When a food critic turns the poison pen on herself

Caramel crumb bars December 10, 2008

Filed under: Cookies,Disaster cakes — crummb @ 12:49 am
Tags: , , ,


BEFORE you think I’m still on a rampage against Nick Malgieri, let me say right now that I had actually planned an ending to this post. And it reads: “You’re forgiven, Mr Malgieri.”

See, I’m reviewing his latest cookbook The Modern Baker for the newspaper and I can’t possibly shred it to smithereens just because his caramel recipe was a dud (read drama here). Maybe that recipe was the only blip in an otherwise faultless tome of culinary mastery and genius.

So to be fair, I decided to try another recipe from the book. And to up his chances for salvation, I chose a cookie recipe because, unlike cakes, cookies are pretty much fail-proof. I also chose to make Caramel Crumb Bars because I love caramel, and its success would obliterate all hard feelings (and hard sugar on my saucepan) I have towards the man after my previous caramel outing with him.

I would wax poetic about how buttery the cookie base was, how creamy the caramel on top, and how crispy the crumble bits sprinkled all over. Then, I would declare with big-hearted, seam-busting goodwill, “You’re forgiven, Mr Malgieri.”

Erm, it is not to be.

First, his recipe called for too little flour to be rubbed into the dough to make the crumble. Second, his instructions for caramel (yes, again!) was suspect. The butter, condensed milk, brown sugar and vanilla concoction has to be heated over an extremely low flame. No warning was given so my caramel burnt and sprouted unsightly brown specks. Furthermore, his 30-minute baking time was way too short. The cookie base emerged undercooked and I had to pop them back in for another 20. By the time the base was cooked, the caramel was hard and gluey. I flossed really hard that night.

It pains my heart, Mr Malgieri. But you leave me no choice:

Crummb 3, Malgieri 0


15 Responses to “Caramel crumb bars”

  1. Joanne Says:

    Sigh, I know that feeling! Have you tried Jacques Pépin’s recipes? He is one of my favourites.

  2. chris Says:

    Oh dear oh dear…yah, those bars look…odd…despite yours and Z’s obvious efforts to redeem them photographically. Where got crumble look like that one?

  3. crummb Says:

    joanne: hi! jacques pepin – no, haven’t tried any of his stuff yet. which of his books is good? 🙂

    chris: confirmed right? CONFIRMED! nick malgieri’s recipes are… *shake head*

  4. Joanne Says:

    Hi, my favourite Jacques Pépin recipe is actually this one for Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies ( , which I believe can be found in his book – “Jacques Pépin Celebrates!”.

    They taste fantastic (especially if you like crisp cookies) and are fuss-free too.

  5. Joanne Says:

    I’ve also found this recipe for caramel from Jacques Pepin
    ( but I haven’t tried it out before so I can’t guarantee success!

    And this might also be useful for making caramel.

    Hope I’ve been of help!

  6. crummb Says:

    joanne: awww, you’re a star! yes i love crispy cookies. will def give the recipe a try. thanks a bunch sweet 🙂

  7. daphnechan00 Says:

    whatever it is, i love your choc-peanutbutter bar !! YUM!

  8. Stef Says:

    Hi there..yes it does look rather…odd.
    will flip thru his stuff the next time I’m at the bookstore…

  9. dorie Says:

    I wish I’d searched an hour ago, this recipe was in my paper last Wed and since I had sweetened condensed milk to use up I thought I’d try. Made the dough and as I ‘m spreading 1/4 of it in 9×13 pan I could see there was no way this little bit was gonna cover the bottom , figured I’d look it up to see if there was perhaps a misprint and found your discouraging review, I guess its too late to stop now..or do you have any further pointers???

  10. sooch Says:

    Oh dear, oh dear. You have my heart-felt sympathies over the too-frequent misfortunes. Christmas is coming — go soothe your soul over some nice mulled wine perhaps? 🙂

  11. dorie Says:

    oh sooch, thanks…i eventually did make the cookies, they are ok, not great, i must think my local paper did make a boo boo, it must have been 3/4 not 1/4 batter to spread on the bottom, but i didnt scorch the caramel thanks to the advice above, anyway i threw out the recipe, too many easier and better, and i’ll take wine any way i can get it, haha, cheers, merry christmas

  12. crummb Says:

    hi dorie, yeah, your paper definitely made a boo-boo there. the recipe in the book said to spread 3/4 of the dough onto the bottom of the pan. then rub flour into the remaining 1/4 to make the crumble. well, sticking to the original recipe wouldn’t work ANYWAY. so i’m throwing this out too (in fact, i feel like throwing the whole book out!). merry christmas!

  13. dorie Says:

    Thanks crummb and a Merry Christmas to you!!!

  14. Hana Says:

    Aiyo Pau Lin, reading your blog in the morning is a surefire way to overeat for the day!

  15. I love caramel and making it is a lot of fun too. I had a ball making these homemade caramel apples by Martha Stewart. Perfect for Halloween!

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