“I’ve noticed recently that people seem to be divided between considering cooking, and baking in particular, an art or a science.
“Baking is an art” people seem to use recipes as inspiration rather than the letter of the law – ingredients are adjusted depending on personal tastes. Measurements & timings are vague and rely on knowing appropriate textures, colour etc. Results are inconsistent until recipes have been tried many, many times.
“Baking is a science” people follow recipes a lot more closely, don’t substitute/add extra ingredients and measure things exactly. They have opinions on weight versus volume, and even weigh liquids as it’s more accurate. Results are reasonably consistent from the get go.
As in life, I’m more of an “art” person – which is why my recipes are sometimes a bit vague with measurements – such as the soda bread recipe says use between “250-300ml” of soured milk. Like the soda bread, our slow rise no knead bread needs slightly different amount of liquids each time we make it – depending, seemingly, on the type of flour and the temperature of the liquid – so for me, dough texture is more important than exact quantities. I’m a bit more (but admittedly) not a lot more scientific the first few times I make something – until I begin to understand what it should be like. I find it more fun to freewheel than to stick to the recipe – but my results are sometimes inconsistent – taking a recently relevant example from cooking in general, sometimes my chilli rocks the free world, sometimes it struggles to rock our living room: edible but meh.
(Funnily enough, I’ve got more exact about favourite recipes after I’ve written them up for here because I’ve made them to the exact recipe for a few times before publishing it and have started to enjoy the consistency – before, I’d just throw a random amount of mustard seeds into kedgeree but now I use 1tsp like a good girl 😉 )
Where do you stand? Do you stick to recipes exactly or throw things in at random? Do you favour a more creative process or a more consistent result? Or are you somewhere in the middle?”