Secrets of Failure

[This space reserved for a gorgeous photo that didn't happen.]

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

I am happy to report that the planets have aligned, the ships have come into port, and all is once again right with the world. After two months of Daring Bakers successes, I can once again plant a tick mark firmly in the FAIL column.

And there’s even an added bonus: It was cookies. I was defeated by cookies! Not something even a little hard like genoise or lemon meringue. Who the hell is ever undone by cookies?

So yes! I can once again lay claim to the the title of world’s worst non-yeast baker. Go me!

I actually did not fare too badly with the marshmallow cookies. I kind of liked the little dried cherries I put underneath the marshmallow on some of them.

The problem was that the chocolate coating never managed to set, and I’m not really sure why. This explains why the only photo of them is still on the baking sheet they retired to after their chocolate bath. What a mess! You can’t really eat one unless you’ll be having someone come by to wipe your face and hands with a Wash ‘n’ Dri like you did when you were three.

But the Milan cookies — these are where I really went town on this failure business. I’m happy to share my secrets with anyone who aspires to bomb them as spectacularly as I did.

Milan Cookies, Take One: Where the recipe says to add the egg whites gradually to the creamed butter and sugar, go ahead and throw them in all at once. This will ensure that you have unincorporated lumps of sugar/butter in the batter, which will make your Milan cookies look not, in fact, like Milan, but like the nearby snow-covered Swiss Alps. Toss the batter after this becomes apparent.

Milan Cookies, Take Two: You will need to go to the store to get some more lemon extract, since you used all you had on Take One. While you’re there, get the brilliant idea of flavoring some of the filling chocolate with mint extract instead of orange zest, after Pepperidge Farm Mint Milano cookies, so pick up a bottle of peppermint extract also. Then when it’s time to add the lemon extract to the batter, reach into the grocery bag, grab the first little bottle you see, and dump 2 tablespoons of its extract into the bowl. If your nose is in good working order, you’ll know it was the mint pretty much right away. Two tablespoons of lemon extract in this batter is fine. Two tablespoons of mint extract, not so much.

Oh, and, while it’s OK this time to add the egg whites gradually, per the recipe, do make sure that your mixer beater has large amounts of creamed butter/sugar stuck to it until it is too late to effectively incorporate into the batter. This way, you’ll still wind up with those Alps as in Take One, although they might be some of the lesser ones.

So now you have overpoweringly minty, mountainous wafers, and you are debating whether you want to even try to make them into chocolate-filled sandwiches. You can save yourself from having to spend too much time on this decision by just grabbing the only-moments-out-the-oven baking sheet with your bare hand. The burns on your fingers will pretty much put the kibosh on any further kitchen escapades for the day.

See how easy that is?

In case I haven’t been clear, this failure is mine, all mine. I’m not sharing any of the glory with the recipes, our lovely host Nicole, or the Daring Bakers organization. For proof that I am, in fact, the botch queen, check out some of my competition. It’s not even close.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    Oh, but you were brave! :) I love the idea of dried cherries, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t get the chocolate coating to set properly either. In fact, I’m so sure that I’m not even trying this month. (Well, that and the fact that I have to bake a ton of cookies for my baby’s baptism, and doing two more just wasn’t possible.)

  2. says

    Very nice of you, you were my idol, one of my myths in the blogsphere… what am I to do now? Devoid of all guidance…

    Just joking! This makes you human… and honest!

  3. Jim-49 says

    It really wasn’t that bad,and we all have our closet,with the stories.They still look good!! I’ve cooked all my life,with not perfect turn out,but about a year ago,I found a “Pound Cake”,in the local paper.I’ll whip it up tomarrow,with lemon glaze!! made it,with the proper amounts,even the exact pan,oven temp,all.Now,about 30 minutes,into the baking,looking into the glass door,looks good,passing 10 minutes,it looks like a volcano!! It blew all the batter out,but about 1/4,such a mess,and stink!! I have ask many,what went wrong,no answers.I have made,many more cakes,but as of today,not that one.I will one day try again,but looking out the window now,”No Flying Pigs”??? Love the site!! Jim

  4. says

    I don’t even dare to be a daring baker and I’m not sure how I would have gone with trying to do marshmallow whatsits. I was completely undone myself yesterday by a meringue, not even sure if I can face writing about it, so you are by no means alone!

  5. says

    If it makes you feel better, I did the same thing with the cookie sheet. Except I was turning as I picked it up and somehow ended up in the middle of the kitchen burning my hand on a cookie sheet and not really having a place to put it!

    I personally think these cookies were deceptively hard.

  6. says

    You know, I think the mallows were more involved and yet you did them quite well. The glaze took forever to set here (and we have low low low humidity) and as soon as it was over 70degrees, they melted. Don’t be so hard on yourself, dear! They look great! [you're a better DB than I am - I punted the milans altogether].

  7. says

    I snorted coffee up my nose while reading this, you made me laugh so hard.
    My life has been hectic as I’ve tried to get ready to fly out of town, yet I insisted on baking in the midst of it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve burned my hands in the last couple weeks, doing exactly what you did!

  8. Linda says

    ha ha! at least you get a good story out of it. And what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, right?! :-)

    thanks for sharing your experiences. I also had a massive failure this weekend, (on cake, of course), it feels good to be not so alone in the universe after that.

  9. says

    Susan, you are too funny! I am sorry that the recipe went badly for you. What I tell my kids, it is more important to participate that to come out as a winner. Winning is not everything. Now you have the power to try again and I bet they will be perfect.

  10. says

    I liked the cherry idea. The mallows turned out wonderful IMO! Some days are just like this. Now if I had your hand with the yeast baked goods I would be so happy!

  11. says

    Hilarious! But, yes … Go Susan, despite …
    maybe we should bake together next time.

    Agreeing with you on that cherry filling. I am not a marshmallow person too.

  12. Kristen says

    How frustrating! At least perhaps the mint cleared your sinuses nicely? Anyway, in my experience, summer is not the best time for chocolate glazes. I have to pop glazed items in the freezer or fridge and then eat very quickly once removed to avoid the kind of mess you describe!

  13. says

    I’m really sorry that the cookies didn’t turn out right, but you are the “Bread Queen”!
    I always look forward to your DB posts (successes and mishaps alike) as much as YeastSpotting. I don’t mean that I find your failures funny, but your posts have me in laughing fits. I just love your attitude towards your baking mishaps.
    Better luck next time, Susan.

  14. says

    Oh dear! Nice try though!!! At least your entry is funny :) Some things just aren’t meant to be! You’re no failure in our eyes!

  15. says

    I am soooo sorry this happened to you. Now you know why I like YeastSpotting so much. If someone was waiting for me to prove to them that I could make some preassigned recipe each week, I would die of stress. With your event, I don’t have to tell you about the sourdough focaccia that affixed itself to a cookie sheet this week that I had to pry off that ended up with no bottom crust and crumbled into a million (at least they were tasty) pieces. Unless, I want to. Feel better?

    Anyway, if I have time I will be persistant on that focaccia and you’ll see it with an intact bottom. :0)

  16. Joey D says

    Ah, Brava!!!! Just what I needed this morning considering my absolute failure at simply icing a cake this weekend. LOL. As Mimi said, at least it was tasty. Onward and upward… besides, cookies are overrated. ;)

  17. says

    How brave to post the failures as well as the success! And burned fingers are so bad (and well known to me, too :-( ) Hope your fingers get well soon!
    I know the problem with chocolate that will not set. It is so frustating!
    In my case, I did not temper the chocolate. A frind of mine explained then to me, that the chocolate has to be tempered to set nicely. It has something to do with creating small nucleation sites in the warm chocolate. I found a good explanation how to temper in Michael Suas “Advanced Bread and Pastry”

  18. bergamot says

    that was really funny… nice attempt though. I would not even dare to try and make either of them…”Did not attempt” is the remark in my column :-)

  19. says

    I didn’t try the Milans, so I can’t offer any advice on them – but for you Mallows chocolate not setting – I blame the season. I put mine in the fridge. They set, and kept, well in there. :)
    Congrats on tackling both recipes.

  20. says

    At least you tried! I didn’t even get that far. One look at my bathroom scale and I went running the other way! Maybe this next month, if it’s not something so terribly rich and indulgent and too tempting to have around.

  21. says

    LOL!!!! TOO FUNNY! I had some mishaps, too that just shouldn’t have happened if I would have read the instructions carefully. So, I know how you feel!

  22. says

    Found your blog via Daily Spud, and it made me feel so much better about this challenge! I ended up making parfaits with the two batches of cookie crumbs that came off my sheets in the beginning. Note to self–parchment paper is not optional.

  23. says

    Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. You are so much more brave than I am. I would have given up the ship and refused to re-enter the danger zone, you on the other hand, tempted fate and those dad-gummed gods to the point that all heck was born loose. They had to run to their liquor cabinet for fear you’d be back for another go-round. Kudos to you for your courage, endurance and sheer nerve.
    Oh, and thank you for sharing the mis-adventures with us. I feel better knowing I am not alone in the, ‘Baked Failure Adventure Zone’. We be so human, it hurts!

  24. says

    LOL!! That was too funny, Susan. Actually, it is not all your fault. The Milan cookies were the undoing of more than a few other DBers. Most of my milan cookies looked fine, but I also had a few that had those weird lumps, although on a much smaller scale, and I was quite careful in my mixing.
    And I was too chicken to even mess with the mallows (I have had disasterous brushes with homemade marshmallows before) . . .
    You have guts!!

  25. Paul says


    This brings to a mind a story about Thomas Edison.

    It has been reported that Edison failed over 6,000 times before perfecting the first electric light bulb.

    On one occasion a young journalist asked Edison, “Mr. Edison, why do you keep trying to make light by using electricity when you have failed so many times? Don’t you know that gas lights are with us to stay?”

    To this Edison replied, “Young man, don’t you realize that I have not failed but have successfully discovered six thousand ways that won’t work!

    Had Edison not been imaginative and creative–like you–or persistent against all odds–like you–we may still be working by gaslight or, in your case, baking spectacularly uninspired loaves of bread.

    Milano cookies? Venceremos, un dia amigos!


  1. [...] that can be most instructive. And then, as I read Susan’s post over on Wild Yeast about her dismal daring bakers episode, I got to thinking about what might separate a minor case of bad kitchen luck from an epic, [...]

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