In light of Willow Bird Baking's Cooking Hard Stuff Challenge, I've been sharing some tips for tackling new or challenging recipes throughout the month of March.
Cooking Hard Stuff Tip #4: Try, try, try again -- or share your success.
Listen, we've tried not to dwell on this, but sometimes Cooking Hard Stuff is going to lead to a culinary disaster. When your pie crust is stuck everywhere in your kitchen except the pie plate, your cake falls over, or your dog is snarfing down the loaf of bread you just dropped, you're going to want to throw in the dishtowel (and throw several other things).
It's okay to quit every now and then. Eat a microwave burrito and lick your wounds while watching Kitchen Nightmares. Cry a little. Write a mournful poem.
But I strongly recommend that most of the time, you do something counter-intuitive: get back in the kitchen (soon) and try again. When you let "failures" fester, they become discouragement and insecurity. You'll start telling people you're "bad at making pie crust" or "not a good cook" -- things people regularly confess to me. You may stop trying to Cook Hard Stuff altogether.
Almost every time I've made myself try again after tossing a recipe flop in the trash, I've succeeded the second time around (full disclosure: except with meringue -- I'm waiting for a good dry weekend to give that one a third try). Sometimes I give myself a breather and wait until the next day or weekend to avoid frustration -- and I always do a little more googling and reading -- but when I finally succeed, it's worth the time and effort. In addition to learning what I did wrong, repeating the steps of the process make them second nature to me. Thus, paradoxically, I'm even more likely to feel comfortable with the recipe once I'm finished than if I'd succeeded the first time around. How about that!
So when you're not happy with your product, be strong. Make sure your experience ends on a successful note by getting back in the kitchen.
Thankfully, Cooking Hard Stuff doesn't always (or even most of the time) end in a complete failure.Usually you're going to accomplish at least a measure of success. Even wonky brownies taste excellent.
My first real payoff whenever I Cook Hard Stuff comes when I've finished a dish I'm proud of, taken photos of it, and get to write about it here on Willow Bird Baking. The pinnacle, though, is when Mike takes a bite of a dessert and loves it. It's no fun on weekends when he's not here, but I end up freezing things for him quite often!
Sharing your culinary achievements is the reward for Cooking Hard Stuff that will build your confidence and encourage you to continue challenging yourself. Others' enjoyment is one of the primary ways we judge our kitchen accomplishments.
For this reason, I think you should find folks to eat your food. If you can't feed all of it to your family, take it into your coworkers, walk it over to a neighbor's house, or donate it to a bake sale or shelter. Do something so that you know your hard work is making someone else's day -- it'll make your day too. You can also share your accomplishments online, of course, on a food blog or journal. In fact, I can't wait to share all of your Cooking Hard Stuff accomplishments on Willow Bird Baking in just a couple of days!
These savory cinnamon rolls are definitely one of my successes I'm excited to share with you. I wanted to make something imaginative, delicious, and easy for my last entry in the No More 'Mallows contest. I started with a traditional cinnamon roll recipe that uses my grandma's lovely Angel Biscuit dough. Instead of a dessert filling of cinnamon and sugar, these cinnamon rolls are filled with sweet potato puree seasoned with chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon. Along with the puree, they're stuffed with chorizo, queso fresco, and a touch of jalapeno for heat. The hearty buns served with a "glaze" of salsa or sour cream would make the perfect dinner or snack. The best part is that you get to serve people savory cinnamon rolls, y'all. That's just too fun.
Speaking of celebrating culinary successes, I have an even bigger one to celebrate with you! It's not mine, but that of my friend Lauren over at Keep It Sweet Desserts. Keep It Sweet Desserts is a mail-order desserts company and a brand new endeavor for Lauren. She's always posting delicious treats on her blog, so I eagerly agreed to review some of the very first desserts she sent out.
From Keep It Sweet Desserts.
I tried a salted caramel butter bar, a milk chocolate almond toffee cookie sandwich with peanut butter buttercream, and a chocolate chip cookie sandwich with mocha ganache buttercream. They were all just as fantastic as I knew they would be, but the mocha ganache smooshed between two soft chocolate chip cookies was my favorite. I feel pleased as a plum to wholeheartedly recommend Keep It Sweet Desserts for anytime you want someone else to Cook the Hard Stuff for you. In fact, if you use the code "WillowBirdBaking" anytime before June 30, 2012, you can enjoy 10% off your dessert order.
And just to spread the love, let's do a giveaway, too! Go visit Keep It Sweet Desserts and leave a comment below with which cookie or bar you'd like to win. I'll randomly choose a winner next Saturday, April 7 to win a dozen of their choice.
Savory Sweet Potato & Chorizo "Cinnamon Rolls"
Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 24 rolls
These savory sweet potato "cinnamon" rolls are adorable and delicious. They're soft, buttery yeast rolls wrapped around sweet potato puree seasoned with cinnamon, chili powder, and cumin. The rolls also pack a healthy dose of chorizo, queso fresco, and jalapeno. If you're afraid of yeast, don't be! This recipe is super easy; you just mix and stick it in the fridge overnight to rise before shaping your rolls.
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (100-110 degrees F)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 cups milk minus 2 tablespoons, room temperature
2/3 cup cold shortening (I use butter flavored Crisco)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 cups flour
3 pounds of sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
16 ounces chorizo, browned and drained
6-8 ounces queso fresco
minced, seeded jalapeno to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons melted butter for after baking
Note: I don't recommend halving yeast recipes; instead, if you don't want 24 rolls at once, consider freezing some for later. To freeze some of the unbaked rolls, just wrap them well before the second rise and freeze them. Once frozen, pop them out of the pan all together and store in the freezer, wrapped in plastic wrap and in a zip top bag or wrapped in foil. When you want to bake them, stick them back in a greased pan, thaw them in the fridge overnight, proof for the instructed amount of time, and bake like usual.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Poke each sweet potato several times with a fork and bake them on the oven rack (with a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any oozing) for 1 hour or until a knife will slice them easily. Scoop the flesh out into a food processor and add butter, chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon (you can adjust these spices to taste after beginning with the amounts that I used, above). Process until smooth and salt and pepper to taste.
While the potatoes bake, mix the warm water and yeast in a medium bowl and let the yeast foam for about 10 minutes. Put 2 tablespoons white vinegar in a measuring cup and then add milk up to the 2 cup line. Set this aside. In a separate large bowl (or the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook), whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and cut the shortening into the mixture with two knives or a pastry cutter until the shortening looks like small peas. Stir yeast mixture and milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well, kneading just a few turns. Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly sprayed with cooking spray, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and store in refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and lightly spray two 9 x 13-inch baking dishes with cooking spray. Turn the chilled dough out onto a floured surface and roll it into a large rectangle about 1/8-inch thick (I carefully cut the dough in half and worked with half at a time to make it more manageable; if you do this, just spread on half of the filling ingredients for each half you roll). Spread sweet potato puree over top evenly. Sprinkle on the browned and drained chorizo, the queso fresco, and the minced jalapeno (wash your hands after handling peppers). Roll the dough up into a spiral and cut it into rolls, placing them close together in your prepared baking dishes (at this point, you could wrap and freeze the rolls for later if you wanted).
Cover the rolls with a clean dish cloth and let them rise in a warm spot until they've nearly doubled, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Bake them for about 15-20 minutes or until browned on top (if you take them out at just lightly golden brown, they may still be doughy in the center). Brush with 2 tablespoons melted butter and return to the oven for 1 more minute. Let cool slightly and serve warm with cilantro, salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole.
P.S. This dish will be entered in the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission's No More 'Mallows Recipe Contest. I love me some sweet tater and marshmallow casserole, but I also love that sweet potatoes pack a lot of savory potential.
See all the Cooking Hard Stuff Tips:
The Cooking Hard Stuff Challenge
Tip #1: Read and visualize the recipe.
Tip #2: Mise en place.
Tip #3: Make a schedule.
Tip #4: Try, try, try again -- or share your success