So after requesting a new dough hook for my birthday (and getting it! Thanks to my in-laws) after the coating started coming off mine, I was thinking about a few other kitchen essentials that I need, and thought I would share…
I love baking, I really do. However, I am a far better cook than baker. Which is probably why I love cupcakes so much because I meet them with much less adversity than some of my other baking experiences. I could list many different examples of this, but one that comes to mind involves a springform pan and a flourless cake recipe. The recipe was simple enough; melted chocolate chips, eggs, sugar, and a few other essentials. I mixed it all together and poured the batter into the springform pan. Now if you have any experience with springform pans you are probably thinking right now that I didn’t make sure the bottom of the pan was secured inside the outer metal loop. However, I did make sure the metal bottom was secured tightly in the metal ring. I popped it into the oven, set the timer, and went outside to check on the garden. I came back in about ten minutes later to discover that the house was not filled with the wonderfully delicious smell of chocolate cake. Instead it smelled like something was burning, which is never a good sign. I was optimistic, hoping that it was perhaps some leftover food on the bottom of the oven that perhaps was burning. It was not. A good half of the cake had leaked out onto the bottom of the oven and was burning. I quickly turned off the oven and got the cake out. It had turned into a half gooey brownie-ish state, that obviously was inedible. Although I did try it and it tasted pretty good, but I figured it wasn’t able to be served at that point. Unfortunately the story doesn’t end there. I then decided to get rid of the burned mess on the bottom of the oven I would turn on the oven’s self-cleaner (which I had never used before). Soon my husband and child were barricaded in the bedroom as I opened every window, turned on every fan, and was desperately trying to stop the self cleaning function (which is not easy to do), to stop the excessive amount of smoke that was pouring out of the oven. It took several hours to completely air out the house and I am still cleaning out the oven!
The moral is that there is a right and a wrong way to put a spring form pan together. Even if it is secure make sure the bottom of the pan is right side up so the edge prevents the batter from running out. And don’t take the easy way out of cleaning an oven.
As you may have noticed many of my cooking beginning debacles involve fried food. I’m not sure why I try to fry food because I am not particularly good at it and it usually ends with some sort of disastrous results. These include fanning out the entire house and opening all the windows so the fire department doesn’t show up because I’ve built up too much smoke in the house, and standing in a shower with water running over my face continually because I’ve burnt my eyes from the smoke. I’m not sure if it’s my love of Paula Deen, or my distinct love of the south that draws me to frying. This should provide some background for my next cooking beginning. It involves a box of old fried shrimp, and a lot of oil. I tend to buy most of my fried food in the freezer section of the store and bake it in the oven. Back when I had moved into my first apartment (back in the day, oh five years ago) I bought some butterfly fried shrimp thinking I would bake it one night in the oven. However, I didn’t read on the back of the box and realize that it needed to be fried. So I kept sticking it into the back of the freezer thinking I would fry it one day when I had time. Well the time came 2 years later when my then boyfriend (now husband), and I were looking for something to eat and he opened up the freezer and found the “tada” fried shrimp. I couldn’t remember exactly at that time when I had bought it, but I thought it couldn’t have been that long ago (only two years…isn’t frozen food like canned food? NO. It’s not). Even canned food has an expiration date. Anyway we decided to try it anyway so we dumped some vegetable oil into a heavy sided skillet and let it heat up to medium high (which on my stove should have been called “don’t go there high”) and dumped in the shrimp. Despite the fact that the oil was spewing hot the shrimp was so cold the oil popped sizzled then basically lost all its heat. I being the eternal optimist when it comes to cooking just tried to break apart the huge shrimp ice block so that it would begin to fry. As the ice block dissolved so did the shrimp. It dissolved into a disgusting mess, with no actual shrimp left, just floating remains of what was probably breading. And so, we ordered pizza. But at least I didn’t start a fire!
The moral of the story? Don’t cook old food and expect it to turn out well. You’re a cook not a magician. Oh and don’t fry in a skillet unless using very little oil to make say crab cakes. OH and buy a thermometer that can go in oil to know what the heat is, so that way when the food is burning you can say as I did “oh so 400 degrees IS too hot”.
The first cookbook I received was a Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meals. I thought how clever! As a college student I could certainly handle making a meal in 30 minutes. Until I almost burned down my apartment kitchen trying to fry up some “easy” chicken tenders. In case you want to know I extinguished the fire by using a fail proof method. I blew on it like candles on a cake. Isn’t that smart? There should be a 30 minute meal book called, “how to make a meal in thirty minutes and not burn down your kitchen”. Which there is a “Cooking for Dummies”, but who walks into Barnes and Noble and buys that? So my first cooking lesson? Don’t start with frying. Oh and don’t EVER think a meal is going to take you 30 minutes unless you have washed all the vegetables and can chop like a maniac. Which I can’t. Or I could, but I’d like to keep my fingers.
Now I’m not saying I don’t appreciate the convenience of a 30 minute meal idea. However, in many of these meals there is a BUT. A big but in some. Like takes 30 minutes BUT, you need to defrost the puff pastry COMPLETELY in advance. Which by the way takes overnight in the fridge and at least two hours on the counter. Room temperature eggs and butter take around 4 to 8 hours. Ina Garten leaves her eggs and butter sitting out all night. Does that mean that the eggs get messed up (AKA, salmonella city)? Apparently not. However, the whole raw eggs phenomenon is an interesting one. I grew up eating raw cookie dough, cake dough, chicken (haha just kidding Mom). I turned out fine. So do I feed it to my kids and see what happens? I’m still wrestling with that one. I’ll let you know.
Moral of the story: If you are just learning to cook, don’t fry, expect delays, and read the recipe well in advance. Oh and eat the cookie dough. Sometimes it’s just easier.