I am heavily dependent on my copy of Joy of Cooking. I gained confidence from it. I explored new and wonderful foods with it. I learned to bake bread from it. I learned to make sourdough from it. My edition has that wonderful chocolate sourdough cake in it.

But it is so flipping erratic. Maybe some days they were drunk. I don’t know. I don’t like any of the cookie recipes. They come out cardboardy and bland – except! the peanut butter cookies, which are heavenly.

Tonight, I was trying to make flan. So, first you carmelize the sugar. Fine. Joy tells you to cook the sugar in a heavy nonferrous pan over VERY LOW HEAT, about 8 – 10 minutes, stirring constantly. After the first eight, I turned the heat up to medium. After the second eight, I turned it up to medium-high. and then it melted and turned honey colored. Then we put in the hot water, and half of it turned into a rock at the bottom of the pan.

I obviously failed to properly caramelize it. I am a failure.

So, then we started on the custard itself. Now I make custard pies on at least an annual basis. I get the idea; milk and eggs and sugar. Bake at a slow temperature. No big deal. Till tonight. When the cups of custard that were supposed to take twenty minutes to set, took 50 – although to be honest, it looks like it might be the one I was testing every ten minutes was the one that didn’t set. The rest look a little cooked.

We had been talking about flan for a week. Daughter had pointed out recipes online – Sure Fire! Never Fail! that involved cornstarch and evaporated milk and condensed milk and I think bottled caramel sauce. Hooey, I thought. So tonight, I googled “why didn’t my custard set” and found this site – Custard 101. If you look under creme caramel, you’ll find a never-fail caramel recipe that doesn’t involve stirring constantly and does involve cooking it over medium-high heat.

They were classy ladies. I’m sure it was a very fine brandy they were sucking down the day they wrote about caramel custard.