Let me paint a very familiar picture for you all. The baking day begins as beautifully as planned, you’re dancing around the kitchen sifting flour, whipping buttercream, pretty much nailing it, and then you bring your bake out of the oven and something has gone terribly wrong. WHAT? No, uh uh that was not how this day was meant to go?
At this point the usual course of action is to either shove it back in the oven in hope that a little more baking will fix it (wishful thinking), staring at it for a good 10 seconds before proceeding to eat the god damn thing, or frantically charging towards the bin and chucking the traitor away.
Baking is a wonderful thing, but my god when it goes wrong you want to tear your whole kitchen apart.
I’m sadly very akin to that little picture I’ve just painted and I’m not going to lie and tell you that I haven’t thrown my kitchen toys out of my pram following many baking failure. However, I quickly realised that this got me nowhere except a miserable moaning heap on the floor who was never going to learn anything, so I took action and put steps in place to help me manage those failures. You may find these pretty obvious but honestly, when you’re in that gloomy hole these are a well worth turning to help pull you out.
CHANGE YOUR STATE
I’m going to give my Fiance Liam, (and Tony Robbins) full credit for this one because Liam is the one who has to occasionally order me out of the kitchen to take a break and change my surroundings. Change of location, change of mindset.
Why Tony Robbins and who the hell is this guy you may ask. Well he is one of the most successful mind coaches who is well-known for his mantra “motion is emotion”
“The difference between peak performance and poor performance is not intelligence or ability; most often it’s the state that your mind and body is in.” —Tony Robbins
Let me elaborate. Basically, you are staring at your sunken cupcakes ready to start world war 3 with your oven, but you’ve got to start again as these cupcakes are on deadline for tomorrow. (Before you all say it, yes perhaps I should have allowed myself more than 24 hours but shhh I’m on it and we’ll cover time management later)
If you could step out of your body and take a look at it, how would you observe your posture in that moment? Slouched, tense, hands in head? Compare this to how you’d observe your posture when happy in the kitchen. Stood straight, possibly dancing and head held high.
If you try and redo the bake and remain in that negative posture, chances are those cupcakes will come out exactly the same so the best course of action is to remove yourself from that negative space and take a break to rebalance and change your state before returning.
In other words, emotions are linked to movement in our bodies which in turn is linked to how we operate. This is potentially a bit of a deep way of looking at what is essentially me trying to say “Take a break” but sometimes I need to think of it this deeply for the words to get through.
Once you’ve taken that break it’s time to step back in the kitchen and start again. You sure as hell don’t want a repeat of before so at this point it’s best to look back and try to understand what went wrong.
Usually failures are down to a number of things:
- Poor time management and planning
- Weighing out the ingredients inaccurately
- Poor quality of ingredients i.e. old eggs and flour
I talk about these in a bit more detail in my post Top 5 Baking Mistakes to Avoid
Once you’ve established the culprit then you’re good to go.
My biggest nemesis in the kitchen is cupcakes. This isn’t because I don’t know how to bake them, quite the opposite, it’s because I know them too well. So well that it’s almost second nature to just chuck the ingredients in a bowl and whip them up in 20 minutes. I grew up watching my nan who never weighed out her ingredients, she just knew by hand. I will always aspire to bake that way and when it comes to cupcakes/cakes it’s currently the closest I’m going to get.
While it’s great to have such confidence with a recipe, it’s often with these recipes (unless your my nan) where your attention slacks, and because of that you’re more likely to make mistakes. The best way to avoid that is by giving every bake the attention it deserves.
You’re not giving a bake anywhere near enough love and attention if you’re trying to complete in 30 minutes, and as mentioned earlier one of the biggest culprits for mistakes is poor time management and rushing.
So slow down. My favourite baking memories are when I’ve had the whole afternoon free, with the music turned up and a cup of tea brewing. Baking shouldn’t be about just getting the job done, it should be about enjoyment and creating memories along the way. Slowing down is the only way to achieve that and above all avoid failures.
WRITE IT DOWN
It goes without saying that if you’re adapting a recipe or creating one from scratch, writing down your ingredients and method is such an important step in making sure you avoid failure.
Baking is ultimately a science so you have to stay within the ratios when developing a recipe, however there is an option for some trial and error with the types of ingredient such as sugar, or the method to give you different textures. If the first attempt results in failure then you can look back and either amend the ratio or the method. Without those notes you there is no base to work from.
Similarly if your adapting a recipe or doubling it for a larger batch writing down the new ingredient amounts is better than just doing it in your head as you go along, and it also avoids the chance of adding the wrong quantity by accident.
I’m keeping this one simple. Accept that life is not all a Valencia Instagram filter.