It has been a strange year for all of us. Due to Covid-19, I wasn’t able to travel and see my family in Italy at all. Like many of you (I assume), I ended up watching a lot of Netflix, and I got into “The Great British Baking Show.” Inspired by this, I decided to up my game in baking. I have always been a decent cook, but I wasn’t very confident about trying more difficult dishes.
With my mom’s help over Skype and “The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass” on Netflix, I attempted different dishes. I made them all from scratch: fresh bread, pizza and focaccia, vegetarian pesto lasagna, mascarpone cake and chocolate cake.
The dish I was most surprised by was the bread. I learned that baking is fun; however, I also learned how temperamental dough can be and how important it is to precisely measure all the ingredients so the food can taste good. I also ended up doing lots of math conversions from milliliters to ounces, from grams to spoons and cups. To my students who often ask me when they will use math in their life, I can add one more field — baking requires lots of math.
I learned so many little tricks in baking, and here are some I’d like to share:
If you are whipping egg whites, always use a glass or ceramic bowl. (I used a plastic bowl and the result wasn’t the best…)
When measuring flour, first stir a spoon in it to aerate the flour, then use a spoon to place the flour into the cup measure (gently). Do not tap the cup, otherwise, the flour will go down and you will end up with several extra spoons of it that will change your recipe.
Eggs should be room temperature, not from the fridge, or else the cake will not rise as it should.
There are so many kinds of flour. Using bread flour for bread is a good idea. I know it sounds obvious, but I didn’t use it sometimes, and the result wasn’t good.
Once you open the yeast, place it in the fridge, or it will go bad. (Another one of my mistakes.)
I often tell my students how important it is not to get discouraged when you make mistakes, because it is how we learn, and baking is not any different from math.
If you haven’t done it already, watch the show and try some baking. Let me know how that goes. We can share recipes if you want… I miss being on campus with my students and colleagues. I wish you all a very happy 2021, and I hope to see you in person very soon.