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Al on Measuring Powders

Post 4550.1

Subject: Re: Cooking is an art form and baking is a science

<<sigh>> I slave and sweat, day after day, over a hot keyboard, trying to show some of the science of cooking and...

Oh, no - Ok - NOW I understand what you're saying.

Bamma never used a measuring cup as anything but a means of carrying ingredients from bulk to batter. Mostly, back then, the size of our recipes was determined by how much of the key ingredient we had. Not much flower? Small bread. Even less flower? One pie. Even less? Tart or top-crust pot pie. Less yet? Dumplings! Less? Ok - thicken the soup with a roux!!

That kind of cooking doesn't work well if you have to rely on cups OR pounds.

I'll be the first to admit, though: Part of that facility came from using the skill almost every day for fifty or sixty years, and most of us don't have that much time under our belts. Yet.

On the other hand, it does support one thing: Tolerances.

When you braise a piece of tough, nasty beef to make it edible, the amount of water you use is pretty free-form. "About half way up the side of the meat," right? Making a bread dough, the amount of liquid you use has to fall within MUCH narrower tolerances.

The easiest way to hit that range is to measure. Furthermore, the most reproducible, and hence reliable, means of measuring light, fluffy, powdery stuff that responds strongly to handling, atmospheric pressure, humidity and rock and roll is to weigh the material.

So: BOTH are more technology than science, and there's every bit as much science underlying cooking as underlies baking, with cooking leaning towards physics (heat exchange, granualization, disbursement of materials in a substrait) and baking leaning more towards chemistry (specific interaction of materials, reproduction of results by the exactitude of ratios of materials).

Every bit as much art, too! Make a biscuit dough and knead it too long and you get a shot put. Braise a tough, nasty piece of beef and let the liquid run out and you get a piece of shoe leather. Use too much salt in either one and you have a Christmas tree ornament.

The science is solid within the technology. The only real difference is the tolerances you have to work inside of.

Oh - and language skills, too! A preposition is a thing you should never Never NEVER end a sentence _WITH_!!

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Last Edited: 08/27/2010