The Dangers of Home Cooking

There is a real problem facing today’s home cook that no one wants to talk about. The mechanization of, well, everything means that the candy and cookies you can buy in stores are standard and perfect and exactly the same size every time.

While this is good for calorie counters (according to the MyFitnessPal app, a Reese’s peanut butter egg is exactly 170 calories, not that I have any reason to know that off the top of my head), it’s very intimidating for anyone trying to produce treats at home.

Caramels can be especially difficult. The stickiness that makes them so delicious and such a boon to the college funds of dentists’ children everywhere also makes them difficult to cut.

My Aunt Marge’s caramel recipe, in addition, is poured into two circular pans while hot and then pried out after it has set up. I suppose I could try pouring it into a square pan, but the caramel slab would likely be somewhat distorted in transfer to the cutting surface anyway. Then, too, my Aunt Marge’s recipes are legendary for good reason, and I can’t be certain that there isn’t some magic in the shape of the pan. Sure, you laugh, but you haven’t tasted them. It’s not worth the risk.

So I am left with the task of producing perfectly shaped, pillowy rectangles of powdered-sugar-dusted caramel to be twisted up in wax paper, while working with a delightfully adherent, sort-of-roundish disk.

As you can see, this produces a lot of waste. There’s no way to avoid triangular or rhombus-shaped bits. Caramel pieces with “strings” pulling off the corners are inevitable. The home cook aiming for perfect, standard shapes of caramel will face a not-insignificant rate of failure.

In today’s high-pressure, no-bruised-apples world, these imperfect products can’t simply be wrapped up and added to the pile as if they were acceptable. And they can’t be thrown out. The wasted butter alone would start Julia Child spinning in her grave.

I’ve pondered this problem at length, and I can think of only one solution: The cook must eat the rejects. The calorie count does not matter, the danger to dentistry must be faced, and the slightly sick feeling at the end of the batch is of no moment.

Home cooking.

It’s a difficult, dangerous job, but I will soldier on.

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