It was Caroline’s birthday this week, and I baked a boxed angel food cake. It reminded me once again that I don’t really like baking. The thing is, I love cooking. As I thought about this seemingly odd discrepancy more, I think I figured out why.
The Cooking Process
Cooking is an ongoing process. You can change directions mid-recipe pretty easily. You taste the sauce, add something else, brown the chicken a little more, decide to chop it up and use it as a salad instead. If you cook like me, you don’t even always have to know what you’re making when you start — just start cooking the core ingredient and add whatever spices and extras you find as you pillage the cupboards.
I might see a pork roast and some apples in the kitchen, and know that somewhere between the two lies a delicious roast. I’ll then go see what spices and sauces we have to make a glaze and just start mixing. I won’t know where I’m going with it, I’ll just keep tasting and adding things till I get there — and I almost always arrive somewhere acceptable, if not delicious.
Balking at Baking
With baking, you need to get everything together and correctly proportioned at the beginning. If you add too little salt or too much yeast, your bread isn’t going to turn out correctly. Baking requires planning and understanding of how yeast, flour, sugar and water interact in different proportions and what happens internally when the ingredients are left to rise, kneaded, baked quickly or slowly, etc.
The planning ahead requirement makes it so I can’t easily experiment and adjust as the baked good is forming.
A Sports Metaphor
If I had to make a sports metaphor, Baking is like bowling. You line everything up at the beginning, then let it go. Once it’s started, there’s no pulling back. Cooking is more like curling. You start in a direction, but along the way you can add and remove things to adjust your destination.
Now that I think I know why I don’t care much for baking, I’ll be watching for baking vs. cooking type feelings towards other activities in my life.