It's easier than you think! What should we try that assume is too hard?

Baking is Science for Hungry People!

Guilty as charged.

Well, yeah, baking and cooking might be regarded as different things, but it surprises me still that what was all - until recently - general sort of kitchen-craft is now so divided.

And that cooking = art/baking = science thing? Don’t buy it. I’ve read that in bread books which then go on to say “but if the dough’s too dry - flours vary - add more water until it feels softer” or similar. I’ve frequently oiled my hands repeatedly while kneading dough, until the texture feels right. Mrs YP knows how much kirsch to put in the cherry frangipane filling of my favourite dessert by the pitch of the food-mixer’s whine as the mixture loosens. I’ve never once measured the amount of liquid that goes into my pastry: I know how feels when there’s enough.

Juggling. I’m about the most uncoordinated doofus there is, and I learned how to juggle in an afternoon from one of those Klutz books that a college roommate had. It’s not nearly as difficult as people think.

Reckon I could teach most people to - passably at least - play the drums. It’s really not the impossible “doing loads of different things at once” exercise that it initially appears.

I remember a thread a while back where people were talking about making their own pizza crust. So last time I went to the store I bought some bread flour and was reaching for the yeast when… hey, what’s this? “Pizza crust yeast”! Which makes it even easier, because you don’t have to wait for it to rise, you just make the dough ball and roll it out. And my granddaughter loves to help, which is great because for some reason I’ve never been able to get any of the grandkids interested in cooking.

Next I’ll try making my own pizza sauce.

I agree with this. And darning socks or knit sweaters is also very simple.

I’ve cut my family’s hair for decades. I won’t cut my own though.

But for all its difficulties, baking bread is not that kind of baking that is a science. You just mix up some stuff, wait, mix, wait, kneed, wait, bake. If you get the ingredients wrong, you still get bread. If you wait too long, or not long enough, you still get bread.

You get different kinds of bread: sweet, sour, heavy, soggy, tough, soft, crumbly etc. But it’s still bread, and it’s still (mostly) edible.

Oven temperature is important, but, from memory, not more difficult than when making pancakes or boiling eggs.

Certainly when I was making bread as a teenager, I didn’t measure anything.

To make the crust, all you need is flour, yeast, a lot of good olive oil, some warm water, and salt. That’s it. I was once forced to make crust without yeast, and it turned out alright. If you let dough sit for a while, it’ll rise a little on its own, without yeast. Nothing wrong with a crisp crust.

Contrary to what most people think, you needn’t cook pizza sauce. You can just mix the ingredients cold. I use a can of crushed tomatoes, a can of diced tomatoes, a small can of tomato paste, some olive oil, and some crushed garlic and Italian seasoning. Basil and oregano are mandatory, but I make my own blend that also contains parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. This is enough for six or seven good-sized pizzas. If you want to get fancy-shmancy, you can stir in some wine (red or white) and grated Parmesan cheese.

The thing with baking is, different ingredients serve different purposes. Some of those ingredients, yes, you need scientific precision with. If your recipe includes baking soda, then the amount of that is critical, and there’s going to be at least one other ingredient (an acid of some sort) whose amount is also critical. But most ingredients are just going to affect the texture (flaky or crumbly or firm or airy or whatever), and different people will prefer different values of those anyway. And a good number of ingredients are entirely for flavor, and can be tripled or left out entirely as you prefer.

as a baker and a chef…
you are 100% correct.


so correct on so many points…
I would add…make your dough three days out and let it ferment.



But see, you’re a supplier and a chef. You’re trying to get the same thing every time, not just trying to get something interesting and good to eat.

Also, of course sour-dough it even more of an art than yeast-risen bread.

Actually, I’d contend that the oil is a) optional, b) not needed in huge quantities if opted for and c) need not be particularly good. I do use oil, but I have it on good authority from a Neapolitan chef that I needn’t (and that proper old-school Italian pizza doesn’t feature it).

The classic method is to use a tin of San Marzano tomatoes and absolutely nothing else. I use cheapo supermarket own-brand tinned tomatoes which are nothing like as flavoursome, and therefore boil them down with (at least) salt, pepper, garlic-infused olive oil, basil and oregano to enhance and intensify flavour. But honestly, keeping it as simple and unadulterated as possible is best if you’ve got the good stuff.

I’m gonna argue a bit with that- learning to juggle 3 things is indeed very easy. You can learn that in a few hours of practice even if you’re pretty uncoordinated, maybe even with a few tricks. 4 isn’t bad either, you can probably get the simplest pattern within a week. This means a lot of people who have tried get that far and think ‘juggling is easy!’ and sneer at pro jugglers.

No, juggling 3 or 4 is easy, after that, the difficulty goes up exponentially (through the odd numbers, even numbers involve a different set of throwing patterns and generally aren’t so much of a step up). Most people can just about juggle 5 with 6 months to a year of determined practice, many people who’ve been juggling for decades still can’t get 7. There are probably only around 10 people on the planet who can reliably juggle 9, and no-one has ever managed more than a ‘qualify’* of 11 (that is, throwing each ball and catching it twice- once is a ‘flash’).

*OK, technically the record is 23 catches, so a qualify -22- plus one.

I don’t that viewpoint needs to be an argument though, really. The initial mention of juggling is fair enough: “basic juggling is easier than many people think” seems to be the long and short of it. Saying that basic juggling is easy while complex juggling is much harder doesn’t really contradict that.

People think fly fishing is complicated and expensive. It can be, but it can also be very straightforward and affordable. It’s one of those hobbies you can ramp up and go crazy with, but it can also be very accessible. The problem is knowing where to start and tuning out a lot of the jargon.

It’s just a bit too broad- it’s like saying ‘Cooking is easy!’ Well, yeah, it can be, but not all of it is, as people have pointed out in this thread.

I reckon most people would guess the world record would be higher than 11 items, and the learning curve is a hell of a lot steeper than it first appears to beginners.

I have a few friends who are pro jugglers, and they’ve all said they’ve had the reaction of ‘That’s not impressive, juggling’s easy, I learnt to juggle in a weekend’ from people, when they’re performing something that took 10 years to perfect.


but yes, as far as pizza goes the quality of the bread is the thing, simple toppings should enhance the bread not overwhelm it (and fresh yeast is best )

One thing I always recommend people to try is hiring a car on holiday. Swapping to the other side of the road is far, far easier than people assume. If you can drive on the crowded, narrow, fast roads of the UK you can drive anywhere.

The other thing that amazes me is that, though I live right down in the south-east of England about 15 minutes from the channel crossings, very few of our friends or acquaintances actually take their car to the continent. They worry about the “other side of the road” thing. It honestly takes about 5 minutes to get used to it, maybe less.