Achieving the perfect balance in a baked good is a difficult task. We all know the “perfect balance” when we taste it and look at it — that harmonious juxtaposition of a firm, textured glaze on the exterior, coupled with a moist, warm, chewy interior.
Yet it seems all too rare that we encounter such gloriously balanced baked products. This is due, perhaps, to the machine-like, yet artful, process of hands-on baking.
Baking is quite distinct from the art of cooking. Cooking is remarkably forgiving–chefs often seem to operate as much on spontaneity and intuition as procedure, adding a pinch of this, a dash of that, experimenting with a new ingredient.
You can frequently witness professional chefs brazenly pouring out litres of wine into a dish or hacking off giant swathes of butter into their sautees. Their talent is based less on precision and more on artistry and taste.
A baker, on the other hand, cannot get away with such wanton displays of creative abandon. If a measurement of any given ingredient is off, or if the oven heat is altered in any way, their final product may be unsalvagable. They must be precise in their measurement and procedures, much like a scientist in a laboratory.
However, this is not to suggest that there is no art nor creativity in baking. But this art is more subtle, more controlled. The art lies in creatively condensing a surprising mix of tastes and textures into a final product that is consistent and balanced in the manner aforementioned.
This may explain, then, the rarity in coming across a truly balanced baked good. Humans are by nature fallible–our measurements by hand will always be slightly different each time. Yet it must now be noted that wholly machine-generated baked products–while consistent and often quite tasty–are lacking in a quality that suggests that it is this very human individuation that lends the utmost quality.