Adventures in baking.

I love to cook. Mostly because I love eating, and there aren’t always other people around to feed me. But I also love the challenge of it. I like to really get my hands dirty and see if I can actually make something edible. And because of the way my brain works, it’s also usually an exercise in creative problem solving, like, how quick can you put out that grease fire?! And can you scoop out the mountain of pepper that just accidentally poured into your soup?

The problem is that I’m a big picture kind of girl. I see a recipe like this, and all I can imagine is digging into a dense, chocolately brownie oozing golden salty caramel. The steps between reading that recipe and shoveling brownies into my face are a little hazy, the detailed instructions just minor hurdles on the way to chocolate salted caramel bliss.

So it should come as no surprise that I set out to make these brownies with only about half of the correct ingredients. Part of that I blame on France: I couldn’t find sour cream, so opted for crème fraiche instead. The chocolate isle was very confusing, so I’m not sure I got the bittersweet baking kind. Chocolate sauce was non-existent, so I thought hey, why not just throw some Nutella in there! Recipe instructions be damned.

So just to clarify, I was flying by the seat of my pants on 3 major ingredients. Out of about 5. It was like improvisation, ok? Like jazz in the kitchen! Played by a tone deaf dog. Anyway, first I tried to make the caramel.

You just mix up some sugar and corn syrup over high heat, and then whisk in some cream and salt. Sounds easy enough right? Well, except for the no candy thermometer and caramel needs to cook to a very precise temperature or it completely incinerates into a nasty tar-like substance part.

Yeah, that first batch of caramel didn’t turn out so well. I would have taken a picture, but I was too busy plunging my face trying to get the burned caramel taste out. (Yes, I tasted it. Don’t judge.)

So I tried again. And this time, success!

Except that I used up all the sugar I had. And the brownie part of the recipe called for a cup and a half. This would not have been that dire if it wasn’t 10pm on a Sunday. In Paris. Nothing would be open until Tuesday. I considered smashing up some sugar cubes, but a test run merely yielded shards of sugar all over the floor. So I bolted down the street in my pajamas, and miracle of miracles, found a convenience store open! See, god really wanted me to have those brownies.

Back in the kitchen, I set out to complete part 2 of the recipe. I was about 3 hours into the baking process at that point, so I just kinda slammed all the ingredients together and speed mixed. The batter was so thick I could barely scoop it out of the bowl, which meant that the Nutella substitution was either totally brilliant or a total FAIL. But 40 minutes later, the proof was in the pudding, er, brownie:

Oh sweet baby jesus in velvet pants! The goodness almost melted my face off. I kept waiting for rainbows and unicorns to shoot out of every bite! So I think all of the time and agony was totally worth it. I also think it should be clear now why I will never have my own cooking show. Unless Comedy Central comes knocking.


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