Category Archives: Cooking Flops

No electricity, no bread.

Yesterday I made bread dough. I mixed it by hand, kneaded it for 15 minutes, set it to rise. Folded it. Let it rise. Formed into loaves. Let it rise. Here I made a fatal error and shoved it in the fridge about 2/3 of the way into the second rise so I could go get lunch. Took it out an hour later. Let it sit half an hour. I should have let it sit longer, but as you’ll see, it didn’t matter. Put it in the oven. Twenty minutes later, the power went out.

I have two dense bread-bricks, a product of both my desire for Mexican food (thus leaving the house) and the oven shutting off. No oven spring. I’m not even certain they’re cooked all the way through. I should find that out.

Oh well. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do! Had I let it rise longer, the bread still would have been a bust and overrisen, and ended up back in the fridge, as the power was out for 2 and a half hours.



Today I made mini cupcakes with a kit my brother’s family gave us for Christmas. They provide the dry ingredients with adorable written instructions by our six-year-old nephew, and we provide the wet. But I forgot to grease the tin. Now we have mini cupcake tops and separate mini cupcake bottoms. I also whacked my knuckle when trying to rotate the pan while it was baking against one of the oven racks. I have a nice tiny blister there now. Let’s hope the bread I just started goes more smoothly! Yikes!

Strawberry jam, I said! It’ll be fun, I said! Ha.

Not-jelling Jam

This is a photo of round two of one batch of jam. I love to can things, but jam and I are not friends.

I had some berries about to expire, so I cooked them down with sugar as instructed, and boiled them to a certain degree, and then jarred and put them in a water bath. Nothin’. So then after several days I opened them, poured the guts into a pan, and added pectin, a powder derived from apple juice that’s supposed to make this process easy, following instructions. This was Saturday. Today, still nothin’. I’ve put them in the pantry so I’ll stop peeking at them. This time I even did a gel test with a spoon and it passed and STILL no jelly. Jam. Preserves. Whatever. I’m giving it two weeks before I try one last time, following the pectin packages “didn’t set?” instructions and hoping for the best.

The ironic part of all this is that last time I tried to make strawberry jam, many years ago, it turned into a brick. Ha.

Do any of you have experience with this and can make some suggestions? It’s making me batty. It tastes so good, too, which almost makes it worse. Sigh.

Long time away and resulting kitchen disaster

After my last post, I made some lovely superbowl treats that I even remembered to photograph. And then the winter mess arrived. We were beset by regular flu, nasty colds, and food poisoning for the next few weeks. There wasn’t much activity in our house at all, and unless popsicles count as “food” that I “cooked,” well, there just wasn’t much to report.

But we’ve been better now for the last couple of weeks, so I thought it was high time to get back on the blogging wagon. And what do I have to tell you about? A cooking catastrophe. Here it is:

Cooking Disaster

I got my latest issue of Cooking Light in last week and have since tried to make two dishes from it, both of which did not turn out so well. At least the second one was edible, if not particularly interesting. But this? I don’t know what happened here. I’m hoping you can tell me.

This is supposed to be a mac-and-cheese casserole with ham and peas. You bring some milk to a simmer, add a few seasonings, and then add some shredded low-fat cheddar and some shredded swiss. All of my cheeses, despite my efforts at whisking, turned into a glob. I tried to blend it in to no avail. What happened? I know swiss is a common fondue cheese, so it must melt and blend ok for someone; I also have used this cheddar in other m-and-cs, with no problem! The picture of the casserole looked so good, but mine, well, not so much. We popped it in the oven to see if that would help but instead ended up with warmer glob of cheese, pasta, and a bath of milk on the bottom. My husband the saint ate some of it, but I thought it was quite nasty.

So can you help a gal out? What went wrong here?

Bit of a bust


Coming back from a vacation like ours, full of delicious fresh produce from my uncle’s garden, which you can see in this photo, I had great expectations for making new, tasty, fresh food myself! And then we got here. And we were exhausted. We’ve eaten a lot of classic American food ever since–cheese steaks, Mexican take-out, Chinese lunch plates. I did make Amitriciana the other night, and it was pretty good. And I swear, I’ll start cooking properly this week. More olive oil! Less deep frying! I promised myself that after I turned in my dissertation I’d work on losing weight. So here we are.

Last night, after the lunch at the Chinese place with my folks, we were hungry but not starved, and there was nothing good in the fridge–all our meat was frozen, our basil plant had a bit of a time while we were away. So I just threw some hot dogs on the grill that we’d left for our friend who was watching the cat, and decided that the least I could to was make a good side dish. I decided on corn fritters. I even beat the egg white by hand until it was, um, well, not quite stiff but exceedingly fluffy. I put some in the pan, flipped, lovely. I put another batch (the only other batch, I might add), ran out to the grill, ran back in…..and they were blackened hockey pucks. I should’ve asked for a hand, but evidently I thought the trip abroad had turned me into Wonder Woman. It has not.

On that note, then, dinner tonight turns a new page. Fresh! Tasty! Olive oil!

Oh, and get a load of this “fortune” we got in a cookie: “Here we go. Low fat whole wheat, green tea.” I have no idea what that means.

Sure, this end looks fine…

Remember how I told you I have the insatiable urge to cut into bread right after it comes out of the oven? And I said (I think) that someday I’d regret it? Well, lesson learned. Despite the delicious way it smells, give the poor thing five minutes out of the oven. Even if you dropped it a bit on one end getting it out of the pan and giving it a bit of a sag. And you just want to nibble that end a little. Resist! Batter bread, because it’s not needed and made from a batter (duh) rather than a dough, doesn’t have a lot of structure. When you knead bread, it produces gluten. Gluten gives the bread shape and structure. Without needing, the structure is more delicate. Kind of like how a cake can be delicate, and I’ve broken a few of those turning them out too soon to prove it.


Anyway, the bread is delcious, and I can slice it from the good end for tonight’s BLTs. You can find the recipe at the Smitten Kitchen. But this loaf is no longer so pretty to look it.



Sometimes things don’t go as well as planned. Take this coffee cake, for instance. It’s one of my favorite all-time coffee cakes. It has a layer of streusel on the bottom, and one of streusel and blueberries in the middle. Ridiculously tasty. But today it didn’t want to come out of the bundt pan. I wiggled a knife around the edge, around the middle, and lo, when it fell out, part of the bottom (now top) layer of cake stayed in the pan. Arrrgh! I know it all will taste the same (and you wouldn’t have been the wiser if I’d only shown you a slice!) but I’m supposed to bring this to my grandmother’s tomorrow. Oh well. I’ve made this probably six or seven times, and this is the first time it’s ever happened. As such, I highly recommend you try it out. It’s a recipe I found on allrecipes a long time ago–I like allrecipes because you can tell by the comments what works and what doesn’t–and I’ve tweaked it a bit over time. I add more blueberries, less streusel, more milk than the original recipe, based on reading all the comments a couple times over, and a few trial runs. Trial runs where, in fact, the cake came out of the darn pan.

Here’s the recipe:
Blueberry Coffee Cake

2/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. flour
a scant tsp cinnamon
1/4 c. butter (the recipe calls for a half cup, but I never use that much)

2 c. flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, softened (one stick)
1 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c milk mixed with 1 T vinegar for a few minutes (curdles it so it’s like buttermilk)
1 1/2 c. fresh or frozen (unthawed) blueberries

Heat oven to 350. Grease the pants out of a bundt pan, and flour it to death, too.

Make the streusel by mixing brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon, and cutting butter in. I use my fingers for this.

Beat 1/2 c. butter in bowl of your mixer until creamy; add white sugar, and beat until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat in. Whisk together your dry ingredients and add them alternately with the curdled milk, mixing well after each one. Put half the batter (it’s thick, don’t worry about it being a pretty perfect layer) in the pan. Place blueberries and half your streusel on top. Add the rest of the batter, and cover with the rest of the streusel. Bake 55-60 minutes.

Let it cool thoroughly before trying to get it out of the pan. Then, putting a plate on the top of the pan and holding the two together, invert and hope for the best!