Practice makes perfect in the kitchen
My grandma is the cute old lady who always has cookies–for her granddaughters (obviously), for the kids next door, for the people who work at the bank. Whenever you go to her house, chocolate chip cookies and pizzelles will be there, without fail. If you’re lucky, there will be nut quiches or rolled almond cookies (my personal favorites, but also the most time- and labor-intensive). Special occasions call for something you can slice–cheese pie, icebox cake, cherry pie.
Even though my idea of baking at home often revolved around refrigerated cookie dough in Costo-size containers, I still realize how important it is that my grandma’s traditional recipes don’t disappear. With that in mind, I try to schedule cooking courses at Mimi’s when I’m home. While the results generally turn out delicious, the process can be a bit frustrating. She makes everything look so easy!
One thing she always tells me: “I’ve had years to practice. Of course I’m going to be better at it than you!”
It’s true, of course. But it’s hard to remember when you’re in the kitchen, trying to prepare that perfect meal. We always want things to turn out the right way the first time (ah, the metaphors for life). But sometimes you have to ask questions, to try again, to fail in order to succeed.
So I come to my point: my first clafoutis kind of sucked. (These are the little failures I don’t generally divulge.) I forgot to butter the dish. I should have used a smaller pan. I failed to add the kirsch until the mixture was in the oven. But I didn’t give up! I asked for advice, and tried again. Here’s what I learned:
- Use cream or whole milk. It’s dessert, don’t skimp with fat-free.
- If you want a extra-rich clafoutis–and who doesn’t, really–use two eggs and two egg yolks. No counting cholesterol here.
- No kirsch in the pantry? Try using Amaretto or Grand Marnier.
- Cherries are NOT your only option. I used cherries and a peach in my last one, and the juiciness of the peach was divine. Apricot and raspberry is going to be my next combination.
The second (and third) attempts were glorious. Sure, there’s still room for improvement and experimentation. But the lesson is that just because you fail once doesn’t mean you won’t succeed the next time. Now…does anyone have any clafoutis and/or baking disaster stories to share?