On being … a don’t quit your day job moment

By Ingrid Sapona 

I love baking. Love it. And I’m pretty good at it. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time someone said to: “You should open a bakery” … well … let’s just say I could afford more than one Starbucks latte. I’m always flattered by the compliment, but I’m quick to explain to folks that the reason I wouldn’t consider it is that then the hobby I love would start to feel like work! 

A couple weeks ago I made a peach clafoutis that was, well, to die for. When I bought the peaches, I wasn’t planning on baking with them. But, they ripened faster than I could eat them, so rather than have them go bad, I ended up making four individual-size clafoutis. 

A few days later, I picked up another basket of peaches. There’s nothing better than Ontario peaches and this year they’re especially sweet. So, since a friend was coming over for dinner later in the week, this time I planned on using some for another round of clafoutis.   

On the morning of the day my company was coming I proceeded to make the clafoutis. As I always do, I set the timer for half way through the bake time and popped them into the oven. When the timer went off, I went to check on them. When I opened the oven door, I found an unexpected mess. 

They had all spilled over their brims. Not only that – they were browning WAY too much, given that they had more baking to do. I covered them with foil to prevent them from overbrowning and I re-set the timer for the remaining bake time. I ended up taking them out a few minutes early because they were quite brown (thankfully not burned) and the centers looked set. I thought that with a dusting of powered sugar they’d look good enough to serve. Besides, I reconned they’d be delish, given how terrific the peaches were. 

I was getting peckish around lunch time and I decided to try one – just to make sure they were company-worthy. Well, all I can say is that I’m glad I did. The body – the structure – of a clafouti is basically an egg custard and if it’s not perfectly cooked through, it tastes kind of yucky. Though the clafoutis was dark and looked baked, as soon as I stuck my fork in, I realized the center it was soggy. It wasn’t something I felt I could serve. Worst of all, I wasted half dozen precious peaches. Ugh… 

I spent quite a few minutes trying to figure out what I did wrong – or different – this time. For one thing, I think these peaches were juicier than the previous batch. As for why they bubbled over, clearly, I had overfilled them. As I was pouring the batter into the dishes, I noticed I had enough to fill them higher, but I just thought that was a bonus. Clearly wrong there… I won’t bore you with further details about my clafoutis post mortem, but I think you get the sense of how disconcerted I was by my baking mishap. 

One of the things that draws me to baking is the precise nature of it. Sure, there’s room for creativity in the way you decorate or serve a dessert, but baking is a science. Recipes are followed and ingredients are weighed because it’s not just about making something that tastes great and looks appealing – consistency matters. Each cookie in a batch should look and taste the same and every batch of a particular recipe should turn out the same. 

So, when something goes wrong, as it did with the clafoutis, I feel defeated as a baker. It’s not just that I’ve wasted perfectly good ingredients, or that I don’t have a scrumptious dessert to serve my guests. What really hurts is the nagging doubt I’m left with: were my past baking successes just flukes? 

In the scheme of things, I know that baking mishaps are just that – mishaps. Frustrations for sure, but also instructive. In fact, for someone who may occasionally fantasize about having a bakery or coffee shop, they may be a blessing in disguise – they’re a good reminder that I shouldn’t quit my day job! 

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona 


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