Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Wrestling with Recipe Writing


kitwilliams
 Share

Recommended Posts

I've ranted many a time on egullet about my frustration with American cookbooks (baking in particular) and the fact that most still tend to utilize volume measurements rather than weight, be it avoirdupois or metric. Hey: we all spend thousands on our computers -- why not shell out a few bucks for a scale and have our baked goods actually turn out as they were meant to? Why not, when writing a cookbook, offer the option of volume AND ounces AND grams?

So. I decided to bake the gorgeous looking caramel cake in this month's SAVEUR. Baked the buttery layers last night and they look gorgeous. It wasn't until I was prepping to make the icing this morning that I re-read the recipe and saw that the first ingredient did NOT read "16 ounces unsalted butter" as I thought, but "16 tbsp unsalted butter". Tablespoons? Why would anyone measure out 16 "tablespoons"? Why not "8 ounces" or "224 grams" or "1 cup" or even "2 cubes" of butter???? Why would a magazine the calibre of SAVEUR print a recipe that way? Truth be told, it is my fault for not reading it correctly. But when I see a "16" in a recipe, it usually refers to ounces, not tablespoons. Bakers beware!

And then the icing. The caramel icing cooks a long, long time. I had it on the lowest flame possible. And it burned. The recipe made it all sound so simple with no warning of possible burning during the one and a half hour cooking period. Granted, I've made caramel before. I know the ease with which sugar can burn. But what about all the non-bakers who decide to make this cake and icing and after an hour or so of stirring "occasionally", they end up with bits of gritty black in their smooth caramel icing?

So I am starting a petition for better and more accurate recipe writing, and especially getting the US in step with the rest of the world in jumping on the metric bandwagon.

But first, I have to go to the store in order to pick up some more evaporated milk so that I can spend another hour and a half making the damn caramel icing in order to frost my very, very, very buttery cake.

kit

"I'm bringing pastry back"

Weebl

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I sympathize. I've made the same mistake myself with recipes. But I've observed that the typical home cook will use volume measures, even in baking. Some of them may not have a scale, or if they have one, they won't bother to use it. It's a big deal that they're baking at all. Really.

For liquids and small quantities, such as baking powder, I find the volumes most easy to measure, and accurate enough. I'm only making one cake or pie or whatever. But flour is another story. I wish baking recipes would give the weight of flour, since there seems to be a wide variation in how people measure flour by the cup.

As for your very buttery cake--when Julia Child cooked chocolate souffle on her TV show, and the souffle fell, she advised people to serve it with a smile and say, "Just for you. Chocolate mousse!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In addition to weight measurements, how about cooking time? Saute' for 2 minutes? On my regular burner or my high-heat burner? In which pan? So many variables can be introduced, that any time measurement is meaningless. Tell me what to look for, and what I'm trying to accomplish!

Of course, this specifically doesn't apply to pastry and baking, but the same principles apply when cooking a filling or something similar. Many recipes are pretty good about saying things "until the mixture returns to a boil", but all too often I find much more vague descriptions.

Edited by jgm (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In addition to weight measurements, how about cooking time?  Saute' for 2 minutes?  On my regular burner or my high-heat burner?  In which pan?  So many variables can be introduced, that any time measurement is meaningless.  Tell me what to look for, and what I'm trying to accomplish!

Of course, this specifically doesn't apply to pastry and baking, but the same principles apply when cooking a filling or something similar.  Many recipes are pretty good about saying things "until the mixture returns to a boil", but all too often I find much more vague descriptions.

These are all really good points- and one of the top reasons I see for cooking blogs to exist. The more we can introduced thoughtful & intelligent language with recipes the better!

I think we can ever so slowly subvert the current recipe paradigms.

So, how about a publisher and magazine letter writing campaign. What should we call ourselves -the Smarter, Better Bakers...?

A letter did get written to Saveur didn't it?

flavor floozy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with you kitwilliams and I was taught to use weight measurments. Weight mesurments are more accurate are are easier to convert.

But with that said, I have trailed and worked in some of the best pastry kitchens in New York and the US and I found that many still use a combination of volume and weight measuring. Im not saying there right, but it works. Now im the pastry chef at restaurant in Seattle. The recipe book that I put together for the restaurant contains recipes in both volume and weight. If im in a pinch and need a recipe I commonly look online and find a recipe that will work (I have found both volume and weight based recipes online). When I forumulate new recipes I commonly use a combination of both. So a recipe might read 8oz sugar, 4 oz water, 2 T. Cinnamon, 1/4 oz of salt.

Sure I could go though all my recipes and convert them to weight, but I dont have the time nor the desire to do that. But I understand your frustration, if I have a recipe that I increased and its a volume measurment there is not way that im going to portion 16c flour more than once, so the first time I portion the 16c flour into a bowl and weigh it and adjust it on my recipe. When a customer asks for a recipe I try to give it to them in volume but I dont mind sharing it in weight (if they are a die hard home cook they will have a scale) :).

A Book of Yeilds might make life easier, but its still time consuming.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

kit,

My guess is that it was printed that way because it was originally written that way. When recipes are subjected to a house format they do need to be tested again, and I'd imagine that rather than do that the recipe was left in its original state. Reformatting recipes is very time consuming, and on the modern scaled-down publication there just isn't the time (or the money to pay for it) any more. So if a recipe comes in written in cups, spoons, bottle tops and ounces then it stays that way.

There is an enduring assumption amongst editors that readers want instructions that sounds homely and comforting. 16 tablespoons sounds easy and comfortable whereas 225g sounds threatening if you've never baked before. That's the assumption behind that approach. But I get emails from readers asking both "why do you weigh X" and why don't you weigh X", so I prefer the 50g rule: anything under write as spoons, anything over write as weight.

Dan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll sign your petition!

I generally don't follow recipes unless its the very first time, and yes I do get some erroneous results every so often. I use the scale just about every time I cook or bake and I really appreciate instructions that give quantities in grams, such as Jamie Oliver's books - to cite a popular example. I think the gram is an excellent base unit for the home cook - no fractions required.

Anybody who writes a recipe calling for 16 tablespoons a) doesn't cook b) is too lazy to convert c) is a moron or d) all of the above.

A bigger issue for me is the random use of imperial and metric at the grocery store, and the lack of scales in the produce section.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anybody who writes a recipe calling for 16 tablespoons a) doesn't cook b) is too lazy to convert c) is a moron or d) all of the above.

Ouch, Peter! And I wasted all this time waiting for the butter to warm up so I can pack it and level it 16 times into my handy tablespoon-on-a-ring! (Actually, I'm surprised Saveur didn't just go ahead and say 2 sticks of unsalted butter.)

I just recently bought a beautiful but very cheap Japanese-made electric scale (GTO: you got the box of it, ha ha), which rendered my Chocolatier mags useless. (Well, not useless-useless.) I really appreciate cookbooks with both weight and volume measurements listed, for those of us in transition! A dessert book with weight measurements is a sign that you've stepped into seriousville, which, yeah, can really intimidate a lot of people.. But a serious dessert is what I want!

Mark

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - Collaborative book reviews about food and food culture. Submit a review today! :)

No Special Effects - my reader-friendly blog about food and life.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think most cookbooks are written for the home cook/baker. For them, liquids will always be measured in measuring cups, and for dry ingredients, like flour and sugar, it's unlikely most of them will own a scale.

Before I turned in the manuscript for my upcoming cookbook I talked to my editor about entering the dry ingredients as volume and weight. They didn't want that.

There is a lot of turmoil in the publishing industry right now. The internet has changed everything. In addition to people being able to post popular recipes from cookbooks onto forums, or email them to their friends, many of us are now buying used cookbooks through such places as Amazon and eBay. In the past those books would have sat on someone's shelf or in their basement instead of being redistributed, and if someone else wanted the book, they would have little recourse other than buying it new or looking for it in local used bookstores, where the chances were slim they would have found it. Fewer new books are being sold because of this.

That's a long explanation for why publishers want to avoid anything that might turn a potential cookbook buyer off.

There is a scale on the market that was developed with the help of King Arthur Flour, which provides the measurement of a weighed item in cups and tablespoons as well as in grams, or pounds and ounces. It's made by a company called Escalli, and the model is Pana. I may not have the spelling correct for the model name, but if you google it you can find it. Of course, the way an author measured the flour for the recipe may not be the same as that weighed flour measurement developed by King Arthur. It's a difficult situation.

Eileen

Eileen Talanian

HowThe Cookie Crumbles.com

HomemadeGourmetMarshmallows.com

As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A letter did get written to Saveur didn't it?

No, not yet, McAuliflower, but thanks for the reminder to do so!

Dan: I'm with you in that I am all for old-fashioned, homely-type recipes (I was just given my grandmother's recipe for lemon meringue pie in which she would whip her egg whites on a platter with a fork! I'll turn on the KitchenAid, thank you very much!). However you probably know that here in the States, our butter comes by the pound, each quarter pound individually wrapped. Each of those quarter pound "sticks" or "cubes" is 8 tablespoons. Most old recipes would have stated "2 cubes" of butter. I doubt very much that even the originator of the recipe measures her butter by the tablespoon!

I'm not asking that volume measures be eliminated, but let's at least give our readers/bakers/cooks the OPTION of volume and weight. And I certainly don't want to lose any old traditions. But let's leave less room for error by making the ingredients list as clear as can be, and let's give as much information as possible in the method of the recipe.

kit

"I'm bringing pastry back"

Weebl

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a home baker, let me correct the assumptions of the above posters that home bakers don't own a scale and prefer volume.

I do own a digital scale and much prefer using weight rather than volume. Indeed, I will convert my recipes to weight, so that they can be made with consistency and easily scaled.

I detest recipes that use volume, except for very small quantities which are difficult to accurately weigh.

I also get irritated by recipes involving boiling of sugar and such, where temperatures are not given. For I also own a probe thermometer and like to use it. So much simpler to say "simmer till 170degrees" rather than "simmer till a lightish amberish/brown colour, but not too dark."

So please, don't patronise us home cooks.

"I'll just die if I don't get this recipe."
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Lorinda, I'm with you! I use a scale and an instant read thermometer to the extent that I stuffed them into my luggage with my knives when we recently came to live in France. I vote for giving both volume and weight, temperature and eyeball view. As with professionals, there's a whole range of home cooks and bakers, and some are quite sophisticated. Maybe send Saveur a link to this thread?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a home baker, let me correct the assumptions of the above posters that home bakers don't own a scale and prefer volume.

I do own a digital scale and much prefer using weight rather than volume. Indeed, I will convert my recipes to weight, so that they can be made with consistency and easily scaled.

I detest recipes that use volume, except for very small quantities which are difficult to accurately weigh.

I also get irritated by recipes involving boiling of sugar and such, where temperatures are not given. For I also own a probe thermometer and like to use it.  So much simpler to say "simmer till 170degrees" rather than "simmer till a lightish amberish/brown colour, but not too dark."

So please, don't patronise us home cooks.

The problem, Lorinda, is not the posters on egullet (who all know that anyone who hangs out here probably has a much better equipped kitchen than the general population of cookbook readers). It is the writers/publishers of cookbooks who are assuming that most home cooks in the US do not own scales. This is probably true of the majority of the cookbook buying public in the US at this time. As far as Europe goes, I can only speak for the UK as I've spent a lot of time there, however I think that throughout most of Europe, home cooks DO have scales and measurements are always by weight.

I've just decided that from now on, my go-to wedding present is going to be a kitchen scale.

kit

"I'm bringing pastry back"

Weebl

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lorinda,

I was trying to explain that the recipe authors don't have their own way when it comes to recipes. Editors can and do insist on changes to suit different markets and the author has to submit.

Back in middle of 2004 this was one battle I was involved in. I received an email from an editor working on a US edition explaining:

For the moment, I notice one thing that needs to be changed - liquid ingredients have been given by weight. This is in the interest of precision, I understand, but for the readership of X I think it will be offputting. As an added complication for the US edition, most Americans do not have scales in their kitchen. I know it's a bore, but could you resupply the recipes please with volume measurements in metric for all liquids.

and my reply

Thank you for your recommendation. It's not a bore, just inaccurate and misleading and not a change I am happy to put my name to. Those volume measurements on the household jug are not all accurate, nor comparable between different manufacturers of kitchen utensils, and not interchangeable with weight measurements even through 100g of water should equal 100ml.

Certainly, if you use the same measuring unit for all ingredients and everything will be fine, since the proportions will be the same. All by volume using the same cup or spoon (as in the US), or all by weight using cheap, easily affordable kitchen scales. Combine volume and weight in the same recipe, and the recipe cannot be assured to work.

I realise most other books disregard this point. But that is changing, and the modern home cook is beginning to embrace exact measurement. Do look at the US website egullet, where they have a 'kitchen scale manifesto', at http://recipes.egullet.com/ksm.php

Can't say I've ever met any authors who patronise their readers. The number I've met care passionately about their recipes and want the reader to get the best result every time. Send emails to publishing house and magazine editors, let them know you're out there.

Dan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lorinda,

I was trying to explain that the recipe authors don't have their own way when it comes to recipes. Editors can and do insist on changes to suit different markets and the author has to submit.

Hi Dan,

I do realise these things are up to the publishers and editors, one day I will write to them and complain. I agree 100% with your reply to them. My day job involves writing and I know how often things get changed (for the worse) and one is powerless to do anything.

"I'll just die if I don't get this recipe."
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for sharing that correspondence, Dan. And you're right and I apologize to those of you who write and publish recipes and are trying your utmost to educate these editors/publishers, all in the name of accuracy in baking.

And, in the midst of all this ranting of mine, my KD600 scale broke. Just today! I've had it about five years so am out of the loop as far as new scales. Recommendations, anyone?

Thanks!

kit

"I'm bringing pastry back"

Weebl

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a compromise, how about a page at the back, or the front, giving conversions? In other words, something like this:

"For those who would rather measure by weight than by volume, here are conversions I have worked out for the recipes in this book:

1 cup of flour = X g

1 cup of sugar = Y g

1 medium egg = Z g, weight of contents not including shell"

etc. You'd have to make sure every ingredient used in the book was listed, but it would be a way to compromise, if you could get the editor to go along with it.

Do you think you could sneak in just one page?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would think that if they were going to put an index at the back of the book, listing EVERY ingredient and its weight, it would be just as easy to list each unit of measure in each recipe.

1 cup/7 oz/200g granulated sugar

1 cup/8 oz/225g unsalted butter

4 large/240g whole eggs

and so on throughout the recipe.

Wouldn't you think that if someone is shelling out $35 to $50 on a book that they would want to put the time, effort and perhaps a little extra money for a scale, so that their efforts would turn out as terrific as possible? I understand that we all don't have the financial resources. But having a recipe turn out like crap or not at all can waste a lot of money. Why not invest in a scale? I can answer that question. Because most cookbooks in this country DON'T MEASURE BY WEIGHT. So why bother with the scale?

I'm going around in circles! :wacko:

kit

"I'm bringing pastry back"

Weebl

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would think that if they were going to put an index at the back of the book, listing EVERY ingredient and its weight, it would be just as easy to list each unit of measure in each recipe.

1 cup/7 oz/200g    granulated sugar

1 cup/8 oz/225g    unsalted butter

4 large/240g          whole eggs

This is only my impression, based on an unscientific but relentless perusal of Sale tables at bookstores, that American customers in general (1) hate recipes that look complicated (as in the multiple measures in the above example), and (2) hate metric measures. It seems to me that many cookbooks that do not sell have these characteristics. To be honest, when I see cookbooks like this, I don't buy them either.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What is even more galling to me is when the recipe gives you quantities, which due to the wonder of nature, are inherently variable. Tonight, for example, I made a carrot salad recipe that called for, and I quote........

"4 carrots, coarsely shredded, or julienned".

What size carrots, precisely? I’ve seen, and have in my ‘fridge, carrots that range from about 2 inches long and maybe ½ inch diameter, to 6 inches long and 1 inch around. I will guarantee you 4 of either of those will yield you vastly different quantities of coarsely shredded or julienned carrots. And that's not even dealing with "baby" carrots !

And *I* was using pre-shredded carrots, so I was at a total loss. No wonder my salad was dry and under-seasoned until I futzed around with it !

Give me the d*mn quantity in cups or weight and I can cope. Don’t tell me “4 carrots” or “3 zucchini” or “2 onions” or whatever. That is just sloppy writing/editing, and it annoys me no end.

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now, now, now!

I FULLY agree that recipe writing is a dysfunctional, contemptible scandal.

But, for the metric system, it is not crucial:

First, that you usually prefer weights to volumes is right on target, but the metric system includes both weights and volumes so that just converting to the metric system doesn't mean we get weights instead of volumes.

Second, the metric system is not crucial. Anyone, especially with a computer, should be able to convert between the standard systems of units.

For butter, in the US, that is usually sold in one pound packages where one pound has four sticks and one stick has 1/2 C and weighs 1/4 pound or 4 ounces. So, with such US butter, measuring with tablespoons and cups of volume or with ounces of weight is easy.

But the key point about recipe writing is illustrated by your experience making caramel frosting:

Absolutely, positively, hardly a single printed recipe in a book or magazine is written with the intention of providing useful instruction about cooking to the reader! Hardly a single one!

Instead, here is how it goes: Books and magazines have editors. The editors are in the world of 'writing', and this world is dominated by people who regard 'writing' as 'creative' writing as in 'belle lettre', English literature, drama, and fiction, especially 'formula fiction'. This 'writing' is part of 'art' as in 'communication, interpretation of human experience, emotion' via passion, pathos, poignancy, and poetry and, more simply, just following the rules of 'formula fiction'. In the most practical sense, this writing is intended to be just attractive, 'entertaining', and smelly bait for the ad hook. It's exploitative, a manipulation, for any practical purpose for the reader, at best meaningless, useless, worthless, and pointless and sometimes worse.

Further, absolutely, positively, yelling, screaming, scratching, biting, with little feet planted firmly in concrete, NO WAY will that 'writing' culture ever consider anything like practical, useful information. In the ancient dichotomy of passion version reason, it's all just passion with no role even to hear of reason.

These people really LOVE Shakespeare and mostly didn't major in chemistry in college. In particular, any concept of a system of units, e.g., MKS, and weights versus volumes are regarded as just poison in the 'writing'.

In simple terms, you are not supposed actually to cook, and certainly not to EAT, anything from any of those published materials on 'cooking'.

I mean, you didn't expect to get anything edible, did you? And I certainly hope you didn't try to eat it.

What you saw in making the caramel is right in the center of the best examples of the situation, and your explanation was good: The people who read the recipe as a case of 'vicarious escapist fantasy emotional experience entertainment' (VEFEEE) just enjoying 'imagining' that they have make a terrific caramel cake, and are receiving praise, admiration, and love from others, will be fully pleased, and only the rare people like you who actually try to COOK from the recipe will notice that the information quality is JUNK, mostly just an invitation to waste time and money, and at best a suggestion of a culinary 'R&D' problem to be solved.

Indeed, should there have been actual useful, practical instructions on how to make the caramel frosting, complete with explanations of what is really required, common problems and how to solve them, etc., then the VEFEEE value would be lower, the publication cost would be higher, and only the tiny fraction of people who actually want to COOK would be pleased.

Here's what is expected: Read the recipes, look at the pictures, have some good VEFEEE, buy the products in the ads, call out for a pizza, extra large, with extra toppings, gain weight, watch TV, and have some VEFEEE about being thin and beautiful!

The world of writing, publishing, and advertising are a scared, monolithic herd 100% locked into VEFEEE and absolutely terrified of anything like useful information.

It isn't just cooking; it's essentially ALL of 'old media'. No matter what the ostensible subject, the approach is nearly always the same -- VEFEEE.

So, for Hollywood, have 'celebrity news' VEFEEE letting the public 'identify' with the celebrities and enjoy feeling like they are going to "A-list" parties.

For auto racing, will never hear about compression ratios, cam shaft timing, gear ratios, frontal areas, drag coefficients, center of gravity, spring rates, shock dynamometer curves, tire compounds, aerodynamic center, aerodynamic stability. Instead, it's all VEFEEE, with drama -- "It's a close race, folks, neck and neck. Will he win? WILL HE? It's close, SO close. There he goes. He's trying. Will he make it? Will he? Will he? Will he? He's the best driver ever to start an engine, folks; he came with his right shoe tied on; can't count him out yet. He'll make it if he POSSIBLY can."

Net, if it appears on a printed page or has passed through a motion picture camera, then the work was nearly always under the control of writers, directors, producers, editors, and executives who believe ONLY in VEFEEE. E.g., even videos made ostensibly to teach high school mathematics are forced to be 99 44/100% VEFEEE, the rest water, and 0.00% good instruction on mathematics. I only saw one exception -- A. Gleason and T. Apostol on plane geometry, just elegant. As this video was being made, the VEFEEE people must have had to have been bound, gagged, held down with chains, and locked out to keep their screaming about "Out, out vile spot", etc. from ruining the content.

Since the VEFEEE crowd has been able to ruin nearly all of high school teaching of mathematics and physical science, and they have, there is little hope for useful information on cooking or caramel frosting.

As discussed extensively elsewhere on eG, the TV Food network concentrates on 'food as entertainment'. So, while I am very interested in learning to be a better cook, I long ago gave up on getting much from the TV Food Network and, thus, rarely watch it.

Broadly the solution currently visible is 'new media', the Internet, and, for cooking, eG.

To learn how to cook caramel frosting, do a Google search and collect some broad information. Take only the most credible information although it likely still will not be good enough to cook from and will mostly be only a start for more 'R&D'. Then, on eG, start a thread. explain what you have learned, and invite others to contribute. Do some trials and report what you learned. Expect to do about two dozen trials. Hopefully you will have a way to get some good digital photos to document what you are doing. Then, in a few months, you should be able to add caramel frosting as a solid dish in your repertoire.

If you document well what you have learned, then others will be able to cook good caramel frosting by the second or third trial and maybe on the first. And, even two years from now, so will you!

For cooking, other crafts and skills, and for a wide range of practical subjects, the VEFEEE people stand, and richly deserve, to go the way outlined in Joseph Schumpeter's "creative destruction" as technology aids replacing their work with better work.

America's Test Kitchen (ATK) does work to be an exception. It does appear that some VEFEEE people have slithered their way on their own excreted, ancient slime into some occasional influence, but the core intention and content of useful information remains. No doubt the VEFEEE people are contemptuous until they need to learn to cook something. Since nearly all the rest of PBS is nearly a high altar of worship of VEFEEE, and seems to me to be aimed mostly at old maid high school English teachers, ATK must be in an awkward position largely saved by the reported fact that they are the most watched cooking show on PBS. The VEFEEE people may yet get their revenge of "Out, out brief candle".

What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a home baker, let me correct the assumptions of the above posters that home bakers don't own a scale and prefer volume.

I do own a digital scale and much prefer using weight rather than volume. Indeed, I will convert my recipes to weight, so that they can be made with consistency and easily scaled.

I detest recipes that use volume, except for very small quantities which are difficult to accurately weigh.

I also get irritated by recipes involving boiling of sugar and such, where temperatures are not given. For I also own a probe thermometer and like to use it.  So much simpler to say "simmer till 170degrees" rather than "simmer till a lightish amberish/brown colour, but not too dark."

So please, don't patronise us home cooks.

I don't think anyone here wants to patronize home cooks. We are all trying to work with our publishers to include weights as well as measurements. But, I must say that most of the people I come across when I teach a class DO NOT own kitchen scales. And these are people who are interested in cooking. I recommend buying a scale when I teach.

I love that you have and use a kitchen scale. I wish more people had one.

I've just decided that from now on, my go-to wedding present is going to be a kitchen scale.

That's a GREAT idea! You've just solved my wedding gift problem for the coming decade!

Lorinda,

I was trying to explain that the recipe authors don't have their own way when it comes to recipes. Editors can and do insist on changes to suit different markets and the author has to submit.

Can't say I've ever met any authors who patronise their readers. The number I've met care passionately about their recipes and want the reader to get the best result every time. Send emails to publishing house and magazine editors, let them know you're out there.

Dan

That's really the answer here - publishers will respond to what the public wants, but they need to know the public wants it.

Another caveat - publishers preview many of their cookbooks to the buyers at the mega-chains, and what those buyers say has a LOT to do with what gets edited out of/or put into a cookbook.

So, my suggestion would be to flood the publishing houses AND the head cookbook buyers at the big chains with letters and emails asking that recipes be given in both volume and weight.

And, in the midst of all this ranting of mine, my KD600 scale broke.  Just today!  I've had it about five years so am out of the loop as far as new scales.  Recommendations, anyone?

Thanks!

I love the Escali Pana scale. It measures in cups and tablespoons, or in ounces and pounds, or grams. I see it as a way to move people into using weight measurements. The conversions were worked out with the diligent help of the King Arthur kitchens. It eliminates the need for conversion tables, which require extra work for people who probably feel pressed for time anyway.

As a compromise, how about a page at the back, or the front, giving conversions?  In other words, something like this:

Do you think you could sneak in just one page?

See above.

And, djyee100 raises a good point. While the eGulleteers would rather weigh their ingredients for accuracy, most home cooks just aren't there yet. Because my book will not have weights in it, I am including a conversion chart on my book web site, as well as a suggestion to buy a scale and a link to the Escali page.

Eileen

Edited by etalanian (log)

Eileen Talanian

HowThe Cookie Crumbles.com

HomemadeGourmetMarshmallows.com

As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would like to add to this discussion on the matter of poor recipe writing in general, not just the volume/weight issue (which has been covered already and in previous threads and there is even the The Kitchen Scale Manifesto). In other words, I think there are other problems with recipe writing.

Here are some of my pet peeves:

I'll start with Saveur magazine, where some recipes are written up in paragraph form and called "Method." These are regular recipes, as far as I can tell, but with ingredients and intructions together -- no ingredient list. So you can't look at it and quickly determine if you are missing an ingredient. etc. I'm not sure how a recipe gets to be a "real" recipe and how it ends up as a method. The font is small, to boot.

When recipes don't even suggest an amount of salt. For some chicken cutlets or similiar I can understand, but when the main ingredient is a leg of lamb or some other expensive ingredient, I would really appreciate some guideline, since salting/fixing oversalting at the end won't help.

When ingredients have divided usage, but this is only specified in the body of the recipe. You are baking a cake, for ex. and the recipe lists: 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, etc. I usually just start creaming the cup of butter and the 2 cups of sugar.... and it's happend to me that the sugar was really 1.5 cups and the other half cup was for something else, like the glaze. Argh! I would like to see: "2 cups sugar, divided usage," or just 2 listings for sugar.

What else can be improved?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Similar Content

    • By Rushina
      What would you like to be included in a cookbook you classify as a "good cookbook"?
      Rushina
    • By Multiwagon
      Other than the three written by Michael Ruhlman, which I have read and loved, what other books are out there that are about cooking, but not cookbooks?
    • By OliverB
      I just received a copy of "The Cook's Book - Concise Edition" edited by Jill Norman, and now I'm curious, what's the difference to the full edition? Supposedly it has 648 pages compared to 496 in this edition, and it appears to be much larger in size if the info on us.dk.com is correct. Other than that I can't find any info what the difference might be. It's a neat book with lots of photos about techniques etc, and lots of recipes. As with any DK book production values are high.
      If the contents are the same, I'm happy with the smaller version, but I'd really like to know what I might be missing on those 150 or so pages. If it's just filler, I don't care. If it's some fantastic recipes, I do care....
      Anybody here know both editions? Google was so far of no help. Lots of the full edition are to be had used as well, I'd be happy giving this one as a gift and ordering the full edition, if it's worth it.
      Thanks!
      Oliver
    • By devlin
      Say you were rounded up with a group of folks and either had a skill to offer in exchange for a comfy room and some other niceties or were sent off to a slag heap to toil away in the hot sun every day for 16 hours, what 3 books would you want to take with you to enable you to cook and bake such fabulous foodstuffs that your kidnappers would keep you over some poor schlub who could cook only beans and rice and the occasional dry biscuit?
    • By mixmaster b
      I am interested in getting some cookbooks that cover the basics of pastry and baking--not bread, necessarily, but dessert, cakes, cookies, etc. I searched a few other cookbook threads but did not have luck on finding books on pastry.
      My interest is in fairly classic French and European style baking, and I need a book that covers technique. Pictures would also be much appreciated--I like both the step by step pix or great pictures of the end product.
      Right now, I have Desserts and Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme. (I love these and have had good results from the recipes, but feel I should start with a more classic approach.) La Varenne Pratique has provided some good starting points, but I would like to find a book with more focus on baking.
      I was thinking about the Payard book. Any comments? Suggestions would be much appreciated! In case it applies, I am a home cook and am slightly more skilled than a total beginner.
      Thanks!
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...