It doesn't look like the pic

Have you ever tried a new recipe and had it not turn out?

You follow all the instructions, you double-check the details, but in the end it doesn’t look at all like the picture they posted.

How can this happen? Who would publish a recipe that didn’t work – why would you want to share a failure?

If it did work for the author, how could it not work for another person if they follow that author’s direction? As you may have guessed, I find this a baffling and embarrassing situation.

Last week, I made a recipe I found in a foodie newsletter I follow online. They compile recipes and information from all over the world, and this one was apparently from a well-known chef who had this dish on her restaurant menu for years.

I took that to mean it was a tried-and-true recipe, but I don’t think that was so. I had the last of my peaches to use as the filling for Peach Cobbler with a Hot Sugar Crust, which they said would have a crunchy crème brûlée topping.

There was no added sugar with the peaches, another appealing element. What’s not to like about all that?

I should have trusted my instincts, but instead I went with my rule about following a recipe to the letter the first time. I spread the cobbler dough over the fruit as directed, then sprinkled the sugar on top and drizzled the water. It looked funny, but I re-read it and that was right.

The oven temperature was low (350F) and my instinct said it should be hotter to make the baking powder “kick” and get the dough to rise. But that’s what was written.

So much for following instructions – even after 10 minutes over the listed cooking time, my so-called cobbler looked sick and soggy. The fruit was starting to disintegrate so I pulled it out of the oven.

We did try a small serving that night for dessert, but it was lack lustre and looked sad, too. I scraped away the soft dough to salvage a bit of my precious fruit. What a waste of time and ingredients.

I know I am not alone in having encountered this problem; I have spoken with friends and fellow home cooks who have had similar experiences. All of us had self doubt, and a sense of failure.

Using a skill we thought we understood, we ended up with an unfavourable result. This isn’t like Usain Bolt tripping and losing a race, it’s like him not tying his shoes properly and losing the race because they fell off. It’s enough to shake one’s confidence.

The best remedy I know for a bad recipe is a good one. When I encounter a failure, I make sure my next kitchen escapade is an old favourite. A bit of a boost for my confidence and my palate help get me back on track.

My hubby, a career chef, says that we should cook a recipe at least three times to feel completely confident about how it works. I am his guinea pig when he perfects a new dish; he never practises on clients, and he tells them to never practise when they have guests.

It is true that misery loves company – if any of you have a failure you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about it on my Facebook page. (I wish you could share it here, but comments are not possible on weekend posts). I would feel better if I knew I was not alone in my messes.

Over the years, I’ve made olive oil cake that seeped oil even after an hour in the oven, and I tried cookies that practically dissolved on the cookie sheet.

As a kid, I made chocolate mousse for Mother’s Day from a recipe that included coffee in the ingredients. My mistake with that recipe was not the author’s fault though; as a kid I didn’t know the coffee should be brewed before adding to the recipe.

I'm thankful, my Mom said she didn’t mind the crunchy bits.

But enough of my challenges – how about a tried-and-true recipe you can count on? Here’s something in season, a dish that I’ve used for dessert, coffee cake in the afternoon and brunch.

I’ve made variations of the original and they worked well too. This recipe has been popular for a long time – it’s apparently the most requested recipe for the New York Times, from a post that goes back to 1983. Talk about tested.

So, go ahead and feel good, I’ve got your back on this one.


3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 Tbsp for cinnamon sugar to sprinkle over top
2 eggs
1 cup flour (you can substitute ½ cup buckwheat flour & ½ cup all purpose flour if you like – it’s especially good if you want to serve it at brunch)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon, plus 1/4 tsp for cinnamon sugar to sprinkle over top
1/2 lemon (for the juice)
12 plums, cut in half and pits removed (use any type of plums you like, even a mixture will work)

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Grease a 9-inch/23 cm deep dish pie plate or springform mold. (If using the springform mold, wrap the bottom in foil to prevent leakage.)

Beat butter and sugar together till creamed. Add eggs one at a time and stir till well mixed. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and 1/2 tsp cinnamon together, then blend into egg mixture. Mix together sugar and cinnamon for topping and squeeze lemon for juice.

Spoon batter into pan and place plums, skin side up in a pattern over dough. Lightly sprinkle torte with cinnamon sugar and lemon juice. Bake for 1 hour or until springy when touched. Let cool to lukewarm on a wire rack, then serve with Greek yogurt, whipped cream or ice cream.

This torte can also be frozen; thaw out to serve, and warm at 300F/150C for about 5 mn.

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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