The thing I hear most when I tell people I am a baker is, “Oh, my brain doesn’t work that way! It’s too scientific. I like to cook but I can’t bake.”
I get it. I really get it. Baking is intimidating. There are so many RULES. One wrong move and you can ruin everything. Kind of.
I have actually found that is really hard to completely ruin a cake or a batch of cookies. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve done it. My first day working at a bakery I was so nervous that I sprinkled a whole batch of muffins with iodized salt instead of sugar. Another time I forgot the sugar all together in a batch of SUGAR cookies. They were the worst. Ever.
Barring any major disasters, baked goods are pretty forgiving. Even if something goes wrong, its usually OK. It turns out that one of my favorite chocolate cakes is just my regular chocolate cake without the baking powder or baking soda. How do I know? Because one time I was making my regular chocolate cake and forgot the baking powder and baking soda. Oops.
And don’t get me started on substitutions. As long as I am cooking for fun and not for an order, I’m constantly making substitutions! Don’t have cake flour? Use all purpose. It will be different, but I promise you, it’s fine. Don’t have milk? Do you have sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt or mayonnaise? Any of those will do (well, mayo is for desperate times and generally works best in combination with one of the other subs.) Out of sugar? Do you have maple syrup or honey? You’re good. The only thing I try not to mess with is the baking soda/baking powder. Because, science.
I recently came into a bounty of citrus fruits. I juiced a lot of it and froze it, but I wanted to make something that day. I remembered that I had made Giada Di Laurentis’ Orange Ricotta Cake and loved it. I had ricotta on hand and decided to do it.
I am pasting Giada’s recipe below. It’s amazing and I highly recommend it. But let me tell you about some of the improvisation that I had to do (we were about to head out of town and resources were limited.)Read More