Does the King Arthur Flour test kitchen conjure up visions of gleaming stainless steel counters, state-of-the-art ovens, and expert chefs in snowy white garb effortlessly creating the perfect chocolate chip cookie, apple pie, and sourdough loaf?
Well, let's just say some of the above.
We do have one stainless steel counter; it's usually covered with bags of flour, clipboards holding recipes, and a bunch of Cabot butter softening to room temperature.
State-of-the-art ovens? We prefer to bake in the type of ovens most of you have at home: slow to preheat, quirky about holding their temperature, and forever needing a new light bulb.
Expert chefs? Yes, actually – they even wear white sometimes. And joining our three trained chefs in the test kitchen are a crowd of seasoned, enthusiastic home bakers, with years and years and YEARS of baking experience (in aggregate).
Sometimes we do, in fact, create something approximating the perfect chocolate chip cookie.
...not so much.
If at first you don't succeed in making your chocolate chip cookies spread –
Try, try again. Practice makes perfect!
It was a bigger challenge, but we've perfected the same technique with yeast rolls.
The perfect apple pie, complete with golden pastry stars on top, is well within your reach. Just don't brush the stars with egg wash, put them in a 450°F oven, and then check your Instagram feed.
And burnout: Try putting cinnamon-streusel muffins into the oven, NOT setting the timer, and realizing about 3 hours later that the faintly acrid smell you detect wafting out of the kitchen isn't, in fact, from some other fool's burning cookies.
They're YOUR totally incinerated muffins.
"My cup runneth over..." Yeah, usually that's a good thing.
But not when you're baking chocolate pudding cake.
Or a braided calzone.
So, why did I believe that I could fill this dough with cheddar, subject it to the heat of a 425°F oven, and NOT be confronted with a lava-flow of oozing cheese?
But honestly, there was no reason for caramel to drain out of the bottom of this filled scone. I mean, it was enclosed in dough. It was solid caramel when it went into the oven.
Ten minutes later: puddle o' sugar.
Sometimes, though, overflow can be a GOOD thing.
Like when you've been feeding your sourdough starter for days, and it's been poking along, and you go to bed and get up the next morning and –
SHAZAM! Now THAT'S what you call a fully activated starter.
That's the thing with sourdough. You just have to stick to it.
Unlike waffle irons, where sticking to it yields one very disappointing "crispy" waffle.
Speaking of sticking to it –
DARN! Or words to that effect, probably words with a bit more "bite" to them, dripping with vitriol.
Check out this pie crust.
Exactly what were we testing?
Well, I made the crust and added the apple filling, and then realized I'd forgotten one essential element in the crust, something that negated the test. But I didn't want to waste the filling, so I took it out.
And then I didn't want to waste the crust, so I prebaked it, thinking maybe it could be filled with something afterwards.
Or not. Notice the shrinkage down the sides of the pan. The only thing this crust is filled with is good intentions.
It was definitely for the birds – literally.
Not like these gluten-free brownies...
...from which I, unfortunately, omitted the eggs. Even the birds wouldn't eat these.
Oh, well; after a long day in the test kitchen, sometimes that's the way the cookie crumbles.
Or cookies crumble.
Happy April Fails, everyone!
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