Luca always surfaces when I’m in the kitchen baking. As much as I would love an assistant, he usually snubs my projects in favor of his own free-form creations. Can you blame a kid? Mixing, stirring and making strange concoctions never gets old, especially when mom lets you use the food coloring once in a while. I always dread the aftermath but I enjoy seeing him be creative and I’m pretty sure he’s learning some basic principles and techniques in the process.
Recently we’ve started cooking up some of his creations. Mostly bizarre results as you would expect, but surprisingly a few successes too. Now we know what happens to mini marshmallows in a “pancake”. We’ve also gained a more intuitive sense of how ingredients like baking soda work. This kind of highly experimental cooking, especially with someone who is always thinking out of the box, has sparked my own curiosity in ways I didn’t expect. Baking without a recipe has inspired me to touch, taste, smell, and pay closer attention to the details, like the consistency of a dough or batter…. reminding me that there’s a big difference between following and really understanding a recipe.
BTW: If you like experimenting in the kitchen and have an iPhone, you should definitely check Michael Ruhlman’s “Ratio” app. From a review in the LA Times: “The App breaks down 32 commonly used cooking formulas for everything from cakes to sauces and allows you to easily scale up or down and even measure by volume or weight (and either in ounces or grams).” Working off these classic formulas, it’s easy to get creative and you might just save yourself a few epic failures in the kitchen.
Experimental Brownies (surprisingly edible!)
Mini marshmallows do not improve a “pancake”.