When I was a kid, my mom baked all the time. There were layered cakes, crispy cookies, sweet breads to accompany our tea, and so much more. But when I watched her bake, I never once saw her measure a single ingredient – we didn’t even own measuring cups or a scale. She would just scoop ingredients into a bowl with a little ceramic teacup, stir them while balancing the bowl between her hip and forearm, put whatever it was into the oven and soon, the smell emanating from the oven alone would leave us speechless and drooling. I don’t remember her ever messing up a dessert so I assumed she was some sort of magician with a sixth sense.
So, when I started baking, I didn’t take measuring seriously, especially since I’ve been cooking for a while already and had gotten used to eyeballing ingredients. I understood recipes and directions like, “butter at room temperature” and “gradually add flour” to be guidelines. I guess I thought I could outsmart the recipe and if my intentions were good, the dessert would somehow just work out. But unsurprisingly, it didn’t. I couldn’t make a single edible cookie. I remember how my mom would stand next to me, scraping the burnt bottoms of cookies with a butter knife after yet another failed attempt, comforting me and saying that next time, I would certainly do better.
It wasn’t until I started reading and re-reading the recipe before baking and following measurements and directions exactly that anything worked out. I learned that if a lemon bars were advised to be cooled before being cut, I should do just that, and that if a recipe calls for brown sugar, substituting with white just won’t do. It is now that I realize that despite how amazing my mother is, she is no magician. She’s just made so many cakes and cookies by the time she had me, that baking became second nature to her – she, as they say, just felt it.
Whereas cooking is about intuition, instinct and pleasure, it is careful attention, precision and patience that matter in baking. I’ve still a long way to go til I can flawlessly frost a cake, but these cookies (and these!) are proof that I have finally mastered at least one type of dessert.
This recipe from Epicurious (click HERE for the recipe) is incredible. The cookies are quick to prepare and bake, and they don’t dry out, even days after baking. They’re soft, chewy, fragrant and ideal for minimalist dessert lovers like me. I strongly advise you to make them!
What is your experience with baking like?