The Search For The Perfect Recipe Format

You know, I’d rather cook than blog.

Which is saying something because I enjoy blogging. For my personal blog I could post almost everyday, even from work, because I’d just just jot down what ever is on my mind.

But now I’ve have this cooking blog and I want to make it cool. To do that really need to go through step by step how I cook something for an entry. The blog would be pretty boring if it just said “I made pizza dough today. It was good.” Nope I need to put a recipe up and at least comment on how it was prepared.

This leads me on my quest for the perfect recipe format. I look at cookbooks and online recipes and they just don’t do it for me. Online recipes are the worst. Most of them are just wrong, leaving stuff out or not explaining stuff.

And many cookbooks are just as bad. The worst ones are those with no author and categorized by food type. You know italian, or soups. Some one in a big publishing house probably goes out on the internet and downloads a bunch of recipes. Do they even test these things?

If the book has an author, especially a famous one, its more likely to work. These guys reputations are on the line. Plus they are normally chefs with their own restaurants, which means the stuff had been cooked before. Where these cookbooks screw up is when they use words I don’t understand. For instance I made a recipe from one Wolfgang Puck’s earlier cookbooks and he said to add a “scant cup” of peanut oil. What’s a scant cup? Never did find that out. Went looking in online dictionaries. Even bought a culinary dictionary. Never found it.

Every cookbook needs a glossary of jargon terms they use.

I also think a recipe greatly benefits from lots of pictures. I was looking at The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and it is great this way. Lots of pictures describing what to do.

I got a bread recipe cookbook as a present. It was a “category” cookbook, with no author. I started making a recipe in it and at one point it said to roll out three tubes of dough and braid them together. Now if I was a girl – or had gotten to go to more slumber parties with the girls as a youth – I might have some idea how to braid three things together. But I didn’t. Instead I made two loafs.

So I want a format that has a number of features:

It needs to list ingredients by weight, preferably grams.

I’d be ok with fluid measurements for liquids, but flour needs to be by weight. Some books say their conversion for a cup of flour, but most don’t, leaving you at the mercy of the side of the bag. Which is always 30g per 1/4 cup. I don’t think that can be right with different kinds of flour.

Having both is OK. Some people don’t want to weigh everything like I do.

I also want a listing of hardware needed.

Got this from Alton Brown’s books. If I’m going to need a food processor or a melon baller, let me know ahead of time. Or what if you really need 2 4 quart pots? If mise en place for the food ingredients is good, wouldn’t it be for the hardware as well?

I want step by step pictures.

I’ll do this with my recipes as much as I can. I realize not everyone keeps a camera in the kitchen.

Instructions need to break it down into small pieces.

Actually Alton falls down on this in his books. Often a whole recipe is one big paragraph. In Wolfgang Puck Makes It Easy does a good job of this. He points out in the intro this makes the recipes longer, but not more complicated and not to get intimidated by the length.

I’m a computer programmer by trade and I think of a recipe as a kind of program. So things that are good for a program are good for a recipe.

Any culinary jargon needs to link to a definition

On the web this is easier. In a print cookbook, you need to bold or underline to italic text that is in the glossary. You do have a glossary right?

So that’s my guide lines for the recipes I will post. My first will be for my whole wheat pizza dough and will be up by the end of the week.

Books Referenced

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

I’m Just Here for the Food: Food + Heat = Cooking

Wolfgang Puck Makes It Easy