I have a habit, whether it be good or bad I have not decided. I simply can not follow a recipe. How as a baker can this be? Well, a couple reasons… 1. I have a foundational knowledge of the science of baking and can slightly tweak recipes with an understanding that most likely the recipe will come out. 2. I have a lot of failed baking attempts. 3. My wanderings from recipes may be ever so slight.
So now I ask myself why do I do this?…1. Just as an artist does not consider a painting their own if they simply copied someone else’s work so I too do not consider myself a true pastry chef if I am using another’s recipe. But this is silly isn’t it? All chef’s use the recipe of another and then they may tweak it to suit their own needs but only after they have examined, tested and studied the original recipe. Am I right on this?
Well, obviously I am unclear on normal protocol, but what I am clear on is that everytime I go to bake I wander from the recipe and then once the finished product reaches my mouth I wonder…. “if I would have stayed with the original recipe would it be more moist, more flavorful, less chewy, more tender, sweeter, lighter, denser”… and so on and so forth. So then I am left to wonder if it was my alterations that caused the good/bad outcome or if I would have stayed with the original recipe would the results have been the same?
Take for example my bread baking experiences over this past week. When I go to make bread I love having the freedom to throw in some flour, water, yeast/starter and salt and then a few hours later have bread. But the thing is some days it’s perfect and then the next day it’s not. If I were to follow a recipe than my results would be more consistent and I would become more familiar with the product and once I have mastered that recipe it is then that I may tweak and know exactly what has occurred due to the deviation from the recipe. (Sorry for the run on sentence but it is late and I am trying so hard to make sense of this conundrum.)
So now the question is… should I devote myself to the discipline of following recipes so that later, when I have a better understanding of baking and the science involved, I would have more luck tweaking and creating my own recipes?
I am curious how others in the pastry business feel about this. Please let me know your thoughts on following/creating recipes.