Diverted dessert disaster, with recipe


salt crystals

I’m beginning to wonder whether I ought to consider doing a regular feature called Kitchen Calamities, or maybe Food Fiascos. Culinary Crises?* I’m all about alliteration today. Here’s the latest.

I’ve mentioned that I’m a baker of a wide variety of things (English Muffins, Banana Cream Pie, and Blackberry Crisp, to mention a few). Being in my kitchen-away-from-kitchen involves some adaptation in equipment, ingredients, and expectations, but we’re usually happy with what we’ve been able to put together. Ninja had mentioned that he had dreamed of chocolate chip cookies, so for our Family Home Evening treat† I thought I’d see what kind of approximation I could come up with.

We were almost out of butter, and despite the fact that I walk the two blocks to the grocery store a few times a week, I decided instead to consider recipe substitutions. I added what was left of the block of butter, an equal amount of the spreadable oil/butter mix we call “better butter,” and some “cheese for to spread,” approximately cream cheese. All this totaled 100 grams. I poured in 200 grams of sugar, stirred a bit, and went to the cupboard looking for leavening, at which point I found the sugar, and let out a pained howl. AAAAAHHHH!


Ninja was engrossed in a book featuring werewolves, so my outburst must have melded in with his internal soundtrack, but el Guapo came in to find out how I’d injured myself. In finding the sugar, I realized that the jar from which I had just poured 200 grams into the last of our butter was in fact not the sugar but the salt.

Though I have heard stories of this sort of mishap, this is not something I have ever done before. In my kitchen in New England, the sugar is in a canister, and the salt in a small lidded yogurt cup, dating from a time long years ago when yogurt cups were sturdy and always came with a lid (this was after pioneer times, but before many of you were born, I know). Neither of these containers has a readable label anymore, but they’re well established in the geography of the kitchen, and no one confuses them.

In our Valencian kitchen, we make do with what we have at hand. The salt lives in a jar that started life housing white beans; I can’t remember what used to live in the jar that now holds the sugar. As it happens, the two jars bear an unfortunate resemblance to one another, and their Sharpie labels are no longer very legible.

salt, sugar, cookies copy

The new salt bottle, the old salt bottle, and the sugar, the one I was trying for all along.

Where was I? Wailing in the kitchen, having poured salt all over the last of the butter. These are the times that try cooks’ souls. But these are also the times when we must get inventive, perforce. I had started to mix what I thought was the sugar into the butter et al., but I hadn’t actually gotten very far.

Remembering that in the process of making butter one of the steps is to rinse your yellow lump, this is what I did–I fetched it over to the sink, dunked it in some water and rinsed it off as well as I could. I then measured out more better butter, more “cheese for to spread,” and was suitably thankful that I had discovered my mistake before dumping in the chocolate bits–at that point, rinsing would not have answered.

washing butter

Washing 1,000 pounds of butter, Cohocton, N.Y.

El Guapo commented that the container mix-up was the sort of thing he would have done, and was not at all like me. I’m quite glad it was me and not him–having the cookie dough filled with salt was bad enough without me being exasperated at him, a state that would likely have resulted. As it was, I had only myself to be irritated with;  for a wonder, I managed to avoid even that.

One of the nicest things to come out of this dessert debacle is that it gives me an excuse to show you a little video I love, by Brené Brown. I’m encouraged to see in myself a certain amount of progress. Though I wailed when I discovered my mistake, it did not occur to me to blame anyone at all, even Steve.

Despite my distracted gaffe, the second attempt at cookies worked out reasonably well. El Guapo and Ninja liked them fine. For myself, I confess that it felt like there was something missing–they could have used just a little more salt.

Invented as it was on the fly, this recipe isn’t likely to win at the county fair, but in case you’re curious about our misadventure, it looked something like this:

35 g. butter, excessively salted, then rinsed
35 g. better butter (50/50 mix of oil and butter)
30 g. light cream cheese
200 g. sugar
1 egg
75 g. all-purpose flour
125 g. whole wheat flour
shy half teaspoon baking soda
50-75 g. chopped milk chocolate
If you skip the “salt the butter excessively” step, you’ll want to add a little to the dry ingredients–perhaps a scant half teaspoon.

We set the oven at a little shy of 7 o’clock (not really sure, but probably between 375 and 400 F) and baked them for about 10 minutes.

By their very nature, culinary crises are not something you plan, but I am a bit curious about what my next post in this series will entail. Stay tuned!

*The Yeast Beast was the kitchen calamity before last. As wise folks are always telling you to do, I got right back on the horse, er, beast. Here’s a picture of round two. It’s still got a beasty look, but all of the dough stayed inside the pan. It turned out just as I’d hoped.

Yeast Beast 2.0

Yeast Beast 2.0

†Mormon Family Home Evening isn’t always on Monday evening, and it’s not always at home. Sometimes it doesn’t involve the whole family. But with impressive regularity it involves some sort of “refreshments.” I was working on the means by which we would be refreshing ourselves Monday night when I had that little “mistaken identity” moment.

[Images: Wikimedia commons, Oregonzoo.org, el Guapo, NY Public Library, el Guapo again]

3 thoughts on “Diverted dessert disaster, with recipe

  1. Kudos on making it work. Once when our friend Vera came to dinner, (do you remember the lady who came and played her Glass Harmonica? She still plays at Harvard square all the time.) I was apologizing for our very flat and chewy chocolate chip cookies because my young assistant had apparently left out a cup or more of flour. Vera assured us it wasn’t a disaster, just a variation. It turned out to be a tasty one at that!
    Another dinner, this time with Mary and Vern, I think some of the cookies had been eaten before dinner and I said I probably should hurry and throw some more in the oven. They let me know they LOVE cookie dough, and could we just serve up that for dessert? I love when people are like family and you can dispense with certain formalities, like baking the dough.

  2. Pingback: Gone to the dark side | Lori Notes

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