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OTHER ITA SITES:
Baking Versus Cooking
We're all different. No two individuals are exactly alike; however, there are some general categories that seem to hold true. For instance, there are the Morning People and the Night People. I am definitely of the latter variety. About 9:00 p.m. something kicks into gear—a burst of energy, creativity, and feeling totally alive—and I could work until daylight, and have done so many times. Mornings are an entirely different story—for the first 30 minutes of the day I hardly know which planet I'm on. There are some Morning People in my family. They awake with the birds, happy, cheerful, and ready to meet the day with a smile—it's disgusting! Suffice it to say, we just don't understand each other.
In the culinary category there are also two basic classes of people as I see it: the Bakers and the Cooks. Baking is a very precise science. Flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, soda, milk, buttermilk, flavorings, shortening, oil, butter or other ingredients are used in a variety of ways in baked goods recipes, but they interact with each other in very specific ways. Measurements have to be precise or it's disasterville in the kitchen. Commercial bakers even weigh their ingredients to assure they're using just the right amount. Cookbooks have recipes that are tested and re-tested until the directions shown, if followed, will result in a tasty dish. There is very little room for personal variations unless the baker has a great deal of experience. When we see a famous chef on TV appearing to simply mix in this and that in a somewhat carefree manner, it's just because he or she has put in a great deal of time learning basic measurements and techniques that yield that mouth-watering masterpiece.
Although I can turn out a good cake or pie when I have to, it's not what I enjoy most. A few of my baking experiments have yielded some "interesting" results, like the time I thought I'd vary a mini-chocolate cupcake recipe. I added some extra chocolate, filled the cupcakes with raspberry jam to which I had added raspberry liqueur, and just knew I had created little masterpieces. What I took out of the oven was a pan full of mini-disasters that resembled lumps of coal! So much for baking innovation.
Apart from my creative baking experiments, there's the whole other category of baking blunders. Recently, I prepared a batch of cranberry-orange muffins to thank a friend for his help with a computer problem. When he took the first bite, I knew something was definitely amiss by the scrunched up look on this face. He ran for the kitchen garbage can, spit out the offending mouthful and said, "Sorry, but that tasted terrible!" As I looked at the recipe again it dawned on me that in my haste to get the muffins in the oven before he arrived I had forgotten one very vital ingredient—sugar! This was another reminder to me that baking is a precise science that requires careful attention. If one ingredient isn't measured correctly or, in this case ignored, the result can be completely inedible.
On the other hand, there's COOKING, which I love! I'm fascinated with creating new recipes, varying others to make them look and taste just a bit different, or using ingredients in new ways.
For instance, take that good old American standby, potato salad. Most of us have our favorite recipe, but have you ever thought of some ways to vary your version? Take potatoes, the main ingredient. Do you go with Russet, Yukon Gold, White Rose, Baby Reds, or some of the more than 40 other less known varieties that are grown? And what about the onion family? We have lots of choices there too: white, sweet, and red onions, scallions, chives, or shallots, to name a few. Dressings are another story. Some people prefer mayonnaise; others, salad dressing, a creamy sour cream mixture, French dressing or a light vinaigrette. Then there are the add-ins, which can vary greatly. Some people don't consider it a real potato salad without the addition of chopped, hard-cooked eggs. Others prefer crumbled bacon bits, chopped pickles, sweet relish, or a variety of crisp vegetables. You get the idea—with cooking, there's room for innovation, and that sparks the creative side of me.
I am definitely a Cook as opposed to the esteemed title of Baker. My motto is, "a pinch of this, a smidge of that, a little bit of that spice to kick up the flavor, and don't forget the lemon zest."
Which kind of culinary aficionado are you—a Baker or a Cook?
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