Defeats in the kitchen (or popovers, why do you mock me?)

Interestingly enough, I came into this thread specifically to recommend the OP read up on Al Siecherman’s popover technique.

It’s the only popover recipe I’ve ever used, and it has yet to fail me… the hardest part was getting my hands on a copy of his book, Caramel Knowledge, because it’s been out of print for quite a few years now and the library “lost” their last remaining copy. It’s a fabulous cookbook, albeit slightly dated.

Oh, and as for me, I always burn at least one tray of cookies no matter how hard I try. I usually call it my sacrifice to the Pastry Gods and pretend I did it on purpose.

I think I have finally gotten biscuits, but much like Miss Woodhouse, pie crust is my arch nemesis. Thanks for the heads-up to Cooks Illustrated, I’ve got a membership online.

My mom used to be the lemon meringue pie queen, but she has lost her knack. That’s my next big challenge, since my brother is a huge fan, and someone has to indulge him. :smiley:

I can’t make goddamn good pancakes. I’ve watched Alton’s pancake episode a few times and still don’t think I heat the griddle properly. I always either over-do them or under-do them, and my batter is never the right consistency.

I just don’t think I’m cut out for it.

Bearnaise sauce. It starts out good, I whisk and whisk and the eggs look perfect and I add the clarified butter and my arm is starting to hurt but it’s ok because it looks smooth and silky and I think I’ve finally got it right this time and then it breaks into a hideous mottled mess.

Rice took me a while but I finally figured out the trick was to leave it the hell alone once it’s tightly covered. If your pot lid doesn’t fit tight try a cover of foil folded along the rim with a cast iron skillet to hold it down. 1 1/2 cup water to 1 cup of rice, scale up as needed. Stir all you want till it’s just at a steady boil, reduce to a low simmer (you should be able to just barely hear it bubbling if you put your ear close to the pot) and put the lid on the pot and do not for any reason remove the lid. Don’t stir it, don’t check it. Just let it simmer 20 minutes, then pull it off the heat and let it sit 10 more minutes with the lid still on. Fluff and your good to go.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

If I pay $4 for one, they seem to taste fantastic, but for the life of me I can’t make one at home that tastes ANYTHING like I buy for lunch.

You’re probably not using enough butter.

Every attempt at fried falafel has ended in a mushy, oily mess. The little balls just disenegrate. Except the one recipe that created falafel patties that were as hard as cement. Those suckers stayed together in the pan. Too bad you’d break a tooth trying to eat one.

What is wrong with your potatoes? Are they gluey? Lumpy? Starchy? There could be many causes . . . differential diagnoses need symptoms.

OH – and I have trouble making custard without scorching it.

Neither can I. My kid can make pancakes. My husband can make pancakes. I’m sure if I let him close enough to the stove my DOG could make pancakes. Me? Nope.

Pie defeats me, every time.

Pancakes: Bisquick. It’s the only way to make perfect pancakes.
Popovers: IIRC, Alton says that the hot oven temp is mission-critical. Make sure you have an oven thermometer and turn the oven up just a smidge just before you pop in the popovers. Ovens cycle and you want to heat the batter quickly, so you want the oven on a heat-up cycle. You don’t want to pop them in on a cool-down cycle.

I have trouble with pie crusts, too. They go way beyond flaky and firmly into crumbly territory. They taste just fine, but don’t stay together. They disintegrate like a hard cookie hitting kitchen floor tiles.

I made a souffle once but I have no idea if it was correct. It tasted great and was nice and puffy, but I’ve never actually had a cheese souffle… no way to know if it was “right”.

At least, with my gumbo (I’m a transplanted Yank living in the Deep South), I can feed it to an Actual Southerner to find out if I’m on the right track. (Survey says, “My gumbo tastes like I was raised in the south.” W00t)

I make tasty and high popovers; I can’t make decent cinnamon rolls. The sad thing is I can make a decent yeast coffee cake, just not cinnamon rolls. I also can’t make a decent pie crust. It’s not horrid, but it’s not my mother’s. I now just buy either the ready-made or the piecrust sheets in the refrigerator section. Don’t tell anyone. Luckily, I’m not a huge fan of pie, so I rarely have to do this.

Re the popovers: is it your flour? I use Gold Medal all purpose. I’ve made them with all the ingredients at room temp and with none of the ingredients at room temp… I know it’s not that.
Is your oven hot enough? I bake mine at 425, but the Joy of Cooking specifies 450-perhaps you have a slow oven?

My issue with popovers is not them popping, but getting them out of the muffin tin intact. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Greasing and flouring the tin (as recommended) does not work, IME.

For years and years Hollandaise and Bearnaise sauces were the bane of my existence. Then, one day, I discovered a recipe/technique that used clarified, rather than solid, butter.

Viola. I have completely overcome my aversion to emulsion sauces and steak Bearnaise is the single most requested dish in my house.

Someone above posted a Bearnaise problem. Try this:

Add 3T tarragon vinegar and 3T white vinegar to 2T finely chopped shallots in a heavy saucepan (preferably enameled cast iron)

Over medium - medium high heat, reduce until most of the liquid is gone. You want the shallots to be just damp.

Put the pan in lukewarm water, about half the way up the side.

Heat a second burner on low/medium low, or wait for the first one to cool, When you can comfortably touch the bottom of the pan and keep your finger there, move it back to the heat. Add three room temp egg yolks and whisk until they start to form ribbons. If they clump, you’re scrambling them and using to high a heat and will have to start over.

When the whisk starts to leave trails in the yolks, add a drop of clarified butter, whisk, repeat, then start adding the butter in a steady stream, whisking the entire time until you get the consistency you want.

Now, here’s the important thing, get the bloody sauce away from any heat source. Put the pan on a trivet next to the stove for three to five minutes if you’re not going to use it right that moment and DO NOT cover it.

If it sits longer, it may start to break, but a quick whisking will pull it back from the brink every time as long as there’s no more heat involved.