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Monday, March 9, 2009

What the Heck does "Smooth and Elastic" mean?

Today's post comes to us from Marica over at NorthsideGuerillaFarmer.synthasite.com:

In my first post here post I presented a silly scenario in which a well-intentioned prepper had stocked up on flour and yeast and such so that she’d be able to bake homemade bread, just in case. Of course, when just in case happened, she was left scratching her head wondering what “smooth and elastic” had to do with bread. I suggested that now might be a good time to learn.

Learning how to do something new is learning the something new, but that can’t be accomplished until we learn the vocabulary and ways of speaking or writing of the something new, e.g., “smooth and elastic.” Katn, writing on How to Read a Recipe over at “Flourish in the Kitchen and Thrive in the World,” puts it this way:

“Recipes seem self-explanatory. A list of ingredients to be used is followed by a set of instructions meant to guide the reader through the preparation of a dish. On the surface, it seems all you need to know in order to read a recipe is how to read. But as is often the case, the surface is not where true meaning lies. We have been warned not to judge books by their covers; we too should not read recipes by their surfaces... . On closer inspection of your recipe, you may be surprised to find all manner of codes and abbreviations -subtleties of language- that hold deep meanings only for the society of cooks that know how to decipher them... ” (http://flourish.ology.com/2009/01/30/how-to-read-a-recipe/).

Katn then goes on to decipher many of these codes. She tells us, for example, that the ingredients list “will use order of words to describe some operations. One cup of peanuts chopped is not the same thing as one cup of chopped peanuts.” She notes, “some recipes will tell you when to start preheating, and some will assume you have already done it” Beware! “Don’t find yourself spending twenty idle and hungry minutes waiting for a cold oven to heat up, or ten minutes watching batter drip off of food while the oil gets hot enough to fry it.”

Speaking directly to our well-intentioned prepper, Katn concludes with a warning. A recipe “will NOT replace your roll in the kitchen or give you skills you do not possess.” But with Katn’s help reading a recipe (which includes excellent resources)-- and some practice!-- you can learn those skills. A good read (although I must admit I am biased, I’ve know Katherine all her life).

P.S. Thinking that I *should* tell you what “smooth and elastic” means, I just skimmed through every old cook book we own, and even some newer ones, and in none do I find a scientifically satisfying definition of “smooth and elastic.” In fact, I went backwards: most of the older ones said, “satiny, smooth, and elastic.” Moral of the story? Baking bread isn’t science. It's a skill, and you have to practice your skill. Katn stumbled on “breadbasketcase” and sent me the llink: http://breadbasketcase.blogspot.com/. If you are really serious about baking bread, take a look. This woman is amazing!


Kymber said...

Awesome post Farmergeek! and thanks for the links! I have been going through both sites and now have 2 more favourites to bookmark!

Humble wife said...

Good post, I know that this is so important. We must understand before a crisis occurs, the how to's of cooking or we will be in trouble!

Doc66 said...

I spent an entire day with a friend who owns a bakery learning just what it takes to make bread. Awesome time, it was.

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