A Spicy Perspective

Have you ever cooked something that ended up looking comically different than the recipe?

This happened to me recently. Four times.

It all started with homemade pretzel mix. I didn’t even know you could make pretzels at home–I thought they required thousands of dollars of equipment and at least two Oompa Loompas. But apparently you can do it, and it’s really not difficult with these mixes. Just add water, let it rise, then form the dough into pretzels.

It was at that stage in the pretzel making that I decided not to carefully roll and shape the pretzels. Instead, I dropped handfuls of dough directly onto a baking sheet and put it in the oven. I figured it would taste the same, and for the most part it did.

creamy-roasted-red-pepper-chicken-skillet-8Then I decided I need some beer cheese dip to enhance the pretzels. That’s when a Google search helped me discover A Spicy Perspective, which would soon become my greatest friend and my worst enemy. In three attempts at making different recipes from the site, I haven’t even come close to matching the beautiful photos on that website.

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of my attempts, as they were far from photo worthy and I had no idea I would fail aesthetically enough times to justify a blog entry.

The beer cheese dip came first. It’s basically beer, cream cheese, and pepper jack cheese. Stir it until it’s creamy, then dip pretzels into it.

Super easy, right? There’s absolutely no reason it shouldn’t look like the photos on A Spicy Perspective. Instead, my version looked like curdled milk.

Next came the creamy roasted red pepper chicken skillet. The photo caught my eye, and I had to make it. I honestly don’t know what went wrong on this one, but my version looked like I poured curdled milk over some flimsy chicken. Maybe cream cheese is my nemesis.

I decided not to use cream cheese at all for my latest attempt, French hot chocolate. I had fond memories of drinking this in Paris in 2002, so I tried to recreate those memories in my kitchen. The result ended up looking like curdled chocolate milk.

My takeaway from this experience is that I’m really good at making things that look like curdled milk.

Tell me your stories of failed attempts at making food. I want to hear them.

7 thoughts on “A Spicy Perspective”

  1. Over the years, I’ve had many kitchen disasters and I blame Pinterest for most of them (and for allowing me to think that I’d be able to duplicate a recipe that is advertised as “easy,” and then includes the most complicated list of ingredients and instructions you can imagine).

    One of the worst fails I’ve had was a baking disaster last year. I attempted to make a dessert called a Pavlova, which is essentially a fancy meringue cookie topped with a layer of fresh whipped cream and sliced fruits. The version I wanted to make called for a special kind of cherry, freshly shaved dark chocolate curls, and instead of being cookie size, it was 2 pie sized meringues that were supposed to be stacked. I spent the better part of an afternoon precisely measuring the ingredients using a food scale (the recipe was in metric and it was easier to use the scale than try to convert it and mess up the proportions), followed by waiting for my egg whites and sugar to be the right consistency using my stand mixer, then carefully following the directions to pour my batter onto parchment paper before baking at a low temperature for about an hour. As soon as the timer dinged to let me know they were supposed to be done, I gently removed the baking sheets from the oven, and placed them on cooling racks as instructed. Once they had cooled the appropriate amount of time, I decided it was time to start assembling my creation…which is when catastrophe struck. I’m not sure what went wrong with the baking process, but as soon as I touched the first giant meringue, it imploded into a powdery mess all over the baking sheet, with no hope of salvaging any portion of it. At this point, I admitted defeat and had to scramble for a solution of a replacement dessert at the last minute (I think I would up faking a mousse with the whipped cream and chocolate). I still want to successfully make a Pavlova, although next time maybe I’ll stick to a smaller scale version since the giant version was such a failure. 🙂

  2. The secret to meringue is to cook it as slowly as possible. Several hours in a slightly warm oven is best. But next time, if you do break the meringue, you’ve instantly got Eton Mess which is basically all the ingredients for pavlova broken up and served in individual glasses 😉

  3. Katy: That’s an epic story! I’m sorry that it didn’t work out after all of that careful preparation.

    Sean: Awesome, thank you for the tip! Perhaps part of the problem is also that I used water instead of chicken stock. 🙂

    Scott: Unfortunately it didn’t occur to me at the time, as nothing I made was photo worthy.


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