Tuesday, June 5, 2012

If At First You Don't Succeed... (or, When Experiments Go Wrong)

 I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  Not all of my food experiments turn out very well.  There. I said it.  I didn't realize this before I started this blog, but now I feel like I have to create new stuff, and not just make recipes that someone else has already developed.  That's a lot of pressure, frankly.  I don't know how cookbook authors and chefs do it all the time.

So it was that frame of mind, and the fact that I wanted to use up the 2/3 bottle of caramel sauce left over from the cupcakes I had made, that I set out to create a new, caramel-y, chewy, crunchy, chocolatey bar.  In retrospect, I think I took on too much. 

I was thinking I would do an oatmeal cookie crust, pour the caramel sauce over top, let it set, then top with a chocolate-peanut butter and pretzel top.  Sounded good in theory, but here's what happened in reality:

1. The oatmeal cookie bottom absorbed the caramel sauce so the result was super-gooey.  Not entirely a bad thing, but not exactly what I was going for.

2. The peanut butter and the pretzels combined for a too-salty taste.

3.  The texture of the oatmeal competed with the texture of the chocolate-peanut butter-pretzel top. And, texturally-speaking, that really soft, gooey bottom, combined with the stiffer, crunchier top, made for difficult eating, because the bottom would kind of pull away and fall apart from the top.

4.  The entire thing when you cut it into bars, was all brownish with little bits of chunks in it.  It looked like square hunks of poo.  Really. But don't take my word for it.  Here's a picture:

Sooooo...what did I learn?

1. Creating something truly original is really hard.

2. Only one layer should have a specifically crunchy element.  If you're going for additional layers, the rest should be a different texture, whether it's smooth and creamy, or chewy, but not all at the same time. And also consider the "stiffness" of each layer.  The bottom of the bar, structurally speaking, needs to be stiffer (or as stiff) as the layers on top.

2. Pay attention to the saltiness of the each of the ingredients you are combining.  Would it have made a difference if I had used natural peanut butter (with no added salt)? Maybe.  Or else I could have cut some of the peanut butter and added just plain butter when I melted the chocolate.  Not sure, but still, a lesson learned.

3. Also think about the color of the finished layers.  We "taste" first with our eyes, and if something doesn't LOOK appetizing, it won't matter how great it tastes, you're not likely to want to eat it.

The good news is, I did discover a great new flavor combo, but you'll have to stay tuned for my next post.  How does that saying go?  "If at first you don't succeed?  Try, try again."  Well, I'll keep trying, 'cause it's just fun when you hit on something really delicious!

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