Knowing the recipe by heart

Having a large cookbook collection is wonderful – being able to consult numerous tomes to find the perfect dish for any occasion is a blessing. Sometimes, however, you may find yourself wanting (or needing) to make something without relying on a book. For many savory dishes, this is not a problem, since you may be able to ‘wing it’ successfully, even without referring to the text.

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

When it comes to baking, however, ‘winging it’ can result in disappointment, even if you are an experienced baker. The wrong amount of leavening, an imbalanced ratio of sugar to flour, or other small change can lead to a dry, dense, or soggy outcome. That is why I have memorized the recipes for a handful of sweet baked goods, so even in the most trying circumstance I can have the comfort food I crave. 

This memorization comes in handy when you are laid low by a bug, are baking in an unfamiliar kitchen, or just need something to satisfy your sweet tooth NOW and there are no candy bars at hand. The first baking recipe I memorized was for an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Using my kitchen scale to minimize measuring time, I can whip up a batch of these jewels in six minutes flat, far less time than it takes the oven to preheat. In under 20 minutes I can be rewarded with gooey, sweet, chocolate-flecked goodness. If I use the toaster oven, the time can be shaved even more for the first bite (although I won’t get a full batch baked).

I also have recipes for fruit galette, posset, and a simple cake tucked away in my head so I can be on the way to sweet deliciousness in a matter of minutes. Having a dessert recipe memorized may not be an absolute necessity – it doesn’t put dinner on the table – but sometimes it’s just the ticket to make a bad day better in a hurry.

Photo of Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from Sheet Pan Suppers by Molly Gilbert 

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  • Jane  on  April 21, 2019

    With EYB access from my phone I don't feel like I am ever too far away from my favorite recipes. The only two baking recipes I have memorized are my grandmother's Scottish shortbread (because it's a ratio recipe) and Nick Malgieri's Supernatural brownies, because I have made them so often.

  • MarciK  on  April 23, 2019

    I want to start having some recipes memorized. A cookie, a biscuit, and a pancake recipe would be good ones to start. Maybe even a basic cake/frosting recipe. My dad can make bread without a recipe, but I think he knows how to go by the feel of the dough rather than memorizing quantities or weights.

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