Wasting Time and Ingredients: My New Hobby

Today I vowed I was going to get the last of the holiday-type baking done. I had grand plans.

Now it’s 2.15 and I’m conceding the race; I’m also thanking God that because I have leftover Cincinnati chili in the fridge, I don’t really have to worry about cooking dinner, because if I try to make anything else today I am positive it won’t come out right.

I was going to make caramel-covered shortbread. This is the kind of thing I can normally do almost in my sleep. Because I couldn’t resist messing things up, I decided to try a new shortbread recipe, and I have to say it is a very good recipe but boy you have to watch those pans like a hawk because the cookies will burn in a nanosecond. (The trick is to use oatmeal you’ve whizzed up in the food processor and confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch along with the flour and butter. The result is wonderful thing very similar to an English digestive biscuit.) I found the recipe at the Serious Eats website but I’m not going to bother posting a link because I basically ignored the recipe beyond thinking, “Oh, adding oat flour, that’s a good idea.” Go find whatever shortbread recipe you like and take out a little bit of the regular flour. Substitute in two parts oat flour and one part cornstarch for whatever amount of white flour you took out. Whizz everything together in the mixer for an incredibly long time. It seems like this will never turn into a cohesive dough but after about ten minutes in the mixer at medium speed, it will come together. This is a very soft dough, you have to be gentle with it, but the texture of the baked product is wonderful.

The caramel, however, was my downfall. I’m not going to say too much about it but I will tell you that it is imperative that you pay attention to this detail. After you have dissolved your sugar in your water, and cooked it until it is the shade of gold you want, and you are ready to add in your vast quantity of heavy cream — do NOT just pour the heavy cream into the pot assuming that all is well.

Because I currently have, sitting on my stove, a big Le Creuset pot filled with caramel made with cream that’s gone bad. I am taking this pretty well; I haven’t thrown anything in anger. I’ve washed all the other dishes and things that need washing, I’ve wiped down the counters, I’m ready for the next thing. But I can’t yet just pour this into the trash. I’ll wait till five p.m. today, I think, before I admit total defeat. And tomorrow I will make caramel with a can of sweetened condensed milk, which, in my experience, is never, ever off.



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