39 Lessons - Lesson 14 - Kitchen disasters

39 Lessons - Lesson 14 - Kitchen disasters

This weekend I decided to try a recipe that a friend sent me – apple rum cake. I love baking, and a lazy Sunday afternoon is always a good time to try a new recipe when there is no time crunch. It sounded like a great recipe – tart and sweet apples, a splash of rum (Barbados rum of course) and as a slight variation to the plain melted butter – I did some nutty browned butter in which I bloomed cinnamon and nutmeg. As my friend promised – the house smelled amazing. Into the oven I popped it, waited patiently and then took it out. It was warm and fragrant until…….. I tried to take it out of the pan. And it pretty much fell apart. Like seriously fell apart. I was heartbroken. And my friends know – I do NOT take kitchen disasters very well. As I stared at the broken ruin of my cake, wondering what to do with it, I had a reminder from my friend that I should take this as a lesson – after all that is what the blog is all about. It got me thinking about the many lessons I have learned over the years from my cooking disasters, and there were many of both. Here are a few

1.       Never name your item until it is done – this is something that I heard said on one of my favourite cooking podcasts (America’s Test Kitchen Radio ©), and that I have adopted as my own personal mantra. Therefore – today’s cake became apple crumb cake – great for sprinkling over vanilla ice cream!

2.       Be flexible about the presentation – as I mentioned in a previous post, a cake that is burnt around the edges, or falls in the middle can benefit from using a cookie cutter to cut out shapes from the useful bits of cake and stack them as little minis layer cakes.

3.       Deconstruct it – like my above example – I pictured a lovely slice of apple rum cake with an ice cream scoop on it – a la mode style. Instead, I deconstructed it, and treated it as a crumble. Fortunately it tasted awesome so it was not an issue. I did this also once with a cookie recipe that spread over the entire pan and then fell apart when I tried to take it out of the pan. That also went nicely with ice cream. Perhaps this should also be one of my lessons – ice cream makes everything better.

4.       Frost it – Icing covers a multitude of sins, and can be a great glue. Nowhere was this made more obvious to me than when I found out how cake pops are REALLY made!

5.       Trifle it– Leftover/destroyed cake can make a nice trifle if it is edible. There is nothing like rum, custard, jelly, mousse, fruit and whipped cream (any combination of these) to transform a cake that doesn’t look too great into a tasty dessert… if you like that sort of thing! I don’t but I have a number of friends who do and its always good to bribe them with (or treat them to… depends on what I need). Which brings me to my last point

6.       Give it away!!! I was given strict instructions several years ago that when I make something that I consider to be a kitchen disaster, I need to find a way to pack it up, leave home with it, take it to my nearest friend and leave it there. My friends are very strict about enforcing this rule, and often will eat those things that I consider disasters – even when I am not sure they are edible. I have some close family friends who love burned cookies, and once I even burned some granola – they loved it! And if they don’t – then at least I tried.

Since I am all about full disclosure, above is a photo of my broken cake. For me the overarching lesson in this is to be flexible in the kitchen and do not get too attached to the expected outcome. I might invent something new or at the very least make a friend very happy and what could be better than that!

I send you big love from my kitchen on the small island