As of lately, I have been getting to know failure very quickly and very well. He is like that friend that you do not like but keeps showing up. At breakfast, he sends you emotions on Facebook Messenger. At noon, he calls to say, “hey, what’s up buddy!” and around dinnertime he knocks your door and insists to hang out.
In other words, a lot of my inventions and creations in the kitchen have been disasters. Allow me to show you.
Exhibit 1. The fig, blueberry and banana bread. The bread was a little dense but, overall, it didn’t look too bad. What was the failure? As soon as I cut the first slice, I realized that I had forgotten to add a sweetener.
I drizzled maple syrup on top but it was still extremely so-so.
Exhibit 2. The sweet potato, chocolate and pomegranate.... cake? It looked like black lava and tasted like baby food.
Exhibit 3. A cacao mess. This was my last clean outfit before going to work. Then I stained it with cacao.
There were a couple more, but I did not bother to take photos.
So, what do you do with a failure? You try again. Differently. When it comes to baking and creating original recipes, here is what I have learned from my failures in the kitchen.
Every ingredient and tool has its purpose – get to know it. A weapon is always more powerful in the hands of a knowledgeable user. Research your ingredients and kitchen tools online or ask a local expert, such as a greengrocer or speciality kitchen supply shop. Bon Appetit and Crafty Baking are also useful online tools.
Substituting ingredients means reinventing recipes. Think of recipes as Feng Shui. In a room, every object has been carefully selected and placed to compliment the other objects and create a perfect harmony. However, there is no one single way to create perfect harmony. Once one object has been modified or moved, the others need to be as well. Although the room may look different, it’s purpose and Feng Shui has been restored.
The same with food; once you replace one ingredient from your grandmother’s traditional chocolate cake recipe, all the other ingredients must be adjusted and/or replaced to compliment one another. In the end, you will still have a delicious chocolate cake but one that is completely different from your grandmother’s. Neither is better than the other, they are just different!
Be patient. Some people say the best foods are made of love; I say they are made of patience. Preparation and diligence means less mistakes, and greater chances of awesome results. Bake when you are calm, take your time with each step, measure ingredients accurately and do not skip or cheat a step.
Start small and use your senses. This is straightforward but crucial in order to save time, money and avoid frustration. Work with small batches and pay close attention to your batter – smelling, tasting and feeling.
Do you experiment and make original recipes? What have you learned?