Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Worst thing I Ever Made

I like having people over for dinner. It's fun. Sometimes I make really good things. However, sometimes I make really bad things (like really, really bad things), and then serve them to my guests. One of these latter experiences changed my life and outlook on cooking and life forever.

I am a bachelor in grad school, sharing an apartment with two other guys. We don't have a lot of 'kitchen stuff,' so I did a lot of just making do with what we had, skimping by when I didn't have a necessary tool or ingredient, and getting a little creative. Nothing had ever gone seriously wrong before, so it seemed fine.

Our lucky streak, however, was not to last. I was having a few friends over for dinner, and wanting to make kind of a nice dessert, turned to a chocolate ganache cake by Ina Garten. Having the rather skimpy kitchen situation we did, I didn't have electric beaters, so I just used a wire whisk to mix together the batter. It didn't seem so bad. I also didn't have enough real chocolate for the ganache, so I ended up just melting down some random hersey's kisses with the chocolate. Needless to say, I didn't think it would be my best showing ever.

When the moment of truth came, I sliced it up and served it with ice cream. Because I was serving, everyone else got theirs before I did, and they started chowing away. While I was sitting down, I was a little surprised to hear my roommate say, "I love the crunch! Are these walnuts?"

There were no walnuts, nor nuts of any kind, nor anything that really should be making a crunch. "No," I replied simply. "Almonds?" he questioned back. "No." I gave him one of those glances that hopefully silently screams "whatever it is you're tasting, it's not supposed to be there, so please stop drawing attention to it!" I think I got the point across.

However, there I sat, chewing on the gritty mystery crunch cake, fighting the inward battle. This is disgusting. Do I just say that, remove the offending confection from my guests, and just serve ice cream instead, or do I let them keep eating it? I regret to this day that I didn't just collect the plates back, but instead, I let them eat every last crunchy, disgusting bite. My life changed forever at that point. Who cares if I was a bachelor in a college apartment: I could get some beaters, I could bake in an oven that isn't 110 degrees hotter than what the dial says it is, and I could use pans that aren't layered in 4 years of college-guy grease and poor dish washing skills. Life was way too short for gritty ganache.

So next time your cake is crunchy, and you know it's not supposed to be, don't get frustrated. Just recommit to doing it right next time. Get a few of the neccesary tools, search the web for some great recipes, spend a little more time than you think is prudent, and really enjoy the experience. Invite over some friends and have a good time.

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