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Posts tagged ‘failed recipe’

Panna Cotta – Under Construction! {a little help over here…please!}

Okay readers.  Clearly, I am in need of your help, your collective knowledge and wisdom, your trial and error experience with the seemingly simple (any-idiot-should-be-able-to-make-it) Italian dessert – panna cotta.

Don’t get excited…I did not make this one…


I made this one.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a perfect panna cotta is not supposed to look like this…

Seriously…I’ve searched and searched for clues as to why it separated…and I can find none.  I repeat…NONE!  I followed the recipe exactly.

Okay not e-x-a-c-t-l-y…but very close.  Instead of using vanilla, I used Meyer lemons as the flavoring, the juice and some of the zest.  I bloomed the gelatin and heated the milk, stirred it altogether to make sure it was good and mixed…I poured it into little ramekins and let it cool a bit and then put them in the fridge.

(and what’s worse…I served them to my in-laws who were visiting…who were more than polite and delved right in as if eating gelatinized milk with a weird-looking yellowish layer on top was nothing other than sheer delight – luckily they are good-humored individuals!)

It tasted fine as well…but the bi-level layering and the yellowish top layer was a bit hard to get past.

So what happened, huh?

Attempt number two is happening this afternoon…but, if that one doesn’t turn out.  I may have to throw in the panna cotta towel.

{I’m counting on you, readers, to pull me out of panna cotta hell and tell me what went wrong!  Puh-lease!}

oh…and Happy Mother’s Day!


I made a second batch yesterday afternoon using a Mark Bittman recipe for Vanilla Buttermilk Panna Cotta.  The process varied quite a bit, and I was sure it would work out this time.  Many have thought that my issue may have been caused by the acid in the lemon juice – but yesterday’s recipe contained no lemon at all!  I was feeling very confident and pulled one out of the fridge after dinner and dug my spoon in…only to find that once again…full separation.

At this point, panna cotta and I are in a fight…a big one, and currently, I’m holding a big grudge.  We’ll have to talk it over at some point but I think right now I need some space!  GEEZ!

So I now request your help once again…or I’m going to start email-stalking Bittman himself until he discovers the error of my ways!



Spicy Brownies & Chocolate Disaster Cake

Say you’re asked to take part in a Chocolate Cake Challenge in honor of friends moving out-of-state, that will take place at a ‘going away dinner’ in their honor.  You have weeks to prepare…and you think about what adventurous recipe you might tackle.  The Chocolate Cake Challenge, despite its name does not require the entry be in cake form.  It just needs to have chocolate as one of the main components of the dish.  I pondered a savory enter of mole, perhaps cream puffs with a chocolate bacon drizzle, homemade hot cocoa, a frozen chocolate treat perhaps; the choices are infinite.  I ultimately decide on Decadent Chocolate Cake – the most commonly baked cake in my parent’s house.  My brothers enjoy this not only as an evening dessert, but a perfect morning shot of sugar – breakfast cake.

Now consider as well, that this evening competition was scheduled to take place the day after the dreaded and stressful Tax day of April 15, and let’s say that, unlike previous years, you were one of those procrastinators who lost all track of time, and had the “holy %$#*&” moment a few days prior,  realizing that THIS Thursday, taxes were due.  Assuming all this is true…here is the play-by-play of the events that led to the following disaster success, no, well, both really.

Here’s the series of events:

  • 6:30 pm – Liz arrives at grocery store to purchase important ingredients for Decadent Chocolate Cake according to the Connelly family cookbook including Bakers Bitter Chocolate squares.
  • 7:15 pm – Liz spends 45 minutes at the store in shock and disbelief that they do not carry the necessary Bakers unsweetened chocolate…AT ALL.  They carry semi-sweet baking squares, chocolate chips, dark chocolate, peanut butter chips, toffee chips, dark chocolate bars…but seriously, no Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate Squares.  Liz searches her magical internet phone for exact cacao % and tries to match it to some substitute ingredient.  If you’re a Cohen brothers movie fan, this is the first moment that things begin to go wrong…which then of course leads to continual small disasters and ultimately ends with someone’s life in ruins – think Fargo.  I should have known I was doomed.
  • 7:45 pm – Liz arrives home with take out dinner and ingredients…and begins baking.  Reads recipe over again and thinks…hmmm…that seems like a lot of sugar – 2 cups, really?
  • 8:15 pm – Liz begins mixing…
  • 8:30 pm – Liz forgets to remove the 2 tbsp of flour from the 2 cups called for in the recipe…and thinks crap…maybe I just ruined the cake…but thinks, maybe I’ll add a little vegetable oil to try to avoid a dry cake.
  • 8:45 pm – Egg whites whipped – mixed in – batter looks surprisingly light in color…hmmm…hopefull it’ll darken when it bakes.
  • 8:46 pm – Liz greases and flours the cake pan
  • 8:50 pm – cake goes in to bake for 40-50 minutes.  Smells good…Liz is still thinking it is not totally ruined – there is a chance.
  • 9:40 pm – Liz removes cake from oven after testing with toothpick and it comes out clean.
  • Cake is left to cool for 15 minutes or so, so I can turn it out onto a plate.
  • 10:00 pm – turn cake pan over on plate…nothing happens.  Nothing.  No clunk, no thud, no easing of the cake out of the pan and onto the plate.  Remove plate – shake pan around, use spatula to try to loosen cake from the pan…cake seems loose – place plate on top of pan and flip over one more time.  Wait a few minutes…as if that might help it work.
  • Slowly lift edge of pan and promptly yell “f#$%&@* – I broke the cake!”

Woody:  “How did you break the cake…?  Cakes don’t break”
Liz:  “Well, I did.  So it’s possible.  I broke the cake.”
Woody:  “I don’t get it…?”
Liz:  “Look – 1/2 the cake is still stuck in the pan…and the other 1/2 is on the plate.  Broken. Cake.
Woody:  “You can fix this.  You could peel the pieces stuck in the pan out and glue them back on top – no one would notice…”
Liz: “Okay – now you’re just using crazy talk on me”
Woody: “Well, look at it this way – you won’t have to get up in the morning to make the frosting.”

Woody described the cake as tasting like a sugar cookie (not even a chocolate sugar cookie) hiding in a bundt cake, and in fact, even said, it tastes like something he would eat (read:  I don’t like cake unless it is made with pure sugar (angel food cake) or contains vegetables (carrot cake)).

So, I threw in the towel.

Decadent Chocolate Cake – you and I will meet again someday and this time…you will do as I say, and turn out perfect.

But all was not lost.  Thanks to Woody and his last-minute desire to enter his own chocolate masterpiece.  In the midst of my baking disaster, a chocolate success story was in the making.  Woody made some delicious brownies that incorporated a non-traditional dessert ingredient – Chipotle Chile’s in Adobo.  He made a regular batch of brownies and then added some special ingredients.  I can’t divulge exact amounts – secret recipe and all…and frankly, I don’t even know exactly what he added, although I think there was some adobo sauce, maybe a little garlic powder, a sprinkling of ginger and cumin as well.  All I know is that the kitchen smelled of enchiladas and brownies all rolled into one.

Woody resisted the urge to try one that night and waited until the party the next evening.  The competition was fierce and the voting was very serious.  In order to vote, you had to try every chocolate dish entered in the challenge; tiramisù, chocolate mousse cake, mini-mint chocolate double layer cakes, chocolate Kahlua bundt cake, dense chocolate petits fours, and ice cream filled cream puffs with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and lastly, Woody’s spicy chocolate brownies.  Everything was truly tasty, incredibly rich and I loved seeing how everyone interpreted the challenge.

Each person voted for their first and second choice.  The votes were tallied and the results finalized.  Ralph announced the winner.

Woody WON!

The trophy (which will be passed down in the next annual chocolate challenge) is actually a 4H trophy from Ralph’s early years raising sheep…1991 to be exact.  Of course, it was slightly modified with various chocolate stickers.

Congratulations Woody!

Woody saved the day!  The Fischer name will remain an honorable one in kitchens across Pasadena.  Maybe he’s a baker after all.

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