The Ups and Downs of Test Baking
Since finals are coming up quickly and I can feel that familiar stress demon wrapping itself around my neck, I’ve been using baking as a way to escape my worries (there’s a reason I’m not a size zero, guys). In order to distract myself, I set out to create an easy chocolate chip cookie recipe, because nobody who runs a food blog should be able to say that they don’t have one of those under their belt. I thought that I had nailed down a recipe, as it had worked twice in a row (cue internal squealing).
Then, I went to do my third – and final – test bake before I posted it here. I started snapping the photos as I went along to show all the steps, only to quickly realize that this test wasn’t going as well as the others. First off, the liquid did not cover the flour, so I had to double the butter and add two more eggs than originally planned just to get it to resemble dough. Of course, I didn’t photograph this mistake, and instead only took photos that might be Instagram-worthy because I’m the worst.
Then it became too mushy, and I had to slowly add more flour in as I prayed to the baking gods for mercy (they never listen, by the way, they’re assholes). At the end, I was a hot mess, coated in egg yolk and flour stains, wondering how the fuck a twenty-two-year-old could mess up some basic cookies.
I didn’t get a solid recipe out of it, which I bemoaned loudly to the boyfriend and my sister. On the bright side, I now had cookies to cheer me up.
This experience taught me a few things about test baking.
- Never Get Over-Confident
If I hadn’t gone into the third testing phase with the idea that it was going to turn out perfectly, I wouldn’t have been so disappointed in the results. This isn’t to say that you can’t get excited, but keep in mind that we are not the masters of food. It won’t always bend to our will in the way that we want it to. When we cook, all sorts of scientific shit is going that we can’t even comprehend. This leaves a huge margin for error, and the more we respect that, the less upset we will be when things go wrong.
2. Don’t Fret About Looks
Even though the dough looked ugly, and the cookies didn’t spread the way that I wanted them to as I baked them, the results still tasted awesome. I made three dozen and they were gone in like two days (I gave some away). It’s important to remind ourselves that it’s not all about how pretty the food is for Instagram. The taste is why we started cooking in the first place, right? Let’s all keep that in mind.
3. Remember That It’s Just Food
We all eat at least three times a day, right? Yet we tend to freak out if a meal turns out bland, or burnt, or too sweet. We assume that we are awful cooks who have no business wielding a spatula. This train of thought is especially dangerous for a new cook, someone just trying out their skills.
But at the end of the day, it’s just food. There’s more where that came from, and in a few hours you’ll be hungry enough to try again. No meal is ever the end of the world. Toss it in the garbage, and do it over.
What I love about baking and cooking is that it gives you little lessons throughout the day in a way that other aspects of life don’t. It has taught me patience, given me confidence in my skills, and allowed me to reflect back on where I was a year ago in this whole adventure. I adore this time alone in the kitchen. It’s probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to meditating.
For that, I think I can forgive the food for one flub.
Have you ever had a test baking mishap? If so, comment below with your experience or leave a link to your own blog post on the topic.
Until next time, keep cooking fearlessly.