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Old 11-05-2010, 01:53 PM   #1
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To cook or not to cook (bake), that is the question...

So, the real question is: Cooking or baking and why?

For me, baking is too precise, too formulated, and leaves minimal, if any, room to experiment.

I get enough of this 'everything must come out perfect the same way, every time' with school and my future career. With baking, it seems, you must take the same ingredients, in the same measurements, every time to come up with an exact copy of a recipe. I couldn't ever imagine doing this with my chicken or pork tenderloin dishes.

Even when I make the same dish several times, it never has the same flavor. I use more of one thing or less of another, compared to the last time, either intentionally to try it another way or unintentionally because I don't pay attention to how much I use.

Anyone else feel the same or enjoy the simplicity of having everything laid out before you to put together?

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Old 11-05-2010, 02:10 PM   #2
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To my simple mind, cooking is just applying heat in one form or another to a mixture of ingredients.

Baking is chemistry in action, and must be guided by certain basic principles. Otherwise you don't get the lift (bubbles) or desired effect from a semi-viscous mixture (dough or batter) that separates much of baking from cooking.
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Old 11-05-2010, 02:11 PM   #3
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I think there's room for both philosophies.

If you don't follow a recipe and the same dish tastes different every time, that can be a problem. If you're cooking in a restaurant, customers keep coming back because they like the way certain dishes taste. If it doesn't taste the same next time, they may not come back.

If you're cooking at home for the family and make a dish that your wife/fiance/girl friend really really likes, is she going to be happy if it's not the same next time? Is she going to be OK with your explanation of, "I don't measure."?

Writing things down, measuring amounts and following recipes is not about being rigid or uncreative, or stifled. It's about being able to reproduce recipes that people love.

If recipes aren't written down, we don't have great classic recipes to enjoy.

On the other hand, Being creative with a dish is great as well. If it comes out OK, maybe you tweak it next time to make it better.

Baking is a different story. It's more about achieving certain chemical/mechanical results so a cake will rise or a cookie won't be flat, etc. You can certainly be creative with baking as long as you know how to maintain the basic results - the science part.
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Old 11-05-2010, 03:17 PM   #4
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Depends on what you're baking, Secundinius. If it was hearthbread or a similar simple pizza or pizzette, measurements don't have to be weighed when one already knows the recipe well. My Grandmama never used scales, or rarely. Everything was done by handfuls of this, or that; a pinch of herbs, a sprinkling of seasoning and of spices, like for making rabbit or lamb stifado, a simple stew to be left in her oven, always wood fired and smoky. She never used a cookbook, either.

You say, "Even when I make the same dish several times, it never has the same flavor... and compared to the last time..." but you should never be too hard on yourself in saying you don't pay enough attention. Because unless you're following a very precise recipe, small subtle changes in flavour only happen from what is presently available in your larder.

We can get tied down by recipe books. Fine, very nice and lovely be for example, Nigel Slater's Tender, or one of Terence Conran's fine books, or some of the celebrity cooks we watch on TV: Slaves, we buy the book, see the film and eat the pie.. but surely, the greatest pleasure is not being kow-towed by kitchen chemistry that conjours food magic, but by using what's available in our kitchen store cupboard, being frugal yet knocking out something utterly amazing, delightfully fragrant and ultimately woman pleasing. Now to me - that is kitchen magic!
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Old 11-05-2010, 03:20 PM   #5
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If I had to pick one, I suppose it would be cooking, although I enjoy both very much. I have a sweet tooth so baking is definitely good for that. Cooking is generally more forgiving but I think both allow for a good amount of creativity whether it be in how you combine herbs/spices or how you decorate a cake/cookie. And really, if you have a good understanding of the role of each ingredient in a pastry recipe, you can still toy with it a bit if you want. It was baking that first reeled me into the kitchen but the more I started cooking meals, the more I loved it.

I think a good amount of experimentation in the kitchen keeps things exciting so I do it often. My chili recipe is not written down anywhere and it varies depending on the ingredients I have on hand. But there are other dinner recipes I have that I follow to the T every time just because I think the recipe is perfect the way it is.
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Old 11-05-2010, 03:29 PM   #6
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i would chose baking over cooking . it is precise but does have room to fool with the recipe. not the basic principal , of course but the flavorings etc. i am also one that probably never has recipe the same. ie spag. some family favorites must be reproduced exactly or some one will squawk
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Old 11-05-2010, 03:36 PM   #7
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I cook, but I don't bake. I tried cookies for awhile, but because of the need to be so very precise, my success rate was about 50/50.

Now that I cook just for myself, an urge for cookies is easy to appease by picking up a package of $1 cookies. Less frustration, and that's my primary goal in my "golden years", as stress free as possible.

Standing in the kitchen for long periods of time is hard on my bad back, so I save that time for cooking interesting meals, so for me, cooking is out.
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Old 11-05-2010, 06:32 PM   #8
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I love them both. They both allow me to indulge my creative side and I love the science and preciseness of baking. I do try and write things down but I keep trying to improve and take off in a new direction with my cooking.
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Old 11-12-2010, 02:43 PM   #9
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Baking is too "Do it this way, set it at this temp and come back later." I just need to be there, hands on, for the whole time. It bores me to tears when I have to start something and walk away to let it finish, which is probably why I have a stack of half-built model cars in the corner of my room (or maybe it's my ADD ).

Sure, grandma's cookie recipe is awesome but you change one ingredient they will never be the same. In that aspect, baking and it's perfect measurements are necessary. Just because grandma's mustard-fried chicken or pasta sauce is good, doesn't mean it can't be made better.

I think the molds were always meant to be broken. Wasn't necesarily trying to put down baking in anyway, it's more that I was asking which is your preference and why.

I guess I'm looking at this from too much of an engineering standpoint. Sure, following instructions makes something that's good, but what makes that something better is changing it.
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:01 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Secundinius View Post
... Just because grandma's mustard-fried chicken or pasta sauce is good, doesn't mean it can't be made better.

You're absolutely right! But if you didn't have Grandma's recipe, you wouldn't know where to start!

I think the molds were always meant to be broken...

Not meant to be broken but to be there as a reliable starting point to base your creativity on.

I guess I'm looking at this from too much of an engineering standpoint. Sure, following instructions makes something that's good, but what makes that something better is changing it.
Not always. You change something and it sucks you can at least go back to the original and try again. Maybe, eventually, you make something better.



All in all, if you want to be more complete as a foodie, you have to both cook and bake. One doesn't compete with the other. They complement each other.
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