LIESEN: Please just follow the recipe - Quincy Herald-Whig | Illinois & Missouri News, Sports

LIESEN: Please just follow the recipe

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Expectation (Photo by TARO-TARO of Cookpad) Expectation (Photo by TARO-TARO of Cookpad)
Reality (Photo by Katie Liesen) Reality (Photo by Katie Liesen)
Expectation (By Food Network Kitchens) Expectation (By Food Network Kitchens)
Reality (Photo by Katie Liesen) Reality (Photo by Katie Liesen)

"I can cook when I don't experiment," I always reassure my family as I begin a new baking adventure. They never believe me, which is probably due to my very lengthy history of off-roading.

Now let me explain. It's not that I purposely ignore a recipe, and I do believe I can cook. However, quite a few recipes leave me with no other choice but to improvise, which is where everything goes wrong. When I encounter unfamiliar measurements, mistake salt for sugar, or don't have an ingredient, I have to experiment. I can't ask my parents for help, either, because I usually start at midnight when my parents are out of town; this is a precaution so if my recipe doesn't turn out, I can destroy the evidence.

Here are a few of my experimentations and their results:

º Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars -- added salt instead of sugar. (Failure)

º Flourless Chocolate Cake -- took too long to stir, so it ended up flat like a pancake. Delicious. (Success?)

º Strawberry Bread -- two batches made. Mom put the ingredients in both. I only stirred one of them. (Failure-Sabotage)

º Candybar Cake -- instructed to use chocolate instead of caramel. Used entire bottle of chocolate syrup. Took a cup off. (Success?)

º Forty servings of Jello - spilled all over the floor in a room cold enough to solidify it. When finally put in fridge, frozen. (Failure)

However, my most infamous baking disaster, the Green Tea Panda Bread attempt, took place about four years ago.

The recipe was in Japanese, with measurements that weren't in cups or tablespoons. In order to try to get past this slight speedbump, I used Google Translate and several online measurement converters to try to decipher the instructions.

Google's translation of the title was "Oh, it's bread? ! I was burnt bread of cute panda." Already off to a great start. The rest of the process could only be uphill from there.

"Flowering person heightening much." Is that supposed to be self-rising flour? I don't have that, so I'll just add extra baking soda.

"30 g cane sweet." Sugar? OK, it says that's 1.05 oz., which is about 0.13 cups. ... OK, a half-cup is probably close enough. It can't be that much different. I did this for all of the measurements.

"Matcha (which was beaten in the hot water.)" Matcha, apparently, is green tea powder, which I didn't have. However, I had green tea bags, and they seemed to contain a powdery substance. I cut open several bags and poured them into the batter.

When I removed it from the oven, it looked like an alien had gotten too close to the batter and happened to be mixed in. The smell was horrific. Although all of my senses were telling me not to, I couldn't avoid trying some. Let's just say this recipe didn't turn out. At all.

Now that there are English versions of the recipe, maybe I should make another attempt. I'll probably follow the recipe. Stay tuned.

-- kliesen@whig.com

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