Successful cooking: “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child
Failure has many faces, and for me this Christmas season, the specter of a soggy piece of divinity candy looms as large as Jacob Marley’s image on a front door knocker.
Sadly, my success in cooking one of this family’s holiday recipes is in serious doubt. After a number of years of seeing those pristine, white candies peel off wax paper as smoothly as a child sliding down a snowdrift, recent efforts have produced dismal — and emotionally wrenching — results.
As the day assigned for cooking and baking rapidly approaches, I find my sleep has been disrupted. Nervousness and anxiety are my constant companions. As I write this, droplets of sweat appear on the computer keyboard. In fact, so much has my confidence been undermined that I am seriously considering not making the substantial purchases of sugar and light corn syrup required for this seasonal delight, though my wife advises me that these ingredients can be used for other recipes.
For those of you who may be of help in analyzing why failure has been my fate, I can assure you that I have meticulously reviewed my work following each setback.
Did I measure the sugar and syrup properly? Check.
What about the egg whites? Were they totally separated from the yolks? Check.
And the half cup of water? Was it precisely the right amount? OK, there is room for skepticism on this one.
Looking back, I have noted that my poor performance has occurred since my retirement and a change of address. I now live in the country, West River, in a different home some 85 miles from Mitchell, where I recorded my long string of confectionary conquests.
Should I use a bit more water to compensate for the drier West River climate? Worth considering, but it doesn’t square with the principal problem, which is that the texture of the candies has been too soft, indicating too much water instead of not enough.
The sauce pan is also a variable that is under review. Formerly, I used a heavy, cast iron pan, whose thick sides accommodated the candy thermometer perfectly. The lighter weight pan clearly is an “implement of interest” in my investigation.
This week, if failure again deals his unkind outcome, I will file the recipe for divinity in the back of the box, and seek something new for our sweet tooth.
Florence Anderson’s exquisite white fudge recipe is sounding better and better.
Dec. 16, 2015