Monday, December 6, 2010

On following directions - Times when creativity or lack of patience will not serve your cooking

A lot of the best cooking in the world comes about when you combine some established ideas of dishes with a creative flair.  An experimentation of ingredients or preparation that opens up a whole new world of flavors and textures.

Occasionally, however, there are cooking processes that you need to stick to if you want some of the basic expected results to occur.   Maintaining the proper ratio of leavening ingredients in order to get an expected rise.  Accounting for wet and dry ingredients (and ingredients that affect "wetness") in order to achieve the correct mix and texture.  Not following these, while may produce something new, may also not produce what you expect.

I was reminded of this lesson while making candy this weekend.  One of the things I realized somewhat recently was the fact that when cooking the sugar/butter/milk fudge base, if you don't bring it up to the soft ball stage, your fudge will be grainy and crumble.  Many recipes just account for a heat setting and a time to cook it from the boil point, but for each stove and heat setting, it is a little different.  If you want consistent results, you really need to break out the candy thermometer.

Doing that the first batch, I got the mixture up to temp, and then completed the fudge mix (including marshmallow creme!) and got a nice solid, but creamy fudge.  The second batch, I got impatient waiting for it to rise to temperature, and coupled with the fact that I probably didn't set the temp high enough for it to properly bring it up to soft ball stage in an appropriate amount of time, I ended up with fudge that was not only not the right texture, but it was so brittle that it would shatter when I cut it.  It tastes wonderful, but only if you don't look at it. :-)

Ah well.  Better patience next time.  Luck isn't a factor if you follow the directions. :-D

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