Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Curse You, Default Sheep Mentality

While we're on the subject of cooking, I thought I'd share a problem I've been having recently: following directions. As in, I follow them when I know I shouldn't. The wedding cake death march should have taught me that, when reading a recipe, be skeptical.

Over the holidays, we sampled some really delicious chocolate sables from a bakery in San Francisco. They were delicious enough that I wanted to find the recipe and crank out some myself. It took me until now to try (also I needed more cocoa, aforementioned wedding cake having thoroughly plundered my supply) them and how lucky I was that the recipe was available on el internet. In fairness, I gave myself every opportunity to correct the obvious fault with the recipe. I read it several times, opened up my master notebook of working recipes to compare, read the original again, shrugged my shoulders, and said (in a famous last words kind of way): "they published this recipe in a book, it MUST work."

Intrepid readers and bakers, perhaps you can spot the missing ingredient: cocoa, butter, sugar, flour, baking soda, vanilla extract, grated chocolate.

I'll give you a minute.

For those who don't bake often, the missing ingredient is some form of EGG PRODUCT. An ingredient, by the way, that was in every sable recipe I had in the master notebook. The mixture this recipe gave me could politely be described as "sandy." It was so dry and separate-y that even an attempt to roll it in log form in cling wrap did nothing for it. While the recipe implies that one should be able to roll the dough out and cut it into shapes, this was demonstrably untrue; instead I mashed it onto a cookie sheet as best I could and threw the whole mess in the oven (the final destination of these cookies is, as luck would have it, the crust for a cheesecake, so presentation is the least of my concerns as the whole mess will end up in the food processor anyway). What came out of the oven could politely be described as looking like the waste product of a mammal pressed onto a baking sheet and cooked.

The flavor was fine, but you couldn't possibly mistake it for a cookie - or a sable for that matter. It should work for its purpose, but don't expect to see these tied up with ribbon and presented as gifts anytime soon.

So while I seem to be a know-it-all, when confronted with written instructions, I tend to follow blindly and curse later. I find the same thing when following a knitting pattern. In both of these endeavors, I need to stop trusting the authors and instead trusting my wealth of accumulated knowledge.

On the bright side, and following from yesterday's post, the utter and complete failure of this extraordinarily simple recipe removes any chance that I would buy the full cookbook (oh, I realize I have been protecting the guilty: the recipe was from the Miette cookbook).


  1. This was my experience exactly with the Miette chocolate sable recipe, right down to the belief that if it was printed, it's probably right. Clearly it wasn't! Using a lot of plastic wrap, I managed to mash the sandy dough into a sort of irregular log (which, yes, looked every bit as terrible as it sounds). I chilled the nasty, ugly dough log overnight, sliced it and baked it and the resulting cookies looked ... just as you said--especially the slices that got crumbly and fell apart. If I ever make this recipe again, I will go with what I know and add an egg!

    1. In fairness, I wasn't 100% pleased with the Pierre Herme sable recipe I ended up using - not chocolate-y enough. Much like my wedding cake recipe, I think, in the end, I'm going to craft my own recipe so that the cookie both tastes and looks right. But I'm so glad to know I'm not alone!

  2. Does anyone think I stand a chance getting the publisher to make good and take the book back? I live by Miette and love them. Got this from my family as a present. they should stand behind it, don't you think? or give us all ones that are amended. this book cost $27.50