Conventional wisdom says baking requires precision and cooking does not. So, the conventional wisdom goes, if you don’t like to measure precisely and follow recipes to the letter, then you’re not going to be a good baker. That same logic says that cooking does not require attention to detail or to instructions.
Poppycock I say. (Actually, I say something slightly saltier, but you get the picture.) You can improvise when you bake and you should heed directions when you cook. In both pursuits, the adventurous among us will find variations that work well and even improve the dish. Those who are more timid can stay on the well-trod path and still get a fabulous meal or baked good. The trick is to recognize what your cooking/personality is, and to learn how to stay true to yourself while forging ahead in the kitchen.
If you like to push boundaries, experiment, and try new things, don’t be afraid to take that spirit into the kitchen. What is the worst that can happen (assuming you’re not experimenting with fire, literally)? You might make a mess or have to throw out a disastrous experiment, but that’s not a high price to pay for trying a great idea that just didn’t work out too well. And if you succeed, you’ll have great food as well as a feeling of accomplishment.
Case in point - last night as I was getting ready to settle in for my nightly fix of John Stewart, I got a text from my favorite West Coast adventurer, my son Liam. He had just made my banana bread recipe, but instead making a loaf as the recipe called for, he made muffins. The question was, not should he do it – already done – but how long to bake them? You have to love that adventurous spirit. Here are the beautiful results of Liam’s wanderings “off recipe” as we say. Report from the West Coast is that the muffins tasted fabulous.