i got my brand new kitchen scale in a few weeks ago (a rather inexpensive kitchen investment that i’d never really thought of before) and have been rather intimidated by the perceived complexity the process would involve, so i put it off for a few weeks.
but today…today, i broke in my scale and made the first major effort to see if this ratio mindset really had any legs to it in the kitchen.
to keep a long story short, it was a sweet success!
i have been wrestling with the concept in my head for the past few weeks, psyching myself out by the sheer amount of information that i’ve been absorbing about ratios, conversions, numbers, charts, cooking, books, etc. i needed to give it a test drive, see if i knew what i was talking about, or if i could really believe it and be behind it. so i decided to try one of michael ruhlman’s simpler ratios: free-standing custards with a ratio of 2 (parts liquid, in this case i used milk): 1 (part egg). seemed easy enough, 2:1. with a custard, i could have gone sweet or savory, seemed like the possibilities were already lining up for me. i checked my pantry to see what i had in there and pulled out a few things i could use off the top of my head.
bread pudding it is. perfect, i was making snacks for a get together tonight and this would (hopefully) please the crowd. so i started with the basics. i now know that 1 large egg=2 oz., and 1 cup of liquid=8 oz. by using what i’m calling a cooking constant (something that the measurement doesn’t change, and can be used to base other ingredients and ratios off of…eggs, for instance) i easily figured out that the ratio is 1 egg (2 oz): 1/2 cup milk= a free-stranding custard. now, i’m not one to follow a recipe or rules in the kitchen. i like to have a set of guidelines (suggestions) and then make it up as i go, really let my creativity run wild in the kitchen. so i started with milk and eggs.
next i had to look for a bit of help from mr. ruhlman about HOW to do it. what temperature do i cook custards at? is there anything i should know before jumping in? looks like preheating the oven to 325 was the suggestion, so i decided to go with it. set my oven temp and started mixing my ingredients.
from there i wanted to test the waters to see what kind of results i would get with different approaches to the concoction i was creating.
i cleaned the dishes while they were cooking and had a back-up plan (which i’m proud to say was less of hit than my finished products).
did custard 3 ways. to the custard base ratio (eggs & milk) i added some sugar (i had brown, so that’s what i used), cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla extract, oh and a pinch of salt…because salty and sweet is the best flavor combination out there in my opinion. i did a straight custard to see if i could get it right. put that in a ramekin in a water bath (so that that cooking temperature doesn’t rise above 212 degrees (even cooking temp). next i did a bread pudding (added some of the sour batard bread…this bread makes fantastic grilled cheese by the way!) in a pan, and last i did a bread pudding in a water bath to see if there would be any difference in cooking.
the custard finished first 325 for 30 mintues. let it cool and it is sitting in my fridge for dessert tomorrow night (possibly just a panna cota or creme brule!). the straight cooking pan bread pudding came out at 34 minutes while i let the water bath bread pudding go for 39. i could have cooked the last one longer, but pulled it out to be safe.
and that was that. i’m proud to say that it tasted delicious. i think i was off on the ratio of bread to custard, but that’s for another time. next time i would have used a deeper dish and used more bread and more pudding. spreading it out between 3 different variations was great for a test run, but knowing how to do it better next time, i’m excited to try again.
i think one of the most important things to remember in the kitchen is that everyone makes mistakes. that’s a part of life and a part of learning anything. it’s the attitude that pushes you forward and motivates you to try again to make it better the next time. there’s always room for learning and improvement in the kitchen, keeping a positive attitude is half the battle. the other is getting out of the way of yourself. not doing something because you’re afraid is just plain sad. just do it, learn from it and do again. i had to take a bit of my own advice this week.
i think michael jordan said it best when he said,
“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”