Lessons in Baking

Hi all! My hope is that a happy Friday is in the works all around. Summer is in full swing, and I hope to hear about ALL of you exploring the infinite corners of life. In fact, I think it’s time I start following more blogs, so that I can hear more about such adventures. Honestly, I am so amazed, inspired and impressed by so many of the bloggers out there. Please, teach me your ways!

Today’s (again, belated) entry is going to discuss something that few of us budding food connoisseurs wanna touch: making mistakes. Oof. I know. But yesterday, a mistake was made, and lessons were learned. I think that part of becoming a better chef – nay, human being – is coming to terms with mistakes and admitting when you’re wrong. I used to be extremely uncomfortable with that, but I’m getting better and finding that it’s even a bit…fun? Is that the right word? Or at least funny. Really, though, you gotta see this.

Well first, here’s some background: I pursue a healthy diet to the best of my ability, especially being mindful of sugar. I never liked sugar much growing up, though I didn’t much care for anything that wasn’t plain pasta or tofu (yes, tofu – as if I weren’t weird enough, I know). Things diversified when I started to playe water polo in high school and made cheeseburgers a regular staple, eating at least 3-5 a week. As I got older, I started to realize that I was headed for the arteries of the Super Size Me guy and needed to slow my roll. The minute I started being healthy was the minute I started to explore and enjoy all types of food and started to learn to cook. The price it came with was loving “all types of food”. Needless to say, sweets are now included in that 🙂

Anyway, I tried to bridge the best of both worlds yesterday by making a decadent muffin that was low-carb and sugar-free. I ended up having the compromise the low-carb part, not having almond flour. No matter, I can still make it sugar free, right?

WRONG.

What resulted was a doughy, tasteless mass that looked like a kid’s Play-Doh sculpture and tasted like one even moreso.
photo 3

If you’re curious, here’s what I did:

Haley’s Radioactive Pumpkin Nuggets (not for human consumption)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Serves: 12 unfortunate souls

Difficulty: A blindfolded marmoset could conduct a better meal

3 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of oatmeal
1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree (hey, at least I used BPA-free)
1 tablespoon flax meal
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 can of Light Coconut Milk
1/2 banana
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
More Truvia that you can imagine (at least 10 tablespoons)
Honey to drizzle on top (only to find out that it makes it taste no better)

1. Defeated after finding out I had no almond flour, I reluctantly mixed the regular flour, oatmeal, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

2. I decided to go for it and put the equivalent of 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar of Truvia into the dry mix. Yeah, I don’t care if my food tastes good, as long as it’s healthy, right? Fatal mistake number one.

3. In a separate bowl, I mixed the flax meal with 2 tablespoons of water water to make an “egg” – yes, I was planning on making the recipe vegan for you veg-folks out there, since I love you all so despite being the opposite.

4. In this fake-egg mix, I dumped the 1/2 mashed banana, coconut milk, and pumpkin puree and mixed them. I was also going to through in 1/3 cup of melted coconut oil. I forgot. Fatal mistake number two.

5. I combined the wet and dry ingredients in my stand mixer and overmixed the life out of them for about 3 minutes. Fatal mistake number three.

6. I put them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350. Gross. I smothered them with honey and did another 20 minutes at 350. Still gross. 350 was fatal mistake number 4.

Oh, you know, just cooking uranium.
Oh, you know, just cooking uranium.

7. I try one. Within seconds, all 12 are in the trash. Facepalm.

This brings me, at last, to my thoughts for you, that is if you’re interested in cooking. What have we learned today?

1. Do some serious, serious practice and/or research when you are trying to replace sugar in recipes. In some savory recipes, like curry, it’s completely fine, as sugar is totally unnecessary and even contradictory to the traditional way a dish is prepared. In some dishes, however, it’s best to either keep the sugar or simply reduce it. Sometimes, with sweets at least, you just have to go all-out and not try and make it some healthy thing. An indulgence should be an indulgence.

2. Be very careful when baking without fat, as this gets rid of a whole lot of flavor in the dish. Muffins, in particular, will be more “bread-y”, which you may or may not want.

3. Pay VERY close attention to how long you’re mixing! It is usually only necessary to mix cookie or muffin mix for like 10-15 strokes (a few seconds) rather than meticulously circling through it for two minutes like I did. Thank you, Betty Crocker, for correcting me on this. Too much mixing will create an extremely dense muffin that is tough, almost rubbery , on the outside.

4. This may depend on the ingredient list, but maybe try baking muffins for 20-25 at 375 or 400, rather than 350. 40 minutes at 350 does not a good muffin make – I could be wrong, though.

In spite of the demise that my experiment met, I am nonetheless glad I experimented. I know I have a long way to go and MANY years before I become a good chef, but this is all part of the process. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get a hankering for pumpkin muffins again come fall-time and give this recipe a rematch. Heavily, heavily modified, of course.

With that, I’ll leave you with a thought of the day that actually goes with the topic:

Never let fear of failure be the reason you don’t do something.

-H

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