22 September 2010

Learning Experiences

It is probably reasonable to state that I have spent much of my life in the kitchen.  As a child, my mother was the head cook in our family's household, preparing homemade (or semi-homemade) snacks and meals with apparent ease.  Naturally, she wanted to spread her lifelong affinity for cooking to her children, so my sister and I were inducted as our mother's apprentices before when even realized it; she taught us the basics, so that our hesitant use of an Easy-Bake Oven as kids eventually developed into more confident wielding of kitchen knives as teenagers.  As adults, my sister and I still cook regularly in our respective kitchens--years of practice and trial-and-error well under our belts--each nurturing the shared love for cooking first instilled in us from those early experiences.  Improved cookware handling skills and the bit of kitchen intuition that goes along with them are certainly bonuses.


That said, my kitchen intuition only goes so far, and I am not averse to admitting that despite feeling that many of the things I cook can be considered successful and generally enjoyable, I've produced my fair share of cooking failures (at the very least, something not to my own liking).  Normally, I opt to share my successes rather than failures, but frankly, the last few days' worth of kitchen time has not necessarily produced anything that noteworthy.  Also, I believe that mistakes are necessary components of learning and developing skills.  So here is a glance at my latest fail, from the particularly precise realm of baking: biscotti.


I've made biscotti on multiple occasions--those crunchy, twice-baked Italian cookies only enhance my coffee addiction--so this time around, I decided to try to branch out and make own version.  The flavors and ingredients were inspired by a couple preexisting biscotti recipes and another cookie recipe that my sister-in-law particularly enjoyed.  My version was meant to be a fusion of all three cookies, and in the process of forming the dough, all seemed well.  The high volume of almonds--I consulted Veganomicon's Anise Almond Biscotti for proportions--was of some concern, as I've found previously that higher nut content tends to increase crumbliness, but the dough seemed a little wet nonetheless, so I kept the measurement as-is.  I suspect that ignoring my initial doubts contributed to the textural issues that followed; my biscotti were indeed crumbly, even after having allowed the uncut log cool for a complete half hour before slicing, leaving a great deal of crunchy bits along with broken cookies.


Despite their problematic texture, the biscotti were flavored nicely; they weren't too sweet nor overwhelmingly spiced.  However, I still want to make adjustments not only to the flavoring, but also the general composition.  Improving the binding to prevent the cookies from falling apart will be my first priority in tweaking this recipe.  Hopefully, further experimentation will result in a recipe worth sharing at some point.
For now, I leave you with something more positive to counterbalance all of that disappointing experience: pretzels! It's clear by now that I love baking and devouring them.  The recipes I've used so far have also proven rather reliable.  This time, I made the Soft Pretzels from The Joy of Vegan Baking, using bread and whole wheat flours, boiling the pretzels in water and baking soda, and baking at a higher oven temperature.  Those chewy twists were just the thing to offset my failed biscotti attempt.

3 comments:

  1. Call them biscotti crumbles and you'll be fine :D

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree with Mihl ;)
    I suppose we all do that: share our succesful experiments instead of our failures. It's quite logical. But that doesn't mean we don't have failures! Actually, I had looots of them because I learned to cook alone, since I began to cook after becoming vegan and my mum couldn't help me too much (especially in baking).
    I'm just lucky enough to have a father with sweet tooth who will eat almost anything containing sugar. He would think that biscotti crumbles are as great as biscottis ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree with Mihl ;)
    I suppose we all do that: share our succesful experiments instead of our failures. It's quite logical. But that doesn't mean we don't have failures! Actually, I had looots of them because I learned to cook alone, since I began to cook after becoming vegan and my mum couldn't help me too much (especially in baking).
    I'm just lucky enough to have a father with sweet tooth who will eat almost anything containing sugar. He would think that biscotti crumbles are as great as biscottis ;)

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for reading! Your comments are always welcome and appreciated. :)