I prefer baking to cooking because there are specific steps to follow and less guesswork (which is funny because in the classroom I much prefer being able to do my own thing rather than having to follow scripts and check boxes). I am more comfortable with science than art in the kitchen. To me, the “learn from your mistakes,” is easier in baking…you can see if you mixed up a measurement or used baking soda instead of baking powder.
With cooking, it’s a lot harder for me to think about, “ok, I don’t have paprika right now, what can I substitute for it,” or, “how much longer do I need to cook the chicken since it was frozen” (the toothpick test won’t exactly work, haha). Over the years I’ve for sure made mistakes with baking: pan sizes being too small or too big, not letting something chill enough or come to room temperature first, etc., but it’s easy to learn from those mistakes and I still prefer it to cooking.
As I made my husband’s birthday German Chocolate Cake, I was thinking about how far I had come since “baking” in high school with my dad (I say “baking” because it involved scooping cookie dough out of the Sam’s Club size tubs of pre-made cookie dough, putting the globs on a baking sheet, and pressing start on the oven). So I figured what the heck, I’ll write a post about 5 things I’ve learned/decided/figure out/etc over the years about baking.
1. There’s no such thing as too much vanilla…ok, technically there is, but as long as you’re using real vanilla, if the recipe calls for 1 tsp, no harm will come from using 1.5 tsps (or even a smidge more, lol)…if anything it might turn out even better! Vanilla is my absolute favorite pantry item, always has been always will be.
2. Keep your egg yolks cold until you need to beat them into stiff peaks–I learned this the hard way over many years, and I wasted all too many eggs in the process…so now when I make German Chocolate Cake (because thus far that’s the only thing I’ve had to beat egg whites for until they’re stiff peaks), I put the egg whites in the bowl I’ll be beating them in and I keep that bowl in the fridge till I get to that step. Since I’ve started doing this no more wasted egg whites that never stiffen plus no more wasted time equals much happier me.
3. One of my residence hall heads from college taught me this trick: add extra brown sugar to make your chocolate chip cookies more on the chewy side than the cake side. I’ve always preferred chewy chocolate chip cookies but never knew how to make them that way…well, an extra helping of brown sugar in the dough will do the trick (I always eyeball it but it’s probably almost an extra 1/4 C cup).
4. I haven’t met an oven yet that doesn’t have hot spots so always rotate the dessert halfway through its baking time. Yes there are exceptions like soufflé, but dish allowing, rotate it halfway through so it cooks evenly (unless your oven doesn’t have hot spots and if it’s doesn’t please tell me which one you have so I can buy that one next!).
5. Always read the instructions the day before you plan to bake! I recently about to make turtles (my husband was supposed to bring them to work) and everything was all set for me to get them done while our daughter napped, but then I read the second line of the instructions and I saw “chill dough for 2 hours”…well…my heart sank and I felt really bad but because of the rest of the day we had planned there was no way I was going to get them done for when he had promised them to his co-workers. I made them Sunday instead and he brought them to work Monday. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was annoying for sure!
These are actually those turtles (mini turtles as they happened to turn out):
Do you prefer cooking or baking and why? Do you have any tips and tricks that we can all learn from? Leave it in the comments below!