Sawdust Cookies and Other Culinary Misadventures


When I was thinking about writing on the topic of culinary mishaps I figured I would remember some great story from when I was in college and first started cooking for myself on a regular basis, but I realized that the two worst disasters I could remember happened pretty recently. At first I was dismayed. How could I have so many disasters now that I have so much more experience? But then I realized it’s probably because I am much more likely to try brand new recipes, or just try to whip something up on the fly, which usually turns out OK, but can sometimes lead to “learning experiences.” I don’t have any stories quite so dramatic as Remybean’s “Hell Brisket,” but here are a couple stories of recent misadventures and the lessons I learned.

Lesson 1: Don’t skip the Skippy.
While I think of myself as a pretty good cook, when it comes to baking… eh, not so much. I can do a couple of good cookies, some good brownies and a mediocre cake or two, but that’s about it. Periodically we have a “bake-off” at work. The first time I had made cranberry and hazelnut oatmeal cookies and came in second (I think it was rigged). The night before another one of these contests I didn’t plan ahead, so decided to just bake some peanut butter cookies. Simple, easy, tasty, right?


I used “natural style” Adam’s peanut butter, because that is what I had on hand and because I thought it would give it a better peanut flavor than the creamy Skippy type. Boy was I wrong. The first batch came out, they were dry and dusty. I figured I had baked them too long. I hadn’t used my new oven that much. Maybe I just hadn’t gotten the hang of it, right?


I baked the second batch in a shorter amount of time. They smelled great and definitely had great peanut butter flavor, but they had the texture of sawdust. Fine, peanut butter sawdust. Needless to say, I didn’t participate in that bake-off….

I wondered where I had gone wrong. Too much flour? Over mixed? Oven temperature? Later on I commiserated with a neighbor and she mentioned she had the same problem, and we realized the culprit was the “natural style” peanut butter….

Lesson 2: Thou shalt not freeze thy dumplings of potato.
I recently tried my hand at making my own gnocchi. Usually I would let the experts at Machiavelli or Crave do the work for me. The initial creation went very well, they were pillowy soft and delicious. But the recipe made enough for four, I would need to save the rest for another night. I could only find one reference online to preserving gnocchi and it advised packing them in oil. This seemed messy so I decided to freeze them. Fresh pasta and bread dough freezes well, why not gnocchi, right?


A week or so later I pulled out the frozen gnocchi and cooked them up with the intention of pairing them with a creamy pesto sauce. The hideous results tested my love for the little dumplings. They had turned into disgusting, oozing, gray, blobs.

After some soul searching and with a heavy heart they were pitched into the trash.




One Response to “Sawdust Cookies and Other Culinary Misadventures”

  1. Claire Says:

    I bet it was rigged too!
    Still waiting to receive an e-mail about your baked goods Muffin Man!

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