I never thought I would be any good at anything related to what the kids call “adulting.” But recently, I have become known around Rollins College as the provider of baked goods, including cookies, gluten free goods, and cakes. How did I pick up this unexpected hobby? You need only be a bored, unemployed undergraduate with way too much free time.
In all seriousness, there is a science to baking. It is not just about mixing batter and throwing it in the oven. The beauty of baking is that when you understand the science behind it, everything is possible. The difference between the rock-hard ash pile and the soft and chewy Mrs. Fields cookie is literally down to a science.
For example, creaming your butter wrong could dictate that the results of your efforts are hardened pieces of dough rather than delicious, crumbly morsels of heaven.
Ideas like “creaming,” “folding,” and “don’t open the oven every two minutes or the batter will bake incorrectly” become the same methodical instructions as the Pythagorean Theorem. Another example is that leaving out egg whites for about 30 minutes (no longer, or you will meet a good friend named Salmonella) actually makes them easily beatable, meaning they will integrate better with your other ingredients.
Learning the science is so ridiculously helpful, especially when it comes to allergy problems.
For example, Gluten-free diets are the bane of my existence as a baker. Gluten is this nice little substance that glues together your flour-based goods. When baking, not having gluten is essentially an attempt to build a wall with no adhesive. Not only does your batter look like melted butterscotch, but it is so difficult to stop your baked goods from having that horrid gluten-free texture, which (by the way) is the texture of chewing on sand. However, with a little science and taste, you can avoid these qualities. Not entirely, but distract the mouth with different flavors and other textures that people will not notice. Making batter into bars is the easiest way that I found to avoid gluten-free beach texture.
But, much like any other science; experiment, and then experiment some more. You never know what new flavors and textures you will find.
Just as a closing statement, baking is a lot of fun. I have a deep love for it and I have only been doing this for maybe two months now. It is ridiculous how many ideas one can come up with just by adding an ingredient or two.
The idea of baking is not to follow recipes to the letter, but to deviate and make something new happen. Also it is ridiculously easy to get started. Leave the comfort of “I can’t adult” every once in a while and explore; you never know what you might find over the baked horizon.
If anyone wishes to try some of my experiments, come by Elizabeth Hall and see how I became some weird local baking legend in a tiny dormitory kitchen..