After hours, over half the day actually, of planning, mixing, kneading, chilling, boiling, dyeing, more rolling, more chilling, resting, mixing, rolling, filling, spreading, moving, shaping, pre-heating, cutting out decorations, egg washing, and sugar sprinkling, I slipped my multi-pound humongo Easter masterpiece into the oven for it's hour-long bake and slumped down into my chair to watch TV and knit for my little Littles a bit while anticipating every sweet decadent pastry bite following Easter dinner.
And that's exactly how it would have ended in a movie, with a perfectly made up, but with just enough dusting of flour on one perfectly blushed cheekbone to let us know how HARD Julia Roberts worked in creating that amazing pastry using no experience and only the drive of personal willpower all the while squeezed into a niney minute framework as she pulled out the glorious, perfectly browned orgasmic dessert from her fake movie set oven.
Well kids...I ain't Julia Roberts. Nor am I Martha Stewart. The reality in my life turned out to be that fifteen minutes after turning over my baby to that monster freak called my oven, I physically followed a slightly acrid and puzzling scent into my real working kitchen to see black smoking pouring out of the oven vent and opened the door to see my creation melting and dripping everywhere like the Wicked Witch of the West after a shower.
Pissed off? You betcha. All that work and money for ingredients wasted, but the more than that, my hope was mocked. That's what hurt the most. I was hugely disappointed but--evenutally--after releasing my annoyance with a good slam of the oven door, stomping out of the kitchen, and crying like a big baby in my bedroom for fifteen minutes,I could also see that as many things that do go well for me in the kitchen even when attempting dishes I've never prepared before, the Vegas odds are there's going to be a few failures along the way as well. When I had a chance to stop and think about it objectively, I realized that the bigger truth in this is that through this kitchen disaster I've learned more unforgettable baking lessons in one afternoon than I've learned in the last year from my successes. That is the definition of experience.
In every other aspect of my lfe: work, home, knitting, all for examples, the hardest and most lasting ways I've ever learned to do anything well was by doing it badly at some point. Usually, as in this case, the screwing up is the part of the process where suddenly the rules and the structure of a craft make sense in a way much more etched in stone in my brain than simply reading it or being told. Those rules and the whys behind them are suddenly tangible to me in a way that can't be taught except by experience. They also serve to slap down any cockiness that might interfere with my listening or reading abilities by thinking I already know it all and can therefore skip a few steps and still come out okay.
I love the Thomas Edison quote when he was urged by an assistant to give up looking for the right material to serve as a lightbulb filament. He said "Why quit now? We know of over a hundred things that won't work."
The obvious question is: What did I learn? I learned, for one, to trust my instincts. The dough WAS too soft, too wet, and so was the filling by far, with both hydrated ingredients and fat which melts into a liquid. I also learned that on experiments, always always always use a rimmed baking sheet, for sure! As an aside I also learned in the beginning of the process that no matter how cool it sounds you can't dye eggs with just cherry juice and/or too much vinegar. I had to break out the Wilton food coloring paste after my first egg-dyeing project turned into three eggs with shells so softened by sitting in too much acid for so long that they broke as soon as I picked them up and tried to dry them with a paper towel.
Now I know these things. Next time I'll use these lessons to make a better product...or at least different mistakes.
I also learned that I'm blessed with a husband (Thank you!) who doesn't mind cleaning up after me when I make a hasty exit to contain my emotions and that I'm grateful to the person who invented the self-cleaning oven. You ROCK, Sir or Madam! Thank you for leaving me only ashes to wipe out.