I’m afraid this week’s post won’t be a recipe, partly because I’ve been wanting to write about this topic since I started my blog, but mainly because I’m going on holiday on Friday so I’ve been banned from baking anything as we need to eat up all the food we have in the house before we go. A little warning before you read: this post got a bit philosophical, but I hope you don’t mind a little bit of chat and advice on baking itself as well as recipes!
What I want to discuss in this post is the fact that many bakers, myself included, feel the need to be perfect in their baking. I realise that sounds like it should be a good thing, but the point I want to make is that, basically, it’s OK for bakes to be not quite as they are in the recipe, the programme or not all the same size. I think a large part of baking is focused on presentation, which although suits some people, doesn’t necessarily suit others. For me, this is part of what I love about baking, but it can mean that I become a bit of a perfectionist! I’ve always enjoyed art and although I stopped it after GCSE, I still draw and paint in my spare time, so presentation really appeals to me in my baking. I do think though that this is the case for everyone, and also that there’s sometimes a bit too much focus on it. I say I turn into a bit of a perfectionist because, and I’m hoping I’m not the only one here, I get very frustrated if my bakes don’t look as good as the picture that usually comes with a recipe. My favourite cheesecake recipe is amazing, but it cracks every time I bake it. This frustrates me because the picture in the book is without cracks, and I’ve tried various things to solve this, none of which seem to work! Also, being a keen baker, I am a huge fan of programmes like the Great British Bake Off (although who isn’t, it’s a brilliant programme) but they do make me feel a bit useless as a baker! I understand that all the bakes looking great and all being the same size and evenly baked is what would be expected in a bakery but it does make some of the best bakers I know feel a little inadequate.
This post then, is intended to be a reminder that it’s an OK thing, a great thing even, for your bakes to be less than perfect! Although presentation is important, baking is ultimately about whether something tastes nice or not, so if it tastes fine, it is fine. Sometimes we all need a reminder that recipes can’t be created without lots of disasters or things that just didn’t taste or look quite right first. Also, remember that the recipe books choose the best picture of the best bake, and select the best-looking ones from the batch. We’re all guilty of that- when I pick pictures for this blog, I pick the “best” bakes from the tray to photograph. It’s also worth mentioning that very few bakers post pictures of bakes that haven’t gone to plan- they all will have had bakes that didn’t go to plan.
I don’t want this post to be seen as a rant against bakeries, programmes or recipe books that make people feel a need for their bakes to be perfect, I just wanted to make people aware that it’s OK to mess up sometimes and remind people that presentation isn’t everything. Often I need the reminder as much as any of you! One little handy hint to end this post with is one I inherited from my mum- if you bake a recipe and there’s something you find has gone wrong or doesn’t taste right then write what it is on a post-it and stick it to the recipe. It sounds simple but it’s a great idea for amending recipes, for example I have stuck on my treacle tart recipe “too much lemon” so I add a bit less lemon juice when I bake it. This doesn’t have to be something that’s wrong with the recipe, just something tailored to your individual taste.
I hope this post makes sense- I know it’d not like my normal posts but I feel like it was something that I wanted to write about. I hope you can relate to some of this and that it’s not just me that feels this frustration or needs this reminder! Please let me know if you have any advice on this subject- I welcome any constructive feedback, even if you don’t agree with what I’ve said- I’d love to hear your view.
More recipes to follow after I’m back from holiday!
Some recipes of mine that haven’t gone quite to plan (but were still yummy!):
(on the left is a failed mug cake recipe, on the right is a failed s’more brownie recipe, both very tasty despite appearances!)