There was a night two weeks ago when I decided I did not want to watch TV. Which was really weird, because it was Thursday night--only the BEST TV night of the whole week--and they were even doing that whole 30 Rock live show thing (which I found kind of uncomfortable to watch.) Instead, I decided I would bake.
I also, however, did not want to go to the store. So I made a sweet treat using whatever I could find in the house, which resulted in white cupcakes. But I was out of powdered sugar, so instead of a buttercream frosting, I had to make a "7-minute frosting," which is sort of like hot sugary meringue, but in a good way. I sprinkled these suckers with coconut and brought them to work, which made people happy. Apparently, they were good!
So then I got to thinking, you know what? I should enter our company's bake-off next week!!
I was feeling good. I was on a roll! I could just TELL that I was going to make something delicious. Like, "who knew Liana was such a good baker" delicious. I photocopied my recipe out of Alabama Studio Style--the chocolate tartlets recipe--and I marked it all up with my super fancy additions so that they would become souped up Mexican Chocolate Tartlets. Delicious, right? Add cinnamon here, a little orange zest there, some chopped almonds, a little coffee instead of water. Nom nom nom...
I had a lot going on. And things were going pretty well! But along the way, I started to remember some of my baking failures from the past. Just in the last year, there was the recipe that I tested for Baked Explorations--an orange pudding in which I failed to temper the egg yolks before adding to the double boiler. Have you ever strained scrambled eggs from an orange pudding? Well, I have. NOT YUMMY. That experiment resulted in, literally, filling the baked pie shell with flavored whipped cream and serving that for dessert. Before that, there was the chocolate cake that was delicious, but a tad too moist. When a "slice" was put on a plate, it couldn't hold its shape, and dinner guests couldn't help themselves from making poo innuendos. (And who could blame them??? I love my friends.) About a week after that was the failed jello. I put sliced kiwis in it, not knowing that the liquid would leach out and throw off the delicate chemistry that makes jello gel. So yes, I have even failed at jello.
My baking track record over the last year or so has been about 1 success in every 5. And as I stirred the chocolate for the tartlets, I realized I had just had my one success the previous week with the cupcakes...uh oh.
I shook off my doubts and kept baking. The tartlet shells were rustic, but cute. The meringue had character. The chocolate...little messy. But whatever, this was just an amateur bake off.
It wasn't till the morning that I realized meringue is never a good "make the night before" bake-off entrant. The meringue had sort of started to liquefy and settle into itself, beading up with sweat like, as Paula Deen would say, "a fat girl writing her first love letter." I knew I was in trouble. And then I got on the subway. Fifteen minutes of spooning-a-stranger-while-standing later, I was at work with a smooshed mess of sticky, melty, chocolatey tartlets with utterly harranged meringue. My desk at work looked like a surgeon's triage tent. Of the 22 tartlets I brought, ten made it to the plate. And then, when I brought my plate to the judge's table, I almost laughed out loud. The baked goods that my coworkers brought were SO amazing, SO professional looking, and SO delicious. Not to mention, people actually brought in their own fancy plates and trays from home to present their goodies. I had no idea! My tartlets were perched on two paper plates, one labeled "with nuts;" the other said "without (I hope)." At that moment, I awarded myself a "participant" medal and walked away.
Needless to say, I did not win. Ivy, our lovely managing editor, won with some scarily professional looking peanut butter cake thing from Martha. She even wrote about it at the STC Cooks Blog! And dear Dervla was runner-up with her yummy Mississippi Mud Pie. (You'll get 'em next year, Dervla!! I believe in you!) And me? In addition to my self-proclaimed award of "participant," I also learned a little something about myself: Baking is not my forte. And I am totally okay with that.
Back to the sewing and knitting for me...!