Handsome is gone this week on a work trip, so I am all by my lonesome. Incidentally, Handsome is on a totally awesome trip: He rode his motorcycle from Texas to California for a conference and drive through rain, wind, and snow (seriously) to get there. He feels completely badass. Sorry if that word offends, but I think it entirely appropriate, and it’s the one he used. He has my camera because I wanted him to document all the sites and critters he saw on his way.
That’s just as well, because while he’s been away I’ve been practicing in the kitchen and the results have been… shall we say… not anything I want preserved for posterity.
I got excited about making pizza margherita again this weekend. I had a craving for it, and I was all alone, so I indulged. I mixed the yeast in with the water and flour. I mixed everything else. I kneaded. I had a beautiful ball of dough. I let my dough rise in a bowl on the stove while the oven preheated.
Since the oven was preheating to 500 degrees, the bottom of the dough ball got all crusty. When I tried to stretch the dough out, it kept tearing. Sigh. Kitchen: 1, Lacey: 0.
I also bought these awesome little bocconcini to put on the pizza, which I sliced first. Bocconcini come in a container with some sort of liquid, and I neglected to dab them dry, so one portion of my pizza kind of liquefied. The crust was dry, but the cheese and the sauce came together in a strange way and the result, while totally edible, was severely unattractive. Score another one for Kitchen, who was apparently working against me.
I also had no basil, and decided not to buy any as I had a metric ton of fresh parsley. I know that basil and parsley are very different, but I also know that one can make a parsley pesto, so I was curious about the results. I did not use any dry basil, and I really missed the basil. I was so sad without my basil. The parsley had a vague celery taste to it, which was off in my pizza.
And I overloaded the parmesan cheese. I never, ever thought I would say this, but once the pizza was out of the oven, I used too much parmesan cheese. All in all, a completely edible pizza, but by far less stellar than my first effort.
To make myself feel better, I made chocolate chip cookies. Nothing special; I just used the recipe on the back of the Nestle Toll House chocolate chips bag. I had some leftover mini chocolate chips, so I used a mix of mini and regular chips.
I usually made these cookies on a whim, so I seldom soften the butter. I just slice it, put it in a bowl in the preheating oven, and let it melt about two-thirds of the way. Then I mix it in. The results are always, always perfect. This time, I thought, I will do these cookies the way Toll House intended. I will soften the butter.
I should not have softened the butter.
I don’t think it was the butter’s fault. It was probably my fault: my oven may have been too hot, I may have overmixed the batter, I may have been off my game because of the pizza fail, but I think it all started when I changed my technique and let the butter come to room temperature all on its own.
I made the cookies in three batches, and I burned the first and last batches. The middle batch was not burned but those cookies looked… weird. Not like my cookies. Sort of oddly puffy, and they didn’t crinkle down the way I like. Le sigh.
A year or two ago, these kitchen setbacks would have sent me into tears. I made Handsome a dish called Arroz con Pollo that I’d never even tried right after we moved in together. I was so overwhelmed by the flavor of cumin, which I have since learned that I don’t like in large amounts or as a primary seasoning, that I could not eat the dish. I found it inedible. I was crushed, and spent an hour in the bathroom crying. Handsome, being the man he is, swore he loved it, finished off three servings, and took leftovers to work the next day. It was about a year before I could use cumin in anything again.
I am not that woman now. I ate my ugly, tough-crusted pizza and reminded myself t0:
- Let the dough rise on the counter
- Use fresh basil, as nothing else will do
- Use the big mozzarella balls, even though they cost more, or at least towel dry the bocconcini
- Be gentle when stretching the dough
I’m also making my way through my strange, burned, crunchy chocolate chip cookies by dipping them in milk. I will lower my oven a little next time, and melt most of my butter.
I’m glad I’m becoming the kind of cook who can make mistakes. My mom told me once that she thought I needed to learn to fail. She thinks that failing once in a while teaches you to get back on the horse, or something like that. Mom: Arroz con Pollo, pizza, and cookies. Check. I ate dinner with a friend tonight, but I have a baby shower to go to this weekend and I think I am going to try and make my own thin mints to take with me. Handsome loves thin mints, so I will save him some, too. I had a bad weekend in the kitchen, but not every day in the kitchen is going to be a good one. But just so no one thinks that any magic happens here, I want to share my failures once in a while, too.
Coming soon: Polenta or Risotto alla Nana, as soon as Handsome is back with my camera and I decide which one sounds the most delicious.