Falling cakes. Forgotten ingredients. Even the best chefs have kitchen disasters. Julia Child may be remembered for introducing French cooking to Americans, but she is also famous for her potato flipping fail. The good news, as she told us, was that “if you are alone in the kitchen, no one will know.” That rule holds for gluten-free bakers too!
"if you are alone in the kitchen, no one will know" -Julia Child
I am no exception to the disaster scenario, and you won’t be either. If you need a laugh today, check out a few of my best-loved gluten-free baking disaster stories.
The Bread Dough That Ate My Kitchen
Back when I was diagnosed in the 1990s, you couldn’t buy commercial gluten-free bread mixes in the stores, and online shopping was not even a glint in Jeff Bezos’s eye.
Instead, we made our own. One autumn day, I tried a bread recipe from Sandra Leonard’s newsletter, The Gluten-Free Baker. I didn’t have all of the right flours, so I improvised and crossed my fingers. The batter looked about right for a bread, so I felt pretty optimistic.
The recipe said to leave the batter in a warm place to rise. Leaving the pan over the pilot light on the center of my gas stove, I went out for a walk. One hour later….it had certainly risen. The dough rose over the edge of the pan, across the top of the stove, and down onto the floor. That was some powerful yeast!
There really was nothing left to do but clean it up and laugh. For my second attempt I used the right flours and it worked fine. Not Sandra’s fault at all!
A Tale of Two Labels
Every year at Purim I bake Hamantaschen using the recipe in Easy, Tasty, Gluten Free. Now, Purim is a partying holiday, one you celebrate with wine and friends. One year, I baked them at a friend's house, but apparently I had a little too much wine on board.
The dough just didn’t seem to thicken, so I kept adding more rice flour. When it didn’t work, I added some more. And more again. Somehow, I didn’t notice that what I thought was rice flour was actually powdered sugar!
When I finally had a dough thick enough to shape, the cookies came out as meringue blobs with fruit in the middle….and that’s when I tasted the “flour” and figured it out. They were still good, if rather sweet, but not quite my usual gluten-free version of your traditional Purim cookie!
Fortunately, my friends thought it was hilarious. We ate them for dessert as planned.
In my defense, both the rice flour and the powdered sugar were out of their original packs; I brought my ingredients in identical plastic containers with small labels. Trust me, I won’t make that mistake again!
What Would St Patrick Say?
It was late at night on March 16th. I had been invited to a St Patrick’s Day party on the 17th. I was happy to bring something delicious and gluten free with me. And of course I wanted to make it green.
A quick rummage through the pantry revealed that I had run out of food coloring. Now what? The stores were closed.
Stretching my creative muscles, I thought “Aha! Lime green Jell-O® mix! That will give me green food!”
Quickly assembling a batch of my Yummy Yellow Cupcakes, I substituted Jell-O mix for an equal amount of plain sugar. The batter was a soft, mellow green, the texture was right, and it even tasted good, so I poured it into cupcake molds and slid them into the oven.
Fifteen minutes later, those cupcakes were a remarkable shade of neon green. I wish I had taken a picture; I think they even glowed in the dark!
Yes, I brought them to the party anyway. They still tasted fine and were a surprise hit. Now, every once in a while, I pull out some Jell-O Mix and have a little fun with my food.
What's your gluten-free fail?
Novice bakers, take heart. We've all had failures, and we've learned to laugh at them. What's your most notable gluten-free oops? Drop me a line or post on Instagram!