Saturday, June 7, 2008

baking vs. cooking

I love to cook. It is one of my favorite things to do. It is also one of Zach and I's favorite things to do together. For most of my life I never really thought of myself as artistic. In the last five years or so, I have come to realize that I am actually very artistic and I need to give myself more credit. I think I don't think of myself as being artistic because I don't create "art" in the traditional sense of the word. I have had "artists" (in the traditional sense of the word) however, tell me that they "definitely" think of me as an artistic I am working on incorporating this more into my own self-concept. 

Cooking has probably been the thing that has most brought out an artistic (in the more traditional sense of the word) side in me (well, that and decorating my house.) I love it when my kitchen is clean, I have a free evening ahead of me, and the wheels are spinning in my head. 

My kitchen becomes my canvas--blank, ready, waiting...calling even. In all honesty, I often peruse the internet for recipe inspirations...but whatever I end up making in some way gets modified to become my own. Sometimes I piece together multiple recipes or I create something entirely new from the inspirations I come across online.  Either way, it morphs to become something entirely unique (sometimes even so unique that I have a hard time re-creating it myself!)

While I love to cook, I have never really delved into the art of baking. Cooking for me is free-form. There are endless possibilities that just minor knowledge allows you to pursue. Baking on the other hand, well, it seems to me to be more of a science. While you may be able to dabble here and there...when it really comes down to it, if the proportions aren't just right, what you have made will either turn out or it won't. Needless to say, I have never been much of a baker. I prefer the free-form possibilities of cooking. With cooking you can taste something and tweak it until it is just right. With baking however, once it is in the oven, either you have done well or you have failed. There is no post-taste tweaking. Baking intimidates me. Cooking, on the other hand, is my art form. 

The other day, after I BAKED my delicious coffee cake for the office, Zach and I were discussing the differences between baking and cooking and he made an interesting point...

"With baking though, you get to combine the ingredients to create something entirely new. It is not some modified form of something you started with but rather, it is it's own new thing. Totally other." 

(ok, he may not have said it quite that profoundly but it was something like that.) His comment got me thinking. While I have never really taken much enjoyment from baking, there is something very satisfying about it. Satisfying in a way that is totally different from cooking. When I have a finished product with cooking, I am proud to taste it and share it with others. When I have a finished product with baking...sometimes I just want to look at it. Baking can be so beautiful and inspiring. 

So...I am working on my baking skills. I will keep you all posted with successful attempts (and maybe if you're lucky, unsuccessful attempts as well). This will be a particularly significant feat considering the fact that I have a small apartment stove/oven from the 1920's that does not maintain a consistent temperature (or even have a gauge that tells you what the temperature is for that matter!) 

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer to cook or bake? Care to share some favorite recipes? 


  1. I think I'm the opposite. Cooking seems daunting to me. And kind of like a chore. I wish I saw it the way you did. I do like baking, although I don't do it very often. Most of the time I use boxed recipes but they always turn out so great and I make my own substitutions (e.g. equal parts applesauce for oil). Every once in a while I'll make something from scratch and it's really satisfying. I make my dad a carrot cake from scratch every year for his birthday/father's day, so that's coming up soon.

    I have never tried a "complicated" baking recipe though like my mom does on a regular basis: pies and chocolate eclairs (these are AMAZING by the way and you would never go back to store bought!)

  2. While I love to cook (AND eat alicia's cooking)and generally cook much more than bake, baking reminds me of science class when I was little. All those little chemicals reactions going on intrigues me. Baking also is more of a transformation than cooking---I love to watch cream puffs blow up to twice their size in the oven. A la dutch pancake, alicia (you make them the best---see, you've been baking for a long time)!!!!!
    PS I love the blog.