I am sure it’s true in all aspects of life but I find I think about this the most in the kitchen. When trying something and it goes horribly wrong is it failure? Or is it an opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed not because someone gave you the answer but because you worked through it on your own and in the end doesn’t that mean there was never a failure to begin with but instead just the next opportunity to grow?
I know this all sounds a bit heavy and over the top for a cooking and art blog but I would beg to differ with you. Cooking and art are as much about introspection and psychology as they are about food and drawings.
Cooking offers me a path to explore my tastes, skills, techniques, and ingredients for sure but it also allows me to nurture others, learn about the world, learn about my own person history as well as cultural histories. I find it’s a continual journey for feeding my mind and soul as well as it feeds my stomach.
Art offers me the same ability to learn and grown as an individual but it also makes me question the essence of something. Being that I love doing caricatures I often have to ask myself what make something feel like the reference I am making? What is that “thing” that makes it connect for the viewer?
So when I am working on a recipe, a drawing, or any of my projects and it doesn’t go as planned is it a failure?
At first it might be disappointing for sure but then it’s about taking a step back mentally and thinking about what went wrong? Why didn’t it work? Could it be better? Where can I look for an answer or information? No matter if my next attempt works or doesn’t it should always be about the journey of learning. Maybe there’s still more to learn. Maybe I haven’t thought of the right questions to ask. Maybe I need time and distance to gain perspective to approach the problem differently.
One of my latest failures was in one of the holiday treats. The Classic Mint Chocolate Brownie. Years ago I worked for Starbucks and had an Andies Mint Brownie. It was amazing. It was soft, chewy, chocolaty, and the mint layer was moist and subtle. Thinking about this treat I set out on finding a recipe to try. I found one that looked promising but in the end was anything but.
The first problem was the brownie. It was dry and crumbly. Not good. First off I used the brownie recipe it called for rather than one of two brownie recipes I have had luck with in the past. When making the new one the percentage of flour to wet ingredients seemed crazy low. I looked at other recipes and decided to add a little more flour. That could have been the reason for the dryness but with how over the top dry it was I am not sure what went wrong. So before next Christmas I am going to work with various brownie recipes from pastry chefs I like and see if I can find a chewy fudgy brownie to use as the base.
Next was the mint layer. In an Andie’s Mint the filling is something in the realm of a gel or a paste or a cream… not sure how to describe it but it’s thin and moist. So when I set off on making the mint layer I hadn’t realized until I was truly committer to this recipe that it was nothing more than a buttercream icing with mint flavor and some green food coloring. At this point there was no turning back so I finished making the icing and iced the brownies.
Then to finish it wanted you to melt butter and chocolate together to make a sauce that you could pour over. Knowing this would not be what I wanted I did intervene and made basically a chocolate ganache. I was too impatient to let the chocolate cool to the proper thickness so it ended up too thin and about a third of it in the pan below the rack I had it sitting on.
So to recap, the brownie was painfully dry, the mint frosting was, well, frosting (meaning it was the wrong consistency), and the chocolate fudge coating was thin and rushed. All in all might have been one of my biggest flops I have had in a long time. Rather than getting mad, frustrated, or giving up, this got me thinking. What went wrong? What could be changed? How could I make this more enjoyable next year? I started thinking about working on my brownie recipe. Then working on ideas on how to get a moist mint filling that wasn’t frosting, and giving myself the time to make a true chocolate ganache to coat it with.
Even though this was my biggest failure its something I can’t wait to try again. I can’t wait to tackle the issues. To learn what works and to come up with a recipe I think is worth sharing. So the next time you have a failure in the kitchen or on a project you had high hopes for don’t loose hope or give up. Make notes as to what went wrong and try again another time.