Friday, February 26, 2010

Zen and the art of making pudding

Can you learn life lessons through baking? I think so. For me, the art of baking has been elusive. Cooking, no problem. With cooking I just follow the directions, add in a few extra flourishes and ta da! There's dinner. Baking though, baking is a whole other ball of wax. It relies so heavily on instinct and feel, it is so precise and scientific that I didn't think I could ever excel at it. That being said, I can be pretty stubborn when I set my mind to something, so I decided baking and I would become friends, whether she wanted to or not.

It started with bread, but I made the dough in my bread maker then baked it in the oven so I didn't count that as a skill set I posses. When I did try to make bread by hand, it would always be dense. Tasty, but dense nonetheless. However, since the bread pan broke, I have been forced to make it from start to finnish. My whole wheat is now quite delectable and my foccacia is out of this world. It only took a few times before I got the rhythm, and after some pathetically small loaves, I am confident in my kneading skills, enough that I don't really care if out bread pan gets fixed. Making my own bread had been a goal of mine for a while, and it feels really good to have reached it.

Pudding however, has been my nemesis. I don't know what it is, I have tried a couple different recipes and I could never get it to set. I would always end up with chocolate soup, and this was incredibly irritating. I was a cooking teacher for gods sake! How could I keep screwing up something as simple as pudding? But I was. Every. Single. Time. When it happened again yesterday, I vowed to just forget about pudding and concentrate on something easier, like pastry. I voiced my irritation at an Epicure party and the consultant said "that's no problem, it sounds like you're just not boiling the milk long enough." Seriously! I couldn't believe it. So today I tried again, making sure to boil the milk for a good long while. And guess what....that stupid pudding set. Turns out this whole time I just needed to be patient and let the ingredients work their magic. I was going through the motions too quickly and my impatience was screwing me over every time. This is a life lesson that keeps popping up, I need to slow down, give things time and not be so impatient. Hopefully I'll be smart enough this time to take this lesson to heart, at least for a while. But I'll probably require a refresher every now and then, I can be stubborn like that.

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