I know I keep promising to give up baking and get back to cooking dinner, but it's so satisfying -- and people seem to enjoy the treats of my labor.
From an informal poll of friends and family members, it seems that people tend to fall in two categories: those who love following recipes and enjoy the straightforward nature of baking and those who like the improvisational nature of cooking.
It's true that you can't be creative with the basics of baking -- if you decide to skimp on flour or baking soda, those cookies don't stand a chance.
As a kitchen newbie, I'm finding baking to be easier than cooking. With cooking, there are so many options -- do you saute, grill, boil, or broil? With baking, there's just...baking. But I've still got a lot to learn about baking. In addition to the baking tips for dummies I posted about last month, keep these "rules" in mind:
1. Rotate your pans from top to bottom, back to front, halfway through the cooking time (per my friend Katherine). But don't do this when you're baking cakes though since opening the oven door too often can spell disaster for a cake.
2. Preheating the oven really makes a different. It is key for good color and texture. Keep in mind that it generally takes around 20 minutes for an oven to hit its stride, so plan ahead.
3. Certain ingredients fare better at certain temperatures: Room-temperature eggs beat up fluffier; cream whips best ice-cold, and, though cold butter makes the flakiest pie crust, room-temp butter makes the lightest cakes. Got that?
4. Most baking recipes call for all-purpose flour, but cake flour really does help cakes get a lighter, softer texture.
Anything I'm forgetting?
Oh yeah, don't forget to set a timer so you don't burn those cookies!