Striving to find contentment.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Failure, success, and frustration

Yeast bread seems like it involves a lot of standing back and crossing your fingers. Only having tried it a few times, it still feels like I'm holding my breath, hoping against hope that it will rise correctly. Over Christmas, I had great success making chocolate babka breads for myself and my family. But it's probably not too difficult to make something taste delicious when it's stuffed with chocolate and cinnamon. I wanted to try a more standard, basic bread, so I tried my hand at brioche. And, much to my delight, it rose! And it looked beautiful! And once I put it in the oven, it smelled AMAZING. Tortuously amazing. I could not wait to eat a piece. Out of the oven, it even looked terrific:

And then. The disappointment. The bread was dry. Really dry. Nowhere close to the lovely eggy-ness that brioche should be. After the rising success, and the salivating I did over the scent..... the disappointment was crushing. When I reread the recipe, it became clear what had happened: somehow my brain had misread 1 POUND of butter as 1 STICK of butter. That's right - I added half the amount of butter that I was supposed to. Sigh. A lot of work lost because I didn't read carefully. But at least a concrete reason for the failure! Which means this will be a try, try again recipe.

On the success side, last night I made amazing spicy curry coconut mussels with mango couscous. The recipe came from the Top Chef cookbook, and while I regularly watch Top Chef and drool over the deliciousness, I actually don't remember this recipe. Mussels - and shellfish in general - always seemed to me like one of those things that you only have in restaurants. Too pricey, too difficult. But they could not be simpler. Seriously, this recipe came together in 25 minutes - including prep time. And the mussels, bought from the this terrific fish market, were $2.99/pound, and very fresh. As for the sauce made to pour over them - I wanted to lick my bowl at the end, it was so good. This was a success in multiple ways - a great find of a simple, easy, quick recipe; a terrific alternative to the usual proteins; and a real confidence booster in my cooking quest.

One thing I am not great at it substitution. I go to the grocery store with a list, but if for some reason they don't stock one of the ingredients I need, I'm often at a loss as to what I could use as a substitute. I have the most difficulty with cuts of meat. Yesterday it was completely frustrating to go to the grocery store and not be able to find beef brisket. Not knowing what to do, I bought the only large cut of meat I could find: top round. When I got home and read up on it, it turned out that this was not a satisfactory substitute, as top round is far leaner than brisket, and will therefore be much less tender. As a novice, this drives me crazy. The supermarket I go to is quite large, and very busy. I don't live in a rural area. But I am often in search of an ingredient that they do not have. I realize that supermarkets offer a sacrifice of quality for convenience that's necessary today. If I was working, there's no way I'd have time to drive to multiple stores to complete my list. But it's frustrating to not have an alternative. And extra frustrating to have my Southwestern pulled brisket start out at a disadvantage. In the end, I made the recipe anyway - I'll update on how it went!

1 comment:

  1. Update:

    The pulled beef came out better than expected. The meat itself was dry, but the sauce was so good, once they were mixed together it was pretty yummy. Next time I'll definitely use brisket, though, or else pork (which, in retrospect, would probably have been a better substitution).


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