Everyone has had a disaster in the kitchen at one time or another. Even the most experienced cook can be distracted and add too much salt, forget to set the timer, or omit a crucial ingredient. This advice will help you fix kitchen flops and disasters and, more importantly, prevent them from happening in the first place.
I thought it was time to write this article because of a kitchen disaster that happened to me! I had promised friends some Pecan Pie Bars for their open house and was trying a new recipe (note to self: follow your own advice and don't try a new recipe at a crucial time!!). The recipe seemed perfect, went together well, smelled terrific, and came out of the oven looking delicious. I let the bars cool, then pulled out a platter and cut the bars to arrange them. And discovered that the bottom crust had disappeared during baking, and instead of a two crust bar, they consisted of a crunchy topping over pecan pie filling.
It was very difficult getting the bars out of the pan, and when I put them on the platter they stuck. And they pulled in half when I tried taking them off the platter. I was ready to chuck the whole thing when the solution came to me. I just turned the bars upside down so the crunchy top was the new bottom crust and sprinkled toasted pecans over the new top (former bottom). They were a smash!
Many kitchen flops can be salvaged in one way or another. But if food is undercooked, smells strange, or it has been sitting out at room temperature too long, don't try to save it. Making a recipe over again is a small price to pay compared to food poisoning.
Take a look at my series of Step by Step Instructions, especially the one about measuring flour, to help avoid disaster in the kitchen in the first place.
And make sure you sign up for my email classes: How to Bake, More How to Bake and How to Cook so your flops are kept to a minimum. And browse through Food Science and Quick Tips to learn more about working in the kitchen.
How to Fix Kitchen Flops
Soup or Stew Too Salty
Make sure you never measure seasonings right over the pot or bowl. It's just too easy for your hand to slip, the cat to run under your legs, or someone to startle you. If it's already happened, we used to think that adding a raw cut up potato added to the soup would absorb much of the additional salt, but recent research has showed that this is not correct. Really the only way to diminish the salt is to add more of the other ingredients to the soup; in other words, add more of every ingredient except the salt. This is also the only way to fix recipes when you've added too much hot sauce, Tabasco, cayenne pepper, or chilies.
Hard Cooked Eggs Won't Peel
If the shell sticks to your hard cooked eggs, try putting the eggs in a bowl of very cold water. Then gently tap the eggs against the side of the bowl under the water. Water will seep in through the cracks and loosen the shell from the egg. The peel should come off more easily in a few minutes.
Broken Cakes or Cookies
When the cake breaks when you remove it from the pan or cookies are crumbling, turn your disaster into a trifle or parfait. Just layer the pieces with sweetened whipped cream and some fresh fruit in a glass bowl or individual glasses and chill until serving time.
If your vegetables have been overcooked and are limp and olive green, just whiz them in the blender or food processor with a little bit of cream or butter. Pureed veggies are very trendy right now and no one will be the wiser. You can also add more cream and turn the veggies into a cream soup.
If your cheesecake cracks on top, top it with a fruit topping, chocolate sauce, sour cream or whipped cream. So that doesn't happen next time, put a pan full of water on the rack below your cheesecake while it's baking in the oven. Also run a knife around the crust to loosen it from the pan when you remove it from the oven. Sometimes cheesecakes will just crack and there's nothing you can do about it!
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