That “Feel” Thing

Recently, Judy Thomsen of Condon wrote to me. She diplomatically mentioned that I forgot to include the baking time for “Creeping Crust Cobbler” in last week’s column.  Her question prompted me to stop and think. Why had I omitted such important information? Because I rarely pay attention to cooking times, that’s why!

I think of time differently than most people. Life flows on and events seem to have their own clocks. They unfold in accordance with their own unique rhythms; they take all the time they need to reach full expression. Haven’t you noticed that when you plan something, the estimated time often varies from the time things actually take? That’s called planned versus actual. Your prediction just doesn’t match up with what’s going on in the real world. Usually we have absolutely zero power to make things hurry up or slow down. We are powerless to force a conclusion to matters. A clock is an artificial, grid-like, inflexible thing that tries to measure something that is flexible: life as it unfolds in real time with all its unknown variables. Often life inserts itself into our plans, usually without asking for permission first.

The cobbler’s  baking time is around 30 to 40 minutes. But remember not all ovens bake at the same rate. Temperatures vary. Humidity affects the way food bakes, as does atmospheric pressure. Were the ingredients cold when you put the food in the oven? That increases the cooking times. A more reliable indicator of doneness is to rely on all your senses. When the cobbler is finished, it bubbles up around the edges. The top will be a dark golden brown. And suddenly poof!! The kitchen explodes with a lovely, potent fragrance that says – okay, I’m done, get me outta’ here! Maybe the cobbler took only 25 minutes. I can hear the clock arguing with the cobbler. Nooooo! You are not ready yet because I said so!!! You need to stay in there ten more minutes. So you can see, cooking times are estimates only.

Recently, I made “Brenda’s Peanut Clusters”, the recipe I wrote about in December. I made them exactly the same way as I did before, and they take three hours to cook in a crockpot. I set the timer for three hours and wandered off and forgot all about them. When I got back to the house in three hours, the kitchen smelled like scorched chocolate. How could that be? Well, cooking times vary. This is a perfect example of what I was just trying to explain. I need to take my own advice, don’t I? And pay attention to my senses. They are reliable, true, and accurate helpers in baking and cooking.