Cooking fails: The toasted cheese

Let’s be existential, Should the wheel be remade?

Like most people around the world who equate food with love (let’s just call it what it is, emotional eating) the toasted cheese serves to be one of the holiest of holies on the food chain. Soft melted cheese, crispy buttery edges, a hint of paprika and sea-salt that dissolves on the tip of your tongue. It’s more than a yummy taste, it’s a religious experience .

In my family it is tradition that after a burstingly big Sunday lunch we laze our gluttony off, after which we wake up around 8PM hungry again. Not quite starving enough for a big meal, just slightly peckish for a snack. Now this is when we will bring out the good ole sandwich press and stuff it with heavily buttered sandwiches filled with tomato, cheese and paprika. No more than five minutes later a golden toastie emerges hitting all the right taste notes: cheesy, bready, golden and all round delicious.

Now that I am a self-proclaimed foodie, however, I decided it was time to zoop up this Sunday fat-day tradition and remake it to something more respectable, something more culinary. After all, everything can be made better, right?

Right? Wrong. Some things as perfect as a toasted cheese shouldn’t be fucked with. Fact.

Nothing to see here, just a cardboard pastry vomiting out cheese and garlic. Move along now...

Nothing to see here, just a cardboard pastry vomiting out cheese and garlic. Move along now…

After some serious research I decided that the perfect new medium for this all-time classic would be empanadas, the delicious Argentinean half-moon pies. What’s not to work? Small, two-bite size pies bursting with cheese and flavour. Imagine breaking one open and cheese just oozes out of the opening? Imagine the photos!

Taking the experiment one step further, I decided normal cheddar wouldn’t do either. It will have to be Emmental and Mozzarella, the perfect balance between flavour and gooey-ness. In addition to the fancy cheese, I added paprika crusted red onion, rosa baby tomatoes and crushed pickled garlic. Finding a dough recipe that seemed both easy and respectable (it had 4 stars) there was nothing standing in my way. I rolled and filled each empanada to the brim, being sure to seal each pastry with an intricate pattern. I even had a process: Roll red onion in paprika, place at bottom, add tomato, sprinkle salt, add a handful of cheese and close. As the dough had a particularly high amount of butter (one cup) and left the hands oily after handling it, I decided painting the pies with egg before popping in the oven was silly. I mean what is better that a butter crust right?

The crunchy cheese is actually quite nice to chip off and chew. But this recipe goes about that far...

The crunchy cheese is actually quite nice to chip off and chew. But this recipe goes about that far…

Well after 20 minutes of baking, there was more cheese on the tray than anywhere close to the empanadas. Now I could deal with that. What I couldn’t deal with was that the bleached-looking pies tasted like cardboard, garlic cardboard with a thin layer of cheese inside. It was actually quite horrible. The dough had air-pockets that seemed to explode in the oven, so instead of a flaky crust, it was a hard, tasteless shell enveloping the filling.

Some things sound so great in your head, but just doesn’t translate so well on the plate. The right idea was there, I just took it to the wrong place. But we learn by doing and I’m not saying that I’m nearly done with that sly bugger the toasted cheese, I’m just saying don’t try to squeeze it into a damn pie…

 


What’s your cooking fails? Everyone has, so don’t be ashamed now… 😉

 

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