It’s that time again: (April) fools in the test kitchen

So, you think you want to come work in the King Arthur test kitchen, huh? Where everything we bake comes out perfect on the very first try.

NOT.

We have a “three strikes” rule here in the test kitchen. Try a recipe. If it fails the first time, strike one. Flops the second time, strike two. Still no good on the third attempt — “Yer out!” Ditch it, baby, life’s too short.

(Though we all confess, like mothers with a problem child, to allowing four, five, sometimes even six strikes for certain favorite recipes that we just KNOW will be successful if we simply don’t give up on them…)

We know all of you have made mistakes. Burned cookies. Doorstop bread.  Muffins that are for the birds—literally. And we, the King Arthur test bakers—Sue, Susan, Andrea, MaryJane, and me, PJ—are here to tell you: we’re with you. We feel your pain.

But we also know that in the end, laughter is the master of disaster.

So now, without further ado, we bring you April Fools in the Test Kitchen: 2009, the Year in Review.

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This is the way the muffin crumbles. Sue, looks like there was a little bit too much jam in the center of that muffin, huh?

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And then there was the Christmas fruit bread I put in the oven, and forgot to set the timer. Who-knows-how-long later – “Well, it LOOKS done.” Who-knows-how-long turned out to be clearly-not-long-enough.

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Susan had a slight mishap while carrying this whipped cream cake from the kitchen to the studio for a photograph.

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No longer camera-ready; very much YUM-ready.

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Susan again—and an experiment with very thin layers of chocolate cake and green mint filling. Again, while nothing much to look at, this cake was enjoyed by all. Beauty is only skin deep. As it turns out, ugly is, too.

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Your mission, should you choose to accept it: ship cookies to faraway places the easiest way possible. Lightbulb moment: Pringles can. Bet a tablespoon cookie scoop, carefully leveled, is going to make a cookie that’s EXACTLY the size to slide down into the can… or not.

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Hypothesis: Enough butter will make burned pancakes look enticing. Reality: this particular sow’s ear never even came close to becoming a silk purse.

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GET into that dough, you gosh-darned little… Andrea, are you SURE this recipe called for 3 cups of dried fruit?

And now, for all of you refugees from the ’60s, cast your mind back on the Doors’ “L.A. Woman.” Maestro, the music please:

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The dough is rising…

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Keep on rising…

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Rising, rising…

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Mr. Dough rising… Gotta keep on rising…

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Pick up the rolled crust, and transfer it to the pie plate. Yeah, right. Now I remember why I don’t use pastry flour in a high-butter crust.

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Scoop pizzelle batter into iron. Guess amount. Guess time. Pizzelle as sculpture. Guess again!

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Susan, Susan… Remember, manage expectations. The title of this recipe is… Chocolate Flop?

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And then there was the hot pan of blueberry streusel bars that met a jarring end when it was juggled, dropped onto the stovetop, and deposited much of its contents into the burners. Gives new meaning to the term “hot stuff coming through.”

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And finally—Sue, what were you thinking? Tomato sauce conservation? The art director needed only an edge of pizza for that cover shot? Well, half a pizza is better than none; but a whole pizza would have fed us all!

C’mon, folks – share your best kitchen faux-pas. My favorite from last year came from a reader who detailed what happens when you decide to toss pizza dough in the air, just like the pros, only you forgot to turn off the overhead ceiling fan…

Confession is good for the soul. Your turn—

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Jennifer Stanton Chapman

    Thank you for this post. It is really inspiring to see professionals make baking mistakes too.

    Oh, never fear, we make LOTS of “mistakes.” It’s the price we pay for experimenting. While developing recipes and mixes, we want to make as many goofs as we can along the way, so that you don’t have to! PJH

    Reply
  2. Nicole

    One of my all-time “favorite” baking errors was when I decided to make my best friends’ favorite recipe: family-secret butter cake. His grandmother used to make him a butter cake for his birthday every year, and then stopped once he moved away from home. I decided to be sneaky and contacted his sister, who then contacted his mother, who wrangled the recipe away from her mother. It was scanned and emailed to me a few days later and I set to work.

    Once I had put all of the ingredients together, I was attempting to mix it and actually broke my hand-mixer because the dough was so stiff! I just assumed it was because there were at least 2 sticks of butter in there and very little water. After a long time of hand-mixing with a wooden spoon, I finally was able to put it into a baking pan. It came out looking horrible and I didn’t understand what went wrong until I, exhausted, went to get water from the fridge and saw the full carton of eggs. Whoops! Nothing like a cake with no eggs to make the dough stiff as ever!!

    Yes, eggs would certainly have been a plus, eh Nicole? Hope you made it again—WITH the eggs! PJH

    Reply
  3. Hanne

    Oh, seeing this did my poor baking heart good. Just this past Sunday I experienced Massive Epic Cupcake Fail, to the tune of having horrible chthonic black-cocoa cupcake magma bubbling and smoking evilly all over the floor of my oven.

    And of course it happened on a day when I had guests arriving for a cupcake-decorating party.

    Fortunately I had made a previous batch of vanilla cupcakes that had turned out okay… and making marzipan sculpture cupcake toppers kept everyone busy enough that in the end, it didn’t matter that there were only one flavor.

    Hanne – This is why I set a baking sheet with parchment on the rack underneath anything I think has even the remotest chance of bubbling over. I learned (and learned, and learned again) that even bread dough can “boil over” – witness that lovely pain de mie loaf! Thanks for sharing – PJH

    Reply
  4. Karen

    Thanks for the flops, it’s nice to know we all have baking flops from time to time.
    My pain de mie loaf has done this many times. The spoils get eaten though, sometimes more ravenously than the actual product.

    Yeah, actually that scroll-like “leak” does taste pretty good… Gotta say I’ve only done it twice, though. Now I keep a REALLY close eye on it when it’s nearly ready to go in the oven… PJH

    Reply
  5. Tamara

    As a young, newly-married bride, I hosted my parents for our first Thanksgiving dinner in our tiny apartment. Of course everything had to be perfect and I planned the menu for weeks. Instead of plain, boring biscuits, I decided to bake fancy cranberry muffins. Thanksgiving arrived and all seemed to be going along swimmingly. The turkey came out of the oven, the muffins went in. The timer went off and the muffins came out…and looked like little cranberry hockey pucks. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what had happened. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when I pulled out my flour canister that I noticed how bright white the ‘flour’ was. Somehow I’d accidentally filled the flour canister with powdered sugar! Mystery solved and I still laugh about it every Thanksgiving.

    Ruined muffins: $6. In-laws that love you anyway: priceless. :) PJH

    Reply
  6. Christina

    I was trying to make a brownie pizza, but forgot to use a pan with edges. I smelled something burning, opened the oven door, and to my horror there were flames! My brownie batter expanded and slid right off the edge of the pan. Needless to say I had quite a lot of clean-up to do.

    And there’s just nothing like the smell of burning chocolate, is there? Oy… PJH

    Reply
  7. Bridget

    Let’s see…I think when I forgot to put flour in my oatmeal cookies. That was an interesting cookie sheet to take out of the oven! I knew the batter wasn’t quite right! :)

    Oatmeal bars, right? :) PJH

    Reply
  8. Cindy

    Gee, do I feel good! I started baking for the party I am catering – began as 30, now at 56 guests – brownie bites are one of the desserts: 1st batch, forgot the vanilla, throw batter back into the bowl, remix, promise to give those to guests I don’t like; 2nd batch – silicone paper sling broke when removing brownies from the pan – crumb city… goes to the husband standing in the background; 3rd batch – dumped the jar of vanilla, then the bowl of measured vanilla; 4th batch – had to get more eggs from the frig, 2 out of 3 made it to the mixer. Have you ever noticed how far a splattered egg can spread on a kitchen floor? 5th batch – no mishaps that I know of, but wouldn’t surprise me if someone found an alien object in one of their “bites”. Next time a friend asks me to do a party – please help me say NO!

    Cindy – I think all of your stars were in complete misalignment… I hope you could make some heavily vanilla-scented chocolate brownie trifle, at least! PJH

    Reply
  9. Alex

    My dear friend and roommate decided that after watching me make bread so many times that he could take on a loaf all by himself. Everything turned out great except for the fact that he forgot to add salt. It’s amazing the huge difference in flavor salt makes to a loaf of bread!

    Amazing the difference in rise, too – bet her bread rose REALLY nicely but tasted like cardboard… PJH

    Reply
  10. Mrs. Hittle

    i love the idea of mailing cookies in a Pringles can. Now it’s just a matter of finding the right size. Not a bad task… and i have hordes of locals who are willing to help eat the ones that are too big to ship. :-)

    i’ve always wondered if pain de mie would overflow like that.

    Paid de mie can indeed overflow if you don’t get it into the oven soon enough. The power of rising dough never ceases to amaze me. It’s like the power of those dandelions that grow right up through the cracks in the sidewalk… PJH

    Reply
  11. Joy

    Oh dear … what a hoot! We still joke about the “deck-a-mule-hard” biscuits I used to make, but it’s hard to top our very dear son-in-law’s sourdough starter that overflowed and started oozing out of the cupboard ;)

    Reply
  12. Sue

    My worst baking disaster involved a cheesecake for a birthday party. Somehow I managed to drop a whole egg, shell and all into the mixer while it was running. Needless to say the egg shell was instantly dispersed throughout the batter and there was no way to remove it all.

    My worst cooking disaster occurred when I was a young newlywed living in Vermont. My husband and I love seafood and it is so much less expensive there than in the landlocked Midwest where we both grew up but living on a tight budget it was still a splurge. I accidentally substitued cooking vinegar for cooking sherry in the sauce. It was the worst food I have ever tried to eat. What a waste of perfectly wonderful seafood!!

    Reply
  13. Jessica

    I’ve only had a massive fail once, when I was trying to make a chicken parmesan-ish kind of dish. I don’t think I’d defrosted the breasts all the way and they wound up sticking to the pan, burning, and almost setting my kitchen on fire. We had to throw the whole mess out, pan and all. But at least we had the nearest pizza place on speed-dial!

    Oh, and for the life of me, I can’t get my snickerdoodles to not burn on the bottom.

    Sorry about the chicken, Jessica – but as for the snickerdoodles: 1) Are you using a light-colored cookie sheet, and/or lining it with parchment? 2) Baking on a middle or upper (not lower) rack? 3) Have you tried not rolling the balls of dough in cinnamon-sugar, but just coating the tops? All fo this would help – PJH

    Reply
  14. Smriti

    The pictures wouldn’t be half the fun without your comments! Really had a good laugh thanks to you :) And of course it was good to know that even experts can make mistakes! :)

    Thanks – yes, we bumble along with the rest of the world; perhaps less often, but no less spectacularly! PJH

    Reply
  15. Deidra

    I have a special pumpkin loaf with a cream cheese layer that has gotten rave reviews and become one of my signature desserts. I made it for a Halloween party and couldn’t figure out why it came out as dense as a dunce. Good thing I had plenty of back up treats and no one was the wiser that it hidden away.

    A few days later I noticed the cornstarch looking too close to the front of the stash. And the baking powder buried deep.

    Mystery solved.

    Oh well, as my once-a-year-baker sister-in-law once asked me – “Aren’t all those white powders the same?” :) PJH

    Reply
  16. Mike T.

    Remember, the player that hits the most homeruns is also the one with the most strikeouts! Nice work everyone.

    Thanks, Mike! PJH

    Reply
  17. Mike T.

    Okay now that I said that…

    1. Forgot eggs in a batch of comish bread and didn’t realize it until I took it out and it hadn’t risen, looked at the mixer and there were the eggs sitting next to it.

    2. First batch of cinnamon rolls I baked in Colorado Springs (6300 ft), beautiful around the edge of the pan, raw in the middle… Lesson: use smaller pan.

    3. First banana cake in Colo Spgs, cut into it, oozing center… Okay, there must be something about altitude baking in one of my cookbooks…

    4. Perfecting a light airy cheesecake… They rise so nicely… And flatten so well… Still working on this one…

    5. Yeast bricks, er, bread… Doing better these days, and taking Jeffrey’s class in May to do even better!

    And the list goes on… and on… and on… ;-)

    But I guess the best one is when a friend of mine, who was learning to bake, decided to help me out by refilling my salt canister… Well, it was actually my sugar canister but I didn’t know she had done that until later… Much later… Yes, authentic Israeli recipe, apparently even made with water from the Dead Sea.

    Mike, thanks for the 5:30 a.m. April Fool’s Day chuckle. You’re right – the more you bake the more you have to laugh about. PJH

    Reply
  18. --Deb

    That picture? The one of the pie crust? That’s what mine ALWAYS looks like. It doesn’t matter what recipe, what flour, what technique, what “make it easier” gadgets I use, it NEVER makes it into the pie plate in one piece!

    Hence the reason I mostly bake cake and bread….

    Deb, Deb… you can do this. If you ever work up the desire to try again, use all-purpose (not pastry) flour. Be sure to use enough liquid. Chill the dough for 30 minutes before rolling. Try this recipe. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll have to come give you a personal lesson! PJH

    Reply
  19. Allie

    I once made a cake and I thought I would try this frosting that you boil. It sounded interesting. I thought it turned out well. I made it pink. It tasted great–like marshmallow! I frosted the cake and then I turned my back on the cake to answer the phone. I turned back a few minutes later and the frosting had drizzled off the cake, onto the plate, off the plate, onto the counter, off the counter and onto the open dishwasher door, off the dishwasher door and onto the floor. Fortunately I stopped its progress before it reached the carpet. :)

    You guys are killing me… what a picture, Allie. Creature from the Pink Lagoon. PJH

    Reply
  20. Robin

    You know how cookie and brownie recipes always start out with creaming together butter and sugar? Well, I learned that one must NEVER mix Splenda and warm butter. This picture of the congealed mass left in the strainer after I salvaged the rest of the ingredients says it all:
    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3213/3112956163_943ea3026d_m.jpg

    Lesson learned, Robin – I’ll never try mixing Splenda and warm butter unless I want practice cleaning my strainer… PJH

    Reply
  21. HMB

    Fortunately, my husband and sons willingly eat my mistakes — “even your bad stuff is good” one of the boys once said. And when I’m REALLY having a bad baking day and actually let a curse fly (I rarely swear, truly!), my husband will say, “Oooh, whatcha baking? If it’s giving you that much trouble, it’s gonna be spectacular.” Gotta love him! And as my younger son said the other day when he was sampling the KAF no-fuss overnight coffee cake, “You know, mom, that saying about ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’ has a lot of truth to it.” When you bake with love, you just can’t go wrong!

    Absolutely true, HMB, and so well said. PJH

    Reply
  22. Rosa

    I’m glad to see that this also happens in your kitchen and to professionals like you… Flops and mistakes are always highly annoying and quite depressing, but we do learn a lot from them!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    Reply
  23. Angela

    I once decided to try this decadent recipe for carmel cinnamon rolls I had found in a book of challah recipes. The recipe called for putting liberal amounts of butter and brown sugar in the bottom of a round cake pan which would then carmelize during baking. I decided to make a double batch so I could leave half with my (well imagined) grateful parents and take half to my equally grateful coworkers and used my mother’s oven for convenience sake. Well the recipe forgot to mention that the pans should have 3 inch sides as opposed to the 2 inch ones I was using. When the buzzer went off I went to grab the pans and found the butter had boiled out and caught on fire and was merrily flaming away on the bottom of the oven. I grabbed the rolls out, threw an entire box of baking powder in the oven and then as I was already running late to work left an admittedly grateful father with one plate of rolls and a very annoyed mother with the oven. I told her I would clean it up after work but you can imagine how well that went over. Ironically that was the best that recipe ever turned out. None of the subsequent tries were nearly as tasty.

    Angela – that’s what the “clean” setting on the oven is for, right? So, Mom didn’t see it that way, huh? Interesting that was the best version – must have something to do with caramelization (in the pan, not on the oven floor)… PJH

    Reply
  24. Brenda

    My worst cooking disaster was when I was in junior high when I’d long been making bread on my own. Not sure how long, but do remember that I’d been doing it “forever” when my second-grade teacher didn’t believe I’d made the loaf of French bread I gave her for Christmas by myself. She was starting to MAYBE believe me when she said, …”and your mother took it out of the oven for you.” “No, she didn’t!” (I thought, “Why would she ever think such a dumb thing? Mom hasn’t taken stuff out of the oven since I was a little kid.”) –Regardless, back to junior high. We had company, I was tired, in a hurry and baking French bread (2 loaves, as usual), and distracted while talking to someone in the kitchen. Mom had recently copied over the recipe with her usual measurements for 1, 2, & 4 loaves, obviously copying down the quantities for 1 loaf and doubling it in her head for 2 loaves, and I read 3 teaspoons of salt as 3 tablespoons since everyone knows that there are 3 teaspoons to a tablespoon, so there is no such thing as 3 teaspoons…

    Then there’s my old college roommate who’d never really done any cooking and decided to make rolls. Since wheat germ would be much healthier than flour, she decided to make it with wheat germ replacing the flour. I didn’t see the results, fortunately, but could almost imagine the results when she told me that they were rock-hard and inedible. “What did I do wrong?” she wailed as I stood there dumbfounded and sputtering.

    Brenda – you tell a delightful story. I can imagine that “salt bread” – which I’m sure rose not at all… And how wonderful, your long history of bread baking! PJH

    Reply
  25. Kate

    Recently needed to make individual brownies. I bought cupcake papers and everything. Half-way through the mixing (making by scratch, without a recipe, very late at night) I realized that I didn’t have enough cane sugar. Confectioners will have to do! I kept on mixing and, eventually, thought to myself “Huh, this is really runny and sort of ‘icing-like.’” But, I figured it would solidify in the oven. 350F and 20 minutes later I had… something. Not exactly brownies. I looked at them, looked at the sideboard, looked at the flour and slapped my head. I didn’t add flour! Into the trash they went.

    Next batch: made all the better with the secret ingredient, flour. But, of course by then I had no cane or brown sugar at all and had to make them with honey. Oi.

    Reply
  26. Jenn

    My Christmas baking this year was one train wreck after another, not helped by the fact that I didn’t START baking until the 23rd. But the worst one was the cookies that I mixed up, but the batter just didn’t seem right AT ALL. I scooped a pan out the best I could and stuck them in the oven, which of course didn’t work. The batter tasted great, but I couldn’t figure it out. So it got dumped, and I set to cleaning up the kitchen for the next batch. That’s when I discovered the bowl with the flour mixture that I’d set aside in the first step. Uh, oops? It was a shame, those cookies would have been awesome.

    Reply
  27. eric

    Making a giant, intensely-chocolate cake for my parents a few years ago at their house. The dough seemed a bit off, but I was fairly new to baking and just thought it was the coffee in the cake. Then after baking, it just didn’t seem to rise correctly. My father takes one nibble and says, “Salt?” My mother had accidentally poured a large container of salt into the sugar bowl without tasting them first.

    This was about 8pm. As an apology, my mother handed me a box of cake mix and says, “Here, just make this. It’ll be fine.” Needless to say, I ignored her, went to the grocery store, and was frosting a less salty version at around midnight. :)

    Reply
  28. AnnaMarie

    One of my worst was my brother requesting cream puffs for his wedding. With a hurricane hovering off the coast (we were inland 150 miles) it was touch and go but they puffed okay. Off to the wedding. When I returned there were 200 flat little cakes, no puff!

    I sliced them open anyway, filled them and we had cream flats. Tasty, just not puffy.

    Reply
  29. Michelle

    I was preparing to have everyone over for Christmas one year and decided to break in my new 6 mini bundt pan. I had some the same problem with this pan in the past…cake always got stuck no matter how much I sprayed it with stuff. I decided to try the trick of crisco and flour which worked perfectly. I was jumping for joy when all 6 came out prefectly…to only realize that I forgot to add the sugar to the batter. Chocolate cake with no sugar is not very good :(

    Reply
  30. Heidi

    I once was making a cookie cake and didn’t read the part of the recipe where it said to leave an inch border to allow the cake to spread during baking. Next thing I knew I started to smell smoke….The cookie cake had spread out of the pan and onto the oven floor where it started to burn. When I opened the oven door, a cloud of smoke started to pour out and fill the house…..My husband wasn’t too happy since we had to open all the windows in the house. Did I mention it was December?!? The house smelled like burnt cookie for a few days….oops…

    Reply
  31. Brenda

    Actually, it rose fine; all 3 times. (Two risings before forming the loaves to improve texture and flavor.) I never timed rising and only went by eyeballing, then poking it (you start bread in the morning, throw it in the oven when it’s ready…), so it may easily have taken longer than usual. This version rises twice before forming into loaves. Our first clue was when the first bite was taken. An awful face…”What’s the matter?” –”It’s SALTY!” So cut myself a nice, steaming slice, slathered on butter, and IT WAS SALTY!!!!! Grabbed the recipe, and there was 3 TEASPOONS (or 3 t, as opposed to 3 T, in Mom’s abbreviations) of salt staring me in the face. My “baby” brother reminds me of it occasionally to this day vaguely 45 years later.

    Reply
  32. Sandy

    How comforting that you, professionals, have disasters too!! One of my many disasters involved making a low-fat version of Creme Brulee. We went to a friend’s house for dinner and I brought the Brulee as the dessert. I sprinkled the sugar on the individual Brulees and then put them in her oven to broil, since we did not have a torch. So we are yakking away when all of sudden we smelled nasty smoke. It was pouring out of her oven. Oops….we had put the rack the Brulees were sitting on too close to the broiler. The tops of the Creme Brulees were liteally on fire!!! We took them out, extinguished the flames, scraped off the charred tops and ate the Brulee!!

    Reply
  33. Fina

    Just yesterday I had a baking mishap. I made some cupcakes – and decided to try a gluten free flour for my gluten free friend – and threw in some chocolate chips for a little extra something. Everything went well in the mixing – but when I pulled them out – every single one had fallen. A perfect divet in the middle. Was it the flour? Upon closer inspection – aka taste testing – the cupcake tasted and rose fine but it turns out all the chocolate chips had collected at the bottom, melted together into one mass, and must’ve brought the batter down with it. Oops. Who knew? As my husband pointed out though – more room for the frosting!

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  34. MaryJane

    AH-Ha! Now I can finally tell the “Stir Fried Beef with Honey” story.

    Back before David and I were married, I went to his apartment to make dinner. I found some beef tips in the freezer, and decided to make a stir fry with a honey glaze. It was awful, chewy and tough. Come to find out, I had used STEW beef, not beef tips. Needless to say, we label everything in the freezer now!

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  35. elianna

    Well i have a million stories like all of those but i’ll spare you them :) and just tell one of my mom’s. Not truly a “baking” story…but we had those nice cabinets with the tray things that roll right out so you can reach anything. SO my mom just got out some baking ingredient and is now trying to push that nice shelf back into place. Funny noise…kind of a hissing noise…and that thing WON’T slide back. Try again…and again…and again…
    and finally retrieve the can of Pam spray that was jammed in the back…and nicely greasing the inside of the cupboard and the flour bag and…and…and… ;)

    Reply
  36. NurseGail

    Ah, yes, stir-fry errors. . .in our house, boxes of stuff are almost immediately put into jars, and sometimes we even label them. If they’re not labeled, well, substitutions get made, and if you reach for what you think is cornstarch for your stirfry sauce, and get baking soda instead, stand in amazement as your vegetables seemingly dissolve before your eyes. . . only did it once, but the scars remain.

    As far as mistakes with bread go, well, if I can slice it, I can toast it, and if I can toast it, I can eat it!

    Make sure to visit Deborah Henson-Conant’s Museum of Burnt Food:
    http://www.burntfoodmuseum.com/

    Reply
  37. Karen

    I had taken a cake decorating class at Michael’s with my mother several years prior to the Frosting Incident. So making up a big batch of frosting was old hat. However, the little plastic thingy on the bottom of my stand mixer’s beater had fallen off and I thought, I bet that thing doesn’t make much difference. So in go my ingredients, slow to start…hmmm…seems fine. Then I turn up the speed to make it nice and smooth and my trusty mixer violently flings frosting all over me and my kitchen. It’s one of the only times I’ve laughed out loud while all alone in my kitchen. It was just EVERYWHERE!

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  38. PJH

    I have to say to ALL of you – I’m truly laughing out loud reading these. My Web teammates are casting apprehensive glances my way… “Yup, she’s finally gone around the bend…” Thanks, all, for brightening this cold, gray, rainy April Fool’s Day. PJH

    Reply
  39. Susan in Las Vegas

    Do not use the pizza peel to push in the oven rack, baking stone, parchment and pizza. The peel is REALLY good at tilting up the oven rack. If you drop the peel, and catch the sliding parchment, the weight of the dough is enough to keep the baking stone from sliding off the back of the rack. However, the sauce, cheese and toppings CONTINUE SLIDING and land in a lovely, inaccessible mess on the floor of the 450F oven. Oven mitts are much more effective for the task of pushing in the oven rack.

    A heavy-duty stainless steel flipper is pretty effective at scraping up the carmelized pizza topping, when the oven eventually cools off.

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  40. Keri

    We lived in Eastern Europe for a while and they only had live yeast in little cubes like tofu. Having only used dry yeast, I didn’t realize how much faster it works so the first time I made a big batch of pancake batter, I was amazed when I came back to check on it and it had overflowed and run all over the counter and down the cabinets and onto the floor. I wish now I’d taken a picture of it! LOL

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  41. Lesley

    It wasn’t baking, but it did involve the oven. First Thanksgiving in our first house – first holiday meal I’m cooking for my in-laws, first turkey I’ve ever cooked. I go all out and buy the fancy foil pan with the support handles at the grocery store. (Did I mention the alarm system that calls the fire department if the smoke alarm goes off?) Thanksgiving morning, MIL’s jello won’t set, disposer chokes and dies, and MIL’s cake fall. OTT all is well. Turkey goes into the oven. 60 minutes later the kitchen and then the whole house fills with smoke, smoke detector and alarm go off, we rush to cancel the alarm and open doors and windows. Grocery store pan has a hole in it, nice puddle of turkey fat burning on the floor of the new oven, in the new kitchen, in the new house. (why fool around, we like to break things in quickly) So we air out the house, place the bird in a lasagna pan and continue our preparations. MIL makes the gravy in the lasagna pan. We move to the dining room to eat this glorious meal. I keep hearing something in the kitchen but I am sure everything is off. Everything except the burner MIL left on under the gravy. Gravy boils, burns and fills house with smoke. Smoke detector and house alarm go off, we rush to phone to prevent the arrival of the fire dept and open all doors and windows – again, in MI, in November. This is how the Keystone Cops do holidays. Alls well that ends well, turkey, gravy and fallen cake all delicious – jello salad however was not salvageable.

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  42. Amanda

    My first baking experience is probably my most laughable. I was probably 10 or so, and had a friend spending the night. My mom had to take my brother to swimming lessons, so left my friend and I at the house. While she was gone, my friend and I decided to make sugar cookies. Whilst gathering the ingredients, we realized we had no vanilla. I called mom at the pool, who aparently told me, “Stop, and I’ll help when I get home.” However, I seemed to have heard, “It’ll be fine, just go on without the vanilla.” We then discovered we didn’t have enough sugar. We continued onward. When Mom got home, we presented her with cookies that not even our dog would choke down.

    Not quite a disaster, but along those lines, my grandma had a chocolate cake recipe that everyone loved–when SHE made it. When anyone else tried to make it, though, it came out awful and inedible. No one ever figured out why. Until I made it. I got out the standard ingredients for cake, including vanilla and salt. When I read the recipe, I realized that it called for neither. I dumped both in anyway. It was at the point that Mom and I realized that grandma must have forgotten to write down vanilla and salt, but knew that it went in and just automatically added it. Everyone else, though, just followed the recipe. Am I a bad person for never having told anyone but Mom the secret? LOL.

    Reply
  43. Vicki

    Oh these stories were soooo funny! I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s stories and can see them happening.

    My latest mishap occured because I was in a hurry. I was making the 60 Minute Snowflake Rolls in the Holiday Baking sheet before a friend who loooves yeast rolls came for lunch. All the ingredients were lined up and measured out except the flour. I’d studied the recipe to make sure I knew the correct order, how long to mix, etc and felt confident I would be able to do this.

    I’m mixing, adding, blending and at the end, of the mixing, I had flour soup. I kept going over the recipe. What was wrong? Finally I realized…I hadn’t used the 1 cup measuring cup. When I’d reached in the drawer I’d pulled out the 2/3rd cup measuring cup so I was way short of the correct amount of flour! By this time I was running out of time so I just start throwing in enough flour until the dough starts to resemble what I think it should.

    Then I dump it and start kneading it. That worked fine. But I don’t have 9″ pans, I’ll use 8 inch pans. But they don’t all fit in 2, so I use 3. The rising went well but then I forgot to set the time for the baking. Yikes! I can truthfully say they were very tasty in the end, even if slightly overcooked. I have been extra careful since then to make sure I pull the correct measuring cup out.

    I won’t even go into the amazing oozing molten lava like disaster of the English Muffin Toasting bread while it was rising…..and that was after it had only been rising 15 mins! Oh my….that was quite an eventful night! It was a weird looking loaf of bread in the end but very tasty.

    And the time my sister accidentally knelt on the yeast rolls that were rising. Do you know that it sounds like a gunshot when they get explosively deflated? You should have seen us all jump! We still talk about that incident!

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  44. Lenore

    It is nice to know that everyone else has things that do not turn out picture perfect every time! Some of the food media sets very high expectations for home cooks.

    Aside from the usual failed recipe, fire in the oven stories, my worst involves baking – kind of. Hubby and I were moving so most of the stuff in the fridge got tossed, except my precious sour dough starter. I put in in a sealed jar, packed in a box and put it in the trunk of our car so it would travel with me and not the movers.

    Hubby puts a few more things in the trunk and closes up. We drive to new house and start directing the movers. Several hours later, the fridge is running and I open the trunk to get my starter.

    Somehow in the packing, slamming, drive, the jar got broken and the starter had fermented into the carpet for 4 hours. (oh, did I mention this was August in North Carolina and it was 90+ outside?) We never did get the smell out.

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  45. Denise

    Oh, I love hearing about the adventures we all have had in the kitchen. It’s so nice to see that I’m not alone. There have been so many but probably the most memorable was the cornbread I made as a teenager. I was following the recipe and everything looked great as it went into the oven. i went to pull it out and the edges had risen enormously but the center was extremely thin. It looked kind of like a volcano. We went ahead and cautiously took a bite. It was so bitter, it practically burned your mouth. Turns out I had mistaken the amount of baking powder as Tablespoons instead of Teaspoons!! It was horrible and my family still teases me to this day.

    Most recently was my Pain au Chocolat episode. I was making the crossiant-like rolls with the pain au chocolat sticks I had purchased from KA. This recipe has tons of butter folded into the dough. The process was long but seemed to be going along okay. I put the rolls in the oven, set the timer and went on to clean up the kitchen. After a bit I noticed smoke coming out the oven vent and around the door. I opened up the door to discover that as the butter melted, it was flowing across my rimless cookie sheets and onto the oven floor where a nice fire was now burning!! I pulled the paritally cooked rolls out and poured baking soda on the fire. Then I transferred the rolls (luckily I had used parchment paper) to cookie sheets with edges and continued cooking. They turned out okay but boy what a mess!! Plus it was a little chilly having the windows all open in Feb. in Ohio!

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  46. Cheri

    What a laugh–how comforting to know I’m not the only one who does “interesting” things in the kitchen.

    A family story that never seems to die is the one about the butterscotch pie than my Mom made Dad when they were first married in 1927. She hadn’t done much cooking at all and was learning “on the job.” The woman downstairs gave her the pie recipe and Mom went to work right away to make one for supper that day. The results were terrible–she said you could pinch the center of the filling and bounce it up and down like a rubber band!

    When her neighbor asked how the pie turned out, Mom confessed that she had to throw it out. When they went over the recipe, it turned out that Mom had very carefully made the cooked pudding filling, put it in the shell, and then baked the pie instead of chilling it! But my Dad never found out–Mom hid the evidence and didn’t say anything until about 40 years later when I had my first kitchen disaster and needed consoling.

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  47. Eric

    It feels better when it happens to pros. I have an advanced case of schadenfreude-induced glee that flares up when I see wrecks like this. ;0)

    It’s a wonder I’m a married man today – the first time I baked after I moved into my charming partner’s harvest-gold-festooned kitchen, there was nearly a murder. His oven, unbeknownst to him, always ran both the bake and broil elements when set to Bake. Dude’s a gifted mechanical engineer but has trouble toasting a bagel properly. I’d promised to bring my sour cream/struesel swirl coffeecake to a brunch the next morning, so after getting back to the island at 10 at night and making a recipe that ALWAYS works, it was a bit of a shock to notice the smoking pool of batter on the floor of the oven and the charred pecans and asphalt-like layer of melted sugar on the top of the cake.

    I of course, did not know the precise nature of the problem, but I WAS able to wake him from a blissful slumber by screaming at the top of my lungs about his intellectual capacity, his lousy taste in real estate, his pedigree or lack thereof including the questionable filial ties of his parents and their presumed lack of wedding before his conception.

    Take-Away Lesson Number One: never trust an oven without a thermometer in it.

    Take-Away Lesson Number Two: Know a good Danish-American bakery.

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  48. Tammy

    Just wanted to say that your “disasters” look like my weekly baking!! Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit… it’s comforting to know the experts mess up sometimes, too.

    Reply
  49. Anne

    When I was a child, my mom decided to make fudge for Christmas one year. It didn’t quite set up right — we had “Mystery Fudge” in our freezer for months and used it as an ice cream topping. Nice and viscous!

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  50. Kim

    Baking mishaps? Where do I begin? I was still learning how to bake and I accidentally turned the oven off between pans of cookies. When I asked my mom (who was on the phone) if the temperature was 300, I got “5-0″ which I interpreted as “500″. One lesson was all that took!

    More than once I’ve forgotten to put sugar in my homemade blueberry cheesecake ice cream, a most important ingredient! Thankfully I’ve realized it and mixed it in while it was still soft and no one knew the difference.

    I was making cookies once and couldn’t remember how many cups of flour I’d added already. I thought it was too dry so I added more oil. Then I added more flour. Needless to say, they didn’t turn out quite right.

    My mom likes to tell a story of a well-intentioned husband who was instructed to put the pan in the oven to bake. Turns out, he put the 7-layer jello salad in the oven instead of the main dish! Oops. What a hoot! Thanks for sharing. Mary @ KAF

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  51. Kim

    I should also add that a good friend of mine made a wonderful blunder, to which we remind her of it to this day. She was making a chip dip and the recipe called for 1/8 t curry powder. She couldn’t find the 1/8 t so she figured 4×2=8, right? She used the 1/4 t TWICE! The dip was completely unedible.

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  52. Barbara

    Thanks ya’ll for making me laugh today.
    When I was about 19yr. or so, in my first apt., I thought I’d try making my mom’s wonderful chocolate pie from scratch.
    Away I go, happily reading her recipe adding the ingredients, one of which was chocolate baking squares.
    No where in her instructions did it say to MELT the chocolate!
    Do you have any idea what those hard little squares do to beater blades!
    The pie actually did come out tasty a little speckley maybe but oh well.
    To this day, every time I make this pie I laugh to myself and think melt the chocolate first!

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  53. Jennifer G.

    One Saturday afternoon when I was in 7th grade, my best friend and I decided to make our favorite cookies – snickerdoodles. I put together the wet ingredients while Amy was on the other side of the kitchen, mixing the dry ingredients. We mixed them together and she tasted the batter. She made a face and said, “Umm, I think I accidentally put in 1.5 cups of SALT instead of sugar. Do you think that matters?”

    I wanted to throw it out and start over, but she said, “Hey, it’s okay, we can just add a LOT of extra sugar and I bet no one will know the difference.”

    The next thing I remember was watching Amy dump half a bag of sugar into the bowl, taste it, frown, and add more….when her mom came home later that afternoon, she was not exactly happy that we had used nearly two 5-lb. bags of sugar to make one (ruined) batch of cookies!!

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  54. Elisabeth

    I had a big pot of no-knead bread dough made for the week. It made 8 one pound loaves. And I had a small dutch oven I liked to bake them in. The BF wanted some bread, and I had to go to class, so I told him just to preheat the little blue dutch oven in the regular oven. I even put a post-it on the dutch oven, saying “put in oven, 450″. So he gets home, reads the note at “pot in oven”, opens the dutch oven, and is confused at the lack of bread in it. I call him 1.5 hours later saying I’m about to come home and ask if the blue dutch oven’s been preheating. He says “what? you mean pot of bread? Yeah, it’s baking.” He’d baked the biggest loaf of bread I have -ever- seen in my life….

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  55. Elizabeth

    PJ, I can’t remember ever making a mistake … Walks away adjusting Halo and grins….:-}

    After all these years, I could fill a book with “Oops!” Too many to list… LOL

    Love all the pics and stories… Thanks

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  56. Angela

    Well if we’re talking about non bread stuff when I tend to get really proud when I learn to make something so after my first few sucessful attempts at eggplant parmisean I decided to treat my family to a full out fancy italian dinner. The parmisean had so much prep to it though that I wanted to do some of it the night before. Obviously I didn’t want to fry the slices or even coat them the night before because they would go all soggy so I decided to cut out the hour long pressing stage by pressing them in the fridge overnight. Overnight in the fridge= 1 hour on the counter right? So the next day I get home, rinse off these leathery little circles and decide that if they’re extra dehydrated they’ll soak up even more of the sauce and be perfect and go about frying, layering and then baking them while I made homemade garlic bread (love your recipe btw), and fried mozerella and zuchinni as an appetizer.

    I was so excited at how gorgeous everything looked that I decided not to wait for my father to get home and went ahead and dished up big plates of everything for my mother and big sister. Are you familiar with the Japanese pickling process; the one where you salt vegetables and press them and they brine overnight in their own juices? I had accidentally recreated the process in my fridge and let me tell you pickled eggplant parmisean is not tasty. Our italian feast ended up having hot dogs as the entree. On the other hand we had a big laugh about it and served up a big plate of it to my dad when he got home!

    Then of course there was my first college dinner party when one of my guests asked what those little chewy black flecks on the flan were. Turns out you shouldn’t use a plastic spoon to make carmel on the stove top. It melted without my even realizing it…

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  57. Michael M

    My classic banana bread. Always comes out of the oven like a dream. except my one day where I forgot to put the flour in the dough. My mind was elsewhere. When I turned the oven light on to see how the breads were progressing I saw something that looked like a blackened dried sponge sitting in my loaf pans…… So, I cleaned them out andstarted over again.

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  58. SarahB

    Every Christmas I make a bunch of cookies to give away to friends. One year, in my rush, I forgot to add the sugar to my batch of press cookies. They looked pretty, but blech!!! The dogs each got a special fancy looking dog treat that year.

    I made another goof when I was making the groom’s cake for my mother wedding — forgot the eggs! I only realized when I tried to pull it out of the oven! Thankfully I had the time and the ingredients to start over. :)

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  59. Nancy

    Ok, this isn’t mine, but it’s much funnier then any of my mistakes.
    A fellow worker told me she was just beginning to learn how to bake, and thought she was following directions correctly when she literally buttered the BOTTOM of the pan!
    I thought I’d never recover from that one LOL

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  60. Margy

    Ah, the advantages of coming from a large family–even most disasters will have someone hungry/willing/desperate enough to eat them! One notable exception: My late grandmother and I had always baked the holiday sugar cookies in our house when I was growing up. After I moved into my own place, my younger teenaged sister decided she wanted to make the cookies all by herself one year, with no help from big Sis or mom. I gave her the recipe and wished her luck, as these were cookies rolled paper thin. No panic calls, assume everything is going OK. The next day, she proudly presents us with a plate of…hockey pucks with a cherry on top. I asked what had happened. She told me the dough was to dry to roll out, so she formed it into balls and put cherries on them to make thumbprint cookies. I was puzzled; had made this recipe many times without a problem. Did she follow the recipe, I asked. Oh yes, she answered. Did you use extra flour? No, I used four cups, just like the recipe said. It dawns on me: What cup did you use to measure the flour? This one, she says, and pulls out a 4 CUP LIQUID MEASURING CUP, which she had filled 4 times!! :O I ask, Why didn’t you use a dry measure cup? She frowns: Aren’t all cups the same? They looked like hockey pucks, and they were as hard as concrete. Even our brother, famous for eating anything, refused to touch them. We put them out for the birds, and even the birds wouldn’t eat them! Now she has 4 kids of her own, and her baking skills have definitely improved over the years, but we still remind her about those “cookies” every Christmas!

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  61. Lindy

    Thanks for the laughs. On Saturday I tried the new Cook’s Illustrated recipe for “The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie.” Mise en place in my kitchen, so I measured all ingredients and set them aside. Mixed, baked, and tasted. Good cookies, but something was missing. Then I saw the small container of salt on the counter.

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  62. Andrea

    I think the worst was the year I made a big ol’ St. Patty’s day feast with a baby who wasn’t sleeping well.

    Soda bread is mighty tasty if made right. But adding 4 TABLESPOONS of baking soda (instead of teaspoons) to the loaf just makes it, well, it was awful. Absolutely horrible. I’d rather just eat a teaspoon of salt plain than eat that horrible loaf of yuckiness again. My husband begged me to throw the recipe out!

    I threw it out in the yard for the birds and squirrels. Had to clean it up a week later because even THEY wouldn’t eat it. Never a good sign. ;)

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  63. PJH

    OK, I have to jump in here. My worst disasters both involved wedding cakes. I’ve made two wedding cakes in my life, and quickly learned my lesson: I AM NOT A FANCY BAKER. First cake – all chocolate. Three rectangular layers, the terraced look – lots of piped icing loops and squiggles and all that stuff. Well, how was I going to get it to the wedding? I had a VW Bug at the time. I worked for a newspaper in Maine, so borrowed the paper delivery van. Smart, huh? I set the cake atop a couple of wooden palettes in back, and off we went. Suddenly a car pulled out of a side street in front of me. (Can you see this coming…?) The cake flew off the palette, slid the length of the van, and crashed into the front console. It looked like a chocolate earthquake; crumbled cake, mashed frosting, totally destroyed. The wedding was in 30 minutes. So… I continued on, and delivered the cake. The bride and groom were co-workers. Now, this was back in the ’70s, and the hippie era was still pretty much in full swing. Turns out most of the people at the ceremony had had a little too much to smoke, if you get my drift… “Oh, wow, man… Look at that cake. It’s, like, psychedelic…” They ate every last bit of it.

    Disaster #2: Another co-worker getting married. (I think any subsequent co-worker brides or grooms figured out after this NOT to ask me to make their wedding cake.) I was so “advanced,” I decided to use those plastic columns to support the layers. You know, a big round layer, then plastic columns holding up a second layer, plastic columns holding up a third… Well, it looked great, arrived at the ceremony, everything was fine. It was an outdoor wedding, under a tent; the table with the cake was set up right behind where the bride and groom were saying their vows. As I sat and watched, tearily, the “I do’s,” I realized that the top two layers of the wedding cake were gradually… sinking… down…sloping, tipping, teetering… I had neglected to put the flat bases on the columns. Well, who knew?! Of course the weight of the top layers was driving the columns straight through the bottom layer, and none too steadily. As the ceremony closed, I rushed behind the makeshift altar, wondering wildly what I could do. By this time the whole cake was at crazy angles. I quickly removed the columns, grabbed the layers and plopped them atop one another (so much for magnificence), and smoothed it all out with a wet napkin. Everyone was so busy standing in the receiving line I got away with it.

    But as I said – I’ve never made a wedding cake since. Thank goodness. PJH

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  64. Mike T.

    Okay, I was debating adding a story of my mom’s, but since others did and my sister told her story… Here goes…

    Just after my folks got married, my mom wanted to make my dad his favorite pie, peach. She had been baking for quite a while being the oldest girl in her family, but she had never made a peach pie. Hard could it be…

    She made the crust, sliced the peaches and did everything else you need to do, according to the recipe. Came out smelling delicious. Served up a slice to my dad, who made a face…

    She asked: “What’s wrong?”

    He asked: “Did you happen to shave the peaches before you made the pie?”

    ‘nuf said…

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  65. Linda

    I am new to baking but have you ever had fried brownies? I had a recipe for brownies and it said to use a greased and floured pan. I, of course , sprayed and sprayed hoping to get enough for the brownies to come out easily . They came out perfectly , moist in the center and crisp fried on the edges. oh well….

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  66. Britt

    It all started with a clean oven

    I was meeting the girlfriend of one of my best friends and wanted..oh I don’t know what I wanted..to be exalted as a great kitchen goddess I suppose.

    Anyway, I was preparing a full meal to be followed with my amazing strawberry cream cheese pie. This is my signature dessert and always comes out great. The first time I made it for my husband he took one bite and said “This pie makes me want to be a better man” Yes, that pie is a winner.

    The day before the dinner I thought it best to clean the oven. I did not want anything like a piece of burnt cheese in the bottom to begin smoking and contaminate my pie. I spent the entire day cleaning that oven until it sparkled.

    The next day, I had to work later than expected, and was quite frazzled and short on time when I arrived home. I usually make my amazing pie with homemade graham cracker crust baked in a glass pie plate…but I was late, dreadfully so, and had one of those pre-made cracker crusts in the cupboard. As I added the cream cheese filling and 2 cups of strawberries I thought..this seems different than usual. Never mind, I shoved the pie into the oven. 25 minutes later as quests were milling about on the porch off the kitchen, I reached into the oven to retrieve the pie and add the final touches.

    Like most disasters, time seems to warp somehow..It seemed to take an eternity for that pie to finally come to rest..I must have dropped and caught it a number of times allowing it to spill in the back, the sides, and then upside down on the lowered oven door and some even managed to drip into the broiler drawer below.

    Not only was dessert ruined and I mortified, but it took all of us to get the oven clean and cooled down, the house reeking of scalded berries and cream cheese. When finally, hours later I finally got dinner in the oven I realized my mistake..the flimsy tin foil crust had basically folded in on itself when heated. I had never even considered putting a cookie sheet underneath..I’m a master! I never needed one.

    Pride goeth before the fall….literally.

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  67. jennie

    I think all of these stories — and the photography! — would make a super book. It all obviously strikes a chord with bakers of all levels!

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  68. Margy

    OK, my sister insists turnabout is fair play, so I have to tell my wedding cake disaster. It’s now 15 years after the cookie fracas, and the aforementioned sister is getting married. I, of course, have volunteered to make her wedding cake; have made others, no problem. The wedding date is set for the end of September, planning for lovely cool Indian-summer weather. Our first mistake–never anticipate the weather in Maryland. The cake is buttercream frosted with hand tinted and molded white chocolate flowers and a free-standing white chocolate scrollwork sculpture for the top. We decided to transport the cake to the reception site the day prior to the wedding before the rehearsal dinner. Unfurtunately, the AC in the car is on the fritz. Mistake #2–never try to transport a buttercream cake with white chocolate decorations in an un-airconditioned car when is is 97 DEGREES OUTSIDE!, as it turned out to be on this particular day. As we are driving along all you can hear are the shrieks from the back seat as all the flowers sloooowly fall off the cake, and the chocolate sculpture melts down into a pathetic puddle. Instead of attending the rehearsal dinner, I spent the rest of the evening repairing all of the flowers, repiping some of the frosting (which remarkably stayed relatively intact), and reconstructing the chocolate sculpture. On the bright side, the cake was still delicious in spite of its trauma!

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  69. Bridget

    Reading some of these stories reminded me of one my mom used to tell.

    When she and my Dad were first married, she tried to make a pie…apple, I think. Well…it didn’t turn out. She went outside to cry and I guess she had been out there a while because my dad went into the kitchen and MADE A PIE…a good one! I think she didn’t speak to him for a week. ;)

    Growing up, my mom was a great cook, but my dad always made the pie! His specialty is apple-pecan upside-down pie.

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  70. Deirdre

    My baking disasters have usually involved confusing baking soda and baking powder. Baking soda does not work well in biscuits. And can make cookies very cakey when that is not what was intended. I now tend to read recipes VERY carefully to make sure which is intended and in what amounts.

    Part of my confusion is a result of growing up in Australia where you have bicarbonate of soda and baking powder — two very different names that you are much less likely to confuse!

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  71. Cindy

    I was a single mom of three teenagers. My youngest son had an inseparable gang of 8 boys who often ate at our house.

    One day, on my one day a week off, I decided to make a BIG batch of chicken pot pies to put in the freezer. I carefully made about 8 quarts of delicious filling and then discovered I was out of lard for the crusts (how can you run out of LARD?!).

    I covered the filling and dashed out to the store for a bucket of lard to make my 12 pies.

    When I got home I got out the flour and salt for the pastry and then decided to look at the filling again…I’m sure glad I hadn’t made the pastry yet… my filling was GONE!

    It seems that the perpetually hungry gaggle of boys (my daughter always called them “the booger snots”) had devoured my 8 quarts of chicken pot pie filling as an after school snack.

    If I had made all that pastry I would have had a real disaster on my hands. The boys apologised and said “but it was really, really good, Ms V!”

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  72. Emily

    Last fall I was told that you could shred and freeze zuchinni to use for zuchinni bread. So, I froze shredded and froze 5 zuchinni when it was in season and cheap. I was so proud of myself! Then, when Christmas came, I thawed it out to make breads for gifts. The loaves turned out awful! They were hard as rocks on the outside, gooey and black on the inside, and tasted terrible! If anyone knows what I did wrong, or if there is a tried and true way to freeze zuchinni for zuchinni bread, I would love you hear it! I was so disappointed, and I had scramble to come up with alternate gifts!

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  73. Nan

    My dad has always been fond of apple pie with a beautiful slab of cheddar cheese on top. When my folks were still newlyweds, my mother decided to surprise my dad with an apple pie for dessert. She rolled out the crust, made a delicious filling, and put on the top crust. Then she decided to put cheese on the top of the pie before baking. But there was no cheddar cheese in the refrigerator, and no way to get to the supermarket (my dad had the car at work). So she reached for the familiar green canister of so-called parmesan cheese and sprinkled that liberally on the pie before baking it.

    My dad is a trooper and will eat just about anything set before him, but this was one dish he just couldn’t finish.

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  74. erin

    short but sweet — once removed a sheet of baked rolls from the oven, noticed they were bizarrely shiny with strange large shiny looking drops. Did I glaze these and somehow forget, I asked myself? yes. by forgetting to take off the plastic wrap before I’d put them in the oven.

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  75. Margy

    This is in answer to Emily’s zucchini question. We freeze zucchini from our garden every year and use it in Christmas zucchini bread without a problem. (We alway seem to miss a few before they grow to zeppelin size, so these are the ones we shred.) Generally, we scrape out the seed cavity, shred on the coarse blade of the food processor, and freeze in plastic bags. When thawed, zucchini puts out a lot of liquid which can definitely affect your product, so we put the thawed shredded zucchini in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze much of the liquid out, leaving it moist but not wet. A salad spinner might also work (I don’t have one, so never had a chance to experiment). The shredded zucchini can also turn dark if it stands too long, so freeze as soon as it’s shredded, and use right away after thawing. Hope this helps.

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  76. Liliana Szachury

    Hello to everybody, you know what? I though I was the only one in this world that have mistakes in the kitchen!!!
    Some times I used to ask to miself ” How do the Bakers of ‘King’ Arthurs Flour” inmediatly know why,how and when exactly I had the mistake and tell me right away the answers and I of course I fix it and wow the recipe comes out beautiful and perfect???? they are out of this world, and of course it is because you have had all the experiences before!! well, I love all of you, and I love your help, and I am very grateful with you!!!

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  77. Mary Coyne

    The really really expensive Christmas presents that nobody got in 1981…

    chocolate fruitcakes.

    what was I thinking? Young and poor, new baby to boot, but blew 60 bucks on dried fruit and nuts from the health food store and attempted to make chocolate fruitcakes.

    I hate fruitcake.

    Those were nasty….even with chocolate and lots of rum….and NOBODY got that for Christmas. And never will…

    loved your flops and love all you do!

    Ahh, Mary, sometimes the most expensive lessons are also the most effective! Thanks for the good words. Susan

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  78. Susan Helms

    This is not my disaster but my sisters’ ex mother-in-law. She wanted to surpise her family with some home-made cinnamon rolls. Now, she was a woman who needed glasses but was too vain to wear them. All was going well until she nearsightedly grabbed the container of “cinnamon” and added it to the filling. The rolls came out looking lovely but no one could eat them since the “cinnamon” was actually cayenne pepper. Those rolls were really hot stuff!!

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  79. Karl

    My biggest mistake seems to be leaving an ingredient out. I try, as best as I can to cook “mise en place”, because I know my forgetful nature (child of the 60s, but that’s another story). My problem arises when a recipe calls for melted butter. Everything goes great, the product looks fantastic going in the oven, but when I go to clean up, there is the melted butter, like a cruel mistress, laughing at me mockingly from inside the microwave…

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  80. Anna

    I live in a college dorm, so with limited equipment and space, I’m pretty much ripe for cooking disasters. Lacking multiple cooling racks, I often put hot pans or trays right on my room’s carpeted floor to cool when I bring them back from the communal kitchen. This usually works just fine until they are cool enough to put on my desk.

    Well, my biggest cooking mishap involved cooking a pot of quinoa. The water boiled dry, the quinoa burned to the bottom of the pot, and then when I retrieved it and placed it on the floor as normal… the pot was so hot that it melted the cheap synthetic carpeting below it. When I went to pick it up, I couldn’t- it was welded to the floor. I had to cut it off with my swiss army knife, ruining the pot as well as that section of carpet. I will undoubtedly be charged a ridiculous amount of money by my college to repair it.

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  81. Bonnie

    I have plenty of “what the heck did I do wrong on that recipe?” moments and mishaps. My favorite, though, remains one that happened to my grandmother when I was a girl.

    Everything she touched came out perfectly. Except for the time that she forgot to put her beloved pet canary back in his cage before making the angel food cake. You guessed it, he was REALLY attracted to the lovely whirring sound of the trusty old Sunbeam mixer and flew straight into it. Bye, Bye Birdie. She scrapped not only the cake & carnage, but had to buy a new mixer AND a new canary. It was awful, and years before I could bring myself to even eat angel food cake, much less bake one.

    Oh… my… goodness….. what can I say? PJH

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  82. Kari

    Tee hee…I love the mishap pics! Back in the day my Dad was making a chocolate cake and used salt instead of sugar. My mom had sugar, salt and flour, all in different sized canisters. It was (somewhat) obvious that the sugar would be in a bigger canister than the salt…my sis was resident beater licker and discovered the oops.

    Reply
  83. HL in WA

    Well, I’m a bit late, but…

    My mom was not a big baker, but a few times a year she liked to pull out the cookbooks and try her hand at a few things… One year we decided on some sort of bread or bisquets, I think it was. The directions said to mix the dry ingrediants, then mound them up into a “volcano” and add the eggs, water, etc and mix it all together. We were doubtful, but we obediantly piled up the flour into a small mountain on a bread board and poked a dent in the top. We started pouring in the wet ingrediants….and they went all over the counter as the mountain of flour curmbled and washed away….

    From then on we created our ‘volcano’s’ inside of a tall bowl and spared the countertops ;-)

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  84. Jan

    When I was first learning to bake, I read “2 3/4 cups of flour” as filling the 3/4 cup measure twice! I had flat cookies with chocolate chip bumps. I’ve learned a little more since then…

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  85. Deb S

    A few years ago, I was hosting my in-laws for Thanksgiving. I think my MIL is a fabulous cook because she never uses a recipe and everything always turns out tasting really good. I, on the other hand, am a slave to recipes. I guess I feel a little competitive, because I decided not to use the pre-cut pre-seasoned bread cubes for the stuffing, but to make the stuffing from scratch. No such pedestrian ingredients for me!
    2 days before Thanksgiving I was cutting bread into cubes and leaving it out to dry. The next day I spent HOURS mixing that darn stuffing….picking the thyme leaves off the stems (2 T chopped is a lot of leaves!), chopping celery, onion, apple…it took forever. I finally got it done, and put it in the garage refrigerator so that I could bake it the next day. It was balanced on top of the turkey, but I thought it was in there pretty good, so I sat down to rest a bit. My husband came home from work, went out to the garage to get a beer…and returned with a very stricken look on his face. “You are not going to believe what just happened,” he said to me. When he opened the fridge door, the precariously balanced 9×13 Pyrex dish of stuffing slid out and hit the concrete garage floor, shattering into a million pieces. Not only that, it took the cranberry sauce with it on the way! I cried…and then I went to the store and bought more bread to make more stuffing. And you know what? It wasn’t even better than the stuffing made with pre-cut pre-seasoned bread cubes. What a waste of time and tears!

    Oh, Deb! I can hear the crash even now. And the stuffing is the best part, too. Hope that is the last disaster for a long, long time. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  86. Rosemary

    Some years back my son spent a snowy afternoon making peanut butter cookies on his own. This was the day he learned to pay attention to measures and ingredients, as he accidentally put in a cup of baking soda, not the tsp, called for.

    The resulting cookies were like concrete. In frustration he pitched the entire baking sheet full out onto the snow in the back yard for the birds. Not only would the birds not touch them, but those suckers did not even melt until spring!

    Reply
  87. Oolong

    The dough rising pictures reminds me when I added to much yeast(I got teaspoons confused with tablespoons again) to a monkey bread recipe that I was making for a huge gathering. Later when I let it rise in a airtight container the lid broke off and made a huge mess on my counter.

    Reply
  88. Francesca

    My baking mishap came just 3 days ago! I was trying to get one more loaf in before Passover began, and wanted to bring it to the office. I was using the recipe from KAF Baker’s Companion, page 80, you know, that wonderful banana bread–the one that calls for lots of liquid–vegetable oil instead of butter, plus a cup of yogurt. I measured all the ingreds. carefully. But because I tend to keep low-fat yogurt in the house instead of the normal stuff, the bread was too liquidy and already filled the bread pan before baking. Well, you can guess that it spilled all over the side of the baking pan (a glass loaf pan). Fortunately, I had put one of those foil trays underneath so there was no oven mess. We did the clean-knife test, removed it from the oven and let it sit overnight.
    The next morning, I cut half of it out of the bread pan, and the rest came out normally. The story has a happy ending. We ate what spilled over, cleaned up the appearance and the people at my office gobbled up the rest of it! But–what would you advise for the future. Use butter instead, or reduce the yogurt quantity? Or yet another solution?

    Francesca, I’d use a bigger loaf pan. If you don’t have a bigger pan, fill the pan you have about 2/3 full, then bake the excess batter in mufin cups. I think that would be the best solution. Thanks for sharing your “disaster”! PJH

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  89. Tom Burt

    Just last week i was making some sundried tomatoe & aged provalone French bread at work and i was rising them in my home made bannetons lined with cheap canvas. apperantly i didn’t flour them enough because when i tried to turn them out onto the peel they stuck to the inside and deflated. determind to try to get them in the oven quickly to still get a little oven spring out of them i turned to the oven with a mighty jerk of the arm to slide them onto the baking stone and hit the side of the oven with the peel. of course being close to April fools day the bread gods laughed and after picking up the sagging mass of dough that was hanging off of the side of the oven door, i transfered the bread dough into the fryolator and made fried dough out of it. i guess when the baking gods give you lemmons you should make lemonade?

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  90. Kay

    Some time ago I was preheating the oven for a cake, timing crucial as it was for a catering, and got started on the batter. After a little while I smell something wired but since we live in an area where windows are always open I’m used to a smorgasbord of smells from other apartments.

    At that point I spilled a bit of egg white on the floor and one of our dogs, always at hand to clean up any spills, was coming and had to be evicted from the kitchen as raw eggs are off limits.
    When I return from the kitchen door I get the feeling that there is some light haze in the kitchen but can’t see any reason for that so I figure its nothing and continue with the cakes.

    My habit is to check the oven temperature on a thermometer inside the oven just before pouring the batter in its baking receptacles as this allows any necessary corrections until the moment the goodies go into the oven.

    Bending down to the oven I found, to my great surprise, my large silicone cutting board (restaurant size) inside the oven, where my husband had put it the night before when it bothered him while doing the dishes.

    Needless to say that silicone cutting boards don’t do well in a heated oven and mine turned into a rather interesting sculpture that is now a pantry decoration to keep hubby reminded not to store things inside the oven.

    It took us about an hour to get the oven cleaned up and luckily no smell stayed behind and the cakes came out well.

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  91. Katherine

    This last weekend I made waffles and forgot the oil. D’oh! There was actually enough on the iron that until the last waffle, they came out okay with only a bit of sticking. LUck was on my side!

    And then there’s the time I made chicken pot pie with bad crisco, thinking it was just a little funny, that crisco “never went bad”, and that the taste would cook out.

    Way to ruin a chicken pot pie…

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  92. Mariann

    Hello! I LOVE your website. I pride myself in being a very good cook but baking has always been a bit of a challenge for me. So, while my husband is deployed and I am bored, I have been cranking out the desserts for our 5 kids. Last night, I attempted my very first banana cream pie. It looked firm and beautiful…and then I cut it. It was more like banana cream chowder. But the kids loved it and it TASTED wonderful. I’m just not sure what I did to it exactly!
    But my favorite cooking disaster ever was when I was a newlywed and decided to suprise my husband with ribs, baked to tender goodness just like his mom made…or least that was my intention! I didn’t have a pan big enough for the ribs so ingenious 20 year old me lined the rack with layers of tin foil and put the ribs on top to bake. Well, fast forward about 30 minutes? The weight of the ribs had caused little tears in the foil which allowed the juices and oils to drip down…onto the electric stove’s coils. It started a fire and the house was full of smoke for hours. Luckily, my husband took pity on me and we went out to eat after cleaning the mess.

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  93. Mariann

    Also, to Kay, 2 comments above me? We live in teensy, cramped government housing as we are an Army family. We don’t have enough cupboard space for any of my big pots and pans so I started putting them in the oven. Since we moved here in May of 2007, I have torched 3 big skillets, 4 cutting boards and 2 big, deep pots we use for cooking pasta. One of these days, I will write myself a note to place on the setting knobs for the oven that says “Look inside before you turn me on!” :o)

    Reply
  94. Sue Epstein

    When I woke up this morning I discovered, much to my joy, that my house was clean, the laundry was done, and I had extra space in my freezer. The weather had cooled off and it was the perfect opportunity to do some baking. I didn’t even have to go to the grocery store first since I had plenty of any ingredients on hand that I might need.

    I should have stayed in bed with a good book! It was definitely a bad baking day. Now I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest cook and baker, but I have been doing it for over 40 years. I’ve cooked for my family and friends, I’ve done catering, and taught cooking – so if I must pat myself on the back, I’m pretty good at it.

    First, I made a Brownie recipe that I’ve successfully made many times before. It has a layer of brownies, a layer of white chocolate and a layer of peanut butter frosting. What could be bad about that?

    I put the brownie batter in the oven and set my timer for the correct time. When the timer bell rang I checked the brownies. Done on the edges but still raw in the middle. Back to the oven again for five more minutes. Well done on the edges but still not baked in the middle. Back in the oven for five more minutes. Ohhhh, definitely well done on the edges and barely done in the middle. I decided that I would just finish it as usual and salvage what I could.

    The white chocolate went on okay but for some reason I couldn’t get the frosting to the consistency I wanted. What happened? I don’t know. I made it EXACTLY as I have in the past.

    Instead of giving up then and there, I decided to make lemon bars. It was a new recipe but I had made it last week for a friend’s daughter’s engagement party and they were a big hit.

    The ingredients went into the food processor and they were supposed to be crumbly. They were creamy instead. I realized that I had put 1 1/2 times the amount of margarine in it than I should have. Into the oven the crust went and I proceeded to make the filling in my food processor. Evidently I didn’t put the bowl on tight enough because all the lemon cream came oozing out the bottom of the bowl and all over my kitchen counter.

    Okay Sue, clean it up and start again. This time I put the bowl on tightly and everything seemed to be going okay. After the final step I was positive I heard the bell go off from another room, signaling that they were done. I opened the oven door and started to pull out the rack to check the bars. It hadn’t set yet and the lemon cream spilled out all over my oven. I checked the timer and found I still had 8 minutes to go. No wonder it wasn’t set.

    At this point I really wished I had stayed in bed! I finished the lemon bars, ended up overbaking them this time, cleaned up, turned off the light and walked out of the kitchen.

    I took the tray of Brownie bars to the canteen for soldiers where I volunteer, thinking to salvage as much of it as I could. Much to my surprise, they were the hit of the day. My partner asked one soldier how he rated these brownies on a scale of one to ten. His reply was that they were off the charts delicious. Which reminded me of what my instructor used to say when I studied catering – caterers don’t make mistakes because they cover them up with frosting.

    Nicely stated; some days you are the windshield, some days you’re the bug. We are glad to hear your chocolate adventure turned out well, now if we could only remember the mixing of that recipe to duplicate your results?!* Many recipes have started out just this way as a “food adventure” instead of “intended results”! Keep experimenting! Irene at KAF

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  95. marianne

    As a newlywed a batch of my grandmother’s bread dough didn’t rise. She was embarrassed and didn’t want her new husband to think that she couldn’t make bread (this was in the early 1900s) so she took her dough out to the field, dug a hole, buried it, and started over. My grandfather decided to plow that field later in the day and was completely stumped by the bizarre sticky, clumpy mass that caught his plow. She didn’t confess until years later that the mystery substance was her dough.

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  96. Kathy W

    Never, never try big cooking projects while potty-training a toddler! :) The first time I ever tried to make jelly, I strained the juice out of the plums, got everything combined, got it on the stove to boil…little kid had large potty accident, after handling that, discovered that the jelly had boiled over, and INTO the stovetop and the pan-thingy under the burners… Know what sugar does when boiled enough? You guessed it…it caramelized!! I spent the afternoon pouring boiling water down into the stovetop, and scraping up the resulting goop. Boy, howdy!
    Hi Kathy,
    As my dad would say when he was trying to hide cuss words “oh my. Golly gosh darnit”. Poor you! ~ MaryJane

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  97. Kat

    I’ve noticed many of these stories are newlywed stories.. same with mine.
    My husband was working second shift, and I thought it would be nice to have a sit down dinner together during the week, rather than him heating up leftovers when he got home. I left work early, made this beautiful pork roast, with gravy that came out amazing. Proud of my work, I packaged it up and poured the gravy into a plastic container and secured the lid so it wouldn’t spill. Good thinking, right? Wrong. I left it on the counter and starting packing things up. I didn’t notice the lid starting to bow a bit from the building steam and pressure. The “POP!” startled me, the as the lid launched off, at just an angle to also send the bowl portion flying. Gravy was now everywhere – the counters, floor, fridge door, me, walls – everywhere except the meat. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face. Mary @ KAF

    Reply

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