Luckily for me, cooking and baking always seem fresh. The start of a new project — whether it be constructing a multilayered cake or just getting breakfast on the table in the morning (or, rather, in a pack for the train) — feels a little different every time; it’s like a break from the reality of that day, that moment. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been actively interested in cooking for several years; I will always be mystified, humbled by the way flour, butter, and water make layers of flaky pastry and even how just a ½ teaspoon of mustard can emulsify two competing forces — oil and acid — so seamlessly. The fact that I know the science behind these things doesn’t make them any less wonderful; the process feels new and beautiful every time.
Despite this, I have this annoying need to tinker. A neurotic tick. (This probably doesn’t come as a surprise.) I cannot leave well enough alone. Not just in the kitchen. I’ll look back at the bed I made several times, smoothing out the wrinkles, tightening the corners. It’s a way to regain control when life seems so very out of control. It’s a way to make everything a game, make the mundane fun. With food, it’s more about that second point. When I use a cookbook recipe, I usually find myself saying things like, “hmm, that sounds great, but it’ll be too sweet; how much sugar can I subtract before my measures affect browning and coagulation?” or “ooo, that flavor combination sounds lovely — but it would be even better with y instead of x.” For fun. To learn. And I usually like what happens. I liked lining the bottom of this cream tart with white chocolate that I caramelized. I liked coming up with variations on these delicious bites.