Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cooking Fail x2: Cucumber Agua Fresca and Cornmeal Carrot Biscuits

I had grand ambitions for cooking this weekend - no fewer than 6 dishes.  But I'm not feeling well, so I only made two, and unfortunately they both sucked.  Totally disappointing.

I get a biweekly produce delivery to encourage us to eat more fruits and vegetables, and so I can avoid a separate trip to Whole Foods to buy the organic stuff, since Trader Joe's produce section is not very predictable.  (Though I just discovered they have bagged cut kale  - OMG, it's like a Paleo dream come true.)

This week I got some cucumbers.  I found a neat-looking recipe for 'agua fresca' in my Bon Appetit fast, easy fresh cookbook.  It's sort of a Mexican limeade primarily made from cucumbers.  Since fancy spas are always putting cucumber slices in water, I figured it would probably be nice and refreshing.  So last night I blended up the peeled and seeded cucumbers, lime juice, sugar, salt and water.

I was also supposed to put ice in it to make it slushy, but our ice maker was off, so we didn't have any.  I figured I could serve it over ice later, or reblend as needed with ice. 

But ewwww.  Upon blending, the mixture was a not-unexpected bright green, with all that cucumber goo.  It tasted ok, but I just couldn't get past the texture.  I'm a "no pulp" girl when it comes to orange juice.  I dislike unfiltered juice.  I hate bubble tea, because drinks are not supposed to have chunks in them.  So this cucumber agua fresca?  No bueno.

do not make this agua fresca at home, for it is BAD.

I figured I'd try filtering out the cucumber pulp, which made it only a little better.  Some of it still managed to escape into the juice, enough to bother me texture-wise.  Oddly, the dogs ate up the filtered-out pulp like it was a special treat.  Who knew?  Also, Peanut loves raw cucumber.  So I guess all was not lost.

I put the filtered agua fresca in the fridge, and it turns out T LOVES it.  She drank an entire cup of it today.  So maybe the problem is just me.  But when I look at that bright green, I just can't bring myself to drink it.  Maybe I can convince her to drink the rest.  TJ won't go anywhere near it.

And if that weren't sad enough, our big biscuit adventure today fell flat as well.  I wanted to bake something savory for T's daily dose of baked milk, so I chose cornmeal-carrot biscuits from my Pillsbury Essential Baking cookbook.  We skipped the raisins and added 0.25c flaxseed, since you know how I love my flaxseed.  But that might have been a mistake.

The first challenge was "cutting" the butter into the dry ingredients to make it look like small crumbs.  I don't have a pastry blender so I tried both a fork and a potato ricer before I just gave up and used my hands.  The dough was pretty dry but the recipe seemed like it was supposed to be that way.

We baked them and they looked fine, but they taste like cornbread-flavored dirt.  They have that nice sweet corn taste, and held together reasonably well during baking, but they're really dry and crumbly.  They would only be tolerable with a LOT of warm honey and butter.  I can't figure out if all drop biscuits are supposed to be like this, or if I did something wrong.  But, yuck.  And T didn't even finish her whole biscuit.  I think it might be a hard sell this week.

I'm not even going to bother to leave you the recipes.  But I'd love your sympathy :)  It's so disheartening to spend a bunch of time cooking, only to find that the result is downright yucky.  Sad.


  1. Okay, I have to admit, you made me laugh out loud more than once with this one. "Cornbread flavored dirt." LOL. I'm sorry you had such a frustrating weekend in the kitchen. On the agua fresca, I'm totally with you--I hate pulp. Most of my food issues are textural ones, rather than flavor related. As for the biscuits, I rub butter into dry ingredients all the time for things like biscuits and scones (because I hate washing my food processor). So that should be okay. How do you measure your flour and cornmeal? My first thought was that you had too much of a dry ingredient, because they can be really easy to measure differently from the way the recipe intended. (Which is why I totally love my scale.)

    I hope you feel better soon!

  2. @Di - thanks for the kind words - I needed them :)

    Dry ingredients were measured by scoop-and-sweep into measuring cups. I was a little short on cornmeal but didn't try to make up for it, so it's a bit puzzling why the biscuits were so dry. I really wonder if the flaxseed made them too "grainy".

  3. We've all had those disappointing cooking experiences :). Couple comments: I always cut butter in with my hands - works better to me than using tools and I can feel when the texture is right. For flour I always stir, then spoon into the cup. As for dry, what liquids/fats were in the recipe? For baking you can usually use 1% fine but skim is usually not good.

    Better luck next time!

  4. @dre- the milk was whole, there was a bunch of butter, and then just 1 egg, which I beat before stirring it in, since it warned about not overstirring the whole thing.

    I wonder if spooning into the cup is better. I like Di's idea of weighing - I assume there's a standard conversion that 1c = xxx grams that's always what she uses?

  5. I'm sorry your recipes didn't work out!

    FWIW, I have a pastry blender, and I pretty much always use my hands, anyway. I think its easier. And my scones, pie crusts, and whatnot usually turn out fine. So I agree w/Di- that probably wasn't the problem.

    And your comment about TJ's produce department is so true. When we lived in the beach area, we had a TJ's and Henry's (sorta like Whole Foods- but you know that!) across the street from each other, and that was awesome.

  6. Hmm, I wonder if cornmeal gets old like spices. I used some that we've had for AGES. More than 5 years, I think.

  7. Thanks for the laugh at your own culinary expense. ;) The caption on your photo cracked me up!

  8. Okay, the 5+ year old cornmeal scares me...and reminds me of the flour that was in J's place in CO when I moved in. I didn't know that all-purpose flour could go bad, but yes, it definitely can. I'd get some new cornmeal if I were you. =)

    As for the flour weighing, unfortunately there isn't a universal conversion, since it depends on who wrote the recipe. Cook's Illustrated uses 5 oz (about 140g) per cup for AP flour, but that's for the dip & sweep method like you did. A lot of recipes use the spoon into the cup method, which is more like 4.5 oz per cup. So you probably did have too much flour. A lot of baking-specific books have a section in the front that talks about ingredients and they usually tell you how they measure stuff like flour; if you're lucky, they give a weight per cup. More general cookbooks may not tell you that much.

    Okay, I'm done. Sorry, can you tell I get carried away about baking topics? =)


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