February 21, 2009

Disasters Are More Entertaining Than Success

Linzer Sables

The other day at work Chef told me to make a pineapple upside down cake to try to use up a mountain of leftover pineapple. For the record, I don’t like pineapple upside down cake, so the thought of making one on the fly didn’t exactly thrill me. But it was baking, and I like baking, so I sucked it up and got to work. As much as I love baking though, I frequently do something to mess it up. That’s why I like to have a recipe and a plan. Some days, however, even those can’t help me. This was one of those days. I decided that I couldn’t wing a recipe for pineapple upside down cake and therefore sought one out in the binder labeled ‘Standardized Recipes’. It’s a binder that Chef claims has many more recipes in it than it actually does. Many of the recipes in there are also incomplete or have been changed but not noted. I therefore usually approach the binder with optimistic skepticism.

Chocolate Pots de Creme with Green Tea Cookie

On this occasion it seemed as though luck was on my side. I found a recipe for apple pudding cake that I had made before so I was fairly sure that I could sub pineapple for the apples and that it would work out. I’m sure it would have too, if I had put any sugar in the cake. About half way through baking I started to have a vague notion that something was missing. I shrugged it off for a bit as there was nothing I could do, the cake was already in the oven. Then it hit me, there was no sugar. I hoped against all odds that the caramel on the bottom of the cake would somehow transfer throughout so that the cake was salvageable. Not a chance. This was made abundantly clear when I pulled the cake out of the oven, unmolded it and discovered that not only was the cake horribly inedible due to the lack of sugar, it was also horribly underbaked with a largely gooey centre.

Pumpkin Muffins

I contemplated taking a picture of it at the time but decided photographic evidence of my shortcomings was unnecessary. I will however, give you a picture of a whole lemon tart, that may have overflowed but was still delicious, (and therefore not a disaster). Just so you know, the batter that overflowed did not go to waste. It was promptly scooped off the silpat and into my mouth and it made me wonder if I didn’t want to eat the whole tart that way.

Overflowing Whole Lemon Tart

I always seem to have more to say about baking disasters than successes. I guess that’s why I’ve had this picture of Dorie’s Pumpkin Muffins, (pg #13 in BFMHTY) on my computer since fall, as noted by the leaves. They’re fantastic muffins, they just needed an excuse to be seen. Same goes for the Honey Spiced Madeleines. I made those as soon as I saw Dorie post about them at the beginning of December but was slow to share my success. The Linzer Sables, (pg #134) and Chocolate Pots de Crème, (pg #390) which were served with green tea cookies, were made much more recently and seemed like a good way to round out a Dorie recipe filled post.

Honey Spiced Madeleines, (from Dorie Greenspan)

Makes 12 large or more than 36 mini madeleines

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (or a little less, if you prefer)

Pinch of salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup sugar

Grated zest of 1/2 orange

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, salt and pepper and keep at hand.

Working in a mixer bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment (you can make this batter easily with a handheld mixer or just a whisk, if you prefer), add the eggs to the bowl and beat until the mixture is light, fluffy and thickened, about 2 minutes; beat in the honey, then the vanilla. Switch to a rubber spatula and very gently fold in the dry ingredients followed by the melted butter. You may use the batter now, but it's better if you can give it a little rest. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and chill for 3 hours or, if you have the time, overnight. (For real convenience, you can spoon the batter into buttered-and-floured madeleine molds, cover, chill, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge. See below for instructions on prepping the pans.)

Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 full-size madeleine molds (or 36 mini-molds), dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. If you have a nonstick madeleine mold, butter and flour it or give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. (If your pan is silicone, you can leave it as is.) Place the pan on a baking sheet.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one. Bake the large madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes and the minis for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the madeleines are golden and the tops spring back when prodded gently. Remove the pan from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just-warm or room temperature.


Snooky doodle said...

it s always nice reading your post, well everyone gas disaster sometime and reading that yo too make some is mucg comforting. yhese madleines look delicious :)

Alisa - Frugal Foodie said...

This is such a pretty and fun post! Your disasters are still delicious looking.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

So many of my baking attempts are disasters that I've learned to laugh about it -- and never to volunteer to bring dessert to a potluck!

Bellini Valli said...

Your didasters in baking would be my successes..it is all relative..so don't be so hard on yourself:D

Cynthia said...

I like that your Madeleines seem to be floating atop the plate.

kellypea said...

I love this post because I, too, have lots of photos on my hard drive just sitting there and waiting for an excuse to post them -- especially the things that haven't exactly worked! Regardless of the spillover, that lemon tart sounds luscious, and the pots de creme are reminding me that I've been wanting to make them.

Rachel@fairycakeheaven said...

Isn't it desperate when this happens but I think that they all stilllook yummy and bet you ate them too ;-).

These madeleines are lovely aswell, the honey gives them such a nice flavour!

Claire said...

I had a disaster yesterday...I made banana muffins for my parents and realized after baking them that I had put NO form of fat in them! No oil, butter, or eggs...they came out quite tough. If eaten immediately out of the oven they were just okay but after sitting overnight...um, not so much! Oh, well!

Elle said...

Still can't miss with Dorie. Wonder if Chef would mind if you just kept a copy of her book(s) around at work? I think she has a pineapple upside down cake in Baking-From my Home to Yours. Love the overflowing tart, gorgeous linzers and pretty madelines. Fun post!

Maria said...

We all have disasters in the kitchen! that is what makes it fun! You have way more successes though! I love Dorie's madelines!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Your successes way out shine the disasters.

I do love those Honey Spiced Madeleines!!!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

I've considered changing the name of my blog to reflect the number of kitchen disasters I've created. You're not alone, sister!