But alas, I'm a cook who just doesn't function well if I feel rushed or distracted, and suddenly I was both. The muffin recipe calls for a cup of non-dairy milk, and I like to use 1/2 cup of vanilla and 1/2 cup of chocolate soy or almond milk. I'd already measured and added the chocolate milk to some other liquid ingredients, and had just shaken and pulled off the little plastic sealing thingy (under the twist cap) on a brand new half gallon container of the vanilla almond milk, but hadn't poured and measured it yet, when Robyn called. So when we hung up and I resumed my muffin-making, somehow I managed to completely forget that I'd already shaken and opened the container. I'm sure you're ahead of me by now - gave that container a good shake and ended up with almond milk in my face and hair, saturating my apron, sweater sleeves and even the t-shirt beneath, dripping down the front of the cupboards and dishwasher, and in widening puddles on the floor. I was aghast. But what was there to do but rinse out my hair as best I could, change my clothes, wipe up the mess, and proceed... now in a bigger hurry than before.
So I made it through the liquids without further incident and started combining the dry ingredients, which includes 1/2 cup of sucanat. To save time, I poured the sucanat from the container in which we store it into the measuring cup instead of spooning it in. Normally this works fine, but I didn't realize there were two fist-sized lumps of sucanat lurking just beneath the innocently powdery surface, and they hit that nearly full 1/2 cup measuring device like a pair of massive meteors slamming into a lake. Sucanat covered every surface I'd just cleaned (except my hair). Through tears of frustration now, I cleaned up THAT mess, and after pausing to turn on all our little lamps and Christmas lights (no small task), feed the dogs and supervise them while they went out front for their post-dinner constitutionals (the back yard being too muddy), I resumed my muffin project. Because really, what else could possibly go wrong?
I was very careful and precise in measuring the spices, given how it had been going thus far. Didn't want to confuse my baking soda with my baking powder, or my cayenne with my cinnamon! I made it to the end of the recipe in fine shape, but noticed the batter was soupier than I remembered it being from previous times. So I figured I must have just added a bit too much almond milk, and added a couple of teaspoons of flour to compensate. But it made little difference. I also noticed the batter was pale - more khaki than dark, chocolatey brown like it should have been. This I attributed to using chocolate almond rather than chocolate soy milk. Ignoring all the red flags and klaxons, I spooned the pale and soggy batter into my silicone muffin cups, sprinkled some demerara sugar on the tops, and was placing the tray in the oven when it finally hit me. I'd failed to add the six tablespoons of cocoa powder!
I actually stood there for a few precious minutes, trying to calculate how they might taste without it (concluding that since "cocoa" is actually part of this muffin recipe's name, it was probably a key ingredient), how the hell I was supposed to add it now, how much time I could possibly have remaining before Robyn and Jesse showed up with gifts and Chinese food, and whether I would be ahead to just dump everything in the garbage and pretend it never happened. But being even more loath to waste ingredients than I am to have to gag down a baking failure, I scraped the batter out of the muffin cups and back into the mixing bowl, gamely added and thoroughly stirred in the cocoa powder (ignoring that it's supposed to be sifted with the other dry ingredients and then have the pre-mixed liquid ones stirred in "just until mixed"), refilled the muffin cups, and with hope in my heart and perspiration (and a little vanilla almond milk I'd missed) on my brow, popped them back into the oven, all before Robyn and Jesse showed up.
Unfortunately, the Baking Gremlins weren't through toying with me yet. This kitchen has a fancy, high-tech double oven, and its timer is programmed using super-sensitive soft-touch buttons. An errant touch, easily and unwittingly made, converts the timer from minutes and seconds to hours and minutes. I really don't have to tell you at this point, do I, that I'd set the timer for 15 hours rather than 15 minutes without realizing it. Distracted by Robyn and Jesse's arrival and house tour and serving up the Chinese food and pouring wine, it occurred to me at some unknown point later that I'd never heard the timer go off. It was a Christmas miracle that they weren't burnt to a cinder. In fact, they weren't burnt at all, but in addition to being over-stirred (and downright man-handled), they were now quite overbaked. I took them out, expecting them to turn into little brown rocks as they cooled. But we all tried them and they were not only edible, they tasted very good and their texture really wasn't bad! So though I wouldn't recommend following my unorthodox techniques from that evening, I do highly recommend this recipe as not only delicious and (as sweets go) healthy, but also bordering on saintly for its phenomenal capacity to forgive!
BW and I didn't exchange gifts or get ourselves anything for Christmas this year, but we enjoyed an abundance of goodies to unwrap and enjoy thanks to the generosity of my friends and several of his customers! Here are a few highlights... You've already seen a photo of the entire string of pretty paper hearts from Barbara in my last post, but here's an artsy closeup I took of one of the bigger hearts...