Friday, September 29, 2006

Como Agua Para Chocolate

Have become quite a fan of baking. Actually, a fan of baking things that I like to eat. Like brownies (yum...), chewy cookies (mmm...), cake, macaroons. Anything sweet and tasty. Since I'd never truly set foot in the kitchen until a few years ago, all my methods of cooking are somewhat unconventional. Perhaps, if yours truly had been at Grandma's side whilst still waist tall, she'd have learned how to do it the proper way. Or perhaps that would have been too cliche. Regardless, FoodNetwork has been a wonderful sources of recipes and a good teacher for the beginning baker. Except that this baker picks 'n' chooses what to learn, and refuses to use measuring instruments.

I bake without things most people would call essential. There are the trusty glass bowls, a couple of metal pans, glass tupperware from Costco (perfect for brownie and cake baking, by the way), and that's pretty much it. If the recipe calls for a cup of flour, out comes the little plastic cup (unclear where it initally came from). A tablespoon or teaspoon means bigger or smaller amounts on a regular metal spoon. After all, you can see how much Rachel Ray uses when she says "add a teaspoon of garlic," so just eyeball it. Am a big fan of guestimating the amount of materials needed to make something taste good. Why must the amount of water added be exactly 1.5cups? Why a third of a cup of oil? Just mix it, add enough to make the batter look right, and we're on our way. The bottom line is cooking is an art, and too much measuring takes all the fun away.

You might be afraid of how the desserts turn out. Never fear - although brownies from next week cannot be guaranteed to taste exactly like the brownies from last week, after all, the eyeballs are allowed a little artistic leeway, as long as the main ingredients are in a relatively good ratio, I've yet to have a disastrous result (knock on wood). True, sometimes the brownies come out more cake-like, and sometimes the chocolate cake comes out more brownie-like, but they still taste good, and then we've learned what too much or too little of one ingredient does.

Alas, the unconventional ways may be coming to an end. Watching food TV exposes one to all the superfluous (but so neat) baking accessories. It's an eye-opening process, and on some level, a perfect example of how advertising sucks you in. I mean, Emeril's $300 mixer may be an unnecessary instrument, but by golly, what a useful unnecessary item! It stirs all kinds of things at all kinds of speeds and can prevent tennis elbow and arm fatigue! Or that blender-thingy-ma-jig... Again, nonessential, but how nice would it be to just plop stuff in and have a machine chop it to just the right size or blend to the right consistency? Or fabulous ideas such as the silicone pad, or parchment paper. Just pick it up and shake the cookies right off. Brilliant! I'm afraid, though, that if I get started buying these wonderful things, I'll have a garage full of cooking instruments "meant to make cooking easier!" So I'm holding back. Although, I did break down and buy a hand held electric beater. It was getting tiring to incorporate wet and dry ingredients by hand...

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