Experimental Baking

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”.

Michael Ruhlman’s Tomato Water Pasta

If you can dice a tomato and boil water then this pasta is for you, courtesy of chef Michael Ruhlman. More of a technique than a recipe, it’s the perfect way to showcase a few gorgeous end of summer tomatoes. Don’t let the simplicity of this fool you, this is real-deal pasta. We’ve heard it’s one of Chewbacca’s favorites when he has friends around for dinner. Like Chewbacca, I love the technique of macerating the tomatoes and making a sauce from their juices fortified with a little butter, then tossing in the chopped tomato at the last minute to keep that fresh tomato flavor and texture. You can put this one together in just minutes, your kids will scarf it up — what’s not to love?

Invite some friends and serve this with some garlicky sauteed shrimp our favorite zucchini carpaccio and you are set for a great summer supper!

Get the recipe and a how-to video right here from Michael Ruhlman’s website.