Well…I just attempted to make biscuits and gravy for breakfast, from scratch. It was, to say the least, a disaster. The biscuits didn’t rise properly, which meant they were dense and not at all tasty. The gravy was too salty. The base was also made with mostly olive oil left over from my Spanish-style fried egg, since the sausages I made gave off an unusually miniscule amount of fat, for some strange reason.
Now, I think that it’s possible that I measured wrong. I am not one to measure. I’m an eyeball-er. Which I think tends to be my downfall when it comes to baking. I need to be more patient and meticulous, which is the last thing I am when it comes to cooking. I like to fly by the seat of my pants. Take one glance at a recipe, get the basic gist, and wing the rest. There’s a possibility that the baking powder I used was old. Granted, it was an un-opened box, but, in my mother’s kitchen, there’s just no knowing with these things. There is also a distinct possibility that my oven was not hot enough. I set it to 450F just like Mr. Alton Brown suggested. What I did not do was check the oven thermometer to make sure it was really at 450 when the pre-heat timer dinged. Based on my post-disaster research, the lack of rise in my biscuits could have been on account of an oven that was not hot enough. Baking powder is activated by heat. If the temperature wasn’t hot enough, it didn’t get the powder working properly by the time my biscuits had had their 15 minutes of oven time.
So, anyway, before I hit the computer to do some research, I was sitting there moping and thinking to myself for the thousandth time that I’m just not a baker. That I will be relegated to canned biscuit dough and store-bought cookies for the rest of time. That I will never be able to bake light, tender biscuits for my future husband and our offspring. And then it occurred to me that maybe biscuit-making (and all other forms of fixing baked goods) is not a natural born gift, but something that is learned through trial and error. Which is why old Southern ladies are so damn good at it. They’ve had a lot of time to practice. And so I said to myself, “Self, it’s not that you’re destined to be a baking failure for the rest of your life. You just need practice! It’s OKAY that your first biscuits turned out like lumpy, tan hockey pucks. You’ve got plenty of time to gain experience.”
It’s not like I stepped into the kitchen one morning and whipped up a perfect batch of creamy scrambled eggs and flawlessly crisp bacon the first time. I had to practice. Maybe I just don’t understand baking the way I understand cooking – in a manner that gives me something close to an instinct as to when things are done and what flavors go well with what ingredients. It’s something that comes with trial and error, hands on experience, hours and hours in the kitchen. I’ve got time to learn. Just gotta keep pluggin’ away…But, for the time being, I’ve got one positive thought to cling to…
At least the dogs liked them.