That's our long-time mantra in the King Arthur Baking test kitchen. And when you're testing literally hundreds of recipes a year, well, mistakes are bound to happen. And happen, and happen ... The nice thing is, we simply call every flat cake, burned cookie, and misshapen dinner roll a "test result" and add it to our "testing data."
So those everything bagels that turned out so tough they'd qualify as dangerous weapons? The savory doughnut holes with caramelized onion and blue cheese filling whose kindest tasting comment was "EWWWWWWWW"?
Good data! Back to the drawing board.
Still, even though we know "stuff" happens, it's never cause for celebration when that chocolate cream layer cake you've labored over for hours suddenly decides it's too hot in the kitchen and collapses into a puddle of mushy mousse. Words fly, stomachs tense — and then, inevitably, we laugh: at the silliness of the scene and the absurdity of stressing over something as benign as baking.
But most of all we laugh because we love our work. Baking is always a pleasure: the good, the bad, AND the ugly.
So here we are, sharing for the 13th year our roundup of test kitchen blunders. If it's been a while since your last smile, you're in luck: we dare you to witness all of these mess-ups without breaking into a grin!
How easy is it to forget something in the oven? Very. Easy. We know you've all done it; so have we, many times. Check out some of our most "charring" memories.
Our bowl runneth over
With all of the sourdough baking going on over the past year, we're sure many of you experienced starter that just didn't respect its boundaries. Well, it's not just starter that can't contain its enthusiasm, given enough time (and its owner's forgetfulness).
Smash ... cake
Ah, that moment when you take your bread or cake out of the oven and turn the pan upside down onto a rack, expecting immediate release of your hot loaf — and nothing happens. You fret, you tap, you shake (you say words your children shouldn't hear), and then, finally, success!
Hey, shape up!
If there's one thing you can usually count on with baking, whatever your batter or dough looks like going into the oven, it will undergo a significant change before it comes out. Bread rises; cookies spread; cake domes. Sometimes uncontrollably.
Paleo by comparison
Developing special-diet recipes is a huge part of what our test bakers do. Oftentimes, especially at first, the results aren't quite as special as we'd envisioned ...
Spread out ...
Oh, please don't! It's amazing how cookies can start out as perfect spheres of dough and end up looking like the Caspian Sea. What's up with that, anyway? See "One reason cookies spread" for an answer, but in the meantime — misery loves company, so enjoy these "spreads."
And that's what we all do, isn't it? You can fuss and fume when baking disasters strike, or you can simply smile, scrape the mess out of the pan, and enjoy. After this Year of the Pandemic, when it often felt like there was barely room for hope, let alone laughter, it's a relief to chuckle over silly things like April Fools' Day.
PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, three dogs, and really good food!