Monday, 19 March 2012

Failure and Fallbacks: Let-Down Lemon Tart and Brilliant Backup Brownies

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Can I tell you the truth?  I don't always turn out amazing baked goods, despite what people say.  The reason my friends think I'm such a good cook/baker is because I usually only serve things I've already tested myself, ideally multiple times.  And there are plenty of failures along the path to deliciousness.

For example, back when I made that amazing lasagne, I also made a failure of a lemon tart (well, semi-fail, and not a fail at all according to my ever-polite guests) – trust me, it looks better than it was.  I spent all that time zesting and juicing and whisking, only to find the end product lumpy and terrifying.  I think the eggs had been cooked a bit by the acid in the lemon juice, maybe... whatever the reason, it looked foul.
So I tried a last-minute fix, pouring the filling through a sieve before baking, and that got rid of the worst of it, but the end result was still highly imperfect.  It looked beautiful, and smelled divine, but when I got my face down close to the surface I could see that the texture still wasn't right.  Instead of creamy and smooth, it looked bumpy and pocked.

I knew I couldn't serve it.  I mean, I could, and I did, but it couldn't be the only thing I offered my guests; it had to be the experimental 'just-for-trying' dessert, alongside something much more trustworthy.  And for that job, I chose brownies.

We all have fallback recipes in our arsenals.  I use mine mostly on days when I need a confidence boost, or when we have impromptu dinner parties, or when I feel like baking but not like working hard.  They're also great in a clutch, though, like when your dessert fails and you still have to set the table and make your sides and shower and get yourself ready, and you only have 20 minutes to throw something together.  The fallback file is an absolute necessity for moments like those.

In case you don't already have a file of your own, I've gathered a few of my favorite fallbacks here (in the past two months, I've made the banana bread twice, the brownies once as a backup dessert for the lemon tart fail and then again as a treat for my best guy friend, the chocolate chip cookies as another impromptu gift for said guy friend, and the cinnadoodlesnaps as a pick-me-up for myself on a rainy day):

Truth be told, many of the recipes on this site are good for the fallbacks file, since I tend to gravitate toward easy, quick satisfaction, but these are my constant favorites.  And if it's dish-doing laziness you're after, check my 'easy cleanup' suggestions.  And next time a dish goes wrong for you, just remember: there's always something else you can throw together at the last minute.

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