When Things Don’t Go as Planned

I just took a loaf of bread out of the oven. The color is gorgeous . . . on top. The bottom? Well, let’s not look there.

To own the truth, I forgot to reduce the preheat temperature of 500 F down to the actual baking temperature , so my bread was in the oven at 500 F for the full baking time.

Oops.

This is not even nearly one of my worst kitchen mistakes—it’s certainly not a flop; definitely edible. I’ll probably just ask my husband if he would like my charred crust-bottoms.

I’ve had some pretty significant mishaps over the years. Oh, like the time I used too-small cake pans for carrot cake, and the batter overflowed into the bottom of our electric (exposed coil) oven at the time. I nearly lost it. 

But, I didn’t.

I remember seeing what was happening, feeling a rush of complete horror, shutting the oven again and immediately setting my jaw to figure out what to do about it.

The journey of life in the kitchen is ever one of discovery, one of trying new things, and even of forgetting to do things we have done time and again over the months and years. We forget something. We miss a step. We try a (risky) substitution. 

None of this should ever scare us from carrying on, or from getting back on the horse tomorrow. And in the moment, we need to keep a cool head (not catastrophize). If we can keep from overreacting, our logical brain will be far more available to us in the midst of a cooking crisis—whether a pot boiling over or adding too much of an ingredient (especially when it’s the wrong ingredient). 

For my bread, today, once I realized my mistake, I was a bit too far into the baking to change much (I could already smell the bottom singeing), but I put the cover back on the Dutch oven to prevent too much darkening on the top—leaving it open just a crack to continue to allow steam to escape. I wanted to make sure the loaf was still fully baked inside before I removed it from the oven. The results were pretty near normal, all things considered! But if I had freaked out and removed the loaf straightaway (or done nothing, simply leaving the pot uncovered for the rest of the time) the outcome may not have been as good either way.

Things don’t always turn out as planned in the kitchen, even for seasoned vets (no pun intended). It’s a lot like the rest of life, hey? Learning to keep a cool head in the kitchen can serve as a training ground for skills to bring to a variety of other life situations. Missed your exit on the highway? Forgot to buy something at the store? Called someone by the incorrect name? May the journeys of kitchen life teach us to bring calm into the midst of everyday life as well.

( . . . what’s that? You were wondering how—or IF—we saved the carrot cake? Why, yes. Yes we did. Cookie sheets are a wonder, and so is cake “trimming.” What’s more, frosting is a marvel for hiding things.)

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