What is it about human nature that makes us willfully engage in activities that we are certain will have disastrous outcomes? That extra martini? Probably not going to make getting home (or remembering your bag) any easier. That cute guy reeking of Axe Body Spray? Probably not going to call you back. That inky black Prada bag with butter-soft leather that you simply couldn’t leave, because it felt like a baby being snatched from a mother’s arms? Probably going to feel like a bulldozer landed on your head when you see your credit card bill.
For whatever reason, the complicated and mysterious workings of our minds make it such that we do things we know are wrong with willful ardor. Such was my situation baking a long-forgotten favorite treat, Sticky Cinnamon Twists, over the weekend.
Looking through the ingredient list, the only one I didn’t have on hand was bread flour – which was unfortunate timing, because I just cleared my pantry of most of my outdated, rarely-used flours. Boston was a balmy -2° that day, which made the choice to go to my lesser corner-store, rather than walk 15 minutes to Whole Foods, an easy decision. Unfortunately, DeLuca’s didn’t have bread flour – they had All-Purpose, Cake Flour, and some new concoction that included a variety of other ingredients, which I immediately distrusted, but no bread flour. Now, my rational mind said, “Either go to Whole Foods and get the bread flour, or just use all All-Purpose in the recipe.” The sadistic, curious, and much more persuasive little imp of my imagination said “I wonder what would happen with Cake flour?” The imp won.
Now, back in my feverish bread-baking days, I could have lectured endlessly on the distinctions of the different types of flours – protein content, interactions with yeast, what kind of crumb different combinations would yield. I was rather prolific in the field of bread-baking. But, then I started working, and acquired a deeper knowledge of API integrations than of how to produce the perfect crumb and crust, which, in my opinion, is a rather sad state of affairs.
Anyhow, the point is, I should have known better, and was really not at all surprised at the outcome. The cake flour is far too fine to produce the desired chewy and stickiness that the title suggests. Moreover, the filling of the twists – copious amounts of raisins, sugar, sour cherries, butter, and cinnamon – were far too heavy for the fine dough that the cake flour produced. You can see the raw twists almost weeping with strain to contain the filling.
I haven’t included the recipe here, as I’d like a few more turns at it to at least get it down properly, but I did want to offer a slightly different perspective on the rule that baking and its measurements must be exact. Ingredients and measurements in baking must be exact if you want precisely the same outcome that the recipe author intended. However, I would venture, that it is rather difficult to make loads of butter, sugar, cinnamon, flour, and a little yeast not taste good – in fairness, the Sticky Cinnamon Twists were still delicious, even if the results was not the intended form.
In other words, the paradox of baking is such that it requires a fair amount of precision to make a perfect recipe, but almost no precision to make something that tastes good. So, the moral of the story is to be fearless, make your bad decisions, even with baking, because, while the outcome may not look picture-perfect, it, like the martini, cute guy, and Prada bag, will still be delicious.