Wednesday, December 30, 2009


As previously discussed, I bake because I'm vain. But that's not the whole truth. I also bake because I like easy success. I've never met a muffin right out of the oven that I didn't like--or a cookie that made me feel like a loser. But two short days into my New Year's project I'm hating life.

The facts:

I followed the pain au chocolate recipe.

The pain au chocolate failed to rise.

I baked it anyway.


Beautiful, awesome smelling, hard, flat pain au chocolate.

So, no big deal. Start over. I have pounds of flour and butter but am out of chocolate. That's probably for the best. Plain croissants are delicious and I should master the basics first anyway. Scales come before etudes and etudes before concertos.

I vow to practice croissant dough until I reach a facility that convinces passersby that my house is actually a transplanted patisserie.

So I go at it again. And about 12 hours in, I fail again. The croissants rise but they're a bit hard and have an ugly split down the middle. So then I'm pissed and the smell of butter and yeast makes me want to gag. My fantasies of feeding the masses of Eagle River as they genuflect because of my obvious superiority turn to fantasies of angry e-mails with photos that I send off to James Peterson. I ask him: Why did this happen? Why the big split down the middle of the croissants? What obviously important step did you leave out? Why didn't you test properly for home kitchens? Why don't you ... care? I imagine him nestled in a cozy brownstone in Brooklyn reading my e-mail with smug satisfaction and asking his purring tabby, Why does she even try? Then he finishes off a bottle of Chateau Margaux and never thinks of me again.

I think. I wonder. I compare my recipe to others online. Not enough yeast? Rookie technique with the butter? I realize the e-mail to my new boyfriend a.k.a. arch nemesis James Peterson will have more weight if I outline the dozens of fixes I attempted that were thoughtful and earnest yet not heroic enough to save me from his folly. I vow to push on and master the dough.

But the part about the smell of yeast and butter making me want to gag is still true (about a day has passed). So I'm giving flaky pastry a rest for a bit and moving on to macarons. Mark fell for them on our trip to Paris and they seem fun and ... dare I say it ... easy. The only problem is almond flour. Anchorage doesn't stock it. So I'm either going to order it, or order an attachment for my Kitchenaid and make it. The time it takes to consider that decision will give me a window to shop for a pastry bag and tip.

1 comment:

  1. I love your account of this adventure! Ever thought of being a writer? And, the picture is great! This is a wonderful site! Happy New Year!