Handling the Heat: Learning to Bake
For many, the kitchen is a foreign environment. The utensils, ingredients, and appliances loom over you in all their complexity. Yet food is a necessity. School teaches formulas and formats, but often does not delve nearly enough into fundamental life skills. Baking is a great way to venture into the kitchen and gain comfort in that strange new world. Whereas cooking is an intricate art, baking is a science.
Experienced cooks are comfortable improvising, swapping ingredients, and trying new things. Baking can incorporate these ideas as well, but it is very important to follow recipes closely in order to get the right reactions from the right ingredients mixed together in just the right amounts. Do a search for a simple recipe, such as for cookies. Websites typically tell you the length of time it will take and the level of difficulty. Before you even enter the kitchen, take plenty of time to read and reread the list of ingredients and instructions.
When you locate the ideal simple recipe, look for YouTube videos that take you through the process of making that particular dish. As you watch, take notes and physically gather all the ingredients you are going to need. This might require a trip to the grocery store, but it is also useful to learn the many substitutions you can make for common ingredients. No butter? Try applesauce. Out of sugar? Use some honey.
Ingredients from the fridge typically need to sit on the counter for a while for a while to warm up. This gives you plenty of time to reread the recipe once again. When you are starting out, you will want to follow the instructions to the letter. It may feel tedious, but adopting this strategy will aid you in learning the ins and outs of working with different ingredients and utensils. For example, after figuring out the perfect touch for cracking an egg, move on to techniques for separating the egg yolk. Some people do this by hand, with a spoon, or by moving the yolk back and forth in a cracked shell.
Try your hand at a variety of simple variations of different baked goods. There are seemingly limitless varieties of cookies, cakes, muffins, and breads at a many difficulty levels. But make sure to also repeat the ones you have already done. Some will turn out better than others – in fact, some of your attempts will not turn out very good at all. This happens to everyone in the kitchen, and it is especially important to take notes in these instances on what exactly went wrong. Just like essay drafts, it takes multiple attempts to get it right.
As you gain comfort in the kitchen, consider investing in additional equipment. A sifter is great for removing clumps from the dry ingredients. Having multiple and different-sized bowls makes it much easier to prepare things separately and carefully add items into one large bowl. Separate measuring cups for wet and dry foodstuff allow the recipe to come together better. Tupperware containers and freezer bags are great for storing your creations for sharing, and mean you are always ready to make more.
The scientific nature of baking, in which specific amounts of wet and dry ingredients come together in the oven for the desired result, make it an ideal way to study and analyze the art of making food. From there, you can try your hand at other meals and cooking styles. School offers many valuable lessons, but as you grow up and head out on your own into the world, you will be extremely grateful for the ability to feed yourself.
Clift, Cortney. “25 Essential Baking Tips and Tricks for Beginner Bakers.” Brit+Co. http://www.brit.co/new-bakers/
Roberts, Anna Monette. “Baking Basics: 10 Tips For Beginner Bakers.” Popsugar. http://www.popsugar.com/food/Tips-Beginner-Bakers-24477467#photo-24477467
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