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View Poll Results: Do you follow the directions or wing it?
I follow the recipe exactly and I measure! 2 6.67%
I follow the recipe pretty closely 2 6.67%
I follow the recipe but usually don't measure and sometimes make substitutions 9 30.00%
I review the recipe and then do whatever the heck I feel like. 17 56.67%
Voters: 30. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 09-12-2009, 07:33 AM   #11
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Oh, I just looked at the answers so far, and no one follows the recipe exactly? I have several friends who do and they are excellent cooks; perhaps not as experienced or confident, but that's a good place to be.

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Old 09-12-2009, 07:47 AM   #12
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Before I was confident in the kitchen I would follow the recipe exactly to the letter. My wife is still at that stage. Once I got my confidence I realized I sometimes knew better than the recipe and was able to spot mistakes or things that might not look right to me before I made them.

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Old 09-12-2009, 10:35 AM   #13
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When I make a recipe that I have found the first time, I do it by the book, as it were. That's how the author intended and that's how I make it. After all it appealed to me for a reason to begin with. Then later after I have, I decide if I want to tweak it to my tastes.
Guess you missed this one Claire. I Do follow a recipe the first time I make it. And that includes measuring so that I get the ing. just as they intended. I want to know what the author/cook was going for in the beginning. Their taste, so to speak. Then, after I have made it once I might change it to my tastes if I think I'd like something different.
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Old 09-12-2009, 10:44 AM   #14
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yes I do for sure
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Old 09-12-2009, 11:08 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by PattY1 View Post

"Cooking is a art, Baking is science."
Oh, and Andy; now I know why I agree with you 99.99% of the time. In cooking at least, we are virtual twins.

Good cooking skills come from knowledge of the basic cooking techniques, how foods and ingredients react with each other, a knowledge base built on the knowledge of other before us, and personal experience. To some, baking is a science. And indeed, some things have to be done in exact ways. I don't htink you can uct corners when making puff pastry. It has to be done according to proven tecchnique to get the layerd, flaky texture. Cakes, pie dough, bread doughs, and all quickbreads can be played with. by altering the ingredients, or ratios of ingredients, I can tailor my baked goods to my needs. For instance, I can use flavored soup bases instead of salt in a pie dough, for when I'm making a meat pie. I've also been known to add sugar and spices to the crust, especially when making a fruit pie. And most cakes and quickbreads are simply a large batch of flavored pancake batter, with a few changes to the recipe.

With breads, I never use a recipe. Instead, I look for the dough texture, and flavor to determine when I've got it right. I can also change baking temperatures, and bake rustic style breads, or in a loaf pan, or even braid as for a brioche. I've rolled various ingredients into my dough, and have made both savory and sweet breads, all by knowing what the dough is supposed to feel and taste like in my head. It's the same with pie crusts. Mine always come out flaky and tender, with a light flavor. They're never soggy on the bottom. Again, it's the feel of the dough before water is added that garuntees my pie crust quality. This its true for making streusel, or crumb toppings, pizza crust, almost everything I beak, including shortbread and cookies too.

Baking is as much an art as it is a science. Did you know you can make cookies in the microwave, or bicuits and breads on the stove top?

I cheat though. I have thirty or so years of playing with food in my kitchen and so have built an extensive knowledge base in my head. believe me, there have been some mistakes, some that were so bad that the pan had to be thrown away. But they were few and far between.

I better get off the soapbox now. It just kind of bothers me when people say that baking has to be so exact to a recipe. To me, that stifles creativity.

I have to admit though, that to enable others to re-create what you have made, you'd better be able to turn it into a recipe, complete with quantities and techniques. Sometimes that can be difficult when you are always winging it.

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Old 09-12-2009, 11:46 AM   #16
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Goodweed, the point about baking that you made is why I said baking is a science and winging it is not always the best way to go:

Consistency - "Always getting it to come out nearly perfect, particularly when guests are coming, you are best served by a recipe."

Sharing - "Being able to share with others what you have made or created, passing on a recipe."

Science and Flavor - "The ratios of baking ingredients, particularly baking soda, baking powder, eggs and buttermilk can affect the lift of the item and flavor if they get too out of balance."

Like you, with all of your experience, I'm not saying that people shouldn't experiment or "wing it", because that's one of the things that drew me into this wonderful pasttime. All I'm saying is that unlike other cooking, baking requires being well grounded in baking techniques, ratios and amounts in order to not be disappointed in your results. I wouldn't want anyone to be put off from baking and being creative simply because they mix flour, water and yeast together and end up with a brick instead of a James Beard Award winner! Yes, that's a little extreme, but I WAS put off from baking for nearly 20 years because I thought I could "wing" baking recipes - because I knew better - and ended up with garbage. But that's just not the case.

Someone once stated the difference between regular cooking and baking is that bakers create living things - Cakes rise - Souffles grow - Breads swell and stiffen - and we must do our best to help them.
"Food is our common ground, a universal experience." - James Beard
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Old 09-12-2009, 03:52 PM   #17
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This is all well and good if it's the home version of baking and not professional baking. Professionals always speak of "scaling" and formulas. There's a scientific accuracy in the procedures and complex reaction in mixing and baking in a professional bake shop as compared to home baking. That's why the products always come out looking the same and perfect in a bakeshop. Professional rarely measure by volume because of the inconsistency.
That's not to say that the home baker can't play with their recipe, it's just not the same as professionals where accuracy is essential. Unless done in small batches of course.
For instance a pint of water weighs more than a pound, although it's 16 ounces, and sometimes that matters.
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Old 09-12-2009, 07:14 PM   #18
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I look at the basics measurable amounts...and applications...
scrutinizing the seasonings and subject to alter from the git-go..
I try to stick closely to cooking time and temps..but I never
serve the 1st attempt to quest..prefer to see if it kills me first...
"Hey, ya gotta eat!"
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Old 09-12-2009, 10:54 PM   #19
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Selkie and ChefKathleen. I see and agree with your points. Though my breads always come out great, each batch is slightly different. Not my pie crust though. And for a professional bakery, product must maintain a standard of uniformity, hence the recipes. This is also true though, of many other foods besides baked goods. I can't say that my various tomato based sauces always taste the same. They are always very good, but they are not uniform enough to bottle and sell, knowing that the customer would get a standardized product every time. And the cheesecake I make, though I altered the recipe that I first used, has become a standard recipe, so that I can produce the same cheesecake every time.

Where uniform results are required, a recipe, including technique, tools, and ingredients is a handy tool to have.

For my home cooking though, I dont' use recipes often as I have to try new things all the time. It's just my nature. And even when using the scientific approach to cooking, science is only a standardized process for disovering new information, and then acting upon that information. Good science often leads to artistic creation, as the science produced the knowledge that enables one to be creative.

You ahve toaught me to be more open-minded about something I already knew, but bristled at due to terminology, and there was nothing wrong with the phrase in the first place. How strange we humans can be.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
“No amount of success outside the home can compensate for failure within the home…"

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Old 09-15-2009, 09:39 AM   #20
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Cooking--recipes are guidelines, not written in stone, and I rarely follow one exactly.
Baking--except for bread, I follow a recipe. I rarely bake anything except bread. I have baked enough bread to be able to do it without a recipe, and I can add ingredients or sub one flour for another, with (mostly) good results.
Canning--follow directions to the letter. I don't wanna die.

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