Baker superiority complex…

Well, I haven’t gotten much hate mail in awhile so clearly I am being too politically correct as of late. So to rectify that, I shall bring up a topic that my friends and I were discussing the other day.

We were watching Top Chef and they all had to make a pie. The immense fear that was in the eyes of the contestants was too funny to me. It’s the fear that they all seem to get when they tell them they have to make a dessert. Now don’t get me started on the whole you know they do a dessert every season just memorize a recipe thing that I go off on every season, that was not the discussion my friends and I got into. The discussion topic was this….is it better to be a great cook or a great baker?

So I think we can all figure out where I stand on this one, but here is why…most people who can bake  seem to be okay in the cooking department as well. But I have met way too many a chef who is an awesome cook but can’t bake or make desserts to save their life (there are always exceptions I know). I am an excellent baker (though I have several sever disasters under my belt :D) and a decent cook. I used to belong to a supper club in Arizona. Every single member was  a chef except for me. When it was time for the meals to be allocated (we did it from just pulling out of a hat) people would throw hissy fits when they got stuck with bread or desserts. But the two bakers of the group always just took whatever we got and rolled with it. And for the record, every single one of those chefs would just bring bread or dessert from their restaurants.

Then there is the convenience of being a baker. It’s so much easier to bring someone a loaf of bread then say a rack of lamb or crock of chili. Doable yes, but awkward and usually needing refrigeration.

So what do you think? Better to be a great cook or a great baker?

Speaking of great baking…I present my 3am idea….cinnamon rolls topped with NY style crumb cake topping. Not sure how this craving came about, but it did. Oddly enough, I could not find a recipe for that idea :) , so I had to make one of my own.

This was such a poor choice to make. I seriously could not stop eating these. Lucky for me there was hockey that night and I could give them away. See, again, with the portable baked goods (plus one for the bakers).

This ends up being more like pull apart bread  or a cake than that of individual cinnamon rolls. But the messier the better, eh?

Baking is Better NY Style Crumb Cake Topped Cinnamon Rolls

For the brioche dough:
1/4 cup warm water (filtered preferably)
1/2 cup plus 2 tsp. granulated sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp. dried yeast
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
8 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into dime sized pieces

For the filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

3 TBSP butter, softened

For the NY Style Crumb Topping:
2/3 cup granulate sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cimmamon
16 TBSP (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
3 1/2 cups cake flour

Place warm water and 2 tsp. of  the sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast on top and mix with a whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand for 5 minutes while yeast blooms.

Add remaining sugar, vanilla extract, milk, flour, and salt. Using the hook attachment, mix on low speed for 3 minutes to start bringing dough together. Switch to medium speed and slowly drop pieces of butter into dough. Mix for 10-12 minutes. Dough will be wet and sticky and will have good elasticity when stretched.

Pull dough from bowl and onto a floured surface. Using extra flour on your hands, form dough into o a ball. Place dough in an oiled, medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Proof in a warm room, 70-75F, for about 2 1/2 hours. Dough will almost double in size.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugars and cinnamon. Set aside.

On a flour dusted surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long, with a short end toward you. Spread butter using your hands (messy but works best) across the dough leaving a1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you.

Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture evenly across surface. Press down the sugar into the butter.

Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can.

With a bread knife(or chef knife), using a gentle sawing motion cut the log into rounds a scant 1/2 inch thick. These are going to be smaller than your average buns because we are adding a crumb topping to them.

Spray baking spray into TWO 9-inch Spring form pans (you can just use a cake pan, but it is MUCH easier to remove using the spring form).

Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

20 minutes before the dough is done rising, prepare the crumb topping.

Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with a  spatula or spoon until the mixture resembles thick crumbles; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10-15 minutes.

Once cinnamon rolls have risen, split the crumble topping in half. As best you can evenly crumble topping on top of the cinnamon roll dough. Do this for both pans.

Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes and top with icing.

For Icing:

Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.

Brioche recipe from Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook by Leslie Makie

Icing recipe from The Break Baker´s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

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  1. I would say I’m better at baking, but I certainly can cook, too. I’ve never really understood why people are afraid of baking– if you can read, you can follow a recipe and get edible results. Obviously, some people take to another level, but everyone should be able to bake some things!

  2. It’s interesting to see where people stand with this. I know several people who hate baking, but love to cook. I love baking just a bit more, but I still really enjoy both! People in general also seem more impressed when you turn out a great baked good!

  3. Belladatura says:

    Baking is a science while cooking is an art – they both have a place. I much prefer baking because I like to follow a recipe (I’m not too swift when it comes to making something on the fly). And, like you said, people love baked goods!

  4. I agree with you regarding the fact that many people can be great cook, but that doesn’t make them great bakers. I have seen chefs on TV who were afraid of baking desserts…
    I am good I both, I believe. ;-)

    Those rolls look terrific!



  5. I agree with you completely. But then I am a baker, so I’m slightly biased. But a perfect example: my husband is the cook and I am the baker. I can take the reigns in preparing dinner anytime BUT I’ve never seen him step into make dessert. Only eat it! :)

  6. These cinnamon rolls look AMAZING!!!! I want some right now!

  7. Now that’s simply brilliant 3am thinking.

    I’d be really happy to just be able to bake really good bread.

  8. Definitely agree that it’s better to be a great baker! Love your idea for these cinnamon rolls.

  9. Who would send you hate mail? That looks divine!

  10. I prefer baking but I can cook too. I think some people just do not like the fact that they have to follow directions when they bake. Perhaps cooking is for the free spirit and baking is for the uptight…haha.

    By the way this bread looks freaking awesome. I could totally go for some right now…yum!

  11. Well based on these cinnamon rolls and how much we are dying to try one…we’ll say baking is better! And with the crumb topping…SOOOO much better!

  12. I love baking and I like cooking. I don’t bake much though b/c I end up eating it all and the ole waistline shows it!!!! These cinnamon rolls are definitely going on my list of must do’s though…they look amazing!!

  13. A) It’s more fun to bake.
    B) It’s more fun to eat baked goods.
    C) People like you more when you give them baked goods.
    D) People stupidly think baking is really, really, like ridiculously “oh my god I will die if you make me” difficult.

    In other words: WE WIN.

  14. I live to bake. I’m happy when the children offer to make dinner.
    These cinnamon rolls look fantastic. I’m finally glad it’s so hot in the house otherwise I’m be starting the dough now.

  15. See, I think you mentioned both of the advantages of baking (most bakers can cook too, plus it’s easier to foist baked food onto other people), but missed what is for me the biggest disadvantage – that most baked food is so bad for you that you have to try to give it away. Sometimes I think life would be easier if I loved combining new ingredients on the stove more than I loved watching the patten my mixer makes when it beats butter and sugar together…

  16. Peabody says:

    LOL- so true. I sometimes curse my ability to bake so well. :)

  17. That is so funny! I was thinking the same thing while I watched the episode. I would have to agree with the baking side and your argument that a good baker is usually a good cook, but a good cook doesn’t always make a good baker.

  18. Ariana from Chicago says:

    You’re going to hate this answer but I think you can be both. The cook is intimidated by the prospect of making layer cakes, so they decide to hate baking. The baker likes the exactness of baking, but doesn’t see how wonderful the freedom of a pinch of this or that in cooking is. In sum, I just think intimidation and lack of effort keeps one from being both. I tried baking and found I could be good at both. And heck, even an ugly cake that is homemade tastes WAY better than the commercial stuff.

  19. Peabody says:

    Don’t hate your answer, it’s very true.
    Though I tend to be a little less exact than the average baker. :)

  20. Just popping in to say: Bakers rule! ;)

  21. One of my friends asked me the other day whether I thought I was a better baker or a better cook. (This was after watching top chef by the way. And yes I was appalled at the state of their pies.) I said a better baker. Because honestly I think that IS what I’m better at. But I can also cook. So yeah. Learning to bake is definitely the way to go.

    I’m so glad you had a craving for a dessert this awesome. I’m enamored!

  22. I’m striving to be both! However, I think I’d be known by my friends to be both.

    I also think there’s a difference between a chef and a cook. To be a chef requires so much more creativity.

    Great looking cinnamon rolls!!

  23. These cinnamon rolls look amazing. I’ve never thought of sending treats to hockey with my husband so I don’t eat everything, so thanks for that inspiration. And I say it’s better to be a good baker. I agree that it scares more people than cooking does.

  24. I think being a better cook is probably a more useful life skill and being a better baker is better for winning friends. I say this only because I much prefer baking and I regularly lament the fact that cupcakes, blondies, cream puffs, etc. are not actually dinner (even if I eat them for dinner too often for my own good). Those cinnamon rolls look awesome, by the way. I bet hockey people loved them.

  25. #1. It is way better to be a baker, because you are right, most bakers can cook too.

    #2. People appreciate a plate of cookies way more than a rack of lamb.

    #3. You have combined two of my all time favorite desserts, not to mention the fact that it is suitable to eat for breakfast.

    #4. Which makes you totally and completely awesome.

  26. I say be a great cook and a great baker! I mean really, a great dinner isn’t complete without a great dessert.

  27. these look amazing! and i agree with you. baking seems to require more skill and knowledge of technique than most cooking.

  28. First of all, how dare anyone send you hate mail. There is a nice way to agree to disagree but I guess the internet has allowed people to be anonymous cowards behind their screen names.

    Baker hands down. It still amazes me that people are so grateful for what I bake, and it is not anything that fancy.

    I watched that episode of Top Chef too and kept thinking if you don’t know what you are doing keep it simple and have one great flavor. Nope, they had to get all “chefy” and do something way out of their comfort zone.

    Great recipe too. I look forward to seeing more of your 3:00am idea recipes.

  29. Wow. What a fabulous creation! I love anything with crumbs on top. As for your question, I would much rather be a great baker. I just find baking so much more fun. And while baking is often more precise than cooking, I still find lots of room for creativity. I have to agree with your assessment–I think I’m a very good baker, but I’m also a good cook.

  30. I love baking so much that I feel like baking everyday, but I restrain myself to 2 bakes per week. I only eat 10% of what I bake and the rest gets given away.

    As for dinner, I love trying new recipes, and I do very well most of the time, but I don’t cook that often and I don’t feel the need to cook that often.

    I’m game for anything in the kitchen, curious about every recipe, but my tummy and purse can only accomodate some at a time.

  31. I have to say baker. I think intuition and finesse are a big part of baking, and not everyone has the touch for it. The other reason is, there are many great restaurants you can eat at, but how many truly memorable bakeries are there? I’d take a well made cake or brownies over a perfectly cooked meal any day.

    You can’t find good bakery any old where. Just about anyone can throw together a tasty meal, but bread and dessert are in a different league.

  32. *raises hand* I was one of those thinking I couldn’t bake. Husband was my to-go-go desert maker in our house. (Not baking but ice-creams and mousses and such).
    I think I’m a baker now and still can cook. Says my waistline.

  33. Oh this toppic is so close to my heart. I also saw that top chef pie thing and thought the same. I studied pastry in a cooking school and all 3 years of the course I had to put up with silly comments from my fellow “savory chefs”. They’d love to say pastry is minor in the hospitality business and they laughed about it. Now imagine their surprise when they went into the real cooking world and had to do some desserts and realized that desserts are the last thing clients eat and for so the last thing on their minds. I’ve got to tell you that my phone started to ring a lot with questions! Guess who’e laughing now ;)! I love crumbs in everything by the way!!!

  34. I go on the same rant everytime the chefs on Top Chef start whining about having to make dessert. I mean seriously? You know you’ll have to make dessert at least once…

    I’m a good cook, but I’m (dare I say it) a great baker. It took much less time to be able to throw things together for a meal than to start creating recipes for baked goods though, so I can see why the precision of baking is tough for some people. I mean, how many chefs point out that with with fresh, seasonal ingredients, you barely have to do anything to make the food taste good? But decide to throw in some extra baking soda for the hell of it, and a baked good takes on a whole new life…

  35. hoo boy, drooling here. That looks so amazingly good…crumbs AND icing!

    I was actually just thinking about your topic the other day, the aussie version of Masterchef had all these contestants make scones (US=biscuits) and a simple cake, and most of them failed terribly.

    I like to think baking is a bit of a cross between art and science, which is why I enjoy it so much. But I can cook pretty decent meals too :)

  36. With baking you have less freedom to add a pinch of this or a pinch of that, but I think that’s why I love it. I love reading recipes and methods. A simple vanilla cupcake recipe can have so many different recipes and methods to produce so many different products at the end. I love baking.

  37. Kristin says:

    Better to be a baker. I do both, but am known mostly for my baking because that’s what you share. It thrilled my daughter’s housemates while she was at Scholar’s Academy for three weeks last month.

  38. Jillian says:

    There are a lot of good cooks out there. But less when it comes to bakers. Which is fine by me. I love to bake and people who don’t are always in awe of the treats I give them. So yeah. I’m glad baking is an exclusive club that is admired by many but occupied by few. It was pretty funny that the top chef contestants were daunted by a pie challenge.

  39. Of course it’s better to be a great baker! Love your post and totally agree with your whole argument!

  40. I had this dissussion with a friend too! Baking is exact, and you have to do the same thing each time to get the same result, so it more precise.

    When people ask me if I am a cook, I tell them nah, I am a baker, but dont get me wrong, I can still do a fantastic pork loin with a apple compote! :)

  41. I vote for baker, but glad I know how to cook, too. At the library I’m known as the cake lady (no hockey team to bring stuff to) and they would be less likely to be thrilled to see me if I were bringing them salad or chili or chicken with onions and tomatoes…or maybe not :)
    This is an AWESOME creation Pea…two great breakfast treats get married. Might try it with cream cheese icing.

  42. I loved what Tom C. said on that episode: “My grandmother’s not a pastry chef either, but she can make a pie.”

    Please, people. It isn’t rocket science. And I agree that most bakers are pretty decent cooks! Because after you’ve developed a feel for baking, you can be intuitive about ANY food.

  43. Banana bread is my go-to gift if I need to bring something and I’m not sure what they’d like (like to your new boss’s Christmas party, for example). Everyone enjoys baked goods. Plus, baking is really so much simpler; there’s no timing issues like with cooking, where everything has to be put on just at the right time or else something will be cold, or burning, or underdone…

  44. I knew I needed to catch up on Top Chef. A pie??? What could be easier than a pie?? Ah well ..

    I never quite understood the “baking is hard” mentality. Nobody has ever really been able to answer that one for me and I don’t always follow every recipe exactly, so that isn’t an excuse either. (well, usually…)

    I can both bake and cook, but prefer to bake. I don’t think they would be lined up an my desk at work for my heavenly chicken and cheese dish, but your peanut butter filled chcolate cupcakes bring them down from three floors away!

  45. I totally have the same conversation with the television every time Top Chef contestants cower in fear of dessert!

    I can both bake and cook, but I started with baking, so I consider myself a baker at heart. Personally, I think baking is better when it comes to get-togethers… after all, everybody loves dessert, and I’ve never known a host to turn down loaves of freshly baked bread!

  46. You are right! I love to bake & am a good cook also.

    I’d rather do dessert or bread, but will do anything…except maybe salads.

  47. Baking! :)

  48. I hadn’t thought of that but now that you mention it I can’t think of anyone who bakes who isn’t a decent cook. I’d say it’s best to be both and I’ll have to admit to having a bit less respect for the so called chefs who go on about not baking. As for crumbs on cinnamon rolls – I love both and am now have a “why didn’t I think of that?!” moment.

  49. the trick is, people think baking is so complicated — but i like to bring baked goods, because it is hands DOWN the cheapest option! particularly vs the rack of lamb!

  50. I think these folks squirm with the idea of dessert for several reasons.

    One, baking doesn’t allow them the wiggle room they are used to on the line. Its an exact science. So maybe they are out of their comfort zone.

    Secondly, for some odd reason there is some preconceived notion that it is difficult.

    Personally, I find it therapeutic and gratifying.


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