Friday, December 16, 2011

Where There's Smoke

Yesterday I made pecan sticky buns.  They were...  mildly disappointing.

I KNOW, right?  Pecan sticky buns!  That require two sticks of butter!  How could they go wrong?

Meh.  I don't know.  Maybe it's the fact that Karo syrup grosses me out (I love to eat pecan pie, but I've never made it and adding Karo syrup as an ingredient is just unappealing to me).  Maybe it's that I substituted wheat flour for 1 of the 4 cups of flour the dough requires (I do this in cinnamon rolls with no problem and it makes me feel healthier when I'm eating my two sticks of butter).  Maybe they just need to be microwaved a few seconds before serving.  Sigh.  I don't know...

Anyway, I followed a recipe to make 30 mini sticky buns but I don't have mini muffin cups (I do have a miniature kitchen, so perhaps that is why I don't have space for such nonsense) so I used regular muffin cups.  It probably would have made 15 regular sized sticky buns.  But my muffin tin only holds 12.  So what do you do?  You make it work, right?  

Not quite.  Although I was feeling quite proud of myself after cramming the dough into 12 muffin cups (these will be generous sticky buns!), there was a minor disaster.  Turns out that dough GETS BIGGER when you heat it.  And if you don't think this through, you just might find yourself in a situation where the dough and karo syrup/sugar/pecan mixture overflows the muffin cup pan and splurts onto the floor of the oven.  Where it sits quiet and unassuming until it gets close enough to the coils of the electric oven that it CATCHES ON FIRE.  Just as a friend of mine came over to have coffee and sticky buns with me.  Welcome!  Please do not mind the flames in my oven.  That's just our sticky buns!

Anyway, the buns turned out okay (mildly disappointing, but really not so bad).  The oven, though, was a sticky, doughy mess.  So today I am making chili to take with us as we venture back to visit the grandparents and I decided since the oven was coated in a sticky pecan filling that I should use the self-cleaning feature.

Do you know how the self-cleaning feature of the oven works?  It makes the oven so freaking hot that it burns away all the gunk inside and reduces it to a little film of ash that you can wipe away when it cools.  It takes 3 hours.  I started when I got home from work at 1:30, so that it would be all finished when David got home and he would appreciate me for the Stepford wife I pretend to be about three days out of the year.

So I was stirring the chili on the stovetop and mentally planning our packing list for the weekend, and reminding myself to bring the charger for my kindle when my eyes started burning.  Smoke was POURING out of the oven.  And, once again, there were SMALL ORANGE FLAMES inside the oven door.

I stood by nervously as the flames flickered themselves out, so disaster appears to have been averted.  I just hope the smoke does not flavor the chili and make it taste like ass.

One time I was babysitting my cousin and I was making her macaroni.  I left the packet of powdered cheese on the stovetop next to the pot of boiling water and the packet of cheese started smoldering.  I noticed the bad smell.  So I put out the (super tiny) fire with no problem and later ripped open the (slightly charred) bag of powdered cheese and stirred it into the boiled noodles.  My cousin took one bite and said, "This tastes bad."  I argued with her that it tasted just fine.  Then she made me take a bite.  It tasted like smoke and burned plastic.

Which is also how my house smells right now.  I have the back door and windows open and the ceiling fans going.  Good thing it's 50 degrees outside.  Cooper and I are huddled together under a blanket.  I should get up and go stir the chili but then I'd have to get out from under the blanket.  I bet my hair stinks like smoke.

On days like this, I think I'm really not equipped to manage the level of grief that comes with the loss of a child.  I mean, I can barely manage myself, let alone major kitchen appliances.  How am I supposed to get through something like this?

And then I remember that I've been getting through it for over a year now and there's nothing to do but keep going.  Wait it out.  Keep in mind that time will make things easier if not better.  It's a burden that never gets lighter, but you start to think you can manage it, that maybe you are competent, and maybe you are getting your shit together, and maybe you have learned a little something about yourself and the people who truly matter to you in the process.  And THEN you have the kind of day when you can't even make sticky buns properly and your oven is flaming and and your house is freezing and your kitchen is full of smoke and all you can do is huddle under a blanket with the dog and wait for the worst of it to pass.


  1. And that is why I've never used the self-cleaning feature on my oven. I'm scared of what it might do to the rest of my house.

    I recently tried something one of you ladies pinned on Pinterest: baking soda and water. Make a paste and spread throughout oven. Then simply WIPE clean with a sponge. No scrubbing. I'd say my (somewhat already clean) oven is even better and about 85% perfect inside now. The rest is just stains from previous messes, etc.

    Sorry your super fatlicious muffins were duds. Sounds like my last attempt to make cinnamon rolls when they ended up tasting like bread perfume. Nasty. I'm so not a baker.

  2. I have had a whole string of days when I've felt like an incompetent mess most of the time, so I just want to send you a hug!

    And who hasn't had a kitchen fire once in a while? I think I'll go make some sticky buns.

  3. I want some sticky buns. Even mediocre ones.

    My oven STILL has remnants of the apple pie that boiled over on thanksgiving day on the bottom of it. We almost burn the house down regularly. No self cleaning feature on our janky oven.

  4. Um, hilarious.

    What about cinnamon buns? You can buy them premade, then unroll the pack, place on a cookie sheet, and smoother with icing. EASY, delicious, and totally deserving of the Stepford Wife title. haha :)

  5. Ha ha... the comment above mine made me laugh out loud...
    air it out well my friend!

  6. Stories like this are exactly why I don't bake. I'm with Laura Jane on this one, next time buy your sticky buns.

    Actually your self cleaning oven story got me thinking. Perhaps our grief is a bit like your oven. It's messy and seems impossible to clean up.

    The only solution is to allow it to heat up and burn. Flames everywhere and smoke filling the room as the aftermath. Messy and inconvenient. The smell of the smoke permeating everything we try to cook in the kitchen.

    Perhaps once the smoke clears we will just have to wipe the ashes of our grief off with a damp cloth? Now wouldn't that be nice?

  7. I LOVE baking. I did it for money (before Joseph was born and then died) and I'm looking at getting back into it in the new year. Tragedy (on top of the obvious one) is that our oven is broke and it cost money to fix it...which we don't have right now. So, I'm missing that as well.
    I love what you said about wondering how you're going to get through it then realising that you already are. It's an inspiring thought to have and gives the inner power to keep trundling along. I loved this post Brooke. Many laughs. x

  8. Oh I can relate, I can so relate.
    Keep on surviving Brooke. As you say, you are doing it whether you realise it or not. For what it's worth, you're doing an incredible job.

  9. i was just about to mention that pin that brandy talked about.

    i'm sorry your sticky buns didn't come out like you wanted. you know, i'm always surprised how just "small" things like that can always bring me back to Julius and my grief. i get so upset over something, and think "i wouldn't be this upset/i wouldn't be taking it so hard if Julius were still here."

    that may or may not be true, but my head and my heart think it is.

    and you're right, we've been doing this for a yr. and i guess all that there's left to do is "keep on keepin' on." though i really HATE that option.

  10. you crack me up.. I am sorry your hair smells and your house is cold and the sticky buns are not the best. Right now I feel like hiding under a blanket and not coming out. Not because of kitchen disasters but because of life disasters. I am just so broken about the death of my daughter. I don't know how you have done it for a year. I don't know how I have been doing it for 5 months and 3 weeks. Time just keeps going but doesn't seem to heal anything...maybe I need a sticky bun or something.