Tag Archives: Baking fails

Conquering yeast… Or not

As indicated by the disproportionately high number of sweet recipes on this blog, cakes and desserts are my forte.  Yeast, however, is my nemesis.  Despite numerous attempts, I have only ever managed to successfully bake one thing involving yeast.  (A super-delicious stollen, since you ask.)  I think I just need to take the time to learn the basics of baking with yeast so that I can look at a recipe and tell if it’s likely to work out or not, and have a rough idea of how to tweak it.  This lack of knowledge is compounded by a lack of confidence.

Random RecipesConsequently, when I saw that this month’s Random Recipe challenge was “bread” – randomly pick a recipe from either a specific bread book, or the bread section of a cookbook – I may have let out an expletive or ten.  I don’t have any specific bread books, so I randomly picked cookbooks until I found one with a bread/yeast section: Baking – 100 everyday recipes.  I duly picked a recipe randomly and ended up with mango twist bread.  Which sounded totally delicious so I was rather excited. Maybe this time the yeast and I would get on and I’d successfully manage to produce a loaf of bread.

This was supposed to come out as a fairly tall loaf, not a short, wide, splodge.

It wasn’t to be.  Blaming the recipe might sound too easy, but I really don’t think it was particularly reliable.  From the very first step (before even adding the yeast), the contents of my mixing bowl did not match the descriptions given in the book.  The dough ended up extremely sticky, even after adding plenty of extra flour.  The two strands of dough that were supposed to be twisted around each other to give a pretty shape basically merged back into each other and there were no strands or twists in sight within about five minutes (photographic proof below).  The dough did not rise as much as it should have, and it didn’t quite bake all the way through either, despite being very browned on top (which granted, could be a simple oven problem, but I do know my current oven quite well now, so I’m hesitant to lay the entirety of the blame on it).  And to top it all off, it didn’t even taste of mango.  Basically, it was an all-round fail, so I won’t be sharing the recipe.

Hmmmmm.  Doesn't look promising.

Conquering yeast will clearly have to wait for another day.  At least I tried though, right?

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world.


Filed under Sweet Foods

Sharky Oven Gloves turns two!

Guess what?  Guess what?  Today is Sharky Oven Gloves‘ second birthday (in case you haven’t read the title of the blog post…).  Exciting stuff!  And what the blog title doesn’t tell you is that this also happens to be my 200th blog post.  I can’t quite wrap my head around both of those facts.  Two years’ of blogging and 200 blog posts.  Goodness.  That’s a fair bit of procrastination…

A fair bit has happened since my first blog birthday , so here’s a little re-cap:

One tamarillo & walnut cake.

  • I managed to make some rather spiffing stollen, which I must admit is my only ever successful foray into baking with yeast, so I’m still pretty chuffed about that.

Drip drip drop, little caramel… uhm… drips.  Uhm, ya…

  • One of our technicians doesn’t eat egg, so I’ve ventured into occasional egg-free baking over the last few months, which is not something I’ve ever actively done before – most of the egg-free baking I’ve done before has been by accident more than an actual decision to make a recipe egg-free, so it’s been interesting.  Learning about the banana substitution trick certainly helped.
  • I won “best-tasting” in a baking competition with some “radioactive” lemon macarons (ok there wasn’t a great deal of competition, but still…), which was totally exciting.

The irony of a French person bringing in nuclear-themed baked goods to a baking competition in New Zealand is not lost on me.

  • Something I decided to try for my Kir macarons ended up sparking a minor obsession with swirly-shelled macarons, and I’ve since tried the effect out in my Mojito macarons, the non-radioactive version of my lemon macarons and my Leiter Fluid macarons.  So basically all of the macarons I’ve made since arriving in NZ.  Perhaps I should calm down on the swirly shells a little.  (But they’re so pretty…)

When you've run out of wine… fill the glass with macarons.  Sorted.

  • A few months ago I started my weekly Sunday Smiles feature, a weekly recap of things that have made me smile or laugh through the week.  It’s something a little different and all about focussing on the positive things in life.

Drinking gin out of an Edinburgh Gin glass is as close as I can get to real Edinburgh Gin here.  Sad times.

Now, today is also St Andrew’s Day, which I feel is largely eclipsed by Burns’ Night by Scots actually in Scotland, but celebrated by many Scots abroad (at least that’s the case based on my experience – it’s funny how as an expat you suddenly latch on to any excuse to celebrate your home country).  So to celebrate Sharky Oven Gloves‘ second birthday and 200th post and St Andrew’s Day, I decided that I’d post a Scottish recipe but with a Kiwi twist as a nod to my current home.  Hokey pokey is a crunchy butterscotch honeycomb type thing and very popular here apparently (especially in ice-cream it seems), so I thought it would be a fabulous idea to make hokey pokey shortbread.  Now, if I’d thought about it, I’d have realised that putting hokey pokey, which mostly consists of sugar and air, in the oven was not a good idea at all, but I went full steam ahead (I hope I get points for enthusiasm).  Result: the hokey pokey melted in the oven leaving unattractive cavities of caramelised sugar all over the shortbread.  Bugger.

Oh…  101 Dalmatians-themed shortbread anyone?  Ahem.

Of course, I could have just glossed over this particular experiment and pretended that it never happened, but you know, I figured I might as well give you a laugh.  And hey, sometimes I have kitchen failures.  Well ok, the shortbread wasn’t a total failure because it still tasted good, but it certainly wasn’t presentable…  Anyway, I even made a shark fin-shaped shortbread biscuit especially for the occasion, which sort of morphed out of shape a little – perhaps failed shark fins could be a theme for blog birthdays.

So I fed the failed shark fin shortbread to Toothy.  Obviously.

Anyway, giggle away at my recipe mishap, and here’s to another year of blogging, of both successes and failures (but mostly successes).

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!


Filed under Ramblings

The rhubarb cake that’ll be right

Here’s a tip-top baking secret: don’t overfill a cake tin – if it looks too full, it probably is.  I know, I know, I’m just too generous giving you such ground-breaking advice for free.  What can I say?  I’m really nice like that (please, don’t kill yourself laughing).  Unfortunately, this advice is based on first-hand experience.  An experience which comes courtesy of my (non-existent) entry for last month’s Simple and in Season event.  As I poured the batter into my prepared cake tin, I watched the batter level creep further and further up the side of the tin.  The batter level stopped about 5mm below the rim of the tin and I thought to myself well that looks a bit full.  Should I transfer some of it to a different tin?  Nah, she’ll be right.  “She’ll be right” is the Kiwi version of “it’ll be fine” – I’m clearly doing a fabulous job of adapting to my current host country.  So I popped the cake into the oven, expecting some sort of magic to take place.

It didn’t.  The cake proceeded to slowly rise and – you guessed it – spill down over the sides of the cake tin in what looked rather like lava flows.  I’d had a moment of clarity and put the cake tin on a baking tray which thankfully caught all the cake lava, so I didn’t have to deal with a cake-covered oven.  Too bad that moment of clarity didn’t extend to not overfilling the cake tin in the first place…  Needless to say that, whilst totally delicious, the resulting rhubarb cake was not particularly presentable, so I didn’t get my entry in (obviously this didn’t happen the evening before the deadline… ahem).  Luckily my labmates don’t discriminate against misshapen cakes as long as they taste good.

I made the cake again last night, but with reduced quantities to avoid another overfilled-cake-tin situation.  It was all going well… until I realised that I’d used up all the eggs in the omelette I’d made myself for dinner…  Great planning skills right there.  I could have nipped down to the dairy (corner shop) across the road, but it was raining and cold outside and I had a bunch of bananas, so I decided to just go for the banana-instead-of-egg approach – she’ll be right.  Because that attitude worked so well for me the first time I made the cake…  Thankfully this time I was rather more successful and out of the oven came a presentable, moist, spiced, rhubarb-y cake with a slightly crunchy cinnamon sugar topping.  Phew!  Since rhubarb is still in season here, I’m submitting it to this month’s Simple and in Season event which is back over at Fabulicious Food! where Ren is also celebrating her second blog birthday.  So here’s a rhubarb cake to wish you a happy blog birthday, Ren!

Rhubarb cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from Bubby’s Brunch Cookbook

If you don’t have any buttermilk, just use 315 ml of normal milk and add 2 tbsp lemon juice, mix and allow to stand for about 10 mins.  Then just add it as instructed (though sieve it first in case any lemon pips snuck in).  You can use two eggs instead of the mashed ½ banana – when the recipe specifies to whisk in the banana, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.  A lot of the rhubarb seems to sink to the bottom of the cake, so you may wish to try dusting the rhubarb with flour before folding it in (I haven’t tried this though, so no guarantees that it will prevent the rhubarb from sinking!).  The cake will keep for a couple of days in an airtight box.


For the cake:
400g rhubarb
Caster sugar, to sprinkle
335g all-purpose flour
1⅓ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Good pinch of salt
400g dark brown sugar
150g unsalted butter, softened
½ banana
315 ml buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:
65g light brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon


1.  Wash the rhubarb stalks and slice into 1 to 1.5 cm pieces.  Place in a sieve or colander over a bowl, lightly sprinkle with some caster sugar, mix together and allow to stand until whilst preparing the rest of the cake.

2.  Preheat the oven to 195°C/fan oven 175°C.  Line a 24 cm round cake tin (at least 5cm deep) with baking paper (the baking paper makes it easier to lift the cake out.  If you have a deep enough springform tin, this would be a great time to make use of it).

3.  Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cardamom, cinnamon and salt to a medium mixing bowl and stir together.  Set aside.

4.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and butter with an electric whisk until creamy.  Mash the banana in with a fork in a small bowl, and whisk into the sugar and butter mixture.  Then add the buttermilk and vanilla extract and whisk well until smooth (at this point, the mixture may curdle a little and it might not look terribly appetising, but adding the flour will sort that out, I promise).

5.  Add the flour mixture a third at a time, whisking until just combined between each addition.  Fold in the rhubarb and pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, smoothing the top with a spatula.

6.  Make the topping by stirring together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Sprinkle evenly over the cake and bake for 1h10 to 1h20 until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 mins before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cut into slices or squares and serve.



Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods