Thursday, June 10, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: Fear of Failure

Janet here:
I had a moment of cooking panic this week. I had decided to make biscotti, something I'd never attempted before, but no biggie, right? I make new things all the time. And then it all began to go horribly wrong.

I followed the recipe the way I follow all recipes: I take the overall idea of mixing a bunch of stuff together but completely ignore all those little niggly details — aren't they really for people who are afraid to cook? — about sifting, mixing certain dry ingredients together first, using certain equipment etc. I mean, they all end up in the bowl and then in a baking pan anyway so what's the point?

With biscotti, the point, apparently, is that you end up with biscotti that actually looks something like biscotti instead of little biscotti pieces that look as if they aren't full grown yet.

I began to get concerned after I happily dumped all the wet ingredients into the bowl in one fell swoop rather than in batches as suggested. What I had after mixing was just a bunch of dough pieces. Nothing was holding together. The recipe said to take the dough out of the bowl and place it on the counter for kneading. Maybe, I reasoned, kneading would pull my dough together. Nope. After kneading and kneading and kneading and getting nothing to hold together in a way that was supposed to yield a 10" log about 3 inches in diameter, I gave up and just made balls of dough at whatever size I could force to hold together. It looked like this.

Now the story has a (mostly) happy ending, which I will share with you tomorrow when I reveal the full recipe and the final product. But in the meantime, I learned something about myself and about cooking. First, I am not used to having anything turn out other than fabulous, and I was not happy when things began to spin out of control. How would I explain this to the family — okay, Rachel, because of course there is a competitive streak to this little collaboration of ours. And, finally, it turns out instructions are there for a reason and that, yes, they do apply to me. Seems like this little baking adventure stirred up more than just flour and eggs.

1 comment:

  1. Humbling, huh? I had a baking disaster a few months ago and remember standing in the kitchen loudly proclaiming " I don't HAVE baking failures!".
    And after too many uneasy moments trying to remember the count, I now measure all of the flour first (by weight into a cool cup-shaped scale). I think that aging will bring with it many more adaptive behaviors....