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A couple of years ago, I got a Taste of Home “Classics” cookbook. I’ve successfully tried a lot of recipes from it, and I’ve found a number of favorites. I’ve made some of them to share at school (we teachers love finding reasons for food), and several times I’ve been asked for the recipes. I’ve come to trust this cookbook as a source of reliably delicious food.  Last night, however, it betrayed me.

After dinner, I got a hankering for dessert–something rich and cakey, but not too much work, since it was already 6:30 or so. My Taste of Home cookbook has a section called “Cooking for Two” which has recipes for smaller portions, and there I found directions for a small chocolate cake, sized for an 8-inch pan. Perfect.

The first step was to pour boiling water over squares of baking chocolate to melt them. I soon discovered that this is not an ideal way to melt chocolate; it required way too much stirring and squishing and squashing before the chunks of chocolate finally smoothed out. I mentally filed it away under “lessons learned” and figured if I made it again I’d remember to melt the chocolate by some other method before adding in the boiling water.

Next the recipe said to mix in sugar, vanilla, and egg, and shortening. I threw everything in the bowl but hesitated at the shortening; usually I bake with butter. But I had the can of Crisco sitting right there since I had been using it to grease the pan, so I scooped some out and dumped it in the bowl. As I stirred the resulting mixture, I realized that it was so liquid-y that the Crisco wasn’t blending into it well…it was sort of in globs. Huh, I thought, I probably should have melted that first before I put it in. (The recipe said nothing about melting.) Better late than never…I decided to solve my problem by microwaving the whole mixture. After about 30 seconds, I was surprised to find the shortening still floating around in white lumps…I whisked it good and microwaved it for another 30 seconds. To my dismay, the shortening still seemed solid…it seemed like a physical impossibility, considering how hot the mixture was. At a loss, I scooped out one of the white lumps to examine it closer. Instead of squishing between my fingers, as I expected, it felt firm and rubbery. What in the world have I done to my shortening? It was incomprehensible that microwaving Crisco could transform it into something so strange.

Then it hit me.

I wasn’t feeling a gob of Crisco between my fingers.

It was egg white.

Cooked egg white. I hadn’t even considered the fact that there was egg in the mixture when I stuck it in the microwave. Sheepishly, I pulled out my sieve and carefully strained out the lumpy white bits before mixing in the rest of the dry ingredients.

Oh, and by the way…don’t you usually add the liquids to the dry ingredients when baking, and not vice versa? My batter was rather lumpy, even though I slowly whisked in all the flour/soda/salt. I did not have much hope for my poor little cake when I stuck it in the oven.

30 minutes later, it emerged, looking perfectly edible though slightly fallen in the middle.
To my surprise, it tasted wonderful…as evidenced by the fact that half of it has already been eaten, in less than 24 hours. (And no, I did not eat all of those pieces.)


Moral of the story: Some recipes are poorly written. I realize that microwaving something with egg in it was my fault, but I wouldn’t have needed to if it had properly directed me to use melted shortening…

But at least the end result was tasty.