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A small knob of experience

I've noticed that American recipes tend to be very precise about measurements, whereas recipes from other cultures are more "analog". They use phrases like "a small knob of butter" and "a small piece of ginger root, peeled and sliced".

The assumption is that you've either cooked something like this before, or you've watched someone cook, and you know about how big a small piece of ginger root would be. As opposed to the large pieces you use for other purposes.

It's cozy, and has a certain reassuring imprecision that "1.5 tablespoons butter" wouldn't have, but it doesn't translate well.

Also, and so that you may benefit from my experience, steaming is not a good way to prepare still-frozen fish fillets. Unless you are very patient. And not hungry.

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np_complete
Mar. 26th, 2010 12:01 am (UTC)
That's very interesting! And, I would add, there's a distinction between bread baking and other kinds of baking. I've known a number of bread bakers who do their measuring purely by eye, and a lot of recipes say things like "6-8 cups flour", acknowledging that each batch can come out differently. I'd say the tricky bit with bread, where you have to measure or at least have a learned awareness of what's right, is temperature, both of ingredients and of the room/rising place.

A very interesting observation! Thanks for sharing it!
capemaynuts
Mar. 26th, 2010 01:44 am (UTC)
My father is a world class master baker. He always tells me that baking is a science that involves knowing the conditions you are working in. Things as silly as what water you use can completely change the taste and texture of a baked product. Its one of the reasons the best sourdough comes from Northern California and the best bagels come from the New York City area. Its literally the water used.
But the science is in the proportions. A good baker might be able to mix by eye, but if you were to actually measure, he always uses the same ratio of ingredients.
np_complete
Mar. 27th, 2010 01:39 am (UTC)
My father is a world class master baker.

Neat! Very neat! (My father is (by profession) a mathematician, but aside from him teaching me easier ways to do algebra and geometry than I was being taught in school, it's never had a lot of real-world benefit.)

But the science is in the proportions. A good baker might be able to mix by eye, but if you were to actually measure, he always uses the same ratio of ingredients.

I believe it!