Here I lie in the trusty recliner, a tattered wreck, legs splayed akimbo, arms flung hither and yon, too weak to even lift said legs up onto the footstool, gasping for breath and cursing in between gasps. My fingers twitch with an urgent need to strangle someone and I know just who, but in my pitiful condition I would probably be unable to tighten my grip around that scrawny throat sufficient to do any real harm. Oh, Recipe Lady....you are getting off easy this time.......and there is that Word........Easy....ha!. Lies, all lies.
Now, let's face facts here, dear ones......I have been filling and stirring and scrubbing pots and pans for more than....well, never mind. We can just say that I've been around, ya' know. And I know when they say prep time 15 minute, cook time 25, that that means after your sous chef or flunky or scullery maid has assembled all of the ingredients in the proper order across your work surface, scrounged around in the drawers and located all of the proper tools and arranged them neatly in order of use like the surgeon's tools in the Op Room and probably already chopped all the choppables, measured all the measurables and carefully poured your glass of cooking sherry, not for the dish, but for You. Anyway.....you can't ever believe 'em about those details, but usually when they say bake for 25 minutes they more or less mean that, give or take a few on each side.
So there I was throwing together a simple looking recipe for "Vanilla Orange Monkey Bread"....oven to 350, bundt pan at the ready, couple pkgs of buttermilk biscuits quartered, shaken within an inch of their life in a baggie full of sugar and grated orange zest till delightfully coated then set aside. Throw into a saucepan two sticks of salted butter (OY) a bunch of brown sugar, some vanilla,. melt it all up, stir around just few stirs, not too many, set aside.
Fling the beautifully coated biscuit pieces into the bundt pan, pour the syrupy stuff over it all, deposit in oven, bake 25 minutes. My mouth was watering, I was licking all the utensils and all my fingers and when the bell went off at 25 mins I checked things out. Yes, the top was nicely browned, syrup seemed to be bubbling in the pan. * Cool for 10 mins before inverting pan over serving dish. OK......gotta let that sticky stuff set up a bit before de-panning, but not too long or else you will never get it out without the use of a jackhammer. Sure, been there, done that. Bell goes off in 10, I invert the pan over serving dish ** and....holy crap, I am standing ankle deep in a lake of syrup as is my whole work surface. Item on serving dish looks raw on top under the remains of the syrup. Hmmmm. time out to scrape up all the salvageable syrup into a receptacle and rethink this. (Don't be silly......I never throw away good food and I never quit without a decent struggle)
Syrup goes back into saucepan to cook for about 5 mins till it thickens......wish I had a candy thermometer since I have never been good at that "soft ball -hard ball stage" stuff. Carefully lower bundt pan over object on serving plate, invert, shake to settle hoping that the ridges and curves are all repositioned properly (don't ask), pour revised syrup over all and back into the 350 oven for ???? 10 min....12 min???....15 min???
Scrub sticky floor and work surface while waiting and fuming. Double Oy Vey.
When the well trained eyeball examines the top (really the bottom) of the subject and determines that it is sufficiently brown I remove from oven and repeat from * through **. Hmmm, well, this looks more promising.....in fact.....delicious. I cannot wait to sample this amazing looking confection. I cut a small slice, take a mouthful from near the top where the gooiest goody part is and.....spit it out......oy vey....still a mite unbaked! How could this be? Shitpissfuck.
At this point I am really annoyed and more determined than ever. I fling the object back into the bundt pan not caring whether the curves and ridges match up or not, dammit. Back into the oven it goes for how long?....10? 12? a gazillion? mins. I am flying blind here. There is absolutely is no way to determine whether the unbaked portion of the item will get baked before the syrup turns into concrete or cinders. Finally I snatch the pan from the oven at 15 mins.....let cool for 10, invert over serving plate and, " voila" what emerges is this gorgeous orangey caramely creation with only the slight imperfection of one slice having been removed, which I find can easily be concealed by pushing the open edges together while the thing is still warm. No one will ever know.
A work of art, but how does it taste? Didn't take long to find out that it was utterly divine and I had to keep slapping myself on the back of my hand and the side of the head to keep me from devouring The Whole Thing. However, I then fell into the Chair in the state described above at the very beginning, brushing sticky crumbs from my lips and sighing in exstacy and exhaustion and did not even have the strength to make the necessary corrections to the Recipe.
Needless to say, the very first correction I will make will be to that word "EASY".
(Does anyone remember Senor Wences and his adorable little dummy?.........."eeeasy for YOU....deefficult for me...")
The fate of that damned Recipe Lady is still up in the air.......I am too stuffed with Vanilla Orange Monkey Bread to do harm to anyone right now.
The New Yorker covers: February 10, 1975
5 hours ago