Friday, February 5, 2010

Math+Science+Crying=Experimental Baking

So as you can imagine, when I first faced my one serving of sugary or medium-oxalate carb a day, I didn't quite follow all the rules.  I would sometimes conveniently forget that a cookie was made with rice flour, or think it's only a small amount compared to eating a cup of rice.  I justify sometimes.  Don't we all?

But I'm a determined person.  I'm a willful, ambitious woman and I apply that directly to any challenge that faces me (as long as you give me from 1 hour-1 day to be frustrated with said challenge, wherein I may possibly cry.) After justifying, the determined person in me woke up and thought, I don't have to bake with rice flour just because it works.  I can bake with other mixes of flour too.  And thus began my journey into a haze of alternative flours, poofing up before my very eyes.

When I'm experimenting with Gluten-Free baking, I find I get a lot of fails before I hit my successes.  I've seen train wrecks, rocks, and mush come out of my oven time and time again.  And I've learned the age-old, visual disclaimer the hard way:  just because it looks good, does NOT mean it tastes good.  I've thrown away some really valiant tries, and I've frozen some interesting products to be eaten with courage at a later date.  For the better part of 2-3 months, I've been divining what will be my new flour mix: a rice free, corn free, soy free, nut free, bean free mixture that will work well with regular recipes, with substitutions, and with different types of baked goods.  Seems like a lot to ask for, doesn't it?

Now let me take you back to school with me for a moment.  Remember when you sat in class and muttered those famous groans, When am I EVER going to use this stuff?!  Oh, I remember very clearly because I was always very vocal regarding school lessons and practical life applications. The only hope I had for my future, grown self was that I would in fact never use mathematical sciences daily as a part of my career.  To say I never excelled at mathematical science would be the understatement of the century.  I'll be the first to stand up and tell you I was all for biology and anatomy, but was destroyed by chemistry and physics.  Ironically so, experimental baking is ALL chemistry and physics.  Oh, cruel fates!

Since my brain doesn't function with numbers (I was so much more of an English kid), I'd rather think of baking experiments as logic puzzles which haven't been solved yet.  For all you middle-school science fair attendees, I approach the trials with informal if/then statements (hypotheses) and solve them through trial and error.  Of course numbers are involved with baking no matter what because you find you need more of this or less of that, but if you only look at measurements and do equations on recipes first, you'll end up with a mess on your hands.  My first flour mix used 6 different flours; I ended up with a mix that uses just 3 flours (nice and economical.) I could take you through all the tedious reasons why mixes 1-5 didn't work, but I'd rather not "show my work" and dwell on past failures.  Instead, I'd like to celebrate mix 6, which did work.  I've used mix 6 on three separate weekends now, altering the same recipe (my control) checking to make sure that the substitutions didn't disturb the ability of the mix to absorb or not absorb what I was doing to it.  This weekend I'm running trials on how the mix functions in an originally gluttened recipe and how it functions as a vegan mix, but I'm confident that both trials will hold up nicely.  I'm not quite ready to share mix 6 with you yet, but it's not far off in the distance.

So class, what have we learned?

  • 1) Don't quit if your experiment backfires, literally or figuratively.
  • 2) You may occasionally cry during this process.  Have tissues handy.  Wash hands.  Try again.
  • 3) Don't be afraid of experimenting with baking because it's just like a middle school science fair project, and we've all been forced to do one of those.
  • 4) If a dunce like me can apply the principles of school to life and make delicious baked goods, I guess mathematical science isn't 100% evil (maybe just 98.5% evil.)

Class dismissed.  Go make a mess in your kitchen :)

Tip:  When testing baked goods, make smaller batches of smaller goods.  I tested wholesome cakes with muffins.  Check out the blueberry!

If anyone would like to buy me a new camera, 
well please do...

1 comment:

  1. Those look awesome lol.... the best things are usually made by accident and experimentationg. Following you for sure.

    Ill stay tuned :D