Baking: A Guide for Beginners

The first time I ever felt the urge to go into the kitchen and make something was in the fourth grade. I distinctly recall that it was brought about by those lazy afternoons, turning on the cooking channel when there was nothing else to watch, and becoming addicted to it.  Making spectacular dishes looked so quick and easy, and they came out perfect every single time. What I didn’t understand was that a thirty minute show (twenty, if you considered commercial time) hardly compared to the length of time cooking typically takes, and that’s without accounting for time to gather up ingredients, prepare those ingredients, pre-heat appliances, wait for mixtures to set a certain way, wait for them to cool, to bake, to simmer, to boil or whatever other process it goes through, and then finally, to clean.

Phew, quite a list, isn’t it?

I would have to say that if you intend to go into the kitchen the first time intending to make a five-star meal, just intending, you don’t even have to set foot in it! –You’ve already made a mistake.

My very first attempt at baking was a red current pie (why I thought this was a good idea, I had no clue. For those who don’t know currents are juicy berries the size of peas, and are just as, if not more likely, to be bitter and sour as they are sweet). I had no recipes, no books, and apparently no sense whatsoever. I threw in what I thought the crust should be made of (eggs, milk, and flour –already a massive error), and then the berries after that. I popped it into the often and, to my credit, at least it looked like a pie, but it was far from edible.

In the hopes that my mistake will not be repeated by any other person, I’ll set aside a few basic rules to test whether or not you’re ready to take on this challenge.

 

Never Expect Perfectionperfect friend chicken

As I’ve mentioned at other points in my life, experts are experts not because of the successes they’ve had, but the mistakes they’ve made. As a beginner, expect to make plenty more mistakes than you might expect. In fact, don’t expect to do anything right at all. It’ll keep you humble during the learning process and even happier when things go right. Remember it’s not about graze or garnish or making it look pretty. The heart of every dish rests in its taste. If that doesn’t turn out right, then ask yourself what’s the use of making it look gorgeous if no one is going to eat it.

 

 

 

 

Follow the Recipe

As you grow in experience, deviations from recipes are allowed –even encouraged!- but if you’re just getting started, then please follow them to the letter. Since plenty of people (myself included) get recipes online, if that recipe has reviews, please read those as well. Usually other people leave additional tips on how to go through it. How does one know which tips are good if there are many of them? –one might ask. Simple: look for a pattern. If more than one person is saying the same thing, then chances are it’s credible. Plenty of these websites have a portion where it will show how many viewers found the review helpful, so this is also something to pay attention to.

 

Revere the Kitchen

This is probably the most important rule, as it involves your safety. The kitchen is not a playground (this is something that adults, as well as kids, should be reminded of). Chefs are experts at what they do; they have made their mistakes, you have not. Of course they’re going to make things look quick and easy, because they’ve had years of training. The kitchen is not a stage for you to perform upon, especially when you don’t know the steps to the dance you’re dealing with. Don’t play with fire, (literally and otherwise). You will get burned. The kitchen is a sacred place; a trial not for the faint of heart. Food is a necessity to live, and it is in the kitchen that it’s prepared. Treat it this way. No matter how long you’ve had it, and no matter how many times you’ve been in it, this doesn’t make it any less special or any less dangerous. Treat this place as you would yourself. Respect it and all things within it, and no major accidents should befall you.

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