When baking goes bad.

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September 17, 2012 by kkeerr

I wanted to title this post “Baking Bad,” get it??  While I think I’m a hoot I WWAD’ed and ultimately decided against it. I still feel it is an opportunity missed, but here it goes anyway.

Two lessons about baking.  One is a lesson I learned, the other is a lesson my coffee shop needs to learn.

Lesson One: Expiration dates matter.  Pay attention.
On Sunday, Austin and I were invited over by some friends for dinner and a board game.  Delightful, right? Right.  Austin asked if I wouldn’t mind making some pizza dough to take and bake at their place.  Of course I wouldn’t mind, it is super easy and no-fail. Or is it?
I started the dough at home, around 4 o’clock.  I followed my recipe and started to let it rise on our counter.  Around 5 o’clock I scooped up my towel covered bowl with the dough inside and we headed over to their house.  We arrived about 20 minutes later and I proudly uncovered my dough to reveal a perfectly risen ball of delicious dough  completely, not at all, not even a little risen lump of crap.  That’s correct, instead of doubling in size in that hour it remained completely unchanged.  As gracious hosts (and because this was the base of the planned meal) Drew and Ali (btw, they have a blog over at http://howtonotwatchtv.blogspot.com/) gave an implied “fuck it” shrug and started rolling out the dough for topping and baking.  Austin asked if I added yeast.
 Of course I added yeast..schmuck.  While I gave Austin the pictured “Are you kidding me?” face I was thinking it must be yeast related.  Non-risen dough be damned we topped the pizzas with some pesto, eggplants, tomatoes (Cherokee purple, I believe, from Drew’s parent’s garden), some of Drew and Ali’s homemade mozzarella and basil. Their homemade cheese was awesome and we snacked on some of it with tomatoes and crackers while we waited for the “pizzas” to cook.
15 or so minutes later Ali pulled the flattest pizzas I have ever seen out of the oven.  Since everyone involved is a polite, socially appropriate adult no one complained about the pizza dough.  The toppings tasted great and the crust was, well, not right but edible.
A few hours later Austin and I headed home and as soon as we walked in the door I started investigating (this includes in my trash).  If you haven’t figured it out by now, I soon discovered that the yeast I had used was a year beyond it expiration date.  I have multiple packets of yeast in the cupboard and found 2 more that had expired; when I made the pizza a week or two ago I must have grab a fresh packet.  I was happy to have figured out the problem because that means that I can prevent it from happening again.  Drew and Ali have also earned an invite to have a new proper pizza baked for them at their convenience.
Lesson learned and I have added cleaning out my cupboards to this weekends to-do list.

Lesson Two:  A baker’s dozen.  That 13th can be your taster.
I go to the same coffee shop twice a week.  It is a locally owned place and the baristas are usually just friendly enough to make me enjoy tipping them but not so overly “friendly” that they don’t recognize that small talk makes me uncomfortable.  Anyway, I typically just get a black coffee, sometimes a soy latte (I hate myself a little for even typing that and I am thinking of that scene from Best in Show with Michael Hitchcock and Parker Posey), and do a little reading before work.  Well, the other day I made the mistake of ordering a baked good – it was a muffin, or something pretending to be a muffin.  Whatever it was – it was terrible.  Like shockingly terrible and I was immediately confused about how I, an amateur and what I consider a completely average baker, could make a better muffin than a place that is in the business of selling coffee and things like muffins.  I messed up what is probably the most essential ingredient in my pizza dough and it was still edible at least.  This muffin, not so much.  I don’t know how they got it so wrong.  What were they thinking?  If I’m going to SELL a baked good I am going to make sure it tastes good.
The lesson: Try one before you sell them – or even give them away.  It is that easy.

Tonight I righted the wrong that was created in the universe with that terrible muffin and  made a buffin or a muffkle – it isn’t a muffin, but it isn’t really a buckle either.  I had never tried this recipe before but I am pleased with how they turned out.  It should be noted that before I gave one to Austin or a container of them to my neighbors I tasted one.

Butter, 4 tbs
Sugar, 3/4 cup
Vanilla, 1 1/2 tsp
Flour, 2 cups
Baking powder, 2 tsp
Salt, 1/2 tsp
Milk, 1/2 cup
Apple, half, diced
Blueberries, 1.5-2 cups
Raspberries, 2.5-3 cups

Fresh is always better, but I used thawed (not in this picture) frozen blueberries and raspberries.  You just cream the butter and sugar then add the egg.  Next, add the remaining ingredients (minus the fruit) and mix.  Lastly, fold in the fruit and bake 325 for 30 to 40 minutes.

The pre-baked mess and the final product.  I have a feeling if I had used fresh berries they wouldn’t be so purple, but I don’t know that the color really matters.  Also, you wouldn’t have to bake them in muffin tins – ramekins would work well.


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