Living dangerously in the kitchen …

… (and I’m not talking about the knives). Do you play it safe in the kitchen? Are you a must-follow-the-rules kind of person? I always thought I was pretty much like that, but I’ve come to realise that I’m actually a bit of a risk-taker when it comes to cooking and baking. Shhh, don’t tell anyone …

Butter cake ... the high risk version

At high school and later at Uni I studied science – physics, chemistry, biology, botany, zoology, geology … I’m probably missing a few, but the point is that I studied a whole range. Out of all of them it was probably chemistry which taught me the importance of precision in both following instructions and the measurement of liquid chemicals. A lot of that knowledge found its way into my cooking habits … well, to a certain extent anyway.

I still measure liquid ingredients properly and even invested in some scales a few years back so I could weigh the solid stuff! But apart from that I seem to apply a much more relaxed attitude towards my cooking … Here’s a little taste of what I get up to:

  • Once I’ve made something by carefully following the recipe, every time after that I tend to just ‘play it by ear’.
  • I don’t always sift flour.
  • Near enough is sometimes often good enough for me. For example, if something has a teaspoon of salt, I probably won’t measure it and just guess at the amount.
  • When a recipe calls for melted butter I never use a stove-top saucepan, instead I melt my butter in a glass bowl which I place in a sink filled with boiling water (it involves less cleaning and requires less effort).
  • I always replace dairy milk with soy milk (there’s no cow milk in my house).

Goodness, my high school ‘Home Economics’ teacher would be so proud (not). I never really liked her much, but I’m sure she’d be happy to know that I still follow two of her kitchen rules of thumb – ‘always gradually add liquid to dry’, and ‘be mean with the dry and kind with the liquid ingredients’ … what a strange subject that now seems to have ‘studied’ at school.

Perhaps my dangerous approach to cooking can mostly be put down to laziness or convenience, but I like to think that some of it’s due to the rush of adrenaline that comes from not playing by the rules and still achieving a great end result. Care to join me in a little culinary risk-taking?? (I’ll even let you share in the finished product).

34 Comments

  1. Krystal/Village

    this was fn to read 🙂 I think mark and i have most of our fights in the kitchen, sadly! we have such different cooking styles, haha 🙂

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Krystal – Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
      As for you and Mark having most of your fights in the kitchen … I hear you! I think it’s a place that can be filled with high levels of tension … my husband prefers to cook alone, he thinks I get in his way!
      My favourite time in the kitchen is when I’m whipping up something delicious for dessert!! 🙂

  2. Jan

    My daughter was appalled when she found that I don’t even have measuring spoons and only one measuring cup, but somehow they have disappeared and I haven’t even missed them. And I love to cook. I just don’t want to be told how.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Jan – Haha … I think cooking is great when all the ‘rules’ are thrown out of the window … I’m like you, I hate being told what to do and how to do it … though of course that does sometimes lead to a few disasters! 😉

  3. Lucent Imagery

    Love this post! I’m a bit of both – If I’m following a recipe especially for baking or the first time, I follow it very closely. If I’m cooking “freestyle”, I don’t measure anything. I have found the best way for me to cook is to be prepared. Tidy and clean up the kitchen first, chop and prepare all ingredients into separate bowls just like they do on cooking shows and then commence cooking. I know it means more dishes, but it makes me relax into the whole process and somehow it feels glamorous just like those cooking shows! :p And from the first months of living out of home over a decade ago, I learned to not get distracted!! I gave myself a good dose of food poisoning in that first semester of University! I put on music or a cooking or travel show, turn the screen towards the kitchen and stay nearby. I guess I’m not so rebellious in the kitchen, but it’s partly a necessity for cooking as a vision impaired person and partly because I’ve come to really embrace that time preparing food for a loved one as nurturing them and me. Hope you have a lovely weekend my friend!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Lucent Imagery – Thanks for your kind words, I’m happy you enjoyed the post! 🙂
      I’m the same as you when cooking something for the first time, I like to follow things closely … but then after that I just kind of go with the flow.

      Being prepared when cooking is definitely the best way to make the whole process more efficient and less stressful … I also like cleaning up as I go along, so then I don’t have a big mess to clean up at the end of it all.
      As for giving yourself food poisoning … oh dear, I know I’ve done the same thing once or twice myself … it must be one of those learning experiences! 😉
      I think cooking with love is the best kind of cooking to do … it’s such a lovely gift to share with those near and dear.

      I hope your week is off to a wonderful start. 🙂

  4. Gabrielle Bryden

    That is a lot of science subjects – very impressed 🙂 I find that I follow the rules with baking but make up the rules with casseroles, stews, curries – that sort of thing – and what I hate is when you stumble upon the perfect dish (I made an awesome curry not long ago) and can never again recreate it – haha.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Gabrielle – Well I’m glad you’re impressed with my science background! 🙂
      (although I must admit all of it’s probably become a little rusty over the years … especially considering I never actually worked in the field).

      Casseroles and stews are just begging for that freehand approach to cooking … though I don’t think I’m very good at making them … everything ends up tasting a little bland. All that can be done with your curry dish is to try and try again! 🙂

  5. katiecrackernuts

    Tee hee. Love the living dangerously headline.
    If I followed the recipe I’d probably have more successes, but where’s the fun in that.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Katie – Thank you! I agree, while following a recipe will undoubtedly lead to succes more often than not … you never know what you’ll find when you follow your own path … like a true culinary adventure! 😉

  6. hila

    oh you’re living on the edge there, you rebel you 🙂
    I’m still learning the basics of baking, so I’m in the ‘stick to the recipe measurements’ phase. One day, I’ll learn.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Hila – Haha, I know … I’m so ‘out there’ I may just end up scaring myself! 😉
      Well sticking to recipes and measurements has never hurt anyone … I’m probably just lazy! 😉

  7. Chartreuse

    I definitely take more risks now that I’m a ‘mature age’ cook. I will substitute ingredients I don’t have, rather than rush out to a shop. And especially with main meals, I often try new ways of putting favorite ingredients together – especially in stir-fries. I’m especially proud that my pastry crusts are now more likely to succeed than fail, but that achievement was a long time coming. As with so many other things, being old is so much more satisfying than being young.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Chartreuse – It’s fun to experiment and play around with different ingredients … I do the same kind of substitution tricks as you, mainly because my pantry is so often lacking. Because I’m vegetarian I’m often substituting meat ingredients for vege equivalents … and that can be interesting in itself.

      Yes, getting older definitely has some wonderful advantages over youth! 🙂

  8. Meagan

    I wish I could live like that – I HAVE to carefully follow a recipe and I have a hard time remembering exact measurements after I literally just looked at teh recipe. I just don’t understand the science of it all to not follow exactly. SO I’m envious of your living dangerously. I really am.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Meagan – Hey give yourself time, you’ll be living out here like a cooking rebel with me in no time. I have to admit that sometimes experimentation and guess work doesn’t always end well … and I have had a few disasters with getting ingredient proportions wrong, but oh well … there’s always next time (and I love food). 🙂

  9. sofia

    well I NEVER EVER follow the rules (it’s impossible) and I don’t know why because when I start I always say that I’ll do it right at least once and I end up doing just like always….but the result is most of time bad !!!! and I keep on doing it !!! Why ??? Maybe because I want to eat it all by myself 🙂 🙂

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Sofia – How wonderful that you’re a rule-breaker too … and I love your reflections on just why that may be the case … I’m a greedy cook too (especially when it’s something sweet and chocolatey). xx

  10. Lynne

    The cake looks delicious. I tend to do more of my own thing in the kitchen these days.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Lynne – I’m glad the cake looks OK, it tasted rather wonderful … I had a real craving for it at the time, so that probably helped. Doing your own thing in the kitchen is a lovely thing to do! 🙂

  11. Erika Lee Sears

    Tracey 🙂 it looks perfectly delicious. I am the worst baker ever because I hate measuring ! drives me crazy.

    E

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Erika – I’m glad you think so … I probably shouldn’t make as many cakes as I do though, thank goodness for the gym! 😉

  12. Selma

    I used to be very precise about my baking – weighing everything, having my butter at room temperature and all that – but now I’m a bit more slap happy. I no longer sift and (heavens to murgatroyd) sometimes even estimate grams and so on. It’s quite freeing and still tastes good. I am also impressed by all the science subjects. You could split the atom in your kitchen by the sounds of it!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Selma – Yes, yes … that slap happy approach definitely suits me too … I think the precision probably works better for those who take their cooking very seriously. As I never had ambitions of being a chef, I’ve kind of relaxed on the need for all that bother …

      As for the science, well I really liked learning *most* of it … although I never really got physics and for some strange reason chemistry ended up being one of my best subjects … though I think the atom will be safe from me! 😉

  13. caren

    Love this dangerous baking post! I too let the rules slide when I bake. But one thing I always am careful about is adding ingredients individually & stirring between each addition (not with little things like salt & baking powder, etc). I’m comfortable getting a little dirty in the kitchen when I bake. 😉
    Love that quote from your home ec teacher: “always gradually add liquid to dry’, and ‘be mean with the dry and kind with the liquid ingredients”!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Caren – I’m glad you enjoyed this very dangerous cooking post … Being careful with adding ingredients and ensuring they are properly mixed are two areas well worth that effort … there’s nothing worse than having something that hasn’t been stirred through … yuck!

      I like getting a little messy in the kitchen too … thank goodness I have an apron … it’s satisfying to get it more than a little messy! 😉

  14. Candice

    I tend not to follow the rules either when it comes to cooking. I only have one measuring cup at the moment (and I’m too lazy to buy others) so when it’s already got something inside it, I tend to just estimate the rest of the ingredients. Except when I bake bread. Dough scares me so I tend to follow the recipe carefully. Great post!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Candice – YAY! I’m so happy to hear that I’m not the only kitchen ‘rule-breaker’ … estimating measurements is a fun thing to do, and pretty much it always works out OK. Oh yes, but like you I tend to be a bit more precise when it comes to dough related recipes … I have a unique ability to easily stuff those up! Haha! 🙂

  15. woolf

    i think i may very much be the cook going by gut feeling, for the little cooking i’m managing these days (not having a proper kitchen), but i did come across the all too well known phenomenon of not properly weighing the ingredients in the sweet kitchen and my cake came out rather unappetizingly solid, instead of fluffy.
    you know, i’m saying to myself, it may have something to do with the combi microwave that i’m having to live with, for now.
    but i know; i know. there was another problem.
    we’ve eaten it though. finishing it off this morning, toasted. 😉
    n♥

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Woolf – I’ve had that trouble with my cakes not turning out exactly as they should … and it’s so disappointing when that happens. After those troubles I remind myself that perhaps I really should follow a recipe more closely …

      Having to make do with a combi microwave would be a baking challenge … I’m not sure I’d know where to begin. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed the cake anyway … toasting fixes anything and everything!! 😀

  16. katie

    mrs davies! what a horror! even when I think about her now, in clear-eyed adulthood, I still think she was awful.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Katie – Oh I know what you mean. There are some moments from Home Ec classes that still make me cringe and wonder just what she was thinking.

  17. hannah_ruby@hotmail.com

    I often just melt my butter in the mircrowave.. or if it is required to be at room temperature i just zap it in there for under 30 secs so it is a little softer.. I am too impatient! I also always overdose on the vanilla extract, the required amount never seems generous enough for something that good!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Hannah – Oh yes, a microwave is another great butter-melting alternative! 🙂
      I’m impatient too and too lazy to dirty a saucepan for the butter-melting process … Haha, I ALWAYS go heavy on the vanilla extract too (I love the flavour it produces) … I’m not sure whether everyone eating my baked goods likes that (oh well). 😉

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