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Bakers and Treat-Makers: Wow. My most epic kitchen fail of all time. And why?


Quill
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I'm a reasonably decent baker and cook, but I have close to zero experience making anything that involves a candy thermometer. I know this can be tricky when you're dealing with melting sugar, but seriously - I didn't think it was possible to fail so spectacularly!  :tongue_smilie:

 

I intended to make homemade marshmallows. (I'm using the instructions from the Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it book.) The major flaw in the plan came when, moments after I had the corn syrup, water and sugar in the pan with the thermometer in, my dd called from school, sick.  :svengo:  So I left ds14 in charge of supervising the syrup and turned the pan down low. 

 

When I got back, it had reached temp of 240F and he had turned the heat off. It was pretty much butterscotch.  :ohmy:  My gelatin had turned into a disc of cartilage. I tried to combine the syrup and gelatin anyway, but was seriously afraid I was burning up the motor on my mixer. It didn't turn white, tasted burnt and was atrociously sticky. I pitched the whole operation. I was afraid I would never get the candified sugar off my pan, paddle and mixing bowl. (Enter the Universal Solvent - boiling water. Thank stars for that.) 

 

If you're still with me after this kitchen catastrophe and you know anything about dealing with sugars - what happened? Was turning it to low the problem? Does it have to come to temp at medium heat quickly and then go immediately into the gelatin? 

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My guess:

1 - gelatin needed to be mushy (you sprinkled the powder into water and let it sit, right?).  Sounds like it sat too long.  I don't know for sure that it can be saved once it sets - warming it in a pan of hot water maybe?

2 - The syrup needs to be hot when it goes into the gelatin.  I don't know that you could have saved it by reheating it as it sounds like it had already had a bit too much heat (caramel color), but it might have been worth a try.

 

If you have to leave syrup, it's best to remove completely from the heat and let it cool, then come back and finish it later.

 

Boiling water saves much in the candy kitchen!

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I'm not experienced enough with candy-making to answer the whole of your question, but this I do know having made marshmallows 2-3 times before:  It's the stickiest thing you'll EVER do.  I couldn't believe how sticky it was.  But, as you said, it cleans up really well with some hot water. 

 

So at least you did that part right!  :D

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I'm not experienced enough with candy-making to answer the whole of your question, but this I do know having made marshmallows 2-3 times before:  It's the stickiest thing you'll EVER do.  I couldn't believe how sticky it was.  But, as you said, it cleans up really well with some hot water. 

 

So at least you did that part right!  :D

 

This makes me think we need a formal Stickiness Scale (like the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, but for stickiness). Milovany's Scale of Sticky. 10 is marshmallow. 0 would be, what, oil? Now we just need to fill in the rest.

 

Sorry about your candy, Quill. And good thinking to save your equipment.

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Corn syrup has a specific amount of water. That is what makes it so fabulous for candy making. By letting it sitting over low heat you cooked off the water. That allowed the sugars to brown, hence the butterscotch. You browned it, and that is chemical process that can't be be undone.

 

And as for gelatin in a disc, that means it also sat too long. It did it's thing and gelled. Once it is gelled, I think you can melt it and still use it, but I am not sure about that. I would just start from scratch.

 

With candy, once you start you are committed. I don't answer the phone and everyone knows not to talk to me if I am in the process. In the past I only did it when DH was home so he could handle any little thing that came up. And I have a strict no children in the kitchen when sugar is boiling rule. Boiling sugar makes for some horrible burns. It sticks as it burns and can be quite nasty. I always have a cup of ice water around to stick a burned finger or pouring over a burnt hand. I rarely need it, but have been glad of it when I did. I have the same rule for deep frying, but I think I have only done that a couple of times.

 

I know you couldn't do anything about being called to school to get your kid, and I am sorry she is sick.  Next time, either find a time when you won't be interrupted, but if you are you just have to start from fresh.

 

Here is my favorite marshmallow recipe. It has been called 'no fail'. And I've never had it fail, but I've never used anything else.

 

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Marshmallows-15797

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Corn syrup has a specific amount of water. That is what makes it so fabulous for candy making. By letting it sitting over low heat you cooked off the water. That allowed the sugars to brown, hence the butterscotch. You browned it, and that is chemical process that can't be be undone.

 

And as for gelatin in a disc, that means it also sat too long. It did it's thing and gelled. Once it is gelled, I think you can melt it and still use it, but I am not sure about that. I would just start from scratch.

 

With candy, once you start you are committed. I don't answer the phone and everyone knows not to talk to me if I am in the process. In the past I only did it when DH was home so he could handle any little thing that came up. And I have a strict no children in the kitchen when sugar is boiling rule. Boiling sugar makes for some horrible burns. It sticks as it burns and can be quite nasty. I always have a cup of ice water around to stick a burned finger or pouring over a burnt hand. I rarely need it, but have been glad of it when I did. I have the same rule for deep frying, but I think I have only done that a couple of times.

 

I know you couldn't do anything about being called to school to get your kid, and I am sorry she is sick.  Next time, either find a time when you won't be interrupted, but if you are you just have to start from fresh.

 

Here is my favorite marshmallow recipe. It has been called 'no fail'. And I've never had it fail, but I've never used anything else.

 

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Marshmallows-15797

 

Thank you for all of that! What great information! And yes, when I gather my nerve to try the marshmallows again, I will try this recipe! 

 

Also, that is a really smart idea about the water available for burns. 

 

When we were kids, my sister fell face-first into a deep skillet when my mother was making funnel cakes. We were standing on chairs, watching!  :ohmy:  What a horrible idea for us to be allowed to do! As a result, I am a paranoid fanatic about no kids anywhere near a deep-frying operation. 

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Thank you for all of that! What great information! And yes, when I gather my nerve to try the marshmallows again, I will try this recipe! 

 

Also, that is a really smart idea about the water available for burns. 

 

When we were kids, my sister fell face-first into a deep skillet when my mother was making funnel cakes. We were standing on chairs, watching!  :ohmy:  What a horrible idea for us to be allowed to do! As a result, I am a paranoid fanatic about no kids anywhere near a deep-frying operation. 

 

I'm so sorry. Oh, my GOd. Did she survive?

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I'm so sorry. Oh, my GOd. Did she survive?

 

She did. She was burned and her chin got the worst of it, but she healed.  :) I remember reading a quip in a parenting book once* that said God gives you a "free one." Like, we all make a colossal mistake somewhere alone the line, but you get one freebie per kid. I guess that was my mom's freebie for that sister! 

 

 

*No offense meant, of course, to anyone who has not escaped disaster. Of course this is just a little quip and nothing serious is meant by it. 

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Last year I made homemade gumdrops. I asked MY HUSBAND to watch the pan while I was doing something else. He walked away. I returned to gumdrop explosion all over my stove. It was a major, major disaster in the midst of my cookie/candy making day.

 

Oh, no! 

 

One time, I was baking a cranberry bread roll to take to an event. It is delicious, but totally laborious in the yeast-bread way. After all the rising and shaping and punching, etc., I put it in the oven and gave dh a timer to take it out. Then I left. (I forget where.) When I came home, the bread was still in the oven, burned to a crisp! A doorstopper! I was like, "HONEY?! What the heck? I gave you a flippin' timer!" He said, "Oh. I forgot what that was for." 

 

GAAAAHHH!!!! 

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Oh, no! 

 

One time, I was baking a cranberry bread roll to take to an event. It is delicious, but totally laborious in the yeast-bread way. After all the rising and shaping and punching, etc., I put it in the oven and gave dh a timer to take it out. Then I left. (I forget where.) When I came home, the bread was still in the oven, burned to a crisp! A doorstopper! I was like, "HONEY?! What the heck? I gave you a flippin' timer!" He said, "Oh. I forgot what that was for." 

 

GAAAAHHH!!!!

Grrrrr!!!! What the heck!?

 

Oh! This reminds me of another disaster!!

 

I was making cakes for a cake raffle at a unit Halloween party. I made one cake the day before, decorating it with fondant, making it a really lovely pumpkin. I made the other one the day of. I put the cake in the oven, then I was going to help decorate and set up. I told dh to take the cake out of the oven when the timer went off. I was planning to walk home (the event location was only a minute's walk), decorate the cake, get the kids ready and head back down. When I got home? He had turned the oven off, but left the cake in the oven!! I took it out, popped it out of the pan, put it on a cooling rack, got the kids ready, etc. But, when I went to ice it (with a chocolate buttercream)? It was still really warm. I just iced it because I didn't have time to do anything else. The frosting was sliding off the cake as I was walking it down. I was setting up the cakes when the battalion commander's wife came over to take a look. She pointed at the first cake I made and said (with delight in her voice) "oooh, who made that cake?" I said, "I did." Then (with disgust in her voice?) said, "who made THAT one?" I just laughed and said, "uh, I did" and explained what happened. Ugh! How embarrassing!

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Re your sister, I can't even imagine and I am so glad she is ok. DH and I get a lot of flack from friends because we tend to be cautious but I stand by my opinion that we are not over cautious. That is exactly the sort of thing (falling off a chair into the oil) both of us could imagine happening. If a child is big enough to stand next to me and look with me at the candy making, then s/he is old enough to be in the kitchen. I am 5 feet tall, so we are talking the average 7th grader. If the kid is having to peep over to see in the pot then s/he is too young. I am so glad I have stood firm in my rule.

 

BTW, ask me about the time ds1 was 2 and put his head through a window. So, yeah, one for free..except he was a 32 week preemie and is now totally typical so maybe 2 for free? Who knows.

 

I hope you make marshmallows again. They are actually super easy and a lot of reward for a bit of mess. And you don't need boiling water, just regular old hot water and a good soak. I cook and dh cleans up and he loves it when I bake or make candy because hot water saves all. So much easier for him to clean up than many of my other..... experiments.

 

Last year I made the marshmallows I posted upthread and these:

http://food52.com/recipes/2167-chocolate-swirl-cinnamon-marshmallows

 

and hot chocolate mix and gave it as gifts. They were a big hit. I put the vanilla marshmallows in one bag, the chocolate swirl ones in another and the cocoa mix in a third and put it all in a bag. It was actually quite simple and took only one evening of work.

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I literally just posted about my candy making fail on my blog. It was the first time I tried making honey lollipops. I thought those were the stickiest things ever, but it sounds like marshmallows win.

 

And just to make you feel better...last year I asked my ds (15 at the time) to boil some water while I ran out to the store to buy more chicken. When I came back 15 minutes later there was all this smoke in the house and a burning smell. DS is sitting playing computer games unconcernedly. I'm like, WTH?! I went into the kitchen and he had turned on the wrong burner, which had a pot lid sitting on it. The lid was on fire. End result: one ruined lid, and some burned spots on the linoleum floor where I set the lid to get it off the stove. Yeah. Nice.

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Today I got busy and the last batch of rolled and cut out shortbread cookies to decorate got badly over done.  I left them out on the stove and tidied up.    Some friends came over and brought us Thai food for dinner just about the same time my husband is getting home from work.  My husband walks in, takes a bite of one of the ruined shortbread cookies that is cut like a little bear.  I give him a look, when he will catch on.  He just keeps munching and then asks me if I left the ginger out of the ginger bread men.  I'm like dude, the gingerbread men were long since decorated and bagged up for gifts, that there is a totally burned sugar shortbread cookie.   :lol:

 

FWIW, he's eaten several of those little bears, 2 big sleighs and 2 trees from that burned batch in the last 5 hours.  I am not sure what is wrong with the man, but he says they taste good.  Personally, I think they look and sound like they might snap off some of my orthodontic appliances.  

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