April foolishness.

IMG_7215

WOW – I love it!

Um… what is it?

I have no idea.

Welcome to the fifth annual April Fool’s edition of Baking Banter, our King Arthur Flour blog.

You assume we’re experts, right? The ones who can whip up a stunning new recipe in a flash, pull pretty-as-a-picture treats out of the oven every single time, and never spill, drip, splash, drop, or create flour-bomb explosions?

Well, this post is here to disprove your assumptions.

Each year on this date we provide evidence that April Fools’ Day isn’t confined to April 1 – it’s a regular occurrence here in the King Arthur test kitchen.

And why are we so ready to admit this? Because, as always -

We make the mistakes so you don’t have to!

Guess this slick method of making split-top buttertop bread isn’t exactly a slam-dunk.

Some of our other loaves didn’t fare too well, either.

Nor did our biscuits.

Yes, the biscuit on the left really was baked. Same recipe, same time, same temperature as the one on the right.

But we used severely outdated baking powder in that white flop on the left.

“Oh, it’ll probably still work…”

Or not.

Picky, picky…

As I said, picky, picky… who’s been picking at this stuff?

We like to think of ourselves as strictly middle-of-the-road. Or cake, or pie, or bread.

Or muffins.

Or cupcakes.

There’s one in every crowd, isn’t there? Ah, perfection… even for our decorating maven MaryJane, it’s sometimes hard to attain!

Perfection is even harder when you goof up the ingredients.

Take that pie crust, upper left. Miscalculated percentages, and that’s what you get with too much butter, not enough flour.

The cookies, upper right? Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies without their xanthan gum.

The muffins, bottom left – double the amount of oil.

And the “scones,” bottom right? I did remember the first cup of flour – but forgot the second.

Speaking of forgetting…

Isn’t bread supposed to be “wrapped airtight” before putting it in the freezer?

I opened the door one day to find this poor naked thing sitting on the frosty shelf.

“Heavens,” I thought to myself, “This loaf might be a tad dry.”

Ya think?!

And then there are the battles we have with pans.

Bundt-type pans are notorious for creating those “hold your breath” moments when you hope-hope-HOPE that the birthday cake is going to come out perfectly intact. And it doesn’t, and there’s much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

But round cake pans? Not so tough. Unless you’re Jeffrey Hamelman at the King Arthur Bakery trying a new chocolate cake recipe.

See, even the REAL pros endure flubs every now and then!

So, I did finally bake a decent loaf of buttertop bread. It was sitting on the cooling rack in the kitchen, and everyone was oohing and aahing over it.

“Can we cut a slice?”

“NO!” I said.

Actually, I kinda barked it. “Never ever ever ever EVER cut into a loaf of hot bread.” (The picture above was taken AFTER it had cooled.)

Ten minutes later – well, I didn’t catch anyone in the act, but the evidence was pretty plain:

That’s what you call cut and run.

And run…

You’ve all experienced these rather sticky moments, right?

Here we have a “break the dike” freeform rustic bumbleberry pie; upside down (inside out?) blueberry-cranberry muffins; and water-baked (and water-bathed) sticky puddings.

Yeah, life in the test kitchen can be kinda crum(b)y sometimes.

But you know what?

Stay cool. Chill out.

When life gets too messy…

Break out the chocolate.

Even fools rush in when chocolate’s on the table!

Happy April 1 – and happy baking from your foolish friends here at King Arthur Flour.

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. tamisc

    One of my favorite posts of the year…thanks for Taking the time to set this up

    Always a pleasure, Tami – it makes us laugh just as much as anyone else… DOH! PJH

    Reply
  2. mumpy

    LOL…LOL…i look forward to this blog….it’s balm for the soul of any baker who’s ever had a flop (and any baker who claims never to flop isn’t a very honest person)…thanks for sharing your less-than-shining moments with us!

    can’t help wondering though….what was the first thing SUPPPOSED to be?

    Mumpy, I just can’t remember – though I THINK it might have been cheese curls (Chee-tos) I was trying to “de-stale”… :) PJH

    Reply
  3. "Paul from Ohio"

    Oh Happy Day! What a fun read. Thanks for sharing – and I always think MY baking is a disaster from lack of ingredient or ??? you name it. Try it again and maybe eventually I will learn the error of my ways, or lack thereof!

    We ALL make mistakes, Paul – and you’re good about sharing yours with us, too, so thanks. Live and learn – crowd-sourced education! PJH

    Reply
  4. nateanddi

    Hey, PJ,

    some of these look like my “kitchen disasters”. Once I left the sugar out of whole wheat blueberry muffins and my kids powered through them anyway, even though between the buttermilk and the baking soda they were “tart” to say the least…

    I am really posting because I think I accidentally killed my sourdough starter. Instead of pouring off most of the liquid (there was probably a good inch or so), I stirred it all in and then fed the poor beast…not happy bubbling, etc. It did look like it was still alive, but it’s been sad and slack since. Any recommendations on how to fix it? Besides starting over, of course? I’ve had this one for about 16 months… Thanks!

    It sounds like this starter just needs a couple more feedings to get it back into baking shape. Send it through the divide and feed step 2 more times, with an 8 hour gap between them. That should do it. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  5. puppyfuzz

    While I love all of your posts, I absolutely adore this one. I know I’m not saying anything new here, but it is so comforting to remember these April Fool’s posts when I am mortified at the results of a baking endeavor (and debating whether or not to give it to the intended recipient!).
    Thank you!

    Reply
  6. csrockwell

    I always look forward to this post every year. It is definitely reassuring to know that the best of the best have those moments too :-)

    My most recent “favorite” involved a bread recipe that called for 3 Tbs of yeast for 3 cups of flour. It didn’t ring right with me, but I figured the recipe author had some secret technique that I hadn’t seen yet. Uh, not so much… I came back a couple of hours later to find over-risen dough down the side of my cabinet and on the floor (I guess I should have used a bigger bowl to proof it in – like a 10 gallon bucket!).

    Happy April Fool’s!

    Reply
  7. LisaG

    Oh, my! I laughed so hard when I saw the baking powder biscuits because the flat, pale hockey pucks on the left are what my mother served EVERY time she made them — now I know why!! She still has spices in little metal tins and refuses to replace them with new ones because they aren’t gone yet…

    Reply
  8. Brenda

    This’s kind’a like the Sears Christmas catalog when we were kids–eagerly awaited, and greatly enjoyed!

    Reply
  9. flfig107

    My favorite? The LAST one!!! Seems like I’ve made a few things that looked JUST like that cake! Yummy but disaster-like appearance! Thanks so much for these posts.

    Reply
  10. nancyapoet

    Funny how these pooling, plopping, puddling (that list was fun!) messes prompt me into the kitchen. Maybe because I recall making all those mistakes, but I dealt with them by eating all the evidence… myself, in the quiet, warm kitchen, as fast as I could before anyone else found out and could “help” me!
    Onto a chocolate cake…

    Reply
  11. megknits

    That last photo, of the chocolate cake, reminds me of my grandmother’s world famous birthday cake. One year it actually collapsed into three big pieces. We loved it anyway.

    Then there was the year I made a spice cake for my husband and forgot to put the sugar in…

    Sounds like a lot of us have deal with collapsing cakes, Meg – but looks aren’t everything, right?! Now, a sugarless cake is something else… :) PJH

    Reply
  12. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - Petrópolis, R.J. - BRAZIL

    One of the most expected post of the year.
    In my baker’s classes here at SENAC RJ, i could seen that most notorious error is the identification of correct point of dough, that’s ready to knead. The pupils have a shame to add major quantity of water in the begin of mixing ingredients and they knead dough that’s not properly hydrated. Then, we have dried lumps of dough, and when it occurs is really difficult to recover the correct point. The dough becomes hard and the kneaded of dough that was not properly hydrated is a complete disaster. Another error consist in not to give dough the second and third rest periods. It’s really fundamental to obtain excellent breads. Another great problem i noticed here is the difficult we have with non accurately temperature that display of the oven show in some occasions. We have for example 325 F at display but at interior of chamber the temperature is 20% higher. This occur frequently here, unless we’re using top oven label like Rational and another ones.
    In some sweet and enriched bread recipes like Challah and Brioche is necessary not forget to increase the amount of yeast added to dough when mixing. Unless u did it your bread will not reach appropriate size!
    P.J., excellent post, as ever!!

    Thanks, Ricardo – making yeast dough can be a real act of faith, as far as hydration, can’t it? Thanks for teaching your students the secrets of great bread! PJH

    Reply
  13. gaa

    Thanks PJ for reminding me that even the pros have those flubs, cracks, puddles, hockey pucks, brick breads, etc. I used to really get on myself about those things but as I have matured, I have learned to let them go. There two nuggets of wisdom I live by in those moments. First, do you remember the episode of “The French Chef” when Miss Julia Child tried flipping the omelet and it didn’t work out?? Miss Julia said just fix it and move on, whose to know?? She also said “Never apologize is something is not quite “perfect.” Miss Julia knew what she was talking about there. Second, one of my other avocations is dog training. I have four Westies and we go to training classes every Saturday. One thing my instructors teach is that when a dog makes a mistake and breaks a stay or something, it is not a fault but a training opportunity. Dogs, like humans, learn from their mistakes. Fix it and try again. So when my bread (or cookies or cake or …) doesn’t come out quite right, I shrug my shoulders, stand tall, think where I might have gone astray and either (depending on the severity of the problem) serve it up or … not. And always, always try again! Thanks PJ for all you do and all your wonderful recipes and all your wonderful posts!!

    Thanks – Julia was the master of “move on” – nothing seemed to get her flustered. Great lady – I had the privilege of visiting her at her home in Cambridge once, and she’s just as unassuming in person as she is on screen. Thanks for the dog tips, too – I have a 1-year-old “puppy” who’s still got a bit to learn, so I’ll remember to keep teaching! PJH

    Reply
  14. nelll

    I know it’s bread-bakers’ dogma that you can’t slice hot bread, but it’s just not true. I learned how years ago when reading Louise Rich’s ‘We Took to the Woods.’ She learned the trick from a cook at a lumbercamp:

    ‘Another valuable thing he taught me was how to cut fresh bread into thin slices – a neat trick if you can do it, as everyone who has hacked jagged chunks off a warm loaf can testify. The knife must be reasonably sharp, of course, but the trick is to have it hot. Lay it on top of the stove for a minute every four or five slices. This…works.’

    I’ve done it that way forever and it DOES work with ordinary sandwich loaves (breads with lots of fat or fillings might be different). I use a serrated bread knife and lay the blade only along the back of my stove (behind the burners) where there’s a little ‘grille’ and heat comes out from the oven. As long as the knife is hot, and you saw without pressing down on the loaf (of course), the loaf doesn’t crush down and the crumb doesn’t mash. A hot knife slices cleanly through fresh-from-the-oven bread.

    Apparently lumbercamp cooks wanted to serve the food and get the men out as quickly as possible and couldn’t wait for the bread the cool before slicing the loaves. I use this trick because in my family, there’s no WAY we’re waiting for the bread to cool before putting soft butter on it. The longest we’ll wait is however long it takes for someone to dib on the heel of the loaf.

    Reply
  15. gaitedgirl

    I look forward to this post every single year. By far, my favorite post of the year! They make me laugh every time. I just love how you make mistakes like the rest of us and are happy to say loud and proud, “We mess up too!” One of my favorite mishaps was when I attempted to make pumpkin pie bread, using leftover pumpkin pie filling (I had used a regular pie crust instead of deep dish). I tossed in flour and a bit of sugar and the dough tasted well enough (yes, I admit it – I love eating raw dough. There, I said it.) so I put it in my bread pan and hoped for the best…. yeah. Didn’t turn out so well. It was as hard as a brick and I think could have possibly been classified as a lethal weapon if it fell into the wrong hands. Life is never boring in the kitchen!! :)

    Amazing how HEAVY bread can be when it doesn’t rise, isn’t it?? :) PJH

    Reply
  16. Aaron Frank

    Thanks for making me laugh!

    How about a sweatshirt – on an apron! – with a picture of the chocolate cake and PJ’s tagline “We’re all in this together.”

    Reply
  17. sallybr

    So good to know that even the pros have their ‘moments” – that chocolate cake of the last photo “takes the cake”, so to speak…

    If I may share my last misfortune: I baked one of the best tasting cakes of my life, with candied orange slices all over the top. Mind you, I am a cake-o-phobe by definition… as I am taking it to my lab to share with the students, it flew off the passenger’s seat, leaving the aluminum foil that was gently tenting it behind. It landed upside down on the rug of the car, where my dog had been the day before shedding happily half of his fur away…

    I was the only one who tasted a small slice of the cake before placing it in the car. No one ever knew how good it was… from car, to trash, in a single movement!

    (sigh)

    Oh, my… what a disappointment! Have to say, a similar thing happened to me one time – and it was a three-tier chocolate wedding cake. In the back of a van. Made a sudden stop, and it went sliiiiiiiding all the way to the front of the van, where it hit the console, flipped into the front seat, and crumbled into chunks. This was all on the way to the wedding, of course. What did I do? Patched it together, called it earthquake cake, and luckily the very low-key wedding party enjoyed it anyway! :) PJH

    Reply
  18. argentyne

    What good timing. You help to remind me that my bread not working out properly isn’t me failing as a baker… it’s me trying to learn a slew of new techniques with no experience behind any of them. :)

    I’ll keep slogging away if you will. :D

    We try to think of our baking adventures (read disasters here!) as learning opportunities. Please know that these opportunities happen to everyone whether you’re in the kitchens here at KAF or in our home kitchens. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  19. LB

    Thank you for these posts. I love them! My final products have resembled several of these pictures. I feel better knowing the experts can have bad days too. :)

    Well, our “bad” days are certainly good days for the cows, chickens, and pigs that enjoy our mistakes via our food “recycling” program with local farms! PJH

    Reply
  20. Anne

    I am late in chiming in, but I do want to let PJ know how much I enjoy this post. All the KAF posts are good, but this one is quite a gem. Getting a few hearty laughs on a Sunday morning from KAF blog is priceless. The pictures are funny – some of the subjects seem to animate. But without PJ’s commentary the pictures probably don’t come out as lively, or as funny. How about moonlight and write for a comedian, PJ? Some of the readers’ comments are pretty hilarious, too. So glad to see so many KAF fans join in and share a good laugh.

    But laughing out loud aside, this wholesome KAF blog provides us a refuge where we regularly find delicious-looking warm breads and sweet pies and mouth-watering cookies and welcoming scones and muffins and biscuits and those must-have-now pizzas. All wholesome and PG-rated. I find all this more precious when it seems we have little else but overwhelmingly sad and horrific coverage from the news media these days.

    Back to serious baking for a minute. I think PJ and her ‘comrades’ at KAF test kitchen should pat themselves on the back for those ‘tests’ did come out picture perfect. To err in the kitchen is common. (My most frequent baking frustration is blowout (?) from yeast breads, especially when the loaf is large and is intended for gift giving.) But those images of perfect baking give me inspiration that perhaps that is achievable in my kitchen, too. It is always good to have hope, isn’t it?

    5th Anniversary? This is my first. I’ll track down the other posts soon. Thanks again.

    Reply
  21. karrie

    Seeing all the “mess ups” made me think of this question as I recently made 6 loafs 2 different batches of brick breads. Why when you double a bread recipe you dont double the yeast? I did this and it didn’t rise on the second rise. Do you still double the sugar? But with all the sugar and only the orginal yeast to eat it doens’t the bread get sweeter? Please help.
    Well Karrie, the general rule of thumb for doubling a yeast bread recipe is to double all the ingredients EXCEPT the yeast and salt. Leave the yeast as is, and increase the salt only by half. 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast will raise 8 to 10 cups of flour. HOWEVER some recipes don’t take to doubling well, depending on the specific ratios of ingredients. A professional baker will tell you to figure out weights for all ingredients, then calculate the percentage of each ingredient compared to the amount of flour in the recipe. This is known as Baker’s Percentage (aka Baker’s Math) and is the only truly accurate way to increase a recipe in proportion. So, if this particular recipe is going to be part of your permanent collection, you may want to take the extra time to “do the math”. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  22. dgcbooth

    But it’s hard not to cut into warm bread! The butter melts perfectly on it :)

    Thanks for the bloopers!! Very well written and photographed and always a joy :)

    Thanks – we certainly enjoy laughing (again) at our mistakes… PJH

    Reply
  23. milkwithknives

    HA! Oh, how I LOVE this post every year! My favorites this time are the yeast loaves up at the top. The super wide split-top, pumpernickel that reminds me of a computer mouse, cooled and hardened magma, bubbling cauldron of bread and the giant eyeball peeping out between its floury eyelids. Yep, done them all.

    I recently tried making my very first lard pie crust and ended up with flames on the bottom of my oven when the flipping thing disintegrated in the heat. Of COURSE my husband was sitting there witnessing the whole thing. (head shaking) Thanks, as always, for the reassurance.

    My husband does the head-shaking thing, too… HA, I should sit there and do the same thing when he’s working on his “handyman” projects! Plus, the only time in his life he baked something, he set the oven on fire – so there! Thanks for your feedback as always MWK – PJH

    Reply
  24. jadeskiss83

    My goodness….this post just made my day! I’m over here laughing to myself about setting my two loaves of sourdough on fire. They just werent getting browned enough for my liking so I decided to turn the broiler on for just a quick second. Well, thoses loaves that I had started prepping three days before looked like two burning mountains in my poor oven! I can laugh about it now, but I sure wasn’t laughing that night!

    Reply
  25. gpyrocat

    I am a long time follower of KAF and somehow I’ve missed this every year! I went back, read every year and was howling with laughter. Thank you so much, readers and pros alike, for sharing. I’ve had sourdough starter ooze onto the carpet of my car, bread dough run rampant and cookies burn to a cinder but my favorite disaster wasn’t actually mine. My brother was getting married in Mississippi, outdoors, in October. It wasn’t super hot, but too hot for the buttercream-frosted, three tier cake. The top tier wasn’t supported enough and began a slow slide off the edge. The caterer miraculously caught it and it looked OK, but the top of the next layer underneath was naked of frosting. Fortunately, they had loads of flowers. A fresh plate for the “1 year anniversary” layer, some fluffy blooms for the bare spots and it looked deliberate. The bride looked a bit startled when she saw it presented for the cake cutting, but no one else was the wiser!
    Thank goodness for quick hands! My mother always says “if nothing goes wrong at the wedding, you won’t have anything to remember”. Now go mark your calendar for next year! ;) ~ MaryJane

    Reply

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