Category Archives: baking disasters

From the Notes Stuck All Over My Desk

Office utility room before.

The weather lady said it was going to be 85 today. The first time it’s been that warm here since September 3rd. I cried a little when I read that. I got my new bathing suit out and a tub of SPF 5000, I can just dunk and go sit in the backyard and bake away.

After I watch the soccer game.

Office utility room after.

I have some advice. I think I’ve given it before but I fell victim to this yet again and I should know better. I’m reminding you. Write this down.

Never give a lawyer the only copy of something. Never. Don’t even let him (or her) touch it. Not even if s/he says they’re just taking it back to the office to make a copy and will bring it right back to you. Don’t do it. That document will disappear forever and make trouble for you.

I5 Interstate Bridge

For this week’s pie I tried Coconut-Sweet Potato Pie with Spiced Crust and it did not turn out wonderful. My spiced crust came out doody. I think the graham cracker stuff was a tad stale (my fault) but also the coconut bits give it a weird, unappealing bite. The filling was also, just okay. Of course we’ll still eat it but this will not be going into rotation.

Self Explanatory

I keep a piece of paper and a pen next to the TV so I can jot down things I want to remember later. I live in never-ending fear of forgetting something and I always think of things I don’t want to forget when I’m watching TV. Hence the system.

Of course, the notes are always cryptic and often written in semi-darkness so later when I look at my piece of paper it says stuff like: “make list [indecipherable]” or “make cook and do.” This week I found a note that says “long term plan, do it now.” I guess that’s not going to happen. I’m sure I’ll end up okay.

Last item: my story “The Battle of Little Big Science” has been reprinted at Expanded Horizons so if you haven’t seen it, now’s your big chance. Editor Dash found a great photo to post with it, too.

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Pie Disaster #791

Last night I made a pie for uncle-former-boss’s birthday today. I think it was one of my top three pie making failures. Regular readers will recall that I screw up 4 out of every 5 pies I make.

Resist the urge to send me your fool-proof tips. I’ve tried everything. Pie making is my kryptonite. Sometimes.

This pie crust was a disaster and I patched together the bottom crust because who cares? It’s filled with pie. But I did a couple of tricks and was very patient and managed to make a decent looking top crust.

This morning I had to take my car back to Toyota (long story omitted but it was less than $100 and totally worth it) and got a ride to work. On the way, a car ran a red light and we had to slam on the brakes. My carefully wrapped and guarded pie slid out of my lap. I grabbed it but ended up with fingers in the pie.

It wasn’t ruined but it was pretty messed up.

Better the pie than me.

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Freezer Box Pie

Downtown Portland

Downtown Portland

Today’s Foodday has a whole section of pie making tips which I will carefully read and then file in my bursting file of pie making tips. I’m doing a lot better but I’m still not making pies that would bring about world peace.

The paper also covers a pie making contest. One of the winners is a Cucumber-Honeydew-White Chocolate Pudding Freezer Box Pie. I know. It sounds crazy doesn’t it? I’d like to try to make it but I’m not up for an extensive multi-step recipe at the moment. I’m still trying to wrangle my tomatoes.

On Sunday I made a summer minestrone with all the leftover squash plus a bunch of other odds and ends including things from the freezer. We always seem to have a 1/4 bag of green beans freezer-burning in a dark corner of the freezer. The soup came out delicious.

Bob and I are watching Prom Night in Mississippi. It’s about a small town in Mississippi. The school holds two proms, one for blacks and one for whites. Morgan Freeman grew up there and he offers to pay for the prom if they integrate. This was in 2008.

I could go on about this movie all day but will condense my thoughts into two observations.

The first one is that I am stunned by how many people exhibit clearly racist behavior yet insist they are not racist and all their friends would tell you they aren’t racist. “I’m not a racist but I don’t want my daughter dating one of them people.” (*spoiler*) The white parents organize and pay for a separate white prom but refuse to be interviewed because they don’t want to be perceived as racist.

The second one is how clearly this small town is divided into black or white. Given this is what the documentary team is showing us but it’s like there is no other diversity. What if there was an Indian (either kind) or Hispanic or Asian person? What prom would that person go to? (Before integration.) You have to wonder what would happen to this small town if *other* people of color showed up.

The documentary is really good and thought provoking although a bit repetitive.

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Can You Spot The Error?

I made the Black Magic Cake today for tonight’s dessert.

Can you tell where the lid fell off of the shaker I was using to decoratively mist the cake with powdered sugar?

When I looked at the recipe this morning I realized I didn’t buy chocolate syrup. It was cold and rainy and I wasn’t about to put on clothes so I could go to the grocery store. I added some baking chocolate and a few extra ounces of buttermilk and hoped for the best. It came out great. Very dense, almost brownie-like.

This wasn’t the best weekend of my life but I’m feeling okay about it now. I managed to clean another layer of stuff off my desk. The taxes are ready to go out the door. I was in a writing rut but Kira helped me break through this morning. The garden looks pretty. We had a fun Easter dinner at Priscilla’s.

I’m ready for the work week.

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Vancouver Lake and Powerlines

Vancouver Lake and Powerlines

How come I can’t make biscuits?

Unless I pop them out of a can. If you can pop them out of a can, how hard can it be?

I had a great recipe with buttermilk and I totally followed the directions. And the FLAT butter crackers that emerged were so embarrassing that I was too ashamed to take a photo. I ate 5 of them.

This was a big writing weekend which was unfortunately, not brilliantly productive. Today I gave myself a productivity goal instead of a time goal.

A time goal is when I say I’m going to keep my butt in the chair until x o’clock.

A productivity goals is when I say I’m going to keep my butt in the chair until I reach a million pages. Or, a million words. Or whatever the actual goal is.

The productivity goal keeps me honest when I’m distracted. It was a harrowing day. By 5pm my head hurt and my eyeballs were screaming for mercy. But I made the goal.

I told Bob I didn’t want to spend 4 hours watching the Oscars but I keep running out in the other room to see what’s going on. I thought they were streamlining the thing. It took 20 minutes to give out the first acting award. It was like a giant never-ending group hug. Like actors don’t get enough love.

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Attack of the Monster Cereal

I didn’t mention it earlier but I made rice crispy treats on Saturday morning. I had leftover crispy cereal (not Rice Krispies, I bought the generic version) from the white bark balls I made last month. Crispy rice cereal only comes in luggage-size boxes. The box was so big I couldn’t fit it in any of my kitchen cupboards and had to put on top of the filing cabinet in the laundry room.

I haven’t made them in eons and now I remember why. The bag of marshmallows instructions used the microwave but I wanted to do it on the stovetop and after a half hour the effing marshmallows still weren’t melted so I had to transfer to the microwave.

Once melted, I scraped the world’s stickiest substance into a giant bowl with the cereal and tried to mix it together. I wasn’t getting far with my spoon and since I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty so I plunged them in which didn’t seem to accomplish anything except to spread the world’s stickiest substance all over my hands. Then the cereal stuck to my hands and would not come off and the more I tried to scrape it off, the more that stuck to me until I had these giant marshmallow-cereal gloves on my hands. I knew that on some level this was funny and we should probably get photos except I was not humored in the least and sort-of panicked (ah! I’m going to die stuck in a giant web of marshmallow and cereal) and super irritated because my quick little project to get rid of my barrel of cereal was resulting in a mess and frustration.

Some warm sudsy water and my hands were clean. I buttered some aluminum foil and mashed the mixture into the buttered pan and let them cool and everybody loved them. I brought the leftovers for the lunchroom.

Meanwhile, I haven’t slept through the night for 6 straight nights and just out of curiosity I checked and last March I had doodoo sleep as well so I guess it really is a seasonal thing, not that I’m any less sleepy for the realization.

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Worth Eating

I thought I scanned a really old, like 60’s era, Thanksgiving photo earlier this year but I can’t find it so I’m posting a picture from the Orleans post office instead.

So far all the cooking I did in advance is having problems. Except the pumpkin pie which I didn’t really make for dinner today, more like an ongoing snack all weekend. We already cut into it.

Several years ago we were at a party where they served the best chocolate mousse on 9 planets. It was the kind of thing you thought about for days after. The taste, texture and tiny flecks of chocolate. It was a spectacular dessert and I’ve wanted to make it myself ever since.

I used the Cooks Illustrated recipe and it did not go well.

Perhaps I should back up and confess that I was über-multi-tasking yesterday. I had Star Wars IV, special edition on the tube, I made the pie from my own pumpkins (photos sometime this weekend) so I had to process those and make the pie (also crust disaster as per usual) I made the salad, the mousse, our Wednesday night dinner plus I intended to bake some breadsticks which I ended up passing on but I did do step one of the no knead bread recipe.

The mousse was a large pain in the ass and involved melting things in a double boiler, separating eggs and whipping this and that or the other thing into soft peaks and gently folding this into that and everything needs to be smooth. I was also fretting about the not really cooked 2 eggs thing. Is stirring egg yolks into melted chocolate enough? Is the food safety industry overly paranoid and do we not really need to worry as much as they seem to want us to?

By this point dinner was ready and the season finale of Weeds queued up (aside- tiny spoiler: Kevin Nealon, banjo, awesome.) I folded everything as best I could and reminded myself about Julie and Julia and I’m not the first cook to curse at a cooking project that’s not going well. There was no graceful way to get it into the serving cups. My attempt at gentle spooning turned into violent glopping.

Meanwhile, husband and hot food wait at table.

Then I tried to carefully wipe the mess off the rims of the serving cups and it smeared unprettily. At this point I said ferk-it and covered each dish as instructed then threw them in the fridge.

Dinner went fine. We cut the pumpkin pie which was delicious. I finished making the salad without incident and hit the sack without causing harm to myself or anyone else. I worried about the mousse all night and came up with the idea to transfer them into new, clean serving cups.

The mousse transfer is a wonderful idea that totally didn’t work. I only did one cup and it looks like someone dropped it and then scraped it into the dish with a tree branch. I tasted it. Fantastic. I left the rest as they are. Not pretty but taste good, dammit!

Meanwhile, my bread dough came out like bread batter. I’m not sure if I spaced and didn’t put enough flour (probably) or spaced and added too much water. I shaped it the best I could and it’s rising now but I don’t think it’s going to work. I dug out the bread stick recipe from last night because it only needs 45 minutes to rise. Let’s just hope I can turn out decent risotto or we’re going to be eating pizza tonight.

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Baking Machine

pastry creation

So this is my tart shell. I got it home in one piece but I left my recipes at the office on Thursday so I had to think of something else to fill it with. I ended up trying this lemony buttermilk “over 50 year old” recipe from one of the Grange Cookbooks we got when we got married.

I guess the recipe wasn’t intended for a tart shell because when I checked to see if it was firming up it was boiling. I don’t think that was what I was aiming for. The recipe also called for a meringue topping which I’ve never done before but if it’s supposed to look dark brown and have the texture of rubber, I did awesome. The tart doesn’t taste terrible. Sort of a third rate lemon meringue pie.

bakingIn addition to turning my tart into something, I baked cookies for my work stash. I also fed the sourdough and refilled my homemade granola supply. Very few things are yummier than this granola.

Also I cleaned out one of the pantry annexes. We don’t have a real panty so our food is divided into areas. We have the main cupboard in the kitchen, the canned good shelf in the laundry room and the lazy susan next to the fridge. That last one is what I cleaned out this morning.

Do you have all kinds of bizarre odds and ends in your cupboards that you bought for a recipe that you made between zero and one time? Or something you read about and thought you’d try and apparently forgot about a short time after you stuck the exotic ingredient in your cupboard? Yeah. Why did I buy amaranth and millet? No doubt it was some health kick moment. I have a grains cookbook that I’ve always intended to become better acquainted with. I tossed a few things and made a list of some others with the idea that I may still eat them someday.

messy officeHere’s my colleague’s desk that I mentioned yesterday. He kindly sorted through it all and now most of it is piled in my office. The photo below is the pile that used to be behind his desk.

What he doesn’t know is that I throw lots of stuff away when he’s not around. Has he ever missed any of it? Has he ever said, “Oh, I need version 11 of that meeting agenda from August of 2005?” No. He hasn’t. Never. This post could probably be used as evidence in a malpractice case someday. If that happens, just kidding!


 A couple more random items. I saw an ad for Ocean’s Thirteen and asked Bob if we ever saw Ocean’s Twelve. “Yeah,” he said, “I think we did.”

“What was it about?” I asked.

“I don’t remember,” he said.

“Yeah, me either.”

I don’t think we did. Are we that old and decrepit we can’t even remember Ocean’s Twelve?

Last comment: Gilmore Girls. I’ve never watched this show. I’m interested but for whatever reason, I never got into it. The DVDs are on my long term maybe someday list. But I see the previews during other shows I watch on the same station and it is my imagination or is every single preview about one or the other Gilmore Girl getting engaged? How many broken engagements are there between the two?

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How To Clean Your Baking Stone

First I took it outside to chip off all the baked on bread crust. I had to get pretty rough. I took it outside so I wouldn’t spend the rest of the day vacuuming bread crumbs from every crevice in the kitchen.

Once the major chunkage was off, I put the baking stone in the sink. I found a clean kitchen towel and got it wet and draped it over the baking stone and let it sit. Periodically I’d check on it and find that the now softened bread bits were ready to scrape off.

When all the crust was gone I sprinkled the whole stone with baking soda and a drizzle of water and gave it a good scrub. Thorough rinse and voila: nice clean baking stone ready for the next baking disaster.

In other news, I know this is a tiresome subject (ha ha) but I woke up at 1:30a this morning. 1:30! I’ve been up since 1:30! Have you noticed the worst nights are always the nights before work? Nothing like starting the work week tired and cranky.

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Sometimes The Kitchen Fills Me With Despair

My Super Power is Not Bread Baking

There is no end to ways I can find to make me feel bad about myself.

This weekend’s bread baking has been an exercise in monstrous futility. The sourdough hijacks the entire weekend. It must be baby-sat like a puppy with feeding and temperature adjustments and taking out at carefully monitored intervals. I thought I did okay this time since I was getting it to rise and it smelled nice and sourdoughy but my final shaped loaves didn’t rise as much as they oozed to the edges of the pan where they were resting.

Still they had a nice shape but they felt a tad sticky and I was out of time dangit—I needed my oven for dinner making purposes. I had a miserable time getting them out of their floured towel and onto the baking stone so they looked like spilled dough blobs and not like pretty loaves. They looked slightly better when baked and browned except I could not get them off the baking stone, even with a chisel and mallet.

At this point, dinner is ready to go in the oven. The bread must come out. The first one I ripped off the stone and the second one I sliced off the stone. Now I have a lava hot baking stone thickly crusted with the bottom half of my stupid bread that I spend all day babysitting and got flour and dough and crumbs all over my kitchen for and didn’t even turn out good and now how do I prevent the crust from igniting while I bake the dinner? Normally the baking stone lives in the oven.

I left the oven door open to get it cool enough so I could pull out the stone and load it onto a cutting board and it sits there still and makes me mad every time I walk in the kitchen. I still have to chip all the burned crust off of it.

The whole thing was a feel-bad experience. I’m going to take a break from baking for awhile.

My dear husband sliced off a thick, half-crusted slice and spread some margarine, Nutella and jam on it and proclaimed it delicious. That’s why I love him.

Super Fire Power

When I wasn’t making crappy bread I was breaking my vacuum and going to drop it off at Sears in the Mall on a Saturday sounded hideous. There used to be a tiny Sears outlet not far from our house. I called it the most depressing retail site in America because it looked like nothing had been cleaned or updated since 1954 and dusty packages of drill bits dangled from hooks on displays that were one swift breeze from collapsing.

I would go in there and there would be one other person in line and the defeated clerk tapping on the moldy Tandy 2000 and it would still take a half hour. One day I pulled up to grab some vacuum bags and the store was empty and somehow they’d managed to move all the junk inside without disturbing the dust.

Before I broke the vacuum, I cleaned out the fireplace so I could enjoy warming my toes in front of a crackling fire. I failed several attempts at fire making until I finally stuck a giant wad of newspaper in there, doused it with lighter fluid and whoosh! The entire front half of the house warmed up.

Just kidding about the lighter fluid! I don’t want to give my poor dad a heart attack. There’s more headache about the wood I used but I won’t get into it now. We never have the right tools.

There is no computer break this weekend because I’m working on something for my writers group (another unsatisfying creative endeavor) and I need to send it to them tonight. That’s today’s project.

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