I should know better.
I’ve been singing the wrong lyrics to “Wildwood Flower” for nearly a decade. I reposted an inspirational quote that gave credit to Russell Brand instead of Gandhi, and made a fine mess of my manicure trying to recreate some “easy” nail art.
Again and again I am reminded that certain corners of the internet are not exactly reliable, and yet I fell victim again last night.
Blame it on the snow, but I felt like baking. And by baking I mean assembling premade ingredients scrounged from my pantry, because (again with the snow) I didn’t want to drive to the grocery store. I recalled some “Almond Roca Bar” thing-er I’d had once that seemed simple enough so I searched online and voila! Recipe downloaded, ingredients gathered. Let the baking begin!
Now the only thing worse than an untested recipe is an untested recipe with substitutions; and whimsical adaptations are a fatal culinary flaw to which I am prone. This is partly because I suffer from Dunning-Kruger effect in the kitchen, and partly because two of our kids have nut allergies. So my interest in converting “Almond Roca Bars” to “Pumpkin Seed Roca” is understandable, although I admit it doesn’t have quite the same mouth-watering ring to it.
I boiled together butter and brown sugar, thinking that nothing could ever go wrong with those two ingredients involved. Pouring it over the graham crackers in the pan was a bit alarming, since there was so much liquid the crackers began bobbing and dipping like drowning sailors, but I quickly doused them with handfuls of pumpkin seeds (measuring is for babies!). The whole thing looked a bit suspect, but I was undaunted.
“Almond Roca has chocolate, too.” I said knowingly to my daughter-in-law, who was watching with skeptical concern. “I’m going to sprinkle a handful of chocolate chips on top.” Then, getting my money’s worth from the cable bill, I finished with a flourishing move I learned from The Food Network: course sea salt, poured into one hand and sprinkled with the other from high above, like blessed pixie dust.
I popped it all into the oven and began anticipating my family’s ardor. The baking was done just in time for The Bubble Hour – recorded live via the standing Sunday night phone call I take in my upstairs office – but the squares needed to harden for a few moments. I didn’t have time to serve it myself and would miss witnessing the delighted reactions of my family to this decadent treat.
“Go ahead and help yourselves once it’s cooled, but save me a piece!” I instructed, confident that they’d eat the whole pan if I didn’t remind them otherwise.
After taping the episode (fraught with technical problems by the way – please hang in there past my opening gaffes and you’ll hear some amazing guests share strategies on surviving the holiday season), I descended to find half the pan untouched.
“It was a little sweet,” they said, each chiming in with further descriptions. “And gooey.” “Messy!” “Crumbly.”
I looked at the sugary jumble in the pan. There was no resemblance to the glistening bars I was originally inspired by. I racked my brain. When had I originally eaten those? Who had made them? Ah, my sister – the one who makes hand-dipped chocolates. I could suddenly picture an old recipe in her handwriting, and wondered if it might be filed in my blue-with-ducks recipe box (circa 1989 bridal shower).
Soon I was holding the original (delicious) recipe and comparing it to the offending downloaded version. (In no way did I consider my own adaptations could have been the problem – clearly the issue was fundamental and not a simple matter of embellishments.)
My sister’s recipe used twice the amount of cracker crust and half the butter and sugar, a combination that (as I recall) resulted in crisp squares with a thin glaze of sweet crunch. My pan was essentially lumpy fudge best eaten in small quantities with a spoon. Utter failure.
There are so many lessons here. Don’t go looking online for what you already have at home. Trust your sister more than some stranger. Take ownership of your mistakes. Measure and be sure. Easy does it.
Certainly as a person in recovery who had to quit drinking wine because there was never enough, I should well know that “more is not better”.
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, dear readers.
Meanwhile, I’ll be searching for ways to repurpose this glop. Perhaps if I add some oatmeal it will suffice as topping for a nice apple crumble. At any rate, this time I’ll call my mother for advice.