Fifth Time’s a Charm

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Thanksgiving is one of my absolute favorite holidays because it is all about food. This year, for the first time in a long time, we will be spending Thanksgiving with family from my husband’s side of the family. I volunteered to bring stuffing (or dressing, whichever you like to call it), and a dessert. For me, those two things are what I look forward to eating the most, so I wanted to make sure that they would be there.

I usually bake my desserts 2-3 days in advance, so I’m not having to do a bunch of cooking either the day before, or the day of Thanksgiving. I decided make pumpkin cheesecake, with a bourbon butterscotch sauce for the dessert this year. I made it last year and both my husband and I loved it. I decided to get even more ahead of the game this year and make the butterscotch sauce the weekend before hand, since it lasts a couple weeks in the fridge.

Now I should probably explain that even though I made this last year, I did not remember to write down my recipe, or even bookmark the websites that inspired it, so I had to figure it out all over again.  I attempted to make a butterscotch sauce the way you make caramel. Meaning you bring the sugar to a boil for awhile, then add the cream. I like the flavor of brown sugar more, but wanted that thick caramel texture, which was something I managed to achieve last year.

I should also point out that I am not someone who can make things up on the fly and have it end up being the best thing you’ve ever tasted. I’m a rule-follower. I like recipes.

So, Esmé went down for her nap and I set myself up. Sugar can burn quickly, so you have to have everything ready, and so I thought I was…

Attempt #1: My first attempt didn’t quite boil up and thicken like I remembered from last year. It was very runny, and the flavor wasn’t as ‘wow’ as last year either. I poured it into a jar anyway to see if it would thicken up after a few hours.  It did not. It also seemed to be separating as well. FAIL.

Attempt #2: As I was standing over it waiting for something to appear different than the first batch, I started to smell burned sugar. ‘Sh*t!’ I said. ‘Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t!’ (Yes Esmé was sleeping, so she wasn’t picking up my bad habits). Not wanting to pour boiling hot syrup liquid into the sink, I poured cool water from the tap into my pot of hot syrup, and the entire thing seized into a crazy sculpture figure inside my pot, with the whisk stuck to it. Brilliant. I thought, just brilliant. Now I have sugar cement in my pot to contend with. I’m pretty sure there were some more choice words muttered as I pried the whisk free, and stuck the pot back onto the heat so I could melt this rock-hard, solid mass off my pot. FAIL.

Attempt #3: This time I got nervous because I was afraid I was going to burn it and have a repeat of attempt #2. I added the cream way too soon, so it didn’t boil up at all. It was even runnier than attempt #1, so instead of wasting more ingredients, I just poured it down the drain. FAIL.

At this point in time I was feeling so horrible about myself and my ability to cook, I felt I simply could not carry on anymore.

‘Husband,’ I said, ‘I just can’t face cooking dinner tonight. You’ll have to figure something out.’ Being the amazing man that he is, he not only threw together dinner, but tried his best to buoy my spirits. Pep talks from him and my sister gave me a tiny little bit of courage to try again.

After we picked up more butter, whipping cream, and brown sugar from the store, I was ready to go again…

Attempt #4: You are going to laugh, but I actually prayed before I started this time, and then I repeated a mantra of ‘please work, please work, please work,’ throughout the entire process. By some miracle of miracles I did not give in to my urge to pour the cream in early so that it wouldn’t burn. The timer went off…I added the cream….and it still did not bubble up furiously. GAH!!!! What the heck?! (Not actually what I said) How did I do this last year with only two tries? I poured it down the drain, again. FAIL.

Attempt #5: My sister had suggested I try adding a little cornstarch to thicken it, so I thought I’ll give it one last shot. But this is seriously the last time that I am going to try this. Again… boil sugar, then add cream…not so much bubbling, but add the rest of the ingredients anyway. It was a little thicker than attempt#1, but the flavor was perfect. I poured it into a jar, because a runny jar of heaven, is better than none. Lo and behold after a few hours in the fridge, it was the perfect consistency! And it did not separate! SUCCESS!!

I don’t know about anyone else, but I have had several ‘aha’ moments reading parenting books, because I recognize myself in their descriptions of what not to do. I think it’s so ironic that reading these books about children, and understanding their behavior actually causes me to recognize more of my flaws than my child’s.

I’ve been reading a book recommended by my pediatrician called ‘Positive Discipline,’ in attempts to figure out how best to discipline our child. I’m not very far along, but something that really struck a chord with me was their discussion about making mistakes, or failures. They say that when your child messes up, or fails at something, you should not humiliate them further by trying to assign blame. Instead have a more positive response, and recognize it as an opportunity to learn.

This past weekend really helped me to see just how far I have to go in bettering myself. Instead of seeing my four failures as opportunities to learn, I got angry and lashed out with profanity. In fact after only three tries I decided that I was going to give up, since I couldn’t make the perfect sauce. It was only after some coaching from my husband and sister, that I remembered what I had read before, and worked up the courage to try again.

So what did I learn from all this nonsense? First of all, do not pour cold water into a pan of boiling hot syrup. You will be cursing yourself for a long time as you wait to melt the mangled, solid mass off your pot.

Secondly, and more importantly, it’s ok to fail. This is really something that parents should tell themselves on a daily basis, but I really struggle with it. I want to be the perfect mom/wife/sister/daughter/cook, so I really feel defeated when I fail at any of those. This is when it helps to have a support team on hand, a.k.a- husband, sister, mom, dad, friend, etc. They can help shake you out of your funk, bring you back to your senses, and remind you that no one is perfect.

This Thanksgiving Eve marks the one year anniversary of my blog. In addition to being thankful for all of my family and friends, this year I am so grateful to all of you who take the time to read my blog. It really means the world to me.

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving, and hope that your cooking goes smoother than mine!