It is easy enough to make yourself look like a domestic Goddess when blogging. Everything is shiny and clean, the cookies are golden and no one cries while eating raw cookie dough when yet another batch of baking comes out flat/hard/burnt/tasteless/inedible.
I am about six minutes away from 40 and have somehow managed to arrive at this age without any of my own tried and true "just like Grandma used to make" baking secrets.
Oh, I can make stuff look pretty, that much I can do. I am a master of pretty deception.
A cake I made for my sister Sarah's wedding day. I sugared daisies (which FYI are NOT a tasty edible flower) and plopped them on top of a rock hard "from scratch" cake. Seriously - like potential weapon hard. I dumped enough sugar on it all to make it sparkle (when in doubt lipstick and rouge the crap out of it).
My kids first birthday cupcakes. The little marzipan birds and chocolate nests turned out, but the first batch of "from scratch" cupcakes were my usual brand of scrub sponge tough. In the end I used a boxed mix, after making 50 or so the Rachel way first.
There is nothing wrong with box mixes, or using icing from a can - except I would really like to be able to do it all myself (and well). The main problem is this: I have attention recipe disorder. I half read recipes, I try to improvise and if I realize at the last minute I am missing an ingredient I just leave it out - or clever up a substitute. A friend pointed out (when I was bemoaning my craptastic skills on Facebook) "cooking is art, baking is chemistry".
Makes sense. Hadn't ever really thought about it that way before. I improvise when cooking all the time, and it usually works out. Baking not so much. I will leave you with a shot of just one of my many goofs this past Holiday...
Shortbread Rachel Style - (do not attempt)
Look in Joy of Cooking for a shortbread recipe.
When you can't find one that really fits the bill just decide that Scottish Shortbread will
Disregard the fact that this recipe is actually a loaf - and the suggested method of
preparation for it is to bake the crap out of it, and then go at it with a sharp knife - an
alarm bell should be going off in most peoples heads right now. Most people.
Proceed like you are in your right mind.
Substitute whole wheat flour for regular flour (to be fair the Joy of Cooking talked fancy and said I could). Whole wheat flour has a place, and decadent Holiday treats ain't it.
Cut out the cookies and then BAKE THEM FOR 45 MINUTES.
Now, if you bake you know that this is ridiculous. Shortbread cookies are ready in about a quarter of that time...like - don't quote me - 10 or so minutes.
Serve them to your kids - who emphatically say "No thanks"! to a second.
Serve them to your husband who suggests they taste like "high end dog biscuits".
Suggest to your husband an alternative place to store said cookies.
Secretly serve them to your dog (whom you have witnessed, on numerous occasions,
eating her own poop). Stare in disbelief as the traitor hound sniffs your baked offerings
and walks away in a huff.
Lather, rinse, repeat. (I also tried meringues - which never, ever work, but I am nothing
if not tenacious). AND gingerbread, which my hubby said were delicious, but
I think he was nervous of me running screaming into the night leaving him to single dad
these two nutcases.
They look pretty don't they? All sparkly and cozy laid against a pretty vintage plate. DO NOT BELIEVE IT PEEPS! IT IS A SHAM - A LIE!
Now that I have outed myself I will further dig this hole I am in by stating, online...
Resolution #2 for 2012
I, Rachel Riordan will stop thinking I am more clever than whomever riddled out whatever baked good I am attempting to recreate. I will just FOLLOW THE FRIGGING RECIPE. I will NOT improvise. I will accept my limitations in this area and work to improve my skills. OR after attempting to improve myself simply say screw it, accept my limitations and buy cookies at the store thusly saving myself the inevitable breakdown. Peace. xo