What Was Your Biggest Baking Disaster? And How Did You Fix It?

by moderndomestic on February 17, 2010

TogoRun 2

A crisis, averted.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter already know that I spent most of my weekend making sugar cookies for my friend Deb’s work for Valentine’s Day. They were rolled sugar cookies, each in the shape of a dog bone (the company is named after a famous canine), and each was piped with the company’s name – TogoRun.

There was a narrowly averted disaster in my kitchen with these cookies, however, and it’s all my own fault. See, while I’ve tried many recipes for cupcakes, shortbread cookies, and pound cake, rolled sugar cookies are one of those items that I’ve overlooked – I don’t have a “go-to” recipe (well, I didn’t. But boy I do now). Actually, most of my cookie recipes come from Martha Stewart’s Web site, and I’ve usually had good luck with them. So I didn’t think twice when I decided to use this Martha Stewart recipe for my sugar cookies. I was so (blindly) confident that I even made up a bunch of batches of the dough last week and never even tested the recipe. Hey, it’s Martha. Of course it has to work. Right?

Oh, no. No. That was not the case. When I put my first batch of cookies into the oven this Sunday the dough swelled and puffed up, making the dog bones look more like large misshapen oblongs. Even though I froze the cut-out pieces of dough beforehand, the dough refused to hold its shape.

I had a genuine baking crisis on my hands.

I ended up frantically searching online before I came across this recipe for roll-out sugar cookies from The Kitchn. I was immediately soothed because a.) the post said that she had used the recipe for years, with good and consistent results and b.) the dough uses a mixture of cream cheese and butter, which sounded much more stable than just butter alone. I ended up running all over Adams Morgan searching for flour (yes, the Safeway on Columbia Road was still out of flour from the snowstorm!) and other ingredients Sunday afternoon, before mixing up the replacement dough.

In the end, it all turned out fine – the new recipe worked like a dream, just as The Kitchn promised. In fact, I think my near cookie disaster could almost become an After School Special for aspiring pastry chefs about the value of recipe testing. I will never blindly trust The Martha again.

But it made me wonder – with all that baking during the snow storm, did anyone else have any baking crises? Any particularly memorable baking disasters? And were you able to save whatever it was you were working on? Please share your disaster, or near disaster, stories!

Also, I’d love any ideas on what to do with all this leftover cookie dough!

TogoRun

I also learned a lot about piping frosting with these, but that's another post.

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{ 4 trackbacks }

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February 26, 2010 at 10:20 am

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Dennis February 17, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Hi Jenna, I’m a line cook in Adams Morgan and, as the boyfriend of one of the girls at TogoRun, a recipient of a few of these dog bone cookies. I believe consuming every one I could lay my hands on qualifies me to pronounce them fantastic! They had delicious butter flavor and the piping looked great – maybe it was a bumpy ride, but you pulled it off in style.

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moderndomestic February 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Hey Dennis – awww, thanks so much. I’m so glad you like them! The piping was a huge project – so glad to know it paid off.

Where are you a line cook in Adams Morgan? I live in the neighborhood, so I’m always going out there.

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Amelia February 17, 2010 at 12:46 pm

The first time I made Tiramisu it turned out great. Like, really amaazing. Then I forgot which online recipe I had used, so when I got around to making it again I found a new recipe that evidently called for WAY too much booze. You could actually get drunk off eating this cake. Now, that might not sound like a disaster, but after a few alcohol-burned bites you really didn’t want to eat any more. Sadly, my response to this disaster has been to not make tiramisu again. I need to find a reliable recipe before I have another go at it!

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moderndomestic February 17, 2010 at 1:08 pm

I do that all the time with online recipes – like, I use it, and then I can’t remember which one it was I used. Drunk cake sounds like a good idea in theory, but I bet it’s nasty in practice.

You should try it again! Just read through the reader reviews this time . . .

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Michael M February 17, 2010 at 12:56 pm

During the snowstorm I was trying a recipe that called for buttermilk. I typically use the Saco(?) powdered buttermilk that you get in the baking aisle, though it had been a while since I had used the can I had. The thing was that I missed the instruction on the can to keep it in my fridge and I had kept it in my cupboard, so I was greeted with a powdered buttermilk rock.

Quickly thinking on how I could solve this issue, I remembered the mortar and pestle I had bought last summer. I went and broke a few chunks off and I was able to grind them back into powder and use it in my recipe. Crisis averted!

I later used the mortar and pestle again when I needed onion powder but only had dried minced onion.

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moderndomestic February 17, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Very ingenious! See, those are the kinds of stories I LOVE – when something goes wrong, but you know how to fix it. Awesome. Also, who would think to store powdered milk (of any kind) in the fridge? Not intuitive at all.

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Ashley February 17, 2010 at 1:07 pm

One time, I was recreating my grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe for my boyfriend, who had dropped hints that he loved sugar cookies. I was at his place, so not 100% familiar with the kitchen/pantry, etc. I started making the dough, and about halfway through realized what I had thought was flour had indeed been powdered sugar. Convinced I was going to have to do it all over again, he suggested I just throw flour in and see how it goes, and although I was suspect of this plan, I did just that. It turns out if you put enough flour back into any cookie dough that requires butter, sugar, eggs, etc, you still manage to get a pretty decent cookie! They came out lighter and more crispy than a regular sugar cookie, by my standards, but he claimed they were just like a favorite cookie from a family friend, so I still managed to score points!!

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moderndomestic February 17, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Hah, I’ve totally done stuff like that before too. But I’m so glad it came out well in the end – sometimes baking is magical that way.

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constantlycathy February 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I strive to make individual cookies, but in making Giada’s Lemon Ricotta cookies (yum, no matter what) I acheived the creation of “uni-cookies.” They all ran together on the pan: http://constantlycathy.wordpress.com/2009/08/10/lemon-ricotta-cookies/#more-733

I tore them into cookie sized chunks and ate them all the same. And I would even make them again! I just need to figure out how to make them in individual portions :)

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James February 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I’ll have to try those cookies as they sound really delicious! Never though of Ricotta in cookies, but found some deliciously light gnocchi with ricotta instead of potatoes.

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moderndomestic February 17, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Mmmm, gnocchi with ricotta . . . sounds delish. Where did you find the recipe?

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mcarmelk January 16, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Years ago when money was very tight and we had five of our six kids, I was making gingerbread cookies for Christmas gifts. I was adding ingredients and suddenly got the wrong smell when I added the ginger. I looked on my jar and found that my ginger was in the exact same container as cumin. In these days I’d not used cumin much and kept it at the back of the cupboard. The ginger jar was different that the other spices, well, except for cumin. How it got to the front, I’ll never know.
I couldn’t afford to throw away what was already in the mixing bowl, so I spooned out all the cumin I could see and put in the ginger and went on with the recipe. My Hispanic Sister-In-Law was the only one who noticed a ‘strange flavor’ in the cookies. No one else mentioned it, but maybe they were just being kind and had dumped them in the trash.

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moderndomestic January 17, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Hah! Maybe people just thought they were, um, “exotic?” What a funny story. It’s hard to get cumin, or any spice out once it’s in the flour mix – and cumin is such a strong flavor. Thanks for sharing.

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