of them.  Not to mention the small pockets of salt left unmixed and trapped in various parts of the batch that made for some unexpected surprises for your taste buds.  My boyfriend loved them.

Recently, someone asked me if I ever have any baking misadventures.  All the time.  In fact, the things I actually post up are the exceptions.  And even then, my successes are never what they should have looked like.  I would post up my failures, but that would just depress me.  As I type this, I am still trying to recover from the disappointment of the day.  After spending two hours, five eggs, and a bunch of expensive blackberries, I ended up with a lopsided sponge cake that was inexplicably tough and chewy.  At least the mousse layer was tasty.

Every baking project is a crapshoot.  I can follow the most simple recipe and still end up tossing it into the trash.  I have yet to recognize when batter is overmixed or undermixed.  Or when cookies are underbaked or overbaked.  And it isn’t until a month ago that I realized what “whip to stiff peaks” meant.  It still confounds me that the order in which you mix the dry and wet ingredients together actually makes a huge difference in the outcome.

But there has been a lot of things I’ve learned since my churros and oatmeal cookie nightmares.  I know to cut cold butter into cubes when making scones to ensure a flaky texture.  I know to use a double boiler when making custard or melting chocolate.  I now know only to whip heavy cream instead of light cream—even though it’s tempting to be more health conscious—because that 10% difference in fat content is what will save you from a sore wrist.  And always add a bit of vodka into your homemade ice-cream to prevent overhardening.

I can’t help but jam a science bit in here, because if you don’t know already, science is a crapshoot.  Especially true since I spent the last month working on the same procedure—mainly, cloning woes.  I also realize that I had complained about the same thing in another post half a year ago.  Yes, progress is slow in the lab.  But victory is Oh so sweet.  I have been trying to transform and grow bacteria on petri dishes, following a no-brainer, four step protocol.  After more than two dozen attempts, I finally figured what was wrong.  I’ve been using the wrong cells.

Now that I’ve emerged into the light of triumph, I am a cloning pro.  I know the tricks.  I know how to backtrack.  I know how to double check.  Basically, I’m invincible.

These cinnamon buns were a semi-success.  Not exactly lookers, I admit.  There was some trouble with rolling the dough over the blueberries, and I couldn’t cut smaller pieces for fear of unraveling the whole log.  But I bet if I made the same buns everyday for a month, I would be a pro in no time.  See how baking and science is similar?

And definitely, I will make these again.  The best part about this recipe is the process of making it.  I love how sugar, flour, butter, and milk come together in one cohesive bundle imbued with the subtle fragrance of fermentation.  It’s still mindblowing (to me, at least) that microorganisms with dimensions on the order of microns can produce enough carbon dioxide to inflate the dough to twice its size.

I fully expected to wear my arms down trying to knead the bread, but I was almost sad when I finished.  The dough had the consistency of putty, springy and elastic, and a pleasure to squeeze my fingers through.  And the warm smell of cinnamon, sugar, and dough from the oven makes for the most relaxing Saturday morning ever in the kitchen.  They tasted as good as they smelled.  Light and fluffy, tangy and sweet.  If I could, I would eat a fresh, hot bun every morning for breakfast.

Blueberry Cinnamon Buns from Annie’s Eats