#117: Bake and Cook
A little humor to remind us that using specified ingredients and directions in a recipe can spell the difference between success or failure.
Thanksgiving is fast approaching, the time of year when many of us will be trying new recipes for our holiday gatherings. Some years back when I was blogging, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about the very real importance of using the specified ingredients and directions when making a recipe for the first time. Some of you may have read it before and may enjoy this reprise, and for those that have not I give you…
A Piechiatrist Hint: Follow the Directions
My friend Joe Yonan, the food and dining editor at the Washington Post posts on Facebook:
"A reader writes to complain that one of my recipes -- fusilli with corn sauce, a favorite! -- was 'very bland.' I respond by asking whether she fully salted the pasta water, added all the salt and cheese called for, and added more salt and pepper to taste as instructed. She responds that she doesn't add salt to anything because of her blood pressure. That gets my blood pressure going, too."
His post starts a rather lengthy thread of responses about how frustrating it is when a well-crafted and tested recipe is changed by a reader who later complains that it doesn't work.
With changes and substitutions you may get lucky and have it turn out, or stumble upon a different way of doing things that work for you but, if you stray too far from the given ingredients and procedure, your results have a very good chance of turning out to be something different than what you are expecting. Good recipes are repeatedly tested and wording is carefully and thoughtfully considered. I strongly suggest that you try a new-to-you recipe exactly as written at least once before changing it and, when and if you do change it, use some common sense. For example, just because flour is white doesn't mean you can swap out any white powder for it.
So, on to this totally imagined fictitious letter that Joe called "Priceless!"
I tried making your recipe for "Joe's Best Apple Pie Ever" to serve at a special family gathering last week. I followed your directions exactly but it didn't come out at all like you said it would. In fact it didn't taste anything like apple pie or even look like a pie for that matter, Joe.
Here’s what I did:
I didn’t have any green apples so I used zucchini squash. They’re both green so it shouldn't have made any difference.
ALL those brown spices you listed…well, I didn’t have them either except for cloves, so I put a tablespoon of cloves in because that is what all the other spices would have added up to if I had had them.
Now, my nephew was home and he had used up all the sugar on his Fruit Loops. He did leave the Cocoa Puffs so I ground up a cup of them and used them to sweeten the filling. I’ve always liked Cocoa Puffs and I knew they would be perfect in the pie, and SO much better than the sugar that you listed.
To thicken the filling I used the last of the garbanzo flour I had. Flour is flour right? Except then I didn’t have any left to make the crust so I used powdered milk.
I cut in the shortening just like your recipe called for but when I added the water? Well, it turned incredibly gloppy, Joe. Then your directions called for me to roll it out. I think it would have been a little more accurate if you had said to spread the glue like gloppy paste onto the bottom of the pie pan.
Speaking of which, I didn’t have a pie pan so I took a spatula and spread your glop over an unheated pizza stone, which I hear is really good for baking in case you were wondering.
Next I spread the green filling on top. It was really runny, Joe. How come you didn’t say what to do about that?
Finally, I put the pie into the oven, turned the heat on, and baked for an hour just like your directions said to do. Then instead of taking my usual afternoon nap, I played solitaire and lost every. single. game.
When the bake came out of the oven, the results were really disappointing. The filling never set up like your directions said it would, and it was the worst crust ever, but I served it anyway since it was the big finish to our celebratory meal and everybody was waiting for "Joe's Best Apple Pie Ever."
Well Joe, it was horrible. Absolutely horrible, and a total waste of my time and ingredients. And you call yourself an expert. Hardly!
A Better Baker Than You
P.S. I think you should refund me the cost of the ingredients.