Saturday, December 24, 2005

Baking vs. Cooking

For me, food preparation can be dichotomized (is that even a word?) into cooking and baking. As Alton Brown put it, "Food + Heat = Cooking" and "Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking." Those are, coincidentally, the titles for two of his cookbooks. Also, being skilled at one doesn't necessarily mean skilled in the other. After all, alot of cooking schools offer two different certification routes: one for cooking and one for baking.

But to the aspiring chef hobbyist, what's the difference? Personally, I prefer cooking. From a practical point of view, one doesn't have to be as precise when measuring ingredients in cooking. If you've ever seen chefs on The Food Network shows, alot of them eyeball their ingredients when they cook. Amounts of salt are measured in imprecise pinches, pepper in cracks of a pepper mill, and seasonings in palmfuls, to just list a few.

With baking, though, the ratio of ingredients is very important. An inaccurate amount of flour can turn your cake into a ... non-cakelike thing. If you are a beginning baker, you will get to know your measuring spoons/cups very intimately as you will be seeing them very often. A chain of good measuring spoons and cups are also good to have handy. Baking is also the best way to impress your friends because baked dishes always look/taste much better than the amount of effort you put in. This is especially true of cookies, cupcakes, and brownies. They are extremely simple to make, but will definitely make you a big hit with everyone you give them to.


Blogger Christine said...

Also, don't skip out on any ingredients that a baking recipe asks for. I didn't have any vanilla extract for a pineapple upside-down cake I was baking one day years ago, thinking the primary flavor of the thing would be pineapple right? Wrong! It was a disaster and the cake tasted like a pancake. So use that vanilla, cloves, minced ginger and all the other obscure and expensive spices listed on the recipe. Use them well!

5:41 PM  

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