Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Time to Throw the Towel In

I've blogged before about my inability to bake; even the Little Guy confidently tells everyone that whatever I bake turns out like a hockey puck. I steer well clear of pastry endeavours these days, but cakes and bread, I still seem to think I can manage. I mean, with all the photos in those recipes, you can't really go wrong can you?

My two sons love to bake, and the Man-Child seems to have the golden touch. Anything he tries (from pound cake to cheese cake) comes out scrumptious and pleasing to the eye. The Little Guy loves to help measure things out although he's always suspiciously absent when the mess has to be cleared up.

Plus of course, when I'm in the kitchen with any of my kids, I have delusions of fabulousness in the mothering department. I mean come on - time with your offpsring and making home made stuff at the same time? Hand over that Mother of the Year award.

Sadly though, despite my enthusiasm and efforts, it may be time to throw the towel in. There's no denying my uselessness.

Last week I made a Tuscan loaf as we have a rosemary plant that is overburdened. Things went downhill from the very start when the damn yeast did nothing on top of the water. No fizz or foam as the recipe predicted. Leafing through the trouble-shooting section of the recipe book, it told me to add a bit of sugar to make the yeast froth. Still nothing. I soldiered on and made the bread anyway. It made the house smell fabulous and made me feel all holy and earthy.

The loaf did in fact increase in size when it was left to rise, and the end result was passable even though it had a bit of a yeasty taste about it. When I quizzed a bread-making friend about my epic fail, she suggested that the yeast was dead. What? I didn't know yeast could die. I mean it says Live Yeast on the packet, but I didn't really think it was mortal. I must admit however that it had been languishing in the pantry for more than a few years so yes, perhaps it's time to try the bread again with yeast that's still breathing.

Then on Friday, to alleviate the boredom that is the wait-for-the-school-term-to-begin, the Little Guy and I made a Sticky Lemon Polenta cake that I found in the Good Housekeep magazine a few weeks ago. With poppy seeds and natural yoghurt in the ingredients, it sounded yummy. All went fabulously; no spills, cuts or burns.

Turning to the instructions for the lemon icing, we read "Put the remaining sugar.....". Screech! What remaining sugar? Oh fer Pete's sake. Yes, indeed. I'd just gone and put all 9oz of sugar in the damn cake instead of 7 hadn't I? Still, we decided to leave it in the oven anyway.  Not having ever taken a cookery class in my life, I had no idea what the impact of two extra ounces of sugar would be.

I should have poured it all out and started again to avoid the disappointment on the Little Guy's face. It came out of the tin in one piece but was all dark brown on the sides and very sunken on the top.

To be fair, this is the underside, after I'd wallopped some of my frustration out of it.  Yes, the sides were rather caramelised but the middle was alright. Ish.
In the end, I mashed it all up, put some more lemon juice in the mix (to counterbalance the extreme sweetness) and we had it with ice cream. Really quite nice.

We're considering making it again - with the correct quantities!



  1. Oh I gave up trying to bake a loooooong time ago!

  2. You sound as if you're as good as me when it comes to baking....

  3. Baking, unlike cooking, is an exact science and you do need to follow the recipe exactly. That said, it would help if recipes were exact. On another note, I thought of you today, had lunch with a firned that used to live in Chicago.

  4. Yeah we had a bit of disaster with dead yeast before (it does die, and you will certainly kill it if you use too hot water (yeast likes between 20-37C)). We decided for anything critical to use fresh yeast if possible, not the dried stuff and it seems to work fine.

  5. It must be a family trait as I can't bake either. I usually blame the oven.

    I managed to make jam the other day but anything that involves whisking etc is doomed. I even buggered up a plum crumble the other day and surely that should be foolproof.

  6. Trish - even I can do a crumble. Shame on yersel.
    Susanna - I think the brown sugar was the wrong kind. The recipe called for brown castor sugar and all we can get here is golden sugar which isn't the same. Oh well. Best to follow American recies I suppose.

  7. My kids were so excited when last night's chicken came out really juicy and tender. I could just see them carefully choosing their words. Whatever ... I don't particularly have any desire to be the world's best chef.

  8. Martha Stewart would be very, very disappointed with you.

  9. I can do the baking bit but add a couple of children to the mix and forget it. I always end up swearing and the thing being baked ends up in the bin and we all have to go out for a walk to calm down. Domestic bliss!

  10. Glad to know someone else is as useless as me at baking. I usually cheat and buy ready made pastry, otherwise it's solid and like cardboard. My cakes also never rise. My last attempt to make a no-fat birthday cake for my husband was sadly disappointing. All that anticipation from everyone, only to bring out something as flat as a pancake. Everyone said it tasted OK, but.... StillI can do bread!

  11. I am SOOOOO glad I am not the only person here who cannot bake for tuppence.

    Actually I was coerced into making a cake with Widget on Monday - it was his 5th birthday after all - and left him to do most of the mixing and pouring and stirring.
    Not only was the place cleaner post event, but the cake wasn't half bad either.

    But that's as far as it goes. Once a year is more than enough!

    LCM x

  12. I've used Betty Crockers "New Cookbook" for many years. Never had a failure from it.

  13. lol, I also blogged about baking in our house this morning! But I knew better than to take any part in it!

    But don't throw in the towel. The carmelizing sounds like a delicious mistake, and besides, practice makes perfect!


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