A trying time in the kitchen

Part 1 – The Recipes

Tastes Like Home

Hi Everyone,
Never before have I ever been so frustrated, confused and at times angry in the kitchen as I have been this past week.

It all started last Monday as I was trying to make a couple of things in order to complete a forthcoming column that I am working on. I gathered two particular recipes to review; you know to see which one “sounded” like it was the exact thing I was looking for, a recipe that even if I had to tweak it a bit, it would give me the result I wanted. For clarification, these were the only 2 recipes available for the things I was trying to make. I’m not going to tell you what it is that I was trying to make either. You’ll have to wait until next week for part two.

The two main ingredients were butter and flour. While both recipes agreed on the quantity and quality of milk as well as the other ingredients, it was the state of the butter and the amount of flour that proved to be singularly perplexing.

One recipe called for softened butter. Am I to interpret that as room temperature butter? I am further confused when the said recipe, in the method section, instructs that I mix the butter with the milk and spices until it is smooth. I got even more confused. Should the butter be melted in order for the two ingredients to meld well? I’ll tell you what I did later.

The other recipe gave as its ingredients the same amount of butter but this time, the instructions called for the butter to be rubbed into the flour. Hmmm, I thought, now when I usually read the phrase “rub butter into flour” it normally indicates that the butter should at least be chilled so that it can produce a pastry-like effect. What was going on here?

The recipe instructions were no clearer. One recipe said that I needed 4 cups of flour or 1 pound. For the record 3½ cups of flour is 1 pound. The other recipe called for 1½ pounds of flour – about 3 cups. What?! Darn! How much flour do I need to have for this recipe?!

Here’s the thing, the item I was trying to make is one of those things whereby if the butter is not at the right temperature and the butter to flour ratio is not accurate, it will not turn out properly. Actually, long before it is even cooked it can disintegrate right in your hands! I was frustrated. The anger would come later.

Butter and flour (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Butter and flour (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

I decided that I’d go with the first recipe that called for softened butter. Given that the instructions called for it to be mixed with the milk until smooth, I took it upon myself to melt the butter. I added the requisite amount of flour as instructed and before I knew it, the dough began to crack, it was not holding together. I dumped the entire mixture and started all over. This time I was cautious about the amount of flour I was adding. I added enough that gave me the consistency I was told to expect by the recipe. By the time I cleared the counter to make space for the next step of the recipe and to grab my camera to take a photograph to show you, the dough was beginning to change its appearance. I am not kidding. I forgot all about taking the photograph and quickly began working with the dough. While it held somewhat, there was still some cracking and I could not bring myself to continue because I knew it was all wrong. I dumped it all. Now I was angry. I had wasted 2 sets of butter, flour and milk. Gosh, how many people are starving and here was I wasting food! There was no way for me to justify it. I am still riddled with guilt.

I thought of giving up. Not because I couldn’t seem to work it out but because I did not want to waste any more food. I am one of those people that cry at the site of hungry and starving people, especially children. Anyway, I decided to turn my anger into determination. I still had the other recipe to contend with, the one that indicated that the butter should be rubbed into the flour until crumbly, even though its flour measurements were off. Though I came closer with the butter being chilled, the dough was still off, though not by much. I decided to proceed just to test it and see what the end result would be – it was too stiff. Less flour was needed.

By now you know where I’m going with this. Yep. I made another batch and this time decided to put in ½ cup less flour and what do you know – the dough held as I was shaping it and as I was cooking it. The texture and taste – well they were all I could hope for. I think that in order for me to get the proper measurements and all the little other “bits” that makes this thing so special, is that I’d actually have to make a trip overseas, arm myself with my measuring cups and spoons, notepad and pen along with my camera and measure and record it all. Only then do I think I will strike the right balance.

Like I said though, what I came up with I think is pretty decent. Be sure to check back next week for part 2 in which I will reveal what has given me all this pain in the kitchen this past week.
See you then!


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