Cooking and Baking go hand in hand with Chemistry. Now before your roll your eyes, I’m not going to give you a lecture on Chemistry. TRUST ME, I am the wrong person for this. Give me mathematics, programming, engineering and I’m your gal; give me chemistry and all I make is smoke and noxious fumes 🙂 Most of the time it’s the way our ingredients/chemicals mix and combine to give us an amazing result. But just like chemistry, one false move in the kitchen can turn something fantastic into something horrific.
How many of you have over salted, burnt, over cooked, over sweetened, under baked, over spiced, over thinned etc.. something in the kitchen?
C’mon, don’t be shy. You’ve all done it at least once. Cooking and baking is made up of trials and tribulations.
Yeah but.. all that hard work for nothing, right? I mean you have to throw it away and start over.. right? Not necessarily my dear friends. Try these tips to salvage your meal.
Sometimes a tomato-based sauce will become too acidic. When dealing with an acid, the neutralizing agent should be a base. Curb an acidic bite in dressings and sauces with a small pinch of baking soda. It will neutralize the sting without adding unwanted flavor. Some cooks prefer to add sugar for the same reason. Sugar, either granulated, or from naturally sweet veggies like carrots, can also provide a pleasant balance.
Way Too Salty
If you’ve added far too much salt to a sauce or soup, you might want to slice a raw potato and add it to the mix. Allow the potato slices to become translucent–they should absorb much of the excess salt. Be sure to throw them away before serving. You could also add more unsalted water to dilute the sauce slightly. Another method is to add more liquid, some sugar or an acidic solution like vinegar to balance out the brine.
Burnt Cream or Custard
So you’re making this fabulous pudding or cream base sauce only to realize that you forgot to stir it the whole time. And when you go to stir it you see that the bottom has burnt. Crap! Even the most seasoned chefs have been known to burn a custard or two. As soon as you notice that the bottom layer of custard or cream has burned, stop stirring immediately. You don’t want to stir in the burnt portions. Pour the remaining custard, pudding or cream into a new pan and keep cooking.
Restore life to stale bread by slipping it into a 325 degree F oven in a lightly dampened paper bag. When the bag is dry, your bread will have regained its former softness. Stale bread is a natural fit for breadcrumbs, croutons, crostini, bread pudding or Panzannella.
Fire in the hole – Overspiced Foods
Tame the sting of excess heat with a touch of sweetness. Tomatoes, or even a squirt of ketchup, can add sugar and acid which will fan the flames. If a touch of dairy won’t interfere with the flavor of the dish, add a dollop of plain yogurt. If you’ve got more of your ingredients on hand, make a double batch with everything but the hot stuff, and blend the two together. Don’t just add water – all you’re doing is thinning it out.
So you’ve been making your infamous sauce all day only to realize that it’s way to thin. I mean no way would this stuff stick to pasta or anything. Now granted what you add to thicken it depends on the type of method to thicken in. A combination of flour and butter will often thicken up sauces if added in small batches. Cornstarch is usually a good thickener, but it might help to mix it with water first. A little goes a long way. Some cooks use dried potato flakes as an emergency thickener. If the sauce would not do well with these ingredients, you may try a reduction. Allow the excess liquid to boil out of the sauce until it is reduced in volume. Now all of these are more for cream type bases/gravies. To thicken pasta or marinara sauce, add in some tomato paste and or some grated cheese.
How many of you haaaaaaaaaaaaatemaking a big ol bowl of popcorn only to have 1/2 of the kernels not pop? Now granted I haven’t tried this on microwave popcorn (um yuck!), but this does work on normal popcorn poppers. The kernels may have dried out, and they need some moisture to pop. Soak them in water for about 5 minutes, drain and pat them dry and try again. If that doesn’t work, place them in a container in the freezer overnight and go for a re-pop the next day.
You want those soft ooey gooey sumptious cookies only to have them hard as a rock. Never fear. Put them in an air tight container and add 1 slice of white bread to it. By the next day they will be soft.
Dimpled or Crumbled Cakes
I often here “Hey, my cake crumbled when I tried to take it out of the pan” or “it’ got ridges on it from the wire rack”. Cool cake in pan 10-15 minutes before loosening the edge and turning it onto a wire rack.
Hint: To easily remove a cake form the pan, place a double thickness paper towel over the wire rack. The towel prevents the wire bars from breaking the crust or leaving imprints on the top of the cake
– Turn hot cakes out gently.
– Cool cake at least 1 hour before decorating.
Hint: When frosting a cake, chill the cake before spreading filling and/or frosting. (Cake will be much easier to work with.) Also, apply a thin layer of frosting to the cake and then refrigerate until it is set before applying the final, heavier layer of frosting. This will seal in the crumbs and ensure a clean final appearance.
Overwhipped Cream – now ya have butter
Whipped cream is the perfect addition to pies and other desserts. It’s not hard to make, but you can’t just stand there and idly whip away to your heart’s content. Overwhipping cream can ruin it if you’re not careful. If taken too far, whipped cream turns to butter. Stop whipping when the cream is still smooth and can hold soft peaks. Cream whips best when it’s cold and whipped in a cold container. If you overwhip cream it will start to look chunky. You may be able to fix it by adding more cream and whipping it by hand. If it’s very chunky and stiff, you’ve made butter and you’ll have to start over. But hey! At least you can use your mistake!