Baking is an Art

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[Not a Science]

Baking is an art form. I didn’t use to believe this, I used to believe that baking was a science. To put molecules together and know that they will bond correctly with added energy is a science. Following instructions, mixing properly, using the right amount of ingredients. Science.

But it isn’t. Yes, there are scientific aspects to it, like all art forms. You have to get the mixture just right to get the molecules to bond correctly, and that’s scientific. But how many times have you followed a bread or cookie or cake or pie crust recipe to the T, and it didn’t come out, right? I’ve done it so many times I convinced myself I wasn’t a baker.

And then I released myself of that idea, and as I do with photography, I started to let myself feel my way through the recipe. If the dough is too dry, I don’t say, “well the book says this so I must not add more water”, I add more water. If the sugar is still gritty after beating it with butter for the allotted time, I beat it some more. If the frosting is too runny, I add extra powdered sugar.

With baking, you have to practice. You have to learn the rules, and then, to get the recipe just right, to get those perfect cookies, cakes, breads, you have to break the rules. You have to feel the way the dough comes together, know how you want the frosting to run out of the bag, leave something in the oven longer than the time in a book. You have to understand how all the ingredients can change with the weather and humidity of your dishwasher that sits under one of your few large counter spaces, and then you have to know how to add a little take a little here and there, and what it feels like when you kneed something to the exact firmness you want it.

Baking is about finesse. It’s about practice. It’s about trial and error. But if you think about it, that’s what science is about to do. So In reality, is science really science? or is it an art form as well? I guess it depends on your definition of where the line falls between art and science. Or is baking in fact a science and the truth is that all sciences are creative and the one thing that makes most science art (like painting, photography, dancing, etc) is the emotional pull we have to it?

Do you like how I turned this into a philosophical debate? That was totally off the cuff.

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