Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Baking is NOT an Exact Science

In honor of everyone's favorite food holiday, I'd like to encourage those of you who are intimidated by baking to give it a try. Here's what bakers don't want us to know: it's not an exact science. I know, this flies in the face of conventional wisdom. But a friend posted something on Facebook about improvising when baking recently, and when I questioned her further, she insisted it was possible, that all I needed was trial and error. I remained skeptical.

But just as when you're pregnant, suddenly you see baby bumps everywhere, with my baking antenna up, I kept hearing the same message: there is wiggle room. Feeling brave, I attempted the yogurt cake recipe, found in Bringing Up Bébé, a lovely memoir by Pamela Druckerman, an American woman raising her children in France. Druckerman claims a toddler can make this cake on their own and not mess up, because the measurements don't have to be exact. I was intrigued, but thought I'd try it myself before involving Daniel.

My only problem was that the only yogurt I had was Greek. When I folded this into the batter, it seemed too thick, so I added some milk and hoped for the best. It came out beautifully—my friend Carolyn said it looked like something from a patisserie. I don’t know about that, but it tasted good, and looked good too.

Spurred on by my success, I offered to bring dessert to a friend’s house after a last minute dinner invitation. Daniel was napping, so I scanned the cabinets. I had chocolate chips, but not enough to make Blondies, my only baking standard. I looked in my trusty How to Cook Everything for a Brownie recipe. It called for unsweetened chocolate, but I figured semi-sweet chips would just be a bit sweeter. (A substitution I wouldn't have dared make a few weeks prior.) After I began melting the chocolate and butter, I realized that all our eggs were hard-boiled. Grr.

With my new baking confidence, I scanned the internet for an egg-free brownie recipe, and found one that uses flour and water as a binder instead of eggs. It called for cocoa powder rather than chocolate, so I was really putting my improvising theory to the test. I figured with chocolate, butter, flour and sugar, even if they weren't a masterpiece, how bad could they taste? I sprinkled some sea salt and chocolate chips on top of the batter for good measure and prayed to the kitchen gods.

My dinner companions oohed and aahed when I revealed the pan of brownies. I sliced them, noting a cakey consistency, then wished I would have tasted them at home. But I channeled Julia Child, and decided to just laugh it off if they were horrible. Thankfully, they tasted quite good. Yes, they were more cake than brownie, but still delicious.

Maybe I’ll ask Santa for some baking tins and attempt the cupcakes with caramel filling Liz told me about. This new hobby could really increase my dinner invitations.

1 comment:

Carol Fragale Brill said...

So, what you're saying is baking is a lot like life. You throw in the best you've got and hope for more baked than half-baked outcomes. Have a happy thanksging Carol