One of the things I said goodbye to in 2013, was the self-proclaimed term disaster baker. I had always worn that badge of honour proudly because I am of the school of thought of, You are either a good Cook or a good Baker. I still stand by those words though, because cooking and baking involve two different skill sets and psychologists will say, two different personalities.
Cooks have a flair for creativity. We don’t like structure, we don’t like being boxed in and we laugh in the face of rules. Neither do we take kindly to someone telling us what to do. Many cooks mirror such sentiments in other real life interactions. Bakers on the other hand love routine, they thrive on structure, respond well to directions, and don’t see the need to deviate from what is expected. A baker wouldn’t dream to add 100ml of something when the recipe says 50ml. A cook would go, what the heck, I will use 100ml, what harm can it do. Cooks are experimental, bakers are precise.
Here’s an excerpt from a funny piece from the Food and Wine Hedonist. It made me laugh my head of and I so agree with him
“With cooking, there’s a lot of leeway in the recipes. Don’t have spinach? Who cares! I’m sure kale will work fine. Overcooked the turkey? Make turkey chili. Over mixed the toum? I wrote a whole post on what to do with it. Put in ½ a cup of butter instead of ¼ cup? That’s not a mistake, that’s GOLD!”
You can have happy accidents easily with cooking. Lots of recipes were discovered from switching things up. Try that with Baking and be prepared to pull your hair out.
“With baking, you have to be precise with EVERYTHING. You can’t just stick a measuring cup in the bag of flour and scoop it out. You have to spoon it into the cup, and then level off the excess with a knife. Otherwise, that extra 1/64th teaspoon of flour will make what you’re baking too dense. Overcooked biscuits? I’m sure there’s a youth hockey team you can donate them to. You can’t open an oven dip your finger in a soufflé to test what it’s missing. And forget about trying to substitute baking soda for baking powder. Apparently there’s a difference.”
He goes further
Cooks think on the run and are constantly making adjustments. They can monkey with ingredients, volumes, and cooking times to fix recipes that have either gone awry or were never good to start with. Bakers are precise, use only what’s on the recipe and follow the instructions word for word. You’ll never see the following in a recipe for croissants:Step 8 – Taste it and decide whether you want to go all Emeril and “Kick it up a notch!” BAM!
Tell me about it. Eye roll***********
I like to think of it as cooks being like artists who love grey areas and unknowns and often display their rebellious streaks when necessary. Bakers are either scientific or anal-retentives, who thrive on total accuracy. Or complete cowards who are afraid to deviate from the path, sticking to what’s comfortable to them
Emphasis on anal retentives. No offense to bakers, we just beef you guys a little, because it is easy for a baker to cross over to the cooking side, with a great recipe. Not so much for a cook. Great recipe or not, our creative or flexible side, just has a way of screwing things up. See my Banana Bread recipe (HERE) for example. I just couldn’t help myself, I had to tweak it. Here’s how the author concluded
If it sounds like I’m being harsh on bakers, it’s jealousy – I suck at baking and it hurts that I can’t do it.
Here are some of the funny comments on the post
“i have this exact same issue. while i love to bake, for the beauty and art of the results, it gives me fits, for everything has to be so exact, so measured, so timed. my nature is to improv, go with the flow, a little of this, a little of that, etc. why i am a better cook”
“I am totally with you on this one. I’m definitely a cook, although it has not dissuaded me from routinely undertaking baking projects that are way above my pay grade. The husband, who is a total baker, always watches me with a completely pained expression (I banish him from the kitchen while I bake) as he yells things at me like “a cup of sugar is a rule not a suggestion” and “yes, it does matter whether that thing in your hand is actually a teaspoon or a tablespoon.” I generally ignore him. And my baking is generally a disaster.”
From Esquire.com: Men don’t bake. “You don’t need a cookbook to cook, but you can’t bake without one”. True that. “Because baking is easy, its hard”. “If cooking represents control, baking represents surrender”. “There are two types of people, cooks and bakers”. There are lots of other hilarious examples. I will paste the links to funny stories about this comparison.
Bread, happens to be one of the most difficult things to make. Many horror stories abound, and never in a million years would I have thought to attempt it myself, until it started popping up everywhere on So You Think You Can Cook, a Facebook Group. Terry Adidio, our resident Baker put up a recipe that everyone was trying with gorgeous results. I looked at the recipe, and I swear it looked like Greek to me. I look at a cooking recipe, and immediately my mind goes into action, thinking through the steps and imagining me making it. From start to finish, I can cook a recipe in my head. With a recipe involving baking, my mind just goes blank. I can’t interpret, like a brain block. The testimonies people were sharing made me give it a try, and I went through different stages of panic (as expected). I rarely if ever panic with cooking, somehow I will know how to fix it. Thankfully Terry and other people who had tried his recipe, were on hand to support, and I was grateful for that, otherwise, I would have given up and chucked the ingredients in the bin.
It turned out great, definitely better than store-bought bread, and quite simple too if I must grudgingly admit. I sabotaged myself with my mentality of I cannot bake. If you go into this recipe with confidence, you will do just fine. If I can do this, trust me, you can. Wherever in the world you live in, you can make this. Thank you Terry and the members of So You Think You Can Cook.
You will need
4 1/2 Cup Flour (585 grams)
1/4 cup Sugar (50 grams)
2 tsps Yeast
2 tsps Salt
1 Cup Buttermilk/milk
2 Eggs and 1 Egg Yolk
1/4 Cup Melted Butter (56 grams)
I halved this recipe, as I was making bread for just me. If you have more mouths to feed, use the full recipe. Caveat people: measure and measure precisely. Remember, if this goes wrong, I may not be in the best place to give you advice on how to fix it. For the ingredients, the following substitutions are possible: (1) You can use AP Flour instead of Bread Flour; (2) You can substitute the melted butter with oil or melted margarine; (3) You can substitute the buttermilk with milk or water. Please note that substituting the butter and buttermilk/milk will lead to a less rich bread. The recipe calls for 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk. Save the 3rd egg white for the egg wash at the end.
1. First step is to activate your yeast. This can be done by mixing your yeast with WARM buttermilk/milk/water for 10 mins or till the yeast begins to foam. You can add a teaspoon of sugar from the 50 grams to the liquid/yeast mixture. This step is VERY important and should not be overlooked. If the yeast does not foam and begin to grow, DO NOT PROCEED. Start all over again or get a new bottle of yeast as your might be too old/dead. The liquid must be WARM (not hot, not kind of hot, not cold, just warm).
2. Mix all the dry ingredients in your stand mixer. Add the melted butter, eggs and yeast mixture and mix still a stretchy dough forms. This will take about 7 mins. Please get it right here and make sure your dough is well kneaded.
If your dough is not well kneaded, your bread structure will be very tight which will lead to a tough loaf. If mixing by hand, please knead longer (10 – 12 mins). The dough should be smooth and stretchy.
See picture above and below. Stretchy dough
3. Form dough into a ball and put in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in a warm place till DOUBLED in size.
This will take 2 hours. I keep mine in the oven with heat turned off. The bread will rise faster in a warm place. If it has not doubled after 2 hours, you can leave it for up to an hour more. See, doubled in size
After two hours, you have a lot of choices here. You can shape the dough and put in a large bread pan for its second rise. This dough makes a large loaf, so be sure to use a large pan. Alternatively, you can bake it free form. Please use whatever method of shaping or braiding you are used to. The dough can also be made into buns. Be creative. If you want this bread for breakfast, you can shape make it up to this stage in the night, cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge. Take it out the next morning, allow to come to room temperature for an hour, apply egg wash and bake.
4. If you choose to braid the bread, deflate the dough and roll/stretch it out either by hand or with a rolling-pin.
5. Place rolled out dough on parchment paper and place everything on a baking tray. Using a bench scraper or a knife, make slated slashes on each side of the dough as shown in picture.
Make sure each slash has a corresponding slash on the opposite side.
6. Now begin the “braiding” process by overlapping the slashes alternatively till you reach the end of the dough. Tuck in the left over dough at the end.
7. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise a second time for an hour. Dough will almost double in volume. See, it has risen, from the picture above
8. Apply egg wash using the leftover egg white. If you do not apply egg wash, the bread will not brown. Beat the leftover egg whites lightly with a folk and apply on bread with a pastry brush. Meanwhile, pre heat your oven to 350 degrees for about 20 mins.
9. Bake bread in preheated oven for 30 mins. If the bread begins to brown too early, you can cover it with foil paper after about 20 mins and continue baking.
After the first 20 minutes or so, this was my result
then, I left it in to bake some more and I got this gorgeous looking and tasting bread. I was soooooooo proud of myself.
I laughed a little about its shape, but I achieved my end result. I BAKED BREAD!!!!!!!!
Isn’t that a beauty? If I can do it, you can do it too
I probably will still not refer to myself as a Baker, but at least, I have removed the tag Disaster Baker.
On tearing into hot, steaming, delicious homemade bread, this is what the insides looked like
When you bake bread at home, you will now understand how terrible store-bought bread is. Never again am I buying it. Lots of chemicals in store-bought bread will shock your socks off. Homemade is the way to go. Next baking recipe coming up is another type of bread, Brioche, which I totally nailed.