I am a self taught cook and I began with baking. Measuring ingredients is an essential part of baking. In fact in recent years I have even used a scale to get the precise amount that a recipe requires. In tricky baked goods my “just about a cup” isn’t good enough. I have a drawer full of various measuring cups including 2/3 and 3/4. Three different sets of measuring spoons hang from the backsplash over the kitchen counter. I know the difference between dry measuring and liquid measuring and use the appropriate cups for each. In short I understand baking as a mathematical activity giving me a chance to frequently use the fractions I learned in grade school.
My first husband cooked by sight, taste and smell. He had grown up with a mother who never consulted a cook book and he had an acquired understanding of how to make a meal from whatever was on hand. He frequently called what he made “gumbo,” but it was never the same meal twice. I was constantly in awe of this talent as I continued to consult cook books to make dinner, applying the same baking rules to cooking.
Recently Sam Sifton, of the New York Times, published an article promoting his newest cookbook called, ironically enough, No Recipe Recipes. He shared a pork chop dish and gave approximate amounts for each ingredients. Basically he was demonstrating in small steps what seasoned cooks, unhampered by the rules of baking, already know. Sight, taste and smell can guide you as you make dinner. At 73 I am just beginning to consider that cooking doesn’t have to be “by the book.”
Baking, however, will continue to be my forte. Things turn out just like the pictures because I FOLLOW THE RECIPE.