Your Guide to Reading Between the Tines

Thursday Lessons Learned

I have pumpkin bars in the oven and the magical apple butter recipe has been received, so expect posts on those in the next few days, as promised. In the meantime, however, content yourselves with a post on Just One more Thing I Have Figured Out in the Process of Getting Less Ignorant About a Whole Lotta Things.

My friend 9to5 Poet at Everything Feeds Process recently asked her Twitter followers to complete this sentence:

I am too _________ to be perfect.

Although I didn’t respond, the one word that has jumped up as the one to fit that sentence is “self-aware.” To some extent, I mean that in the sense of how I overanalyze what I do, but in another sense, it’s just the fact that I know better than to use the word “perfect” as an objective descriptor for anything or anyone, particularly myself. Fortunately, life is pretty good at keeping the size of my head under control with daily reminders in the form of “whoops!” moments. Sometimes those happen on a large scale. More often, fortunately, they happen on a small scale.

For example: I made carrot cupcakes this week. I had been wanting to make these particular carrot cupcakes for quite some time, as I got the recipe from the Willy St. Co-op, whose carrot cupcakes are second only to heroin in their addictive properties. I got the recipe legitimately, by contacting customer service and having a little confessional about my carrot cupcake habit. The very gracious Liz Hawley absolved me of my guilt and hooked me up with the recipe for the full sheet cake version, which I had to hack down to a normal batch of cupcakes. Once that was done, I got busy and started baking on Tuesday.

Despite how much I love these cupcakes, I couldn’t leave them alone. I switched to whole wheat flour, swapped half the sugar for agave nectar, replaced a few tablespoons of oil with applesauce, swapped the walnuts for roasted pecans (since it was all I had on hand), and used my own cream cheese frosting recipe, which contains just neufchatel cheese, heavy cream, vanilla, and agave. All that mucking wasn’t the problem. The cupcakes were delicious, and I enjoyed every last bite.

Except for the bite that was almost entirely baking soda.

You see, step 5 was missing from the recipe. I suspect this is because the recipe is copyrighted by the co-op, so Willy St. could only share it in partial form. Unfortunately, step 5 was almost certainly the step that described how to add the carrots and raisins. Since I was in a hurry, I failed to engage the brain and just dumped them in with the dry ingredients right before I added the wet ingredients. Here’s the thing: raisins are all wrinkly, full of folds and pockets. I dropped them right on top of the flour and leaveners and salt. When I stirred, some raisins grabbed some of the salt and leaveners and hung on for dear life while the batter took shape around them. Perfectly preserved in raisiny pockets, a good-sized lump of baking soda is a heck of a salty shocker that really destroys the delight of nomming on cupcakey goodness.

I got my just desserts on this one, as I do know better and should have added the raisins to the completed batter or to the wet ingredients. I can deal with the unappealing consequences. On the downside—I gave away more than half a dozen of these cupcakes to neighbors and relatives. I didn’t know about the leavener disaster at that time; the first ones we tried were wonderful and delicious, since the issue with the raisins was random, not systemic. This is the embarrassing part, since I prefer not to be identified as the person who pawns off inedible foodstuffs on others. To those neighbors and relatives: If you got a mouthful of baking soda or salt in your particular cupcake, I send you my most sincere apologies. The cupcakes really were delicious, and you can eat them confidently the next time I make them, since I will be using proper technique. If, however, you had a delicious cupcake and have no idea what I’m talking about, I just want to say HA! Just kidding! I totally did everything perfectly and you should forget you ever read this post.


The moral of the story is twofold.

One, always add mischievous ingredients like raisins where and when they can do no damage.

Two, stuff happens. Learn from it, but don’t be afraid to keep experimenting, be it in the kitchen or in life in general. This is what it means to be self-aware, which, really, is a much better shake than being perfect.

And, finally, in the interest of lifelong learning, I am attaching the link to a story I saw today that sheds more light on CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) among honeybees, which I have written about before here and here. It’s a story worth following as it continues to unfold. Bees are pretty amazing, and we depend on them to a huge extent for a large number of our food crops.

Thanks to Soulless Machine for the honeybee story!


2 Comments so far

  1. Erin M October 7th, 2010 11:57 am

    This is my new life motto: “One, always add mischievous ingredients like raisins where and when they can do no damage.”

    Thanks for that-also, I am impressed that you converted a sheet cake recipe to cupcakes, raisin issues or not. :-)

  2. Captain Mommypants October 7th, 2010 5:14 pm

    I am too interesting to be perfect.

    We are all too interesting to be perfect! :)

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