Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Nov 15, 2007 03:54 PM

Jfood Can't Bake - Any Other Home Cooks Have This Problem

Jfood is not afraid of any recipe. After cooking for college roommates, two little jfoods, mrs jfood, hundreds of dinners, he is very comfortable in front of his stove and his knives are a part of his arm.


He can not bake to save his life. As he writes this post, there is a apple crumb pie in the oven, and what a battle. So after jfood has commented on many topics it's time to throw himself under the bus. He just wants to know if he has company.

Jood was supposed to play cards with his buddies tonight but work interfered with many so the game was postponed. Mrs jfood was heading to the movies so jfood told himself, hey let's make an apple pie. So on the way home he buys some frozen Oronoque frozen crusts (please no comments he knows) a half a dozen apples and gets ready. Grabs Mrs jfood's copy of Kathleen's Bake Shop Apple Crumb Pie recipe and starts.

First he takes two crusts and blind bakes them. So far so good. Take one out and puts it on the counter and goes for the second. Kerplunk, it falls off the mitt and onto the floor. Now the dog looks up and smiles. Jfood cleans up the big pieces and the dog finishes the job. Jfood takes the third crust and blind bakes that one. Carefully onto the counter when ready. Jfood cuts the apples and that's easy and right in his skill set. Then he screws up the seasonings once and throws it out. Second time OK. Makes the crumb topping and leaves aside.

Then he places the apples in the two tins and looks. Man, these will be the thinnest pies in the world when they are over. So he takes all the apples, well at least the ones that do not fall on the floor and makes one big pie. Crumb topping on top and into the oven.

So in cleaning there are two ruined pie crusts, apples on the floor, flour, sugar and cinnamon on the counter and a very happy dog.

So do others have the same problem with baking even though they are not afraid of any entree recipe?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. cooks and bakers. never the twain shall meet.

    13 Replies
    1. re: steve h.

      steve...while i appreciate the kipling reference, i have to respectfully disagree...yes, i realize that those of us who possess the required skills that qualify us as both cook and baker are rare, but we do actually exist :)

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        (I disagree that we are rare.)

        and jfood, that's a day in ANY non-pro baker's kitchen! quit being a drama queen (king).

        Recipes from tried and true cookbooks (Joy, BH&G,etc) are handy for reference as to spicing, quantity of filling, timing, etc) Practice efforts aren't supposed to all be perfect, though you could get lucky. And I'll guess your knife skills came at the expense of more than a few bandaids !

        Press on jfood, press on!

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Yes, indeed we do. But you can't bake like you cook (i.e improvise, play around with amounts of ingredients, etc.). At least for me, baking needs to be pretty precise and I need to be careful to follow the recipe. And maybe technique needs to be a bit more practiced with baking (when is the dough wet enough, folding without killing the ingredients, etc.). I thoroughly enjoy both.

            1. re: bnemes3343

              An astute comment. Especially about how baking isn't conducive to improvisation until you really know all the elements that create a wonderful baked product.

              Precise measurements are a must. For a few years now, I have preferred to weigh ingredients, especially flour -- the end results are much better.

              And basic chemistry...know how leavenings work (baking soda, baking powder, yeast), what each needs to work, etc. Know what gets in the way of yeast rising.

              And last, the correct size of pan and correct oven temp make an enormous difference. This is one area where improvisation without knowledge can really get you into trouble.

              Good luck, jfood. Rooting for ya.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Thanks ML. Made Ina Garten's Apple-Pear Crisp tonight and it is in the fridge cooling off. But not without adventure. I got called into another room to answer a question and left the crumb topping going in the mixture. So it's not as crumbly as jfood would like.

                Jfood thinks it's the absolute best recipe for crisp he has ever tasted. Gets a "10" on the jfood recipe scale. Now if the cook can match the recipe, it will be a helluva dessert.

                1. re: jfood

                  Thanks for the rec, as I've never tried her recipe. As a fan of apple crisp during winter months, I appreciate trying new recipes. Here in the midwest, it's one of the best, most affordable winter fruit dessert options.

                  So far, the best one I've found was a Vanilla Apple Hazelnut Crisp at Traveler's Lunchbox, if I recall. The only thing I do differently with her recipe is to use cold butter for the crisp topping rather than room temperature, as I like the texture it produces a little better. I'll try Ina's recipe next, though. She's pretty reliable for baking recipes, in my experience.

                2. re: maria lorraine

                  Maria, I amazed that some people refuse to accurately measure, improvise crucial ingredients and don't know the few basic pastry techniques, and yet still expect baking to work.

                  Salt and other seasonings can usually be changed, up to 30% w/o effecting structure, but the first time you bake a new recipe, you most follow the recipe EXACTLY, this means NO SUBSTITUTIONS AT ALL.

                  I agree that a digital scale is nice, but even Rubbermaid measuring cups and spoons can create great baked goods, if proper technique is used. You don't need a Kitchenaid, Cuisinart or sil-pats but following directions is crucial. I know that many will say that following directions isn't fun or takes away creativity, but baking is much more precise that cooking and the margins of success are much tighter.

                  I have found that good bakers are GREAT savory cooks, but there are a lot of good cooks who cannot bake. The time that is spent learning how to be a good baker will be instantly reflected in everything else you cook, so please invest the time and effort.

            2. re: steve h.

              I'm going to disagree on this one too. I've had friends tell me this over the years then come to my house, or to something I've catered. I can and do bake and cook tho I find that I'm frequently asked to bake cause others don't feel they can. Practice, practice and no matter what my mom tells me - I only follow recipes to the letter the first time!

              1. re: AlaskaChick

                alaskachick and goodhealthgourmet,
                i stand corrected. not the first time i've been wrong :-)

                1. re: steve h.

                  wow, steve, do you ask for driving directions too? ;)

                  as i said, i know it's rare to find someone who can do both well. but i think in addition to possessing the capacity or skill, it's also a matter of what you enjoy. i have a dichotomous personality - i'm pretty evenly split between left-brain & right-brain qualities. so while the left side of my brain relishes in the exacting and scientific aspects of baking, the right side embraces the freedom for creative expression in cooking. [like alaskachick, i typically don't follow recipes when i cook].

                  most people are much more inclined to be heavily left- or right-brained instead of equally balanced between the two.

              2. re: steve h.

                I am both a cook and a baker, but ... somehow I developed a black thumb for yeast! When I was in college I made yeast bread with no problem, but somehow in my 20s something went very wrong ...

                I was so unused to failure in the kitchen that I said, OK, no problem, there's a whole world of baking I can do with baking soda and baking powder which have never failed me ... so that's what I've been doing ever since.

                I cook without recipes and bake with them ... I do very occasionally improvise when baking, but not usually. So my approach to the two activities is completely different ... Cooking is much more forgiving.

                1. re: steve h.

                  I am an accomplished home cook, but consider myself a failure as a baker - solely on the basis of one miserably abortive attempt to make bread over 30 years ago (I do bake cornbread successfully). My wife, however, is both an excellent cook & master bread baker. So the twain do occasionally meet.

                2. Well, if it makes you (or jfood - I imagine that "you" are feeling awfully good right now) feel any better, I've noticed that a number of apple pie/tartin desserts that I make never seem to call for enough apples. And, I do recall that you made a tarte tatin once, so you can't be a general abject failure at baking. Given that you used frozen pie crusts (I do too sometimes) it sounds more to me like a general negative confluence of events, rather than poor baking on your part. That said, I do find baking more particular than "cooking", and have a much higher percentage of failures when baking rather than cooking. Perhaps this failure will make you feel better:


                  PS - so did you only have three apples per pie? Sounds like far too few to me.

                  Edit - Just to add - I actually consider myself a decent baker (with several buches de noel under my belt - grin), but every once and a while, a recipe just fails abysmally - or I do. Made my husband a chocolate cake for his birthday once and it was simply atrocious.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: MMRuth

                    I'm a long-time cook who's spent the last year trying to hone my baking skills. I guess that it's the lack of spontaneity allowed in baking that is my own undoing, as I have also made some big errors. I don't have a dog, but my SO is a very kind, hungry type of guy, and will polish off just about anything. Be of good cheer, Jfood!

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      yes tart tartin was an easy event, once jfood learned how not to "seize" the caramel. Threw away four or five batches before he figued out to leave it alone.

                      1. re: jfood

                        Exactly - I threw out one batch the first time I made it ages ago, and did the same after not having made it for a while.

                      2. re: MMRuth

                        That looks like a close cousin to my first attempt at tarte tatin a couple of weeks ago. I was making two, one a gluten-free crust for my son, the other pate brisee, and destroyed both. (Lots of baking experience, love to do it, but do have an occasional disaster.) A charred, solidified mess. Bummed the family out, after all those delicious smells cooking the apples and caramel.

                        Luckily I redeemed myself this past weekend and managed to get it right.

                        The leftovers were good, too. I turned the tarte back over into a pan so the crust was on top, and reheated in the oven. Not too soggy, almost as good as fresh from the oven.

                        Keep plugging, jfood! We all have battle stories.

                        1. re: bear

                          For some reason, I've had no trouble making apple ones - but that plum one - ack! Congratulations on your eventual success - I do the same thing with putting it back in the pan.

                      3. ROFL!!!!!

                        I do think it is a confidence thing. Tho I am not sure you have a great recipe. Blind baked shells are usually for things that do not need a bake or only a small one.

                        When I started reading yoru post...I thought only 6 apples for how many shells? Apples are a high water content item, as in they cook down.
                        Dropping a pie shell, is just that. You dropped X. I bet you have dropped lots of Xs but are just hyper aware of this one. Same with slicing the apples.

                        Now baking does requires some precise measurements and procedures; but I suspect that is not what is vexing you. I think it is just not a thing you think you can do; a confidence thing.

                        I can bake and make desserts. I do not like desserts, so do I do them as well as someone with a passion for them does? I doubt it. My Mom Loves to bake!!! That passion shows.

                        Jfood, be jkind on yourself.

                        1. The last cake I made was for my SO's 26th birthday. (He recently turned 42) And I still have the burn scar on my wrist. I absolutely can't bake, I hate to bake, I won't bake. Luckily the cake-deprived SO will make pie, pizza, bread, cookies and, yes, cake. I love to cook almost everything else, though, especially soups and stew-y things. I even enjoy cooking meat, though I don't eat it much. Baking..pooh!

                          1. I agree with MMRuth, on two counts: first, you'd probably be better off with six apples for ONE pie and second, there were mishaps that had absolutely nothing to do with baking. You can't fault yourself for accidents.

                            No harm using frozen pie crusts, either. I've been baking for years--usually successfully--and I just made my first from-scratch pie crust four weeks ago! And if you've made a tarte tatin, then you're one up on me. I am impressed!

                            I also agree that cooking seems to be a bit more "forgiving" than baking, which is more akin to engineering, chemistry and physics.