Sometimes I bake in spurts. After our rewiring and painting project was complete and things were back to normal, I felt like I had some catching up to do, so within a week I had made a blackberry pie, zucchini bread, fair scones, and blackberry nectarine crisp.
But the crisp didn’t turn out. In fact, it was a miserable failure, and I can’t help but feel a bit embarrassed. I’m not a professional baker or anything, but I generally know what I’m doing. I’ve made many delicious things. I’m good at following recipes, which is important in baking. This was my first time making crisp, but I followed the recipe exactly. So that’s why I’m pretty confident this time it was (mostly) the recipe’s fault.
I’m not going to link the recipe. I am, however, going to explain why it is of vital importance to read recipes in full before starting. Heck, do this before you even go to the store to buy the ingredients you’re missing. Most of my kitchen failures (or near failures) have resulted from not reading the recipe (or not reading it closely enough) beforehand.
I’ll admit it: there are times when I just want to start baking and my only prep is to skim the recipe and make sure I’ve got the right ingredients. But reading carefully is essential. Sometimes you have to prep ingredients a day in advance. Sometimes the recipe requires a special tool you may not own. Sometimes it requires using a technique you are unfamiliar with.
And sometimes … though not often … the recipe doesn’t include the bake time.
The crisp recipe read “Bake at 350 degrees until topping begins to brown and fruit juices begin to bubble.” Perhaps this would make sense to a seasoned professional, or someone with more experience baking crisp. But my oven doesn’t have a window, and I’d alter the oven temperature if I constantly opened the door to peek on the crisp’s progress. So instead I looked up a few other crisp recipes to get an idea, and wound up with 45 minutes. I checked the crisp a few times, but honestly, it never looked done. The topping didn’t look right.
The topping was, in fact, the other issue. Again, my inexperience in baking crisp may be at work here, but there didn’t seem to be nearly enough topping for the amount of fruit I had. I spread it over the top the best I could, but while in the oven it just seemed to melt, rather than bake. In the end, it dissolved and sank. I wound up with fruit stew. (The photo of the fruit mixed together was prior to baking, by the way. Looks delicious, no?)
To top it off, the resulting “crisp” was overly sweet and basically inedible. In the trash it went, after much lamenting. I was expecting an amazing dessert with the yummy ripe fruit I used, but alas, I am writing a blog post to hopefully help others avoid my mistake. Read your recipe carefully first! If it’s missing the bake time, is unclear, or has questionable typos (all true in my case), you may want to find yourself a new recipe.
I guess I’ll just have to call this a learning experience and move on. Next time I attempt crisp, or cobbler, do you have any advice for me? Or maybe a baking disaster of your own you’d like to share?