Sunday, January 26, 2014

Where recipes go to die

What do you call the tall plastic container in your kitchen into which you throw waste?  In the US it is a trash can.  In the UK it is a rubbish bin.  Well, everywhere in the UK except my house.  At my house it's called The Food Graveyard.  Most recently buried (in the past 24 hours) there's been meatloaf, blueberry muffins, Yorkshire puddings, and toffee cake.  I wish I was exaggerating.

How. Can. This. Be. So. Damn. Difficult.  Seriously.  On paper, as I write it, I look and feel like a total idiot. I can't explain it.

First, the meatloaf.  I was following a recipe from that dandy new cookbook I mentioned look at the ingredients you'd be really excited to try this dish....ground beef, onions, fresh herbs, balsamic glaze.  But once you got past the outer part, the inside was gross.  Perhaps I mis-measured some of it - I had to use the scale (things were in grams) and use the metric system (millilitres).  Or maybe it's just best to always grill (BBQ) or fry ground beef. Who knows.

This morning, in an attempt to give the boys a nice breakfast surprise, I decided to make blueberry muffins.  What ruined them was actually just an oversight...not a measuring error or mystery reason. Tell me what's wrong in this picture:

I completely forgot to add the blueberries.  I noticed the can AFTER I put the muffins in the oven.  So then I thought then that perhaps it would be just a muffin - not a blueberry one, but still the tasty cakey part.  However, apparently there's something to adding the berries, and despite being completely baked, the muffin tasted like raw batter.  And I mean it - the first bite went straight from the mouth to the trash can. Son 1 tried it first and gagged - so why I decided to try it as well was pretty dumb - except that I wanted to say,"No, Son 1, you're crazy. These muffins are great!  I should skip the blueberries more often!"

Tonight I was going to redeem myself with a roast and Yorkshire puddings. For Americans, I'll explain what that is.  The Yorkshire pudding is sort of like bread.  It's made primarily of flour, milk, and eggs.  It isn't particularly overly flavorful - not salty or sweet. It is individual servings made in muffin cups...similar to a mini bread cup that would presumably hold gravy.  Mine, however, were more like a gelatinous, bread-ish, tasteless substance for which there wasn't enough gravy in all of Europe.

I followed the recipe to the exact gram....12 Yorkshire puddings in muffin cups. And now 11 Yorkshire puddings are resting on top of the blueberry muffins, which are on top of the meatloaf.  Unfortunately there's no cork from the bottle of wine I should have drank after the night I had in the kitchen.  I somehow miraculously resisted the urge to open a bottle and drink it all after the next debacle I will now share.

So one of my favorite things to eat here is anything that is toffee flavored.  I spent three weeks straight eating sticky toffee pudding at least once a day. Sticky toffee pudding is a warm mini cake with melted toffee sauce on it. Divine. I wasn't actually tired of eating it, even after three weeks, but I was pretty disgusted with myself so I put a stop to the practice.  

Anyway, I found a recipe for toffee cookie bars - it was in Food Network magazine, in fact, my last real paper issue, as I've had to switch to digital since moving.  The measurements were American; for example, it called for two sticks of butter. Butter here is in squares and is measured in grams...looks nothing like a stick of butter in the US. So I had to go online to figure out how many tablespoons are in a stick of American butter, and then how many grams are in a tablespoon, and then figure how much British butter I needed for the recipe. It was like a story problem from math class in sixth grade. 

I followed the recipe....butter, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour - I didn't miss a single ingredient. I lined the pan with parchment paper - which yes, constitutes a lot of work, as I mentioned in my last post - but that was how committed I was to this dessert.  I put it in the oven, set the timer, and at the right time, I stuck the knife in the middle, as the recipe called for, to see if it came out clean.  Not yet - so I added a few more minutes to the timer. When that went off, I tried another knife test.  Still gooey.  I added more time. At the prompting of the timer, I tried again with another knife - STILL soupy. Are you seeing a pattern here?  Yeah.  Let's just say that the sink had a lot of knives with squishy toffee cake on them before I threw in the towel. The cake wasn't going to bake any more than it already had, and I was on the third food failure of the day - the fourth in 24 hours. 

Despite the fact that it was a nasty mess in the middle, the cake had been "baking" for an hour and smelled fabulous.  So when Husband asked, "When's that cake going to be ready?  It smells delicious," I started crying and said it wasn't ready, and it wasn't going to be ready, and that I had ruined yet another meal.  He laughed, in an attempt to lighten my mood and to show me that it wasn't a big deal - which made me shriek, "It's not funny!" which, of course, made him laugh harder because, really, it was hilarious. Ten minutes later Son 2 came down and asked, "Can I cut this cake?" and five minutes after that, Son 1 asked if he could have some of that cake in the kitchen. (It was too hot to throw away just yet.)  I won't tell you how I responded to their questions and subsequent disappointment at my answer. I know they've filed it away in their heads to be used as fuel for their skepticism toward all future dishes I prepare. 

A tiny light of hope comes from the fact that the roast was pretty good.  It could have been a bit more tender, but it was pink and juicy and flavorful. So I've got that going for me.  If we can salvage one bit of a meal every 24 hours around here, we might be okay.

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