Every now and then one of my many friends committed to the superiority of cooking over baking will take time out from all their obscene, frantic and misguided chopping to inform me that “baking is not an art like cooking. Baking is just recipe-following”. What vile slander! I am now, as always, outraged by these accusations. In fact I must pause briefly, before launching my defense, to go in search of the calming properties of some gluten.
I return fed and restored ( with the crumbs of a pumpkin and sage bread roll trailing behind me). I continue: By the time that you have eaten your way to expertise and have a vague handle on the basic techniques of baking you are bound to find every recipe you come across in urgent need of a little finessing . And finesse it you must. A Saturday spent strategising and executing a “recipe-adjustment” is a rare pleasure and fine reward to your careful obedience. Its time to be the heretic to your recipe bibles; its time to make baking your art.
Of course you cannot stray too far from the basic guidelines, there is science to be considered here. But there are still all kinds of things that can be done and what better reason is there to do them. You will require inspiration and in baking there is no finer inspiration than love in all its forms. Bake to nurture, bake to seduce or bake to comfort those you love. The personal preferences of your loved ones and the associations you have with them will naturally shape any recipes into your own. This does not mean that the misanthrope is lost. We don’t only love people. You might fall in love with a flavour combination, a colour or even a season and let it inspire you.
The most constant object of my affections is, rather distastefully, myself. Self-love is powerful inspiration and something I recommend to all amateur bakers. Bake for hubris, bake to boast, bake for pride and bake to prove to everybody else how skilled and artful you are in the kitchen.
This post is the third in a series:
Disclaimer: I am probably poorly qualified to tell you how to learn to bake. My only credentials are the few unwanted kilograms I carry around my waist and the fact that my hair is always matted together with icing. This is how I learned to bake. It might work for you it might just make you fat and scruffy-looking.