If you read the title of this entry, you may have thought that this blog post was going to teach you how to avoid mistakes in baking. If that’s true, this is not the post for you. First things first, you should know that I don’t believe in punishing yourself for mistakes in baking. If you read my last post, you know that baking is 95% chemistry. And ya’ll, chemistry is hard! The proper amount of baking soda and vinegar makes a beautiful cleaning solution. But just a pinch too much baking soda? Congratulations. You’ve now created a 4th grade volcano experiment.
Second, you should know that I view mistakes as opportunities. Not in some over the top self help “good vibes only!” way because...gross. I view them as opportunities because sometimes mistakes lead to a whole other thing you weren’t even trying to do. Some of my very favorite baked goods have come from absolute failures that actually turned out better than the original thing. And I subscribe to the idea that if you fail, you should fail as hard as humanly possible. Sure there’s the failure, but there’s also an epic story of just how hard you failed. And if you tell it with enough exuberance, you’ll eventually realize that baking failures are hilarious.
But the simple truth is, mistakes happen. When you’re cooking and accidentally add too much salt? Chuck a potato in whatever you’re cooking. It’ll absorb the extra salt and your dish is once again golden. If you chuck a potato in a pan of brownies? Life is gonna get extra weird, friends. Chemistry is unforgiving. Recipes are often experimented on many many times before they’re written down. That means the recipe you see in front of you is a list of rules, not guidelines.
That being said, rules are made to be broken. So learn the cardinal ones and then push the limits. Chemically, strawberry and basil shouldn’t even know each other exists. But am I currently working on a strawberry basil scone? You better believe it. Will I mix the heavy cream into the flour using a mixer? Absolutely not. Learn the rules of baking, experiment constantly to push the envelope, and know when to blame the unicorns and walk away.
Right! The unicorns! In my haste to explain all the reasons mistakes are okay, I forgot to explain the unicorn element. In my bakery, the “unicorns” are the unexplainable things that went wrong. You followed the ingredient list properly, you mixed exactly to specifications, and you baked to the very second listed...only to have your creation turn out an utter failure. What went wrong? You did every single thing right!
The unicorns went wrong. The humidity was too high, your yeast was one day too old, or the wind blew the wrong way and your apple pie caught an attitude. It’s unexpected and unexplainable - just like a unicorn. Shake your fist at the sky, shout “Stupid unicorn magic!” and then laugh and try again. It’s okay. Maybe the next thing you bake will be a delicious mistake. But you’ll never know if you let the unicorns win.
3 Golden Rules of Baking (aka flour is a diva)
1. Never scoop your measuring cup directly into the flour. Use a spoon, fill up the measuring cup (don’t shake it!) and level it off with a knife.
2. Once you’ve added liquid to flour, you’re on a time limit. Move fast and don’t over mix
3. If you don’t end up with at least a little flour somewhere other than your apron, put down the spatula. Baking has not chosen you. Perhaps try your hand at gardening?
Please write a book!