Beyond checking your temp to know when food is done, it is very important to follow your nose, because it will give you lots of information that is beyond the capacity of any cookbook to tell you what is happening. I have lost count of how many times my nose has saved the day by telling me, “That cake is almost done, and you forgot to set the timer, Silly!” Hopefully this little reminder to Follow Your Nose will save you as well.
Recipes are, as I have said before, just guidelines, like a game plan. The game plan can’t know exactly what conditions will be like on the field or exactly how the team you’re matching up with will perform. It can guess, but it can’t know. Okay, forgive the sports metaphor, that’s not really my thing :). But the principle holds true… Everything from humidity and altitude to how many times you opened the oven door can all affect the exact timing of YOUR dish, which means you should use all the tools YOU have available to figure out what is happening.
Now, I won’t lie, the secret to success of knowing just when that cookie is done by your nose is a result of the failure of knowing what a slightly burned cookie smells like when it comes out of the oven. So don’t be discouraged by those hiccups, because they are helping you to become a better cook, it’s just a matter of slowing down and taking note of what exactly happened and what you think would give you a better result the next time. Hey, even slightly burned cookies can be great if you crumble them up, add a little butter and use as the base for a cookie bar (Smitten Kitchen’s Hello Dolly Bars are a tasty option in this scenario)!