Tag Archives: Baking

Cooks And Bakers

It’s Foodie Friday and today I want you to think about if you’re a cook or if you’re a baker.  Your immediate response, assuming you spend time in the kitchen, might be “Gee, I do both.”  That’s probably true.  When I’m preparing the Thanksgiving feast, I bake pies and the occasional cake but I am definitely NOT a baker.

One of the bakers at Boudin Bakery in Fisherma...

(Credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it’s my rebellious nature (those of use who lived through the 1960’s have that streak) but baking is way too rigid for me.  Baking is chemistry.  It’s Baroque music to cooking’s jazz.  One has specific formulas and rules; the other encourages improvisation.  I know how certain flavors go together and armed with just an idea and my tools I can usually make something pretty good.  Try that with baking.

When you make a baking mistake it’s pretty obvious.  Not so with cooking.  I can eyeball a tablespoon of oil for a pan.  Try eyeballing a tablespoon of baking powder armed with the knowledge that if you’re off the whole project fails.  This is not to say I think less of bakers.  They are far more precise and patient than I tend to be in the kitchen.  I can’t see very many bakers I know or see on TV going off on a rant while many of the chefs appear to be aggressive, anxious, and on edge.  Walk in to any restaurant and you’ll see them both.  Which is, of course, the business point.

Like a restaurant, any business needs both bakers and cooks on the team to produce a complete product.  You need the team members who try new things and crave pushing the boundaries.  You also need the ones who are calmer and more grounded in the “recipes” that make your business go.  Which brings us back to my initial question.  Are you a baker or a cook?  There is no right answer, but whatever your answer is should remind you that you need someone to make the other half of the menu.  You might be a cook who can bake a little (me) or a baker who has kitchen skills but finding both types are what will make your business well-rounded and last.

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More Doh!

A couple of Foodie Fridays ago, I wrote about a Cooking LIght piece that discussed some of the more common mistakes we amateur cooks make.  Since it’s Friday again (funny how that happens every week or so), I thought I’d present a few more lessons from the kitchen and remind us how what goes on in the kitchen is a lot like what goes on in business.

Today’s first mistake comes from the world of baking.  Unlike cooking, baking is very precise, mostly because it’s chemistry.  The problems come when untrained bakers begin to make substitutions in a baked good.  You know – something sounds too fattening (I hear that’s possible) so you change the butter to oil or applesauce.  Maybe you use a sugar substitute instead of some or all of the sugar.  That’s a noble idea but it disrupts the basic chemistry of the cake and it often comes out badly.  Business is a lot like that.  Some supervisors think that all their workers are interchangeable and ignore the basic chemistry of a good team.  Unfortunately, that kind of thinking often results in a less than optimal result.

Error number two is not understanding the difference between boiling and simmering.  Boiling something happens at a much higher heat than does simmering it gently.  While boiling rather than simmering can cook a dish more rapidly, the result is rarely edible.  Boiling a stew instead of simmering it can result in tough meat, for example.  In business, the equivalent error is yelling and screaming at someone – turning the heat way up – instead of applying a gentle heat that might take a bit longer to work but yields better results.

Finally, many home cooks don’t use thermometers to check the temperature of meat.  They rely on timing as stated in a recipe or some calculation like 6 minutes per pound instead of checking to see if the meat has come to a proper temperature.  This can result in a product that’s over- or under-cooked.  I know of people who don’t rely in measuring devices such as analytics to run their businesses and that’s the equivalent mistake.  There’s no way to tell how a business is doing – digital or otherwise – without using impartial measurements of some sort.  Just as a beautifully browned roast may not be cooked, a business that looks nice on the outside may not be fit for consumption once you dig in.

Enjoy the weekend!

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Changing It Up

Matzah: unleavened bread

Image via Wikipedia

This Foodie Friday is taking place in the midst of Passover, the annual celebration of matzoh and laxatives (trust me on this) that commemorates the Jews’ salvation and departure from Egypt.  For those of you who don’t celebrate it, the traditions of the holiday go far beyond not eating bread.  In fact there is a fairly lengthy list of proscribed foods which, depending on from which part of the Jewish world your family comes, can include corn, beans, and other things one wouldn’t immediately associate with unleavened bread.

I usually make the celebratory Passover meal for our family which of course makes me think of a quick business lesson.  Food and business?  Must be Friday! Continue reading

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Filed under food, Helpful Hints