10 of the Most Difficult Recipes to Make at Home

Categories: Recipes, Top 10

Thumbnail image for layeredcake.jpg
Photo by Molly Dunn
Making layered cakes with three types of frosting is not easy at all.
I'm always up for a challenge when it comes to cooking a dish with many, many steps. But, sometimes my confidence gets the best of me and I end up miserably failing at cooking whatever it is I decided to make.

For years, I had my eye on this layered Bon Appetit magazine cover recipe, Devil's Food cake with a beautiful white fluffy peppermint frosting, silky dark chocolate ganache and smooth white chocolate cream. My mother collects magazines, so during Thanksgiving and Christmas I frequently read through them searching for the perfect recipe to make. A couple Christmases ago, I decided to try this one. As I attempted to assemble the dessert, everything went wrong. My ganache was too runny, the frosting was not thick enough and my cakes were too delicate; I ended up supporting the leaning tower of three cake layers with chopsticks, hoping and praying it would not collapse on my kitchen counter. I should have read the recipe more before I began making it because I was way in over my head.

Despite my failed efforts at making a cover-worthy recipe, I still don't back down from challenges, I just use better resources to figure out what I am doing. So, for all of you risk-takers and over-achievers, here are the ten most difficult recipes to make at home with some references to help you not only finish the dish, but make it a tasty one, too.

salt-crusted-fish.jpg
Photo by Molly Dunn
The salt crust must be packed tightly, otherwise the fish will be like a salt lick.
10. Salt-Crusted Fish

Having a chef make salt-crusted fish for you at a restaurant is a splendid treat. Despite an entire fish being covered in salt like someone being buried in sand at the beach, the plated result is not overly salted. But, if you don't pack the salt and egg white mixture tight enough, you risk salt crystals leaking into the fish as it cooks and when you break into the shell, creating an almost unbearable flavor. Ease your stress by having your butcher clean and gut your fish, then check out this video from Fine Cooking for a demonstration on preparing the salt dome and properly covering the entire fish.

9. Baked Alaska

If you thought making an ice cream cake was hard, try making Baked Alaska. This dessert not only requires you to form a mold of ice cream around a cake, but you must also cover it with a meringue, then bake it in the oven. After several hours of assembling and freezing, you pour a liquor over the baked meringue and ignite with a flame. Cold desserts on fire are pretty sweet.

bite_macarons.jpg
Photo by Molly Dunn
Macarons are some of the most difficult pastries to make.

8. Macarons

Not only are macarons challenging to perfectly execute, but if you make them in a city with so much humidity, like Houston, you're going to have a much more difficult time. Even if the weather is perfect, things can easily go awry. Every step is crucial -- from combining the egg whites with the sugar and almond flour and piping the mixture onto a cookie sheet to baking and cooling the pastries for the appropriate time. Bakers strive to create the perfect macaron and some have yet to accomplish that feat. Watch this video from Fine Cooking which demonstrates how to make the classic French dessert.

7. Breakfast

I don't know about you, but making breakfast for a family of four, or more, is a daunting task -- my mom and I always had a difficult time even working as a team. Props to every short order cook because I can never seem to find a way to put breakfast on the table at the same time or at the same temperature for each person. Pancakes never come out perfectly and they require constant tending; French toast makes a mess and you have to be careful not to cover your counter in eggs; you always burn some toast (even though it's the easiest task); and don't even try to make eggs for everyone, unless they all agree on scrambled. You're using practically every appliance in your kitchen at the same time. Just talking about it stresses me out.


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19 comments
victorha1027
victorha1027

I have to say that I do boeuf bourgninon quite often because it is my go-to recipe when I want to impress a guest or a friend, and I use the recipe that is straight from Julia Child's cookbook (which was like the second cookbook I ever bought). I feel that it would be more accurate to call it time-consuming as opposed to difficult. And I go the extra step of making beef stock first from beef bones because I love the dish enough to go the extra mile.


FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

I make eggs benedict for my friends all the time, even though I typically over poach a few of the eggs, and half the time I need to redo my hollandaise.  Remember, eggs, butter, and lemons are all pretty damn cheap!  Personally I use this microwave method.  Yes, sometimes I need to redo it, but it takes less than three minutes and maybe an extra dollars worth of ingredients, so I don't mind. I typically poach my eggs in vinegar, and again, there are always a few that are overcooked, so I usually poach a dozen.  All & all, even with my mistakes, it takes less than 20 minutes.


http://www.food.com/recipe/no-fail-microwave-hollandaise-sauce-195437

paval
paval

Masters of cooking were not born or made overnight. Cooking some of the dishes the article refers to, is not coming as the next step after being able to put a frozen pizza on the proper rack in the oven. 

There is a reason people who cook or prepare these dishes have spent a few years in culinary school, in crowded kitchens, etc. I am not expecting to repair my car after reading Popular Mechanics either. 

I have learned to cook a tad during college mainly by mixing together ingredients of frozen or canned nature with some kind of protein. Today I would not eat any of the dishes i used to cook back then. During my first real job the owner of the school allowed me to prepare the christmas dinner. 6 course menue for 20 people and i fared quite good but I worked my butt off for three days in a row. 

Here in Houston I happened to befriend one of the best chefs in town and I learned how to work with a mise-en-place as well as choosing good and fresh ingredients instead of canned or frozen ones or even any ones where someone had done the job. Nowadays I can put a 4 course menue for 8 on the table within three to four hours of toiling. 

yet I only cook for friends and they are generously overlooking my shortcomings. If I were to offer them homemade macarons I guess their generosity would be strained to the max. 


Perhaps this article should have been the culmination point of a series on: "How to master yourself from the basic sauces to macarons, boeuf bourgoignon and others" and then write an article on each level first. 

I agree with one of the other commentators that the tonality of the article goes a lot in the direction of: "Dont even try yourself on these dishes" instead of saying something like:

"If you ever want to master these difficult dishes make sure to read our series starting next week on how to master the most basic dishes in a kitchen, so you can one day also master the difficult ones"



Anse
Anse

Deviled eggs. I love them, but they are a massive pain in the butt. And since we hardly ever think to do them unless we're having a gathering of people, you have to do at least a couple dozen or just don't bother.

Daniel Tyrone
Daniel Tyrone

Bring it on!!! We know I can do eggs benedict and breakfast, and I'm going to knock out that Paella!!!

zquezada
zquezada

Are you kidding? Have you successfully made all of these. Eggs benedict is a pain to make. Plus the ingredients require you use almost 10 eggs. Macarons are even more difficult. Most of these dishes/foods I view as things I'd rather buy than try to make at home. It's well worth the money to avoid the time, stress and added cost of trial and error.

joyawe
joyawe

I have serious doubts about the culinary know-how of any person who claims making pancakes is difficult and rarely comes out right. I think I made pancakes without help starting at about age 7. If you think making any of the breakfast foods mentioned in this article is difficult, maybe find a new hobby because cooking isn't your forte.

jimbo1126
jimbo1126

My personal weakness at home, and I bet many others', is burgers. I cannot make a decent burger at home to save my life. It's really a complex art form, getting all the components just right, and I've never mastered it.

Nojusticenopiece
Nojusticenopiece

I'm sorry but I often find this person's writings completely pointless. Why do I need an article on recipes I would not want to make? And last I checked, "breakfast" is not a recipe! This is right up there with this writer's "how to grind your own meat" post which literally told you to put the meat in the grinder and turn it on. And of course who could forget Ms. Dunn praising the value of two breakfast tacos and beans for $10 bucks at Down House...

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

@jimbo1126 A great trick is to pulvarize some bacon in a food processor, about two slices per patty, and then mix into the ground beef.  Not only will you get a nice bacony flavor, but the bacon fat makes it nearly impossible to overcook them.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@jimbo1126  

The problem is that most people seem to think they should be cooked outside on a grill.  Get a cast iron skillet, turn on the gas and get the pan freaking hot, make the patter wider and thinner than your instincts suggest, season the hell out of it, and cook it medium.  Done. And use something like 85/15 beef.

Anse
Anse

@jimbo1126  I used to think doing a burger was easy, but it's definitely a bigger pain in the neck than doing something like barbecue ribs. The ribs might take hours but you can spend that time drinking beer. You have to stand over the grill for the burgers. It's not as much fun or as easy to do well.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@FattyFatBastard

That's a good technique if you consistently overcook your hamburger. So you're cooking out the juices and replacing them with bacon fat. But if you learn how to cook a hamburger correctly, say medium or medium well, then you do not want medium cooked bacon in your burger.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

You haven't tried this technique, then. I got the idea from Tookies restaurant. The burger doesn't need to be cooked any longer than usual.

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