Have you ever prepared a dessert that looked beautiful but for one reason or another was a total fail? A failed bake is one of my greatest fears. When I cook, I can taste as I go and know that what I am plating tastes fantastic. For many desserts, tasting the finished product will ruin the overall look of your masterpiece.
So, what do I do? Do I send out a dessert on a wing and a prayer and hope that the texture, the structure, the taste of the dessert is stellar? Do I scoop out a bite of that pie? Not me. I am obsessive with both the result of my baking and the process of baking. I do not mind baking every day, even if it is the same thing every day. That is where the nod to Bob Villa’s “measure twice, cut once” enters my kitchen.
Bake Twice, Or Thrice
Every week my family has Sunday dinner. Anywhere from six to sixteen of us might be at dinner and I like to make dessert. Recently I decided to make a basic yellow cake. I had not baked a simple cake in a long time, and I wanted to make sure I brought my family the moistest, fluffiest, and most excellent yellow cake.
I started experimenting on Thursday. I finally had a cake on Saturday that I would be happy to serve on Sunday. So much for bake twice, it took me three tries. Based on my first effort, I was grateful for the time I had to get this cake right. You can read the details of my cake fails; it was an epic adventure.
When I bake a trial balloon, I feel more confident in my final result, and I get a ton of practice.
Learning From Failure
I learn more from my failures. This maxim is true in life and baking. However, we only learn if we take a good hard look at the process to see where we went wrong. Think of failing as an opportunity.
When I make a second attempt at a bake, I try to find one thing I did wrong. Hopefully, it was only one thing! Maybe it is the recipe, or the measuring, or the equipment. Sometimes the failure is something so simple it is hard to find. Maybe I forgot the salt or swapped salt for sugar. In the case of my marshmallow fail, I used too much vanilla. Move slowly, and you will find that thing.
Once I work through the problem, I gain a bit of new knowledge and skill. Learning from failure is like finding that missing puzzle piece on the floor under the table. It is a real Sophoclean Epiphany.
Bake Twice, One Change At A Time
If I change more than one thing on my next attempt, I will not know what fixed the problem. If I add more sugar AND use less salt in my recipe resulting in a better tasting dessert, how do I know what made the cake better? Salt or sugar?
I make changes one at a time and take note of what I did to make your bake better.
So Much Dessert
A ton of desserts is another result of my bake twice practice. What am I supposed to do with so much dessert? Some of my fails are edible, and some are not. When a failed dessert is still edible, my husband is happy to indulge, after which, I throw the disaster in the bin.
When I calculate the cost of ingredients, a redo does not feel like a poor investment. When I figure out what my time is worth, I have to consider the benefit of the effort.
Was it worth all of my time to bake three cakes? Measured by the joy my family got out of my cake, I would say, “yes, totally worth it!”
Here is a reading list for tips that will help you avoid kitchen fails.
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