My greatest annoyance when being taught to cook/bake by my mother was her blatant disregard for standardised measurements. “Just add some of this” or “keep pouring until it looks like that”; it was a first-timer’s nightmare! To make matters worse, she just could not comprehend my frustration. In her eyes this was a completely normal and rational system. Move over metric, on your bike imperial, there’s a new unit of measurement in town!
It is only now, as I’ve slowly increased my knowledge base, that I am starting to appreciate the now-dubbed mama-measure. Scales can be slightly off, eggs can come in different sizes, and that extra couple of drops of cooking oil can easily throw off the consistency of your mixture. Knowing the anticipated consistency of your mixture is key. Actually knowing how to fix the consistency of your mixture is even better. Too wet – add some more flour, too dry – add some milk, the solution will vary dependent on the recipe.
Developing the ability to go off-piste and deviate from the recipe can be tricky. You know at the back of your head that the recipe is tried and tested, it is intended to be executed verbatim. And yet, you know your little tweak will help improve the overall outcome of your bake. I would urge you to take that chance, add that extra dollop of cocoa powder, splash in that extra drop of milk; this is your opportunity to break the rules.
Many of my bakes don’t go according to plan. This is the real world. They don’t look poised and put-together, ready to be photographed for the front cover of a magazine. Instead, they’d require some heavy airbrushing and a good bikini wax before they’d even make it to page 56. However, I like for my baking to look home-made. A wonky muffin or an odd shaped cookie won’t make them taste any less delicious. In my eyes, these beautiful imperfections are what make a bake. (And what distinguish them from their supermarket preservative-laden counterparts!) No one expects you to attain the standard of a Michelin chef. I like to try new recipes, substitute ingredients with alternatives which meet my guest’s dietary requirements, or simply adapt an old recipe to use up whatever is sitting in the back of the cupboard! Therefore, it may take several dodgy attempts to uncover the perfect dairy-free substitute for that cake mixture, or determine the missing spice for those biscuits. I try not to get precious over using precise measurements. A gram or two either way on the scales is “close enough”. To be fair, “adding a bit of this, and some of that” might just be the right method after all.
Experiment. Have a go. It’s very rare that a bake goes so awry that it is no longer edible!
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