There’s a common phrase that goes “cooking is an art, baking is a science.” I take issue with this. I understand that people more closely associate baking with science because there are perhaps more obvious and exacting chemical reactions (leavening, to name a big one) but flavor itself is a result of chemical reactions between the molecules that make up food and, surely, that’s important in cooking as well. How does a roux thicken a stew? How do eggs emulsify oil? Science.
I’m really not trying to be a contrarian or a know-it-all, I’ll freely admit that I have no authority to be discussing science in any capacity (but… I still hate the phrase). I could just as easily take up the case of baking as an art. Not to get all middle-school-essay on this but art, by definition, is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination…producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power (and, yes, I absolutely copy and pasted that). What, I ask, is more emotional than sinking into that first bite of chocolate soufflé after a difficult day? What’s more beautiful than the cross-section of a croissant?
These things, and more, lead me to the conclusion that both cooking and baking are both science and art and that they are inextricably linked, not to be reduced to a common phrase. Take, for example, this pavlova. A simple egg, two ways. In fact, if I owned a pretentious restaurant, that’s what I would call this dessert: simple egg, two ways.
A mere quarter cup of slippery, yellow tinged goo becomes mountainous plumes of snow white meringue. Over a heat application the same egg reacts to form a velvety jelly. A few restrained accompaniments, a stained glass-like slice of blood-orange against the rough, verdant pistachios. Whether it is art, I suppose, is up for debate. Whether it’s delicious, I’m afraid, is not.
Mini Pavlovas w/ Blood Orange Curd
For the Pavlovas
I used Zoë Bakes’ meringue recipe from her Boozy Cherry Pavlova post. At the bottom of the recipe she includes great instructions to make miniature pavlovas, but you can, of course, make one large pavlova if you wish.
Blood Orange Curd
- 2 blood oranges
- 1 lemon
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 lb. (one stick) butter, at room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Note: This curd contains fine bits of citrus zest. If you want a completely smooth curd, skip the zest part and just go straight to creaming together the sugar and butter.
Peel the oranges and lemon with a vegetable peeler. Pulse peels and sugar in a food processor until the zest is finely chopped. Squeeze oranges and lemon and measure out 1/2 cup of juice. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together butter and zest sugar until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time. Add the citrus juice and salt and mix until everything is fully combined. Transfer to a medium saucepan and cook over low heat until the mixture thickens. Transfer to a heat-safe bowl and press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Let it cool slightly on the counter, then transfer to the refrigerator to finish cooling.
Simple Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Whip cream, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until the mixture forms medium-stiff peaks.