Ladies and gentlemen, there is a certain chemistry in baking. A sublime glow that comes from baking a scrumptiously fluffy morsel with a delicate crumb that everyone in your family raves about. A magical satisfaction that is brought about from being able to craft a treat that is so similar to those being enjoyed in typical American households across the country that no one would suspect yours is substantially different. It is much like a romance, that chemistry. A bit of nurturing and love produces memorable results. Neglect and lack of effort produce sorry little bricks that even the dog won't bite.
That hangup that your seventh grade home economics teacher instilled deep within your soul, the one that tells you not only must your measurements be precise, but the stars must also align just so in order to get a tasty end result? It's bunk. Complete and total.
I remember that class. And the teacher. And the disapproving stare I got because I didn't want to scoop that last stubborn slimy bit of egg out of the eggshell with my finger. My teacher was insistent that my results would be substandard because of the missing 1/4 teaspoon of egg. Obviously if I could not measure with precision I would never be a competent baker.
Bah! I'm here to tell you she was wrong!
Please show me the master baker who starts a recipe by sitting down with his chemistry books to figure out the exact amount of baking powder needed to bring enough lift to a cake. And how the reaction changes when there is an introduction of an acidic liquid such as vinegar, and yadda yadda yadda. It doesn't happen. It IS NOT exact. Watch any person with years of experience with baking. They add a handful of this and that with a pinch of the other, and get bisuits and breads that are melt-in-your-mouth heaven. Not a measuring spoon in sight.
So, all you allergy mamas that are afraid to bake. Stop being afraid. There was no chemistry involved, no exact science. Your measurements don't need to be precise, just close-ish. Yes, the more accurate you are the more easily you can repeat your results. That is the real reason they have assigned measurements to recipes. To make repeating fabulous results easier. If you have a recipe that is so finicky that measurements must be precise, pick another recipe.
My idea of a great recipe? One that I can fudge and still have it come out yummy. I don't spoon my flour into the measuring cup and level it with a spatula. I scoop it out, and give it a little shake to level it. Sometimes I eyeball what 1/2 teaspoon of salt could be. Or just pour milk in until the batter seems the right consistency. I replace eggs with whatever is in the pantry. I pick whatever combination of flours I favor that week.
The moral? Stop being afraid. It's not as exact as you fear. I promise. And the results are so darn tasty. The more you do it, the easier it gets to judge what you can fudge. All of the recipes on my page are completely fudge resistant. So play a little. Have a little fun making your little one's tummy happy.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The Chemistry of Baking
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