Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Oops, that ain't right - Culinary disasters

You know, I was thinking (you could smell the smoke, right?) and it occurred to me that I do a lot of posts on all the things that have gone well. All those yummy, mouthwatering recipes and experiments that were great successes.

In reality, they aren't all perfect. They aren't all tasty.  So this post is dedicated to all the screw ups. Let's see...

Whole Wheat Flour - My most recent compost heap enhancing experiments has been with whole wheat flour and (no fault of it's own) cornmeal. With the One Local Summer (OLS) Challenge lasting an entire 13 weeks, the real challenge for me is to not bore everyone with the same foods week after week (let's just say I'm completely unimaginative in the kitchen). But when I found out I had access to local whole wheat flour and cornmeal, I went on a recipe search for breads! Great, right? Well, here's the catch. I don't really like whole wheat bread. There, I said it. I know, I know. I'm a health nut hypocrite, but I'm coming out of the pantry to admit my dirty little secret to the world. All this healthy, healthy, healthy, crap and what do I really want? White bread! Now I'm not talking about wonder bread. I mean, really good white breads (french bread, croissants, rolls), in all their refined, high glucose goodness. YUM, dang-it! 

But I was ignoring that fact at the moment as I made a loaf of 100% whole wheat beer bread as well as some corn bread with cornmeal and (you guessed it) whole wheat flour. Um, how should I describe it? Blah! I plan on trying the cornmeal mixed will all-purpose flour (not local) for a non-OLS day, but that's an experiment for the future. There is one thing that I prefer whole wheat flour in, though. Pancakes! Go figure. I don't like regular pancakes much, but I love whole wheat pancakes and whole wheat/oatmeal pancakes. I'm just weird, but that really wasn't up for debate, was it?

Maple Syrup - Speaking of pancakes, we've been making our own syrup too!  Unfortunately, this simple recipe seems a bit to much for my little brain. The first time I was making it, my father was over. And distracted by talking to him, I let the syrup boil on the stove for just a little too long. The result? I burned it. It smelled fine, but had this lovely charred taste. Hmmm. So then this last time, scared I would burn it again, I didn't boil it enough and we have this maple-y liquid that's more like thickened water. It definitely tastes good on pancakes if you can catch it running all over the plate like a rampaging flood. Oh well. We'll shoot for somewhere in the middle next time.

Canning - In May, I posted about my first non-jam canning experiment with citrus. Unfortunately, I didn't get the jars sterilized well and within 3 days, all 3 of the jars had popped their seals. Thankfully, the second time worked (using the boiling water bath) and in the end I only lost 3 jars of citrus. Good thing I was up for a little practice before main event (main event being peaches and pears this summer).

Jam - Speaking of canning, I have a confession to make (with both Sharli and I having made perfect jam since, it's probably ok to admit this). It was the day after our very first lesson on making jam and my friend Sharli and I decided to try it on our own to reinforce our learning experience. With no one to instruct us, we went through each of the steps - washing and cutting the berries, boiling them down, adding the sugar, pouring them into sterilized jars and patiently waiting for them to seal. With one batch down, we were ready for one more. Again, we washed and cut the berries, put them in the jar to boil them down, and - OH CRAP! It was as we grabbed for the package of pectin that we noticed the other package was open, but still had the pectin inside. So instead of making jam, what we ended up with was more like strawberry syrup. In the end, we decided that we TOTALLY meant to do that. I mean, it would be great with pancakes, over angel food cake, or even pound cake. Yep. We meant that.

Yogurt - After 8 or 9 months of making yogurt with no problems and then even blogging about how easy it is, my yogurt starting failing. After 2 out of 3 batches failed, I went into major troubleshooting mode. I think I have it figured out - it worked the last 2 times, anyway. But not wanting to throw away the un-yogurt that had taken me 6 hours to un-make, I didn't feel like just tossing it. So the next morning, I fixed a bowl of my diet-cheating cereal and poured some of the un-yogurt on top just as I would have milk. OH GOOD HEAVENS, I'M GOING TO GAG! So not a good idea. Needless to say (after 3 bites just to be sure it didn't get any better), I ran to the sink, drained the un-yogurt out, and refreshed my bowl with real 100% raw, whole, yummy, milk. Let's just say, I'll only make that mistake once!

So there it is. I'm figuring this out as I go along just like anyone else. Hopefully, I'm learning from my mistakes (i.e. don't drink milk/un-yogurt that has been sitting out for 6 plus hours - who'd have known?). Alright, so fess up. Anybody else out there have an adventure in culinary disaster to share...

17 comments:

Burbanmom said...

Oh my God, I'd need a lot more space than this little comment box allows to review all my culinary disasters!

It's nice to know I'm not the only one though.

eco 'burban mom said...

The list is long and distinguished... The most recent is an experiment with rhubarb. I got a little cocky and thought I would give rhubarb cobbler cupcakes a whirl using this organic vanilla cake mix from the local mill.

ACK, COUGH, ICK - the rhubarb got all funny and runny, it sank to the bottom of the little paper cups and make the entire mess stick to the paper. And, it did something wierd to the cake mix - it got all lumpy and wierd. Chucked the whole batch. Sigh...

Although, I will admit that crusty french bread, hot out of the oven slathered in butter is pretty much heaven for me!!! See, we can all share the dirty little secrets!

Chile said...

I make my maple syrup with a 2:1 ratio so it doesn't have to boil more than a minute or two. And I generally use only white sugar plus the maple flavoring. If I run out of the flavoring, I just make the syrup with brown sugar and it does fine with it. It helps to let it cool at least 10 minutes before serving - it will thicken up.

I've made jam syrup, too. :)

Tried making yogurt for the first time last week and it didn't set up. I saved the milk to use in pancakes. Use your failures for baking not fresh use!

My biggest disasters were the sourdough experiment and the Scotch Bonnet affair. I was on a super-frugal binge and decided sourdough was the way to go. Wonderful bread and pancakes. Sourdough cornbread? Ick. Sourdough blueberry muffins? GAG. Luckily, the compost pile was hungry.

I did a week of Jamaican cooking years ago, in an attempt to learn a new cuisine. After cooking up a huge soup pot of rice and beans, I discovered that I detested the earthy flavor of Scotch Bonnet peppers. My sweetie did not like it enough to eat it for a month so it went in the compost, too.

Lately, my biggest failures happen when I'm cooking and go to check email "for just a minute". Scorched red cabbage is a horrible, horrible smell.

Heather @ SGF said...

burbanmom - oh come on. Share just one? :)

eco 'burban mom - I've never tried to work with rhubarb. I'm sure it's a learning experience, but that vanilla cake mix sounds awesome all by itself. I love cake... and french bread... ahh, white flour goodness...

chile - keep going on the yogurt. I was doing wonderfully for so long then all the sudden - failures! I started pouring a little boiling water from my kettle in each of the jars before I fill them with yogurt to make sure there's no lingering and competing bacteria. Not sure if this is what helped, but it works. I also keep my temp around 108-113 when I'm incubating. Some say that's too hot, but cooler temps just didn't work for me. How are you incubating?

And thanks for the maple syrup tips. I'll try that!

Chile said...

I tried the widemouth thermos method.

Heather @ SGF said...

Chile - So you brought milk temp to 180, let it cool to about 110-115, added bacteria culture and then put it in a thermos to sit for however many hours (everyone says a different length of time. it drives me nuts). Some people say to wrap towels around the thermos to help hold heat in. Hmmm. It's hard to say. I would run searches on line to see if you can spot what is going wrong. Either the bacteria are too cold and sleeping or too hot and dying.

I use a heating pad in a bucket. It only takes me 5 hours to make yogurt which is nice. Keep trying. Once you get the hang of it, it gets easier! You might also try smaller batches until you get your method down pat that way you can practice more. Good luck with the next batch!

sharli said...

My husband thinks the strawberry jam "syrup" was one of my better mistakes. He puts that stuff on everything!

eco 'burban mom said...

I agree! I think strawberries just might be in season here starting this week. I have made peach syrup, which the kiddies love. I am thinking strawberry just might be next! No rhubarb though, I am staying away from that stuff!

Robj98168 said...

I, too, hate whole wheat bread. Always have. Always will. Yuck...
Wonder bread MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM buils strong bodies 12 ways. LOL I love the french breads, and the italian bread I get at our famers market is a must buy every thursday

Heather @ SGF said...

sharli - the syrup really isn't so bad. I've been using on rolls and it's still pretty thick, I think. Tastes the same. Yum!

eco 'burban mom - I tried your peach syrup this morning with pancakes. Oh for the love of all that is good in the world. It was awesome! I did add some cinnamon. Absolutely delicious! Thanks for the tip!

robj - at least I'm not the only one that has been pretending to like wheat bread. White bread rocks!

Beany said...

Most recently jam syrup and over boiled eggs.

And I still can't deal with the local flours!! Its a pain in the butter to manage them. I want to make pasta but can barely make bread out of it.

Jenelle said...

my culinary disaster is bread, specifically yeast. I followed the fresh loaf and tried to remember (it's been years) how to bloom yeast. I think my yeast was dead or the water wasn't warm enough. The bread was good, just very dense. I tried making hamburger buns the other day and over warmed the water (I even checked with a thermometer to get the right temp) but I followed the recipe directions on blooming and not the temp that's on the packets. I learned my lesson... follow the package!

Heather @ SGF said...

beany - hmm. how did boiled eggs and jam come about? I've been thinking about trying pasta too. Let me know if it works. I'll probably try it sometime this summer.

jenelle - i've been lucky. I've never had trouble proofing the yeast. Did you try it again with a new package? I'd be happy to lend you some if you want to try before you buy a whole jar.

Melissa said...

I made some tortillas recently that were so hard, they cracked when I tried to fold them. The recipe kept going on and on about how fluffy they were. whatever. No clue what I did wrong, but won't make those again...

Heather @ SGF said...

Melissa - A good friend of min has been talking about making her own tortillas (she's working on salsa now but hasn't quite hit a concoction she's willing to share to innocent bystanders). Were the tortillas complicated to make? Maybe it was just a sucky recipe (or maybe they listed the ingredients wrong).

Melissa said...

well I should confess I may have some responsibility here...it wasn't complicated but I substituted wheat flour for the white stuff. Maybe that was part of the problem?

Heather @ SGF said...

Melissa - you're probably right. The bran in the wheat flour will reduce gluten development making it less elastic.