Yesterday, I failed on a grand scale in the kitchen. HUGE failure. It would be easy to pretend this didn’t happen. It would make sense to take it in stride and never talk about this failure again. But…if I did that, I’d be defeating one of the purposes of this little blog. Since one of my passions is teaching people how to cook and bake, or at the very least, encouraging people to try recipes, methods, or ingredients that they may not have tried before, I find it just as important to talk about failures in the kitchen as it is successes. It’s probably more important to highlight the failures. I’m lucky enough to have good fortune in the kitchen, but I don’t always have good fortune. No one does. There is not a cook or chef, for that matter, on the face of this planet who hasn’t failed in the kitchen. Remember that, especially those of you who are reluctant cooks and bakers.
My fail? An attempt at creating a cookie that I’ve been considering and creating versions of in my head for months. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about my recipe for my future Gilded Pig cookie. I wanted the cookie dough to be special, the perfect sweet, but simple background for the best bittersweet chocolate and salty bacon I could find or create. Last night, I thought I had found that cookie.
While browsing a new cookbook recently, I found a recipe for a chocolate chip cookie dough that was unlike anything I’d ever seen or tried. Not only did this dough have a lot of ingredients that I never would have considered adding to the basic dough for the CC cookie, but it was a great deal fussier than any cookie recipe I’ve ever tried. The minimalist in me immediately felt like protesting, but the optimist truly hoped that this might be THE DOUGH for the GP cookie.
I had all of the ingredients and I followed all of the directions. I’d even taken the time to read the recipe several times before gathering ingredients and starting the cookie journey. (You should ALWAYS do this, by the way. It saves time and prevents silly mistakes in the process.) As soon as the dough was mixed, I knew that what I hoped would be the right dough, sadly, was not. I hadn’t even baked a single cookie, but I knew. The texture was strange, the dough too complex in flavor, and too soft to really hold the shape I was looking for. I baked the cookies anyway, even though, but this point, my heart really wasn’t in it. What the heck, though? At the very least, I’d have fresh-baked cookies in my cookie jar, right?
Somehow, while standing near my oven, I had bumped the temperature dial from the perfect 350 degrees all the way up to the cookie annihilating temperature of 450 degrees. I think this happened while the first batch was in the oven, because that batch came out ok — only one or two burnt cookies. I never checked the dial though. Which is weird, because I had never burned cookies. I threw the second batch in, and disaster struck. Within minutes, the smell of burning cookie dough filled my house. I ran (literally) to the oven and sure enough, my cookies were badly burned. It took me a few minutes of yelling at the poor burned cookies to finally turn back to my oven and check the dial. And then I screamed….
And then I threw out the rest of the dough….because even if I could get my oven temperature back down, I still knew I really was going to hate these cookies.
My point? Cooking and baking take practice. They involve epic messes and grand successes. Although there are some people out there who are just really good at one or both of these skills, most people are like me. We learn from practice, lots and lots of practice. Not every practice is a stellar one, but it’s after the failed practice rounds that it’s most important to get back in the kitchen and try again. Learning from mistakes and failures is the best, if not the only, way to truly learn. I have a love/hate relationship with mistakes and failure. In the moment when I’ve failed, I hate them. As soon as I’ve cleaned up the mess, I love that I’ve learned more about cooking or baking than I did when I started. It’s important to keep trying until you master that dish, technique, or cookie recipe that is eluding you. You will never regret your quest once you’ve tasted it and savored the moment when you finally got it right!
I’ll keep working on the Gilded Pig…you keep trying that recipe, technique, or ingredient that is giving you trouble. When you get it right, the celebration will be oh so sweet, and your confidence will SOAR!