You can’t win them all – a baking disaster

Ever since I stopped the journal-style blogging, I’ve been cooking and taking pictures (not of all meals but of quite a few) but many of them just end up forgotten in iPhoto. As I’m writing this I’m on the plane on the way to the Foodbuzz festival in San Francisco, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to go through at least some of these pictures and find a few I want to share. As I dig through the folders, I remember the delicious autumn chowder from last week (with acorn squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, milk and cheese), the roasted squash risotto with candied walnuts and thyme, the numerous salad combination – many of them delicious, but I don’t know… I kind of feel like sharing pictures of my little baking experiment. Despite a somehow disappointing end result. Hey, sometimes mistakes teach us lessons and I’m ready for my next adventure – maybe you’ll even help me get it right this time? :)

Adam had a Halloween party at his work last Friday (as did I… man, I am tempted to share the pictures here. I’ve never seen an office so decked out). He signed me up to bake something for the party and of course, the little overachiever than I am, I searched through dozen of recipes… trying to find the perfect one. Should it be indulgent or healthy? Pumpkin or chocolate? How can I make it spooky… ooh, would mini “ghost” cupcakes transport well? No? Damn, but they’d be so cute! Finally I decided to go with Cooking Light’s brownie base but make it into little rounds so that I could make a spiderweb on each one out of icing. It looked easy enough to do! And then I was inspired by the mini pretzels I picked up to add to the office trick-or-treat bowl (hey, maybe the kids will get sick of sweets? No?) and so the idea of brownie bites stuffed with mini pretzels and “m&m’s” was born (*I used the all natural m&m look-a-likes).

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I even decided to take step-by-step photos. I mean this was going to be brilliant! Sweet + salty? My mouth was watering just anticipating the deliciousness.

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The yellow stuff above is melted butter. This is where things began to go wrong, I think. I couldn’t quite understand why they didn’t come out right but I’m pretty sure I doubled the amount of butter the recipe called for, by mistake. 1/2 cup = 1/4lbs. Oops. I think I used 1/2 lb… also known as 2 sticks. I thought this looked like a lot of butter for a “light” recipe! Completely unaware of my rookie mistake, I proceeded as planned.

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2 scoops of brownie batter, 5-6 “m&ms”…

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… top with 1.5 mini pretzels, each…

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And cover with a bit more brownie batter. I realized the cups were getting a bit too full at this point but I wanted a smooth top so that I could make the spiderweb design on top. All right, I guess they’ll be twice as big as I intended. Oops.

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In the oven they go!

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Hmm, these look like brownie muffins. So ugly and uneven.

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I’ll let them cool through. We’ll deal with their looks in a bit.

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These didn’t look like what I was hoping for. The spiderweb icing design was a complete disaster – i gave up after exactly 1. And then I tasted them. They were dry yet oily. And the pretzels just kind of disintegrated into a slightly mushy nothingness. And the “m&m’s”? Well they definitely tasted like the hippie version of everyone’s favorite (although I didn’t miss the junk ingredients!). It was nearly 11pm and it was time to start all over.

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The pumpkin cheesecake brownies were definitely worth staying up until well past my bedtime for. We’ll keep the brownie disaster between us. Okay? 😉

PS – I totally still brought the brownies to my work and people ate them. I think they were an embarrassment but apparently my co-workers have low standards (which I kind of knew… and that’s why I brought them in). Oh and I froze the rest. I can’t bring myself to waste food!

PPS – I still think this concept has legs. Have you ever made brownies in muffin pans? What’s the secret to them not puffing up like muffins? I want a smooth top? What about baking with pretzels? I feel like they should add a nice salty/crunchy contrast but I don’t really know how to arrive at that. after my little experiment Any tips?

Last thing – If you haven’t already, don’t forget to join the fair-trade coffee discussion enter to win a free Keurig coffee maker (enter here).

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10 comments to You can’t win them all – a baking disaster

  • Cat

    Hi Elina! I’ve been reading your blog since this summer and I love it — I think you have a realistic outlook on food and life :) Anyways, the acorn squash chowder you mention at the beginning of this sounds so good! Do you have a recipe?

  • I have to admit – even if you said that those sweet and salty brownies are a fail – they still look delicious to me! To make brownies less puffy and become more dense, I use less baking powder and eggs. Sometimes I even add condensed milk for super fudgy brownies! Good luck with your baking adventures!

  • Liz @ Blog is the New Black

    Sorry you had a baking fail! I bet they taste better than you say… :)

  • hmmm, sounds like a winning combo, no idea why they didn’t turn out :( never done brownies in muffin pans, but my only comment would be that you’d have to cut the cooking time way down b/c there’s more surface area exposed to the heat… and i need to make those pumpkin brownies!!

  • Pete

    Hey Elina! Erin and I just watched a documentary this week about fair trade coffee called Black Gold. It probably won’t give you too much new info but it is an interesting look at the effects of a global marketplace, especially on rural farmers. I’m a tea drinker myself so I’ve been looking into the farming practices of tea, which unfortunately don’t seem much better than coffee (although I’m pretty sure they don’t clear cut rainforest to grow tea). The good news is that fair trade tea is available too. Hope you have a great time in S.F. Say hey to Adam for me.

  • This blog post is one of the reasons why I love your blogging – so honest and refreshing! I still think one of us should start a blog about cooking/baking failures…and we can all contribute our stories!

  • I’ve had many failures in the kitchen. I couldn’t even get an omelet right the other night. At least your coworkers liked them :)

  • baking with pretzels should work as you wanted, and i like that idea for brownies! you probably need a really dense fudgey brownie recipe to keep them from puffing up

  • I have never thought to put brownies in a muffin pan before? Sorry they didn’t turn out as you wanted but at least your coworkers didn’t let them go to waste :) The pumpkin brownies definitely look awesome, great rebound!

  • Awww I’m sorry they didn’t turn out. I do hate when that happens. the pumpkin brownies look amazing though.

    If you don’t want a brownie to puff up leave out the baking soda/powder if you are using any. That should help a good bit.

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