Recently I read a post about the failures we experience in cooking and baking. This reminded me that when I started cooking I expected to fail at least occasionally, and I expected some of those failures to be spectacular. So far, there have been two outright failures, and one was pretty hilarious. This week I'm away on business, though I was lucky or resourceful enough to steer the trip towards my wife so that I could spend the weekend with her. Three or four weeks ago I made some biscotti and sent it out to her. For this visit, I wanted to make some cookies for her to snack on and share with her friends. I decided on 'Brown Sugar & Sea Salt Cookies' from Mark Bittman. They looked interesting and different enough without being too challenging - this was a weeknight project and my time was limited.
I whipped up the dough easily enough. Then things went a little funny. The recipe says to beat until barely holding together and that it may take several minutes but, when I was mixing the dough, it held together immediately. Now, being a baking neophyte, maybe I read this wrong. Did the recipe mean to beat it until it started to hold together, or that it would hold together easily and to beat it until it was falling apart? I'm not sure. The recipe said to shape the dough into a one inch wide log and then wrap it in plastic to chill in the fridge. Of course, I didn't think to shape the dough on the plastic wrap, so I had to do it twice. I chilled the log for the suggested thirty minutes, but it hadn't hardened up enough, so I left it another half hour. When I took the dough out, it was still quite soft and difficult to work with. Nevertheless, I sliced them into quarter inch thick pieces and plopped them down on the baking sheet, sprinkled on the salt, and slid them into the oven. I set the oven for fifteen minutes and left them to bake. Frankly, at this point, the cookies looked nothing like I had expected. When I read 'Brown Sugar & Sea Salt Cookies' I was expecting a sturdy molasses type cookie, and these looked like soft little blobs of cake batter. When the timer went off, I opened the oven and found this:
One giant, fragrant, delicious failure. I considered cutting it into smaller pieces, but it pretty much crumbled when touched. So, regretfully, I scraped it up with a fork and dumped it in the garbage. I guess I had put two many cookies on the sheet and they just ran together. I sliced the remaining dough into cookies, but spaced them out much wider on the baking sheet and popped those in the oven, only realizing about eight minutes in that I had forgotten the salt. I pulled them out, salted them, and stuck them back in. This batch turned out much better than the first. The third and final round turned out perfectly.
The cookies were not the thick, chewy, sink-your-teeth-into variety I was expecting (there was no reason for me to expect this type of cookie, it's just the image I had in my head); they were fragile, and broke when I picked them up. Even the ones that turned out well couldn't be taken to my wife - they wouldn't have survived a suitcase. In fact, they hardly survived my lunch bag when I took them into work the next day. But they tasted great. They were buttery, had the perfect sweet/salty mix and melted a bit in your mouth. Someone else may have great success with these but, despite how wonderful they tasted, they're just not for me.