Kitchen Fails: Less is More


Kitchen Fails is a series about how I once had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen, and managed to survive through all the grease fire and pyrex shrapnel and sharp knives that were involved in learning, until I eventually came to have great satisfaction in my amazing culinary skills.* 

*Except for when the stories are about a cooking disaster from last week.  


I was in middle school, the age of Lisa Frank aesthetics and sleepovers where you actually spend a decent amount of time asleep.  A girl friend came over to spend the night, and as part of our entertainment we were going to make this blueberry coffee cake to have for breakfast.

Baking is all about measuring accurately and following the directions exactly, and I was a kid who read carefully and compulsively, so everything should have been pretty simple.  However, I got stuck when the recipe called for "1 t. salt".  I was unfamiliar with this abbreviation, so I assumed it was similar to the abbreviation I was familiar with: 1 c. salt.  Even if you're not a baker, you can probably guess that 1 c. means 1 cup.  I ran this idea by my friend: 

Me: "Lucille, how much is 1 t.?  Is it a cup?"
Lucille:  "Hmm, I dunno."
Me: "Ok, that must be it."

In went half the package of table salt.  Luckily, we tasted the batter before we put the cake into the oven, and realized that something was horribly, horribly wrong.

After my mother exclaimed that the quantity of salt in there could kill a person, she had us pick out all of the blueberries from the batter and make the cake again.  Then Lucinda and I probably watched the Princess Bride for the hundredth time and got eight hours of sleep, but bragged about how late we stayed up to our younger siblings the next day.

I will admit to being a ditz.  But, in my defense, I know of not just one, but two other people who dramatically over-salted a baked good as young cooks.  My theory is that because baking is prescriptive, it doesn't really help young cooks develop the kind of common sense with ingredients that would prevent dire over-salting.  You basically need to learn to cook with another person, because even recipes for baking sometimes assume you know important information.

I did manage to make the coffee cake above without poisoning anyone, but now I usually eat my fresh blueberries straight from the package.  It's safer.

Did you misunderstand any recipes when you were learning to cook?  Share, I totally won't laugh at you. 

4 comments:

  1. Oh my, yes! When I was very young, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' house, and a lot of that time was spent baking. One day I discovered a small box of white cake mix (a mix, mind you. not something that should be difficult.) Well, this was my first time to encounter a recipe calling for egg whites.

    Being the ever intelligent child that I was, I put all my deductive reasoning skills to use and concluded that, as they were the only truly white part of the egg, the recipe must be calling for egg shells. That's right. Egg shells. In a cake.

    Please laugh at me. It's well deserved. By the way, I tend to buy brown eggs now. You never know when you might have a mental lapse. :)

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  2. So did you crush them up to incorporate them? Or were you able to rescue the cake?

    I remember the idea of egg "whites" being confusing as well! They should be called egg gels or something.

    Another potentially confusing phrase? Mix by hand.

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  3. I think I actually crumbled them in. The batter (with "egg whites") made it into the oven!

    What about "from scratch?" I've always thought that phrase was just a little weird. "Scratch" is not a word I like to have related to food.

    Also, I'm making your supreme lasagna this week! Thinking of adding spinach in...If I do, I'll let you know if it's worth doing or just veggie overload. :)

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  4. I'm glad you're trying the lasagna, let me know how it turns out!

    I was curious about "from scratch" so I looked it up, and it turns out that it refers to a starting line for a race. Apparently they used to adjust runners' starting positions using a handicap like in golf. The runners with the best chance of winning started from the scratch.

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