Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, etc etc.

Yesterday's Fail has been preying on my mind.
It really pisses me off to waste expensive ingredients on something
that turns out to be inedible (almost typed indelible--here's a trick--stare at both words
long enough and your eyes will spaz out completely) and
still not even know the whys and wherefores of the problem.

So I did what I always do when faced with culinary roadblocks:

I called my mom.

I know how blessed I am to have reached this age and still have my mom
standing in, if not the wings, then at least within cell-phone range.
She has had over 62 years of cooking and baking for a family of five and
lived to tell the tales. Mom is the only one to still go through the time-honored
process of making kolache every Christmas--and she's not even Czech.
It's a family recipe from my father's side, and she learned at my
grandma's elbow how to make them.
Side note: none of my aunts ever did the kolache thing, but they loved my mom's!

I know that nearly everyone thinks that their mom is the best cook/baker
in the world--and poor, deluded souls they are, too--only I know that through
some accident of birth, some cosmic shake-and-shimmy, I am descended
from She Who Rules The Kitchen. If Mary Lou has had any Epic Fails in the
kitchen, I've never heard about it (but that would make a good post, wouldn't it?)

So I regaled her with my latest Red Velvet exploits. And, oddly enough, she had
absolutely no idea, no inkling (as she puts it) of why it happened.
We concluded that it probably wasn't my subbing in canola oil for the
vegetable oil written in the recipe, or the non-stick spray I used, since
both of us have used those things before with normal results.
As we talked it over, a vague olfactory deja vu hit me--

Yes, cats and kittens, I'd passed this way before (Note: see Seals and Crofts).
That--that--smell had assaulted my schnozz about a year ago. The memory is still
fuzzy as I write this, but then I've always been big on blotting out unpleasant
not to say traumatic experiences.

And the culprit?

Those bloody mini-Bundt pans!

Mom suggested that maybe some weirdo chemical reaction happened to
the non-stick coating of the pans when sprayed with the non-stick spray.
Sounds reasonable.
Of course, to be sure, I'd have to redo the entire thing exactly as before, including
forgetting to add the vanilla until after I added the eggs like I did the first time--
a non-crucial step, I'm pretty sure.

But a closer look at the recipe also revealed something Fourth-of-July gasp-worthy:

this recipe included a nutritional run-down--

In each normal-sized cupcake?

59.7 grams of fat!!!!!

I would be shrieking but this is not an auditory medium.

I will be plunging into the depths of my recipe files to locate a Red Velvet
three-layer cake recipe shared by a neighbor eons ago which I have
successfully made (in cake form, mind you) and try to modify it for cupcakes.

Stay tuned!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Dear Reader,
(which, judging by the number of comments received,
is the right tense)

I have decided to make this blog a little more personal.
For years I have kept a journal, sometimes writing every day,
sometimes skipping entire years. Writing that flowed prettily
along the pages and writing that tore at the paper in angry black strokes.
I started writing as a sort of safety valve for the years of built-up steam and frustration.
Then I decided that after I'm gone, in the dead sense, I want any of
my kids who are interested and have the time between therapy sessions, to
read my journals and just maybe understand their mom a little better.

(there should be a transitioning sentence or two here but I couldn't
come up with one. Bite me.)

All the best books on writing say that to be a good writer, you must
find your voice.
After lurking in the food blogosphere for months and reading post after
post of food bloggers that I enjoyed, I've noticed a few things, one of which
I now share regarding this blog:

I am not Steamy Kitchen.
I am not Thursday Night Smackdown.
I am not Technicolor Kitchen.

I'm not any of those bloggers whose work I admire and enjoy every week.
I wish I could write like them. They each have such individual and entertaining
voices. I find myself LOLing whenever I'm in GoogleReader.

It's tough to find your own voice.
Your own point of view.
Your uniqueness. (is that a word? Really?)

Your own style, if you will.

And the only conclusion I can come to is that when I write in my journal,
I sound like Me.
I write as if I'm talking to - well, myself, I guess. Or e-mailing a friend that
knows me well enough to understand my jokes and foibles.

I don't know if you'll notice any difference in the sound of this blog or not.
I will no longer be trying to sound like a food blogger, though.

I'm just gonna be me.
(cue Frank Sinatra recording...)

So here we go.
I hope you enjoy reading over my shoulder.

The Red Velvet Debacle

Dear Me,

Well, that didn't go very well, did it?
Dammit, I thought a Food Network recipe would be foolproof.
And I'm sure it's not the fault of the recipe.
After all, it was from a Bobby Flay Throwdown. Although technically
the recipe was from his competitor, a woman who sells cupcakes for a
living in NYC. I would have thought that it would be good in spite of myself.

But no.

It should've been a tip off when I couldn't even get the batter to turn red.
I was out of liquid food coloring, had to use paste instead, which up 'til now has always
served me well. Bright vivid colors staining the frosting as well as my fingers.

But no.

This time so-called Super Red gave me a big raspberry, literally and
figuratively. Mighty Mac's bowl was filled with dark pink batter.
I even flew it past my son who peered into the bowl, swished the spatula
around and said laconically, "Raspberry."


I watched the blobs of batter dripping from the spatula. Shit.

But okay, this can still be delicious, right?
Wrong color, so I can't exactly claim these as Red Velvet, but as long
as they taste good, that's all I care about.

But no.

I wanted to use a couple of mini-Bundt cupcake pans that I had only used once,
so that meant I had to skip the paper liners and just spray the hell out of
the pans. Which I did. I had just enough Crisco non-stick stuff (with flour included,
though how they manage that beats the hell out of me) to do one pan, and used
butter-flavored for the remaining one.
Used my new medium-sized ice cream scoop to fill the swirly-shaped cups.
Wouldn't it be adorable to have cupcakes with little swirly bottoms?

I'll save myself some time, since this is clearly not a memory I wish to
chronicle and cherish, to say that the cupcakes smelled putrid in the oven.
I kept hoping it was just my hyper-sensitive nose and that I could
still pull off deliciously cream cheese frosting'd cupcakes for dinner. I
pictured the admiring oohs and ahhs as my family bit into them.
But when they cooled, the odor was no better.
My son ate one and said they were fine, but then, he's The Suck-Up
of the family. Not really, that's not fair to say that--but being the youngest,
I do think he tries to avoid saying the wrong thing (because when you're
fourth out of four, self-preservation and not pissing off a sibling is the
name of the game.)
These will be taking up precious space in the local landfill because I
cannot stand to serve them.
And tomorrow is another day.

My right arm is starting to really hurt so I have to wrap this up.
Suffice it to say I'm not sure whether it was the non-stick spray I used or
that I subbed canola oil for vegetable, but this was an Epic Fail.
Or like the Ex's high school students used to say after bombing a test:

"I failed HARD."