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Old 03-06-2006, 09:45 AM   #21
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After you've been cooking for a while, you realize that exact measures of most ingredients just aren't all that important. Then you can choose to add an approximate amount of ingredients and the dish will turn out fine.

"If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." -Carl Sagan
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Old 03-06-2006, 01:16 PM   #22
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I may have missed it, but I didn't catch how old you are and how long you've been cooking. I'm 51 and started cooking and my mom's side when I was maybe 10. On top of it, Mom learned many cuisines from many other military wives who were from many countries. The ability to reach in and just grab what you need without a recipe comes from years of doing it. And, as others have said, it really doesn't work with baking. To this day I can't really give people a recipe for something that worked, or repeat a huge success without really thinking about it. I'm trying to learn to measure a little more since hubby was diagnosed with diabetes, but it is a trial, and takes a lot of fun out of cooking.

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Old 03-06-2006, 03:06 PM   #23
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your hand is a basic cooking tool. the teaspoon can be found right in the center of the palm of a slightly cupped hand. take a teaspoon of parsley and put it in your cupped hand and see where it sits. now try for salt, sugar, etc...now for half, now for a tablspoon etc...get used to it...it's all in your hand!
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Old 03-06-2006, 03:40 PM   #24
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practice makes perfect... well alost perfect(lol)
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Old 05-18-2006, 08:21 AM   #25
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1) robo410 is right - start using your hands. when you measure smaller amounts, put it in the palm of your hand and see how much it is. for larger amounts, like a cup of flour, scoop up a big handful into a measuring cup and see how much it comes to. if you're making pancakes or bread or muffins and putting the same amount of flour into the same bowl every time, try to remember how big of a mound it makes in the bowl.

2) people may scream, but let me pooh pooh those who talk about the chemistry of baking and the importance of correctly measuring. when i worked as a pastry chef, i measured every ingredient to the nearest gram. why? because in the restaurant industry product consistency is the name of the game. when i make a genoise at home, i don't bother. i use the same number of eggs and probably about the same amount of a stick of butter more or less every time. but to me, sifting in the "right" amount of flour amounts to the same as knowing how long to beat the eggs and sugar over the heat: until it looks right. how much sugar i put in depends on how sweet (and how moist) i want it to be. same if i want to substitute some cocoa powder or almond flour for some, or even all, of the flour.

3) ok. now that i've offended everyone, let me do an about face and say that all those people i just pooh poohed are actually correct.... at least to a point. baking is all about chemistry and how things react with each other. depending on the product, there can be a lot of leeway in ratios... but only to a point. knowing your ingredients coupled with a lot of experience is all it takes to become a "natural" cook.

4) if you aspire to becoming a natural cook like your dad and being able to just "throw things together", start with something really forgiving, like soups. if you start with a decent stock and don't go overboard with the salt, it 's hard to go wrong with a soup. spaghetti sauce is another good one. how thick do you want it? how spicy? what kinds of spice? lots of leeway here too. eyeball and taste, eyeball and taste.
as far as baking goes, i'd suggest starting off with something like pancakes. start making them every sunday. little by little start eyeballing the ingredients, and ween yourself away from the measuring cups and spoons. if you can do pancakes, then you can try throwing in another handful or two of sugar and add only enough milk so you get a really soft dough that you can pat or roll out, and fry up some doughnuts. bread is also forgiving. start by following a bread or pizza dough recipe and try to get a feel for the consistency of the dough. when you have a general idea of how soft or stiff a dough you want, there's no need to measure out the flour at all. add enough flour to your liquids until it makes a stiff paste that's hard to stir with a wooden spoon. another large handful or so will make it into a ball that you can start kneading. after that, it's just dust your board with flour and knead it in until it's the consistency you want. trying softer and stiffer doughs is how you learn to achieve the results you want.

if you can work your way to being able to "throw together" these things, you'll be well on your way to becoming a "natural cook".

i'd say "go for it!"
let me make sure that wine's ok before i use it.
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Old 05-22-2006, 11:34 PM   #26
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Your Dad measured ... even if you/he are not aware of it. One of my sons made me aware that I do the same thing when I couldn't write a recipe for something so he came over to cook with me ... and when I "measured" something in the palm of my hand he had to stop me and pour it into a measuring device to get a reproducible amount. I learned to cook from my grandmothers - yep, most small amounts of herbs/spices were measured in their hands.

Did he pour herbs/spices into his hand before adding to the pot? He was measuring - even if not with a "measuring spoon". I used to love to watch Justin Wilson do this ... pour something in his hand ... and then pour into a measuring spoon to prove to the audience that he was correct. Watching the surface of the pot to see how much of "something" was added is also another way of "measuring".

Small liquid measurements are also possible ... but usually by trial-and-error to learn the dfference between drops, glops, gollops/gullops, and glugs (it depends on the diameter and length of the neck of the bottle).

To take what philso said and turn it around ... in the beginning use a measuring spoon and then pour it into your hand. After a while - you can measure in your hands without much problem. But, generally, these are for small amounts - teaspoons or tablespoons. For cups, or fractions thereof, or such - there is no shame if you reach for a measuring cup!
"It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain
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Old 05-23-2006, 01:08 AM   #27
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I'm a bean counter by nature. I've run three fiscal departments and am often the butt of accountant jokes. When I'm trying something new, I always measure because I want to be able to reproduce. In my dad's kitchen (the men cook in my family), a pinch of this and a handful of that rules the day--it drives me crazy.

That being said, I know what a tsp looks like in my hand and usually don't measure spices. . . and when you're cooking a feast, timing is more important than accuracy. My neurotic dichotomy of when is it ok to guess and when isn't it might by why I don't like help in the kitchen.
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Old 05-31-2006, 06:34 AM   #28
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philso's right on re baking

Originally Posted by philso
2) people may scream, but let me pooh pooh those who talk about the chemistry of baking and the importance of correctly measuring...
I agree with philso. I think sometimes ppl are scared away from baking because the "experts" say you have to be so scientific and exact.

Well, IMHO, it ain't true. What matters is experience and repetition. For something you make all the time, you can experiment and deviate from the exact measurements. That's how you can arrive at successful variations (but be prepared for failures too - also a good learning experience).

If I'm baking something that's new to me (or something I don't routinely make) I always weigh (not measure!) the ingredients. If you need to be exact (or consistent) weigh your ingredients.
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Old 06-01-2006, 07:54 PM   #29
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Liquids and dry ingredients such as sugar, flour, etc I measure.
Seasonings and spices I'll eyeball.
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Old 06-02-2006, 02:06 PM   #30
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I always measure everything the first time I try a recipe, and when I am creating a recipe so I will be abole to recreate it accurately if any changes have to be made and to Post it so others can try it and it will come out the way I made it.
Then there is the secret preperation methods. Dabs, Pinches, Dashs, Heaping. and Daloops are estimates. Pinch what you can hold between your fingers, dadh amount you fill between the lowest creases in your palm, Heaping as much solid as you can get on a spoon without it falling off like Flour. Daloop to put as much on a spoon till it falls off like Peanut Butter. Daloop supposedly the description on how it falls into0 the mixing bowl. These though seemingly old fashioned are estimates.
When I measure Flour I usually estimate the amount of floiur that flows over the edge to make 3 Cups. Baking Powder I make heaping estimates sometimes if I want it to rise a bit more. ETC.
Usually with me it is a cross between measurng and estimating depending on what I am making, and experimenting. Sometimes you have to measure accurately , and sometimnes estimating will get you there ... especially when creating a recipe the holistic way. Esrtimating can be fun including the Holistic Sydem.
I like the Holistic way of Dirk Gentley "You can ask anyone chosen purely by chance a random question and their ansewer in some way will bear upon the problem I am needing to solve." That I think is a form of estimating too. "Every article in the universe affects every other particle however faintly or obliquetiy.."
The Long Dark Tea Time Of The Soul by Douglas Adams.
Now to cook Holistically like Dirk.
I have tried the Holistci Way Of Measuring foods

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