The Sweet Taste and Smell of Failure

This weekend seems to be a humbling sort of a weekend…  I made a flourless chocolate cake that in the end came out nicely, but it took two takes.  I tried two different recipes — the first was Emeril’s and the second, the successful attempt, was a recipe from the Neelys of Down Home With the Neelys on Food Network.  As I type, I am preparing to undergo the second “failure” of the weekend — apple cider donuts.  However, I still have faith that although I will be calling them “beignets” now (because they aren’t shaped like donuts), the taste will still be good.  And they will probably still look pretty, but technically, they will not be donuts, per se.  I must keep my optimism in the face of baking adversity.

Let’s start with the flourless chocolate cake.  I’ve been wanting to try this ever since I came across the recipe from the Neelys when idly browsing through the Food Network web site, but never had the chance until yesterday, when I invited friends over for dessert.  For reasons that currently escape me, I decided to try Emeril’s recipe instead.  It all fell apart at the eggs.  Ironic since Friday was World Egg Day, and nothing should have gone wrong because World Egg Day is supposed to be a good day (or so I say) and the patron saint of egg cookery should have been with me.  Now, I wouldn’t go blaming Emeril for putting up a crappy recipe, since it was entirely my fault.  The recipe said to whisk the eggs with an electric mixer “until frothy and doubled in volume, about 5 to 10 minutes.”  I was mixing, mixing until my right arm grew sore, watching for “frothy and doubled in volume” and when I thought I reached it — even though I hadn’t been doing the mixing for more than 5 minutes — I decided to stop and move on with the rest of the recipe.  The result was a nine-inch, sad-looking poofy soufflé on steroids — it just wanted to grow right out of the pan.  I took this monstrosity out of the oven and tasted it, and I thought I could salvage it by leaving it aside for myself whenever I felt like having chocolate egg “sponge”, but even with chocolate, I can’t eat that much eggy stuff.  To think of all the eggs that were sacrificed in the name of that abomination…  As they say, you need to crack a few eggs to make an omelette, er…flourless chocolate cake.

It was about 11:30pm by the time I finished with the first failure of the weekend, but I promised my friends dessert and so I plowed on, and made a second chocolate cake.  You can see for yourself how that turned out…

All in all, the flourless chocolate cake story had a happy ending.  In fact, the cake was finished the same day I served it.  I would go with this recipe again as is, except next time I would probably try pouring the batter into my cupcake pan so the presentation could be even better as mini-flourless chocolate cakes.

By now, the donuts-turned-beignets have been completed, and I am disappointed with the results.  Now, when you see the pictures you might think I’m being too hard on myself, but the process of making these was so full of bumps that I can’t help but feel somewhat deflated.  I used this recipe that I originally found in one of the blogs I read.  I had envisioned golden brown donuts coated in cinnamon-sugar, envisioned an easy-to-work-with dough, maybe even having them with a cup of coffee when I was finished.  But instead I got a dough that was impossible to work with unless I added a very generous amount of flour, and even though the recipe said to freeze the dough before cutting into shapes, the cutting into shapes part proved to be a large nuisance.  The dough stuck to the pan, making it impossible to move them from one cookie sheet to another.  In the end, I decided to scrap the whole cutting into shapes idea and just spooned the damned dough onto the cookie sheet in prep for frying.  Thank God I didn’t invest in buying a donut cutter…I don’t think I’ll be making donuts for a long time.  That and the reek of fried dough in my apartment is now starting to irritate me.  And here is the story in pictures…

I don’t think I need captions in the pictures above.  I think they speak for themselves.  I tasted the finished products and they weren’t bad.  I can’t taste the apple cider in the dough though.  That’ll teach me to take a recipe from a newspaper.  But if you didn’t tell me these were supposed to be apple cider flavored, I would say they were great.  Not being a fan of deep-fried foods anyway, I couldn’t eat a lot of these and I don’t think I could get rid of them fast enough.  So some will be going to my landlord, some will be going to work.

A somewhat discouraging weekend, but of course, these bumps in the road happen and it’s really a matter of getting around them and somehow redeeming a project from disaster.  More than a few times I thought to just throw away the dough for the donuts, forget the whole thing and just watch that episode of Top Chef on my DVR that I’d been saving, but I persevered and finished what I started.  Besides, I couldn’t stand the thought of all those ingredients going to waste.  But if you ask me what failure looks like, it’s a deflated spongy, chocolatey, eggy soufflé-on-steroids-that-was-supposed-to-be-a-flourless-chocolate-cake.  Ask me what failure smells like and I’ll say it reeks of fried dough.  But one thing I can say — Failure never tasted or smelled so sweet.

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