Thursday night was another interesting one at my house. I attempted to make a dessert for a party on Friday night. Now for those of you who read faithfully each week, you understand the problems I have in the kitchen.
The food sees me coming, and that’s it – it’s over. No matter how well I read a recipe, how carefully I measure, or what ingredients I use, it just doesn’t seem to work out for me. But hell, it’s fun to take a stab at it now and then, because the law of averages guarantees that once in awhile, things will work out.
I wanted to make a dessert that my daughter had made at Christmas time, but found I didn’t actually have the recipe. As I perused my green binder that contains actual culinary successes (yes, there surprisingly have been more than a few), I found another recipe that I thought could work just as well.
There were three recipes for the same dessert. I must have gone to a party where I had tried it and just loved it, and then found it on the Internet and printed off three versions to look into at a later date. It’s the recipe for Salted Nut Roll dessert, and it is marvelous. Only five ingredients, which makes it fabulous in my book.
When I evaluate a recipe, I look at the list of directions. If it has too many ingredients or too many directions, it’s a no-go. I don’t have a lot of patience, which is part of the problem, and I’ve learned that fussy recipes only make me want to throw the bowl of whatever I am making at the wall.
One recipe had eight steps of directions, which made me want to cry. The second recipe had eight sentences of directions. Much better. The third recipe had four sentences of directions, and congratulations – we had a winner!
When you don’t cook much, things are much more difficult because you aren’t familiar with the vernacular and there are a lot of opportunities to mess up that you may not realize at first glance.
Plus, cooking is one thing – baking is another. Baking is just optional cooking to me. Who would choose to bake if you really didn’t have to? It’s always been a mystery to me. That said, baking takes a whole separate energy level for me. I make sure I get a good night’s sleep and am in a good mood before even pulling out the pans in order to ensure success, not to mention fewer holes in my drywall.
Prep time said 30 minutes. I had all the pans and ingredients ready, so I jumped right in. ‘Melt the first set of ingredients,’ the directions said. So I took a large pan and added the butter, peanut butter chips and sweetened condensed milk. So far, so good.
“Melt” doesn’t indicate how hot the heat needs to be, so I had to guess. I vaguely remembered something from home ec in high school about making candy and working with sugar and using lower temperatures, so I put it on low.
It didn’t seem like anything was happening, so I turned the heat up to the next setting. Ah, now that’s more like it. Things were melting, and I was stirring. What to stir with, though? I tried a rubber scraper, then tried switching to a wooden spatula. Both had good and bad things going for them.
I’m still not sure which was correct, but things were melting so fast now that it didn’t matter. Then I noticed an odd smell, and realized that the stuff was burning to the bottom of the pan. I don’t cook much, but I do know that sizzling sound is something you are trying to avoid.
I took everything off the heat and stirred even more vigorously, trying not to incorporate the burned stuff into the mix while doing so, and I actually did pretty well.
The second direction was to add the rest of the ingredients. I could see I’d need a big bowl, so I grabbed one and started mixing it all up. Sticky stuff in that recipe, and it went pretty much all over.
I used even more utensils trying to figure out the best way to mix it all up and keep the stuff from sticking to itself, but that was okay, because there was a lot to lick clean when it was all said and done.
I did totally forget to butter the pan before beginning to dump it all in, and remembered just as the first dollop hit, so I put it back and quickly washed and buttered the pan. I was never one to read through everything before beginning, gets me every time. Oh, well.
From there on, everything went pretty well. I was pretty proud of myself. I took a break and texted a friend or two, and noticed that I hadn’t wiped my hands as well as I thought.
There was sticky stuff all over the phone, and it was getting worse as I checked for more. I looked at the bright side – not everyone can say they have the best tasting phone in town!
It was getting late, and the baking had taken every ounce of energy I had, so I left things as they were after putting the dessert in the fridge. I figured I would clean up in the morning. This is just one joy of living alone, no judgement.
Coming downstairs to the kitchen in the early morning light to let the dog out, I took a fresh look at the kitchen counter. It was a very amusing mess. It looked like a bunch of children had come in and tried to help Mom make something yummy. It made me laugh, since that was a pretty appropriate summation of the project.
It took me awhile, but I got things back in order. One thing I am very good at is cleaning up. After all, I’ve had a lot of experience getting burned stuff off the bottom of a cooking pan.
Originally published June 14, 2013.