I remember a phone call from my friend, nearly in tears, because the chocolate cake she baked from a recipe I gave her broke coming out of the pan. She was cooking for a date and he would arrive soon. We devised a plan the serve cake chunks in a bowl with ice cream and berries: she could pretend that was her intention all along. She called the next day to tell me that the dessert—and the date—was a success.
A macaron isn’t technically a macaron unless it has a foot (that little ruffled bleed around the bottom), and if the top cracks instead of forming a smooth dome that’s a dead giveaway that you did it wrong. When a batch of my green tea macarons failed (they tasted wonderful but were not pretty enough) I stored them in the freezer so I could figure out another way to use them. Months later, tasked with making dessert for a party, I sandwiched strawberry ice cream between the cookies and dusted them with matcha. The delicate pink and green ice cream sandwiches produced ooohhs and ahhhs! Another failure turned into a success.
I mess up all the time. I skim recipes and skip steps, I let things overcook while I scroll through Instagram, I forget to add the salt, I drop a pot on the floor and spill a sauce that’s been stewing for hours. Being a good cook doesn’t mean getting it right every time. It means rolling with the punches, transforming mistakes into new recipes. Many a restaurant special is the result of emergency improvisation. With confidence and good seasoning, you can pull of almost anything. Don’t apologize: if it tastes and looks good, no one cares how it was supposed to turn out.
I got really excited to make the miso sugar I saw in the pages of Bon Apetit. Without really consulting the recipe, I prepared a batch to serve as a salty-sweet ice cream sundae topping for a dinner party. I had the whole thing in my head: cornflakes at the bottom for crunch like they do in Japan, vanilla ice cream, in-season strawberries, and a sprinkle of salty-sweet miso sugar on top.
With five guests sitting at my table, I opened my cool oven where the miso sugar had been drying for 24 hours and discovered that it was just burnt goop. Quickly, I mixed up a batch of miso butterscotch instead, so I could put those same flavors into my sundae. Ten minutes later we were eating sundaes, and they were perfect (at least, I thought so). This is now one of my favorite desserts ever! Here’s the recipe.
Recipe: Miso Butterscotch Sauce
I got the idea for a miso-strawberry-cornflake sundae from a miso caramel ice cream at the Good Fork, a giant parfait I had in Japan, and this recipe from David Lebovitz for roasted strawberry and miso ice cream. It might sound like an odd combination of flavors, but try it! As strawberries go out of season, you could try using raspberries or peaches, which might be even better. Layer the cornflakes, then a little fruit, then ice cream, more fruit, and finally the miso butterscotch sauce.
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ packed cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 plus 1 teaspoon Tablespoon red miso
Place the butter and sugar in a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat. Stir until the butter melts completely, and the sugar is fully dissolved. When the mixture is thick and glossy, about four minutes, stir in the cream. Remove from heat, and whisk in the miso. Serve warm—the mixture will thicken as it cools. Keeps for several weeks, refrigerated; reheat gently to serve again.