Dear baking world,
I am two days out from my Tour Guide training, but I am still repeating my “Hi, my name is Brita. I’m a junior from blah blah and I’m studying blah blah blah.” Ahh, the joys of tour guiding! But let’s just say this: I cannot believe how lucky I am that I got that job because I got a ton of brand new friends this week that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.
If anybody is like me, mid-January usually gives me a hankering for summer. I know I know, I live in Wisconsin and it’s January and summer is at least 16 months away. But my oven works and I can try to create the feeling of summer. So that’s what I did.
I had this image, this lovely image, of a fluffy bread that tastes slightly like graham crackers with tons of chocolate pieces floating in its graham crackery heaven of a matrix. Then I would layer the marshmallow frosting over the still-warm bread and a fire would pop into my head and I would be transported on the vessel of this S’more’s bread to summer. That isn’t what happened. There was a large disparity between what I wanted and what the actual product is.
Why the big disparity? Well, first of all, expectations can’t be fulfilled unless you are sure of the process. This graham cracker cake had a few limiting factors. First, it’s main “flour” content was actually graham cracker crust and only a half cup of flour. It required 3 large eggs and a whole cup of buttermilk. I threw in a whole bag of chocolate chips because the more the merrier. Little did I know, the batter was so runny that the chocolate chips sank to the bottom of the pans faster than I could shout “TITANIC!” (Too soon?) The lack of flour produced a dense crumb, the eggs gave the final product a sort of french-toasty flavor and texture (which is good if it’s for breakfast, but not so good if it’s supposed to be a cake.) And the buttermilk made it so moist it was a puddle of moistness. The icing on the cake (literally) was the fact that my frosting totally stunk because powdered sugar gets stale and I forgot about that when I used powdered sugar that had been open in my cupboard while I was at home for break.
Normally I wouldn’t post a failure. I would either try a totally different route and present you S’mores Cupcakes or something like this, but instead I wanted to post about this failure. On all of the baking blogs I follow, failures are rarely recognized. (I tip my hat to Lindsey at Pinch of Yum for making a post about her year’s failures. It made me feel less worthless.) And failures are one of the biggest road blocks while baking. A baker blogger’s mission is to try and try again until the readers have a workable, easily copied recipe. But that’s not the case here.
Lesson 1: Sometimes expectations do not come close to reality. The biggest incentive to create an expectation that meets reality is troubleshoot and try try again until you do attain your vision.
Lesson 2: Sometimes the concept isn’t even worth the time. This S’mores Cake Bread was a good idea, except maybe it wasn’t that great of an idea. Maybe this failure meant there was something better down the pipeline. Maybe S’mores have been done and I need to find somewhere else to funnel my creative-ness.
Lesson 3: I’m not the most patient of people. I have a hard time re-trying things to make sure it works. But that’s the purpose of baking and that’s the most important thing baking has taught me. Baking takes a lot of learning. Small missteps can botch a whole idea. A crappy recipe can mean a wasted two hours. But it isn’t wasted because I learned that graham crackers simply don’t make a good flour replacement, which I knew going in, but I needed to see it first hand.
Lesson 4: I am extremely critical of my own work. My roommates loved this bread. So what can I do? It isn’t good enough for me, but it’s good enough for them. I guess I am my harshest critic.
So, baking world, failures are a good thing. My biggest stab at patience is to let it rest overnight and get up the next day ready to try again. Sometimes packing it all into one day is too much. But it also makes me realize my mortality, in a sense. I am a busy student and I am starting a new job and working on curriculum for my summer job. I simply don’t have the time, energy or money to try this recipe over and over. And a baking blog is being able to do that troubleshooting and creating original recipes, so even though my blog makes me warm and fuzzy inside, I have to ration my energy. I will do my best for all of you, but this bread reminded me that there’s only so much I can do in one day without totally losing my already anxious marbles.