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Recipe instructions and quantities you routinely ignore


Fat Guy
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Plus.. Sifting makes a big difference in the final product. Skipping steps like that in baking is just foolishness. Will the formula still work, sure, but like staining sauces its a point of refinement. Do I really need to rest my bread dough in before shaping?.. {sigh}

There are lots of times when you can change recipes or procedures, it's prudent to understand what they are there for.. often it's more than just the obvious.

I have heard respected chefs/bakers differ on the importance of sifting for aeration purposes... hard to know if it really is redundant, or whether the difference it makes is small, so they assume people won't want to do it. I agree with you that the little details really matter, but i guess it's a question of HOW LITTLE the difference is, if at all.

I typically don't bother sift for regular cakes/muffins etc but if i'm doing something complex or from a chef I really respect, I will obey their instructions carefully.

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Regarding sifting.....

Maybe I've been "indoctrinated" about sifting, but working in large kitchens where flour is stored in large 50 gallon trolleys, and everyone can use flour,(hot kitchen for sauces, cold kitchen for other stuff) you learn to sift or suffer the consequences.

Cake flour tends to form tiny clumps on it's own, irregardless of how impeccable it's stored, nothing worse than finding tiny clumps of flour in genoise or pastry dough. Sifting also tends to mix other ingredients like cocoa or bakig soda withn the flour much better, thereby avoiding cakes with uneven rising (pockets of leavening) or clumps of cocoa pwdr.

But for me, sifting comes automatically. I always have a large bowl with a sieve under the counter, the bowl is used to scale out ingredients. When I scale out the flour, I tip the flour (which may or may not contain baking pwdr, baking soda, cocoa, etc) from the bowl to the sieve, which lies ontop of a sheet of silicone paper, this is sifted, the bowl and sieve put away, and the paper gathered up into a funnel shape, which I can rest on the lip of the mixer bowl and slowly tip in.

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Reading this is really setting me free! I am going to be much less regimented from now on seeing how all these good cooks disregard the 'rules'! I customarily double the salt in a recipe (especially a sweet recipe), quadruple the pepper and add hot sauce to anything cheesy or creamy whether the recipe calls for it or not. I do use extra vanilla, too.

RE: the salted/unsalted butter issue. I can get sweet butter at Costco and prefer the flavor of it on bread, so that's what I keep on hand. I honestly don't think that my palate is sensitive enough to disern the difference in baked goods, but a thick smear of sweet butter with a scattering of coarse sea salt on a slice of crusty bread is heaven to me.

I find the texture of 'sweated' onions unpleasant, so I always cook them to at least lightly browned, if not caramelized.

I always sift 10X, if I'm using it for an icing, but only whisk flour.

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I sift when instructed to, if only because I am not a very practiced baker and assume that there is a lot more "science" involved in the art of baking, which may or may not be true. I am under the impression that sifting changes the volume by aerating the flour somewhat; so that if you sifted you would end up with slightly more volume than if you didn't. In other words, if you decided not to sift, you might have to adjust the measurement of flour. That would be far too taxing for me, so I just do what I'm told when it comes to flour.

If it is true that you can get around sifting by weighing the flour instead of measuring the volume, doesn't that support my assumption? I'm already breaking out in a sweat.

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For me it's not about clumps it really is about aeration. Where I really notice it most is in quick breads, (pancakes, muffins ect..) and Cakes,(genoise, cupcakes, sheet cakes). It's because mixing methods are so important you want to take as much care as possible with out babying your batter. Why do you get a lot more volume when you sift? it's the air, take the care to keep it in your batter.

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I guess sloppy technique is not the end of the world when you are just cooking at home, but things like the wrong size eggs or taking short cuts in procedures really add up in production. The difference in 3oz per dozen between egg sizes may not seem like much to a home cook, but when you are dealing with standardized recipes its everything. Really you master a few basic mixing methods, and you never take short cuts IMO it frees you up to be more creative. And you won't really have to follow the instructions, because they all fall into just a few categories.

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I can't even remember the last time I followed a recipe to the word. I tend to pick one (or parts of one or several) and run with it, adjusting as I feel like. Of course, if it calls for one chicken I won't add 5 or 1/2, but with other things I go with my own taste/intuition. I never ever measure salt/pepper and most other spices unless I'm totally not familiar with it. Nor do I measure oil, vinegar, wine, things like that.

"That seems like about a cup and let's add a little more" is what I tend to do :-)

As for salte/unsalted butter, for cooking I only use unsalted, never even heard of salted growing up in Germany, don't think you can even find that in stores.

For bread etc I currently use salted, that round organic fancy (expensive) round puck thing that fits into the little stone ware container. Comes from a farm here in Norcal and is really good. too expensive and would actually be a waste in cooking, but on nice fresh bread.... Hmmmmm!

I don't bake, I'm not into sweet things and bread takes more time than I usually can dedicate, unfortunately. But when I bake, I do sift if asked for, simply because it's fun to use the oldfashioned sifter and the kids like watching (or doing) it.

As for eggs, I use the one that are in the fridge :-)

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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The difference in 3oz per dozen between egg sizes may not seem like much to a home cook, but when you are dealing with standardized recipes its everything.

But a professional formula will typically call for a weight measure of eggs. So it doesn't matter what size you use. You just keep cracking eggs into the bowl until you hit the target number of grams. Also, the role of a standardized set of instructions in a commercial kitchen is to insure consistency from cook to cook, so for example in a restaurant it means the chef's dish will come out of the kitchen no matter which prep cook is preparing it and which line cook is cooking it. But I doubt any restaurant chef would use a cookbook recipe without modifying it in many of the same kinds of ways we've been talking about here.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'd be very surprised if sifting the flour gave more volume in the finished batter: flour isn't like egg whites, it doesn't trap the air in bubbles and prevent it from escaping. When I sift it's purely to get rid of potential clumps of baking soda or powder.

Make to coffee cakes or cupcakes..scoop and weigh, then whisk the ingredients together. The other weigh then sift before proceeding with your method. See if it notice a difference, I always can tell the difference in the crumb. YMMV.

I hate shortcuts. Leads to bad kitchen habits. [shrug]

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But a professional formula will typically call for a weight measure of eggs. So it doesn't matter what size you use.

Not true. Most kitchen recipes are standardized for large eggs which are a standard 24 oz per dozen (or ~2oz per egg)it makes it easy to scale up or down w/o weighing. Most kitchens i've been in still use # of eggs (each)UNLESS they are using liquid egg products. Usually for hollandaise, where food safety is more the issue. I've never worked in a kitchen that used anything but Large AA eggs. I certainly haven't been everywhere, but that is my experience.

Edited by AAQuesada (log)
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I defer to your experience, as I have only a couple of data points: My standby cornbread recipe, from the CIA Pro-Chef book, calls for 255 grams of eggs, lightly beaten. All the recipes in that book, at least in that edition, seem to use weights for eggs. And a few years ago I spent some time in the pastry kitchen at the St. Regis hotel and they measured eggs by weight, though that was liquid egg product. I wonder what the variation is in the weight of a dozen large eggs. Weighing has got to be more accurate.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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You are correct. Weighing is always more accurate. Conversions like that are seen as with in the margin of error. The egg industry is remarkably good at its size/weights over a dozen. Individual eggs may be off, by a but but the bigger issue is not getting all the egg out of the shell. You would be surprised by how much you can leave behind if you are not careful!

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Not true. Most kitchen recipes are standardized for large eggs which are a standard 24 oz per dozen (or ~2oz per egg)it makes it easy to scale up or down w/o weighing. Most kitchens i've been in still use # of eggs (each)UNLESS they are using liquid egg products. Usually for hollandaise, where food safety is more the issue. I've never worked in a kitchen that used anything but Large AA eggs. I certainly haven't been everywhere, but that is my experience.

Maybe........

If the place "does" breakfast, eggs will usually be a medium size and some a large size. Most Hotels and bakeries now insist on using pasteurized liquid whole egg, pasteurized salted or sweetened yolks, or pasteurized whites. The saucier and Garde-manger love the idea of getting yolks out of a carton without cracking and separating them, as does the pastry guy. I never have noticed much volume difference between fresh whites or frozen whites

For the Chef, weighing out eggs is the intelligent thing to do, it certainly is a LOT more easier to cost out recipies by using weight, as it is doing bi-weekly or monthly inventories. In these two cases (costing and invetories, the Metric system rules supreme as it simple, logical and easy. Carton eggs also take up less space and are not as prone to damage as are shell eggs. Pasteruized products give small, albeit extra layer of protection as opposed to fresh shell eggs

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LOL! Now that is a debated you are NOT going to get me to step into :D Since this is the 'recipe instructions and quantities you routinely ignore' thread.

My point was NOT about the superiority of one type of egg over another but the importance of NOT ignoring recipe instructions and quantities :) If one routinely swaps XL eggs for standard Lg eggs it will make a difference in the recipe for a home cook, Especially when you go to double the recipe for a family gathering or what not and you double the mistake. I'm not saying never make changes, just be careful to fully understand those changes, especially in baking where there formulas& procedures are very carefully balanced out.

Of course this is predicated on the assumption that the formula or recipe is well written and tested in the first place!

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Of course this is predicated on the assumption that the formula or recipe is well written and tested in the first place!

I think one implicit claim by a lot of folks here is that consumer recipes, while generally well tested at least when they appear media that test, tend to be lowest-common-denominatored in various ways that a lot of experienced cooks correct on the fly.

I'm having trouble conceptualizing why a mistake gets amplified if you scale up the recipe. If you use 10% more of X, don't the ratios stay the same whether you make 1 batch or 10?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I have never salted an aubergine(eggplant) in my life.

Also, the only time I ever deseed chile peppers is if I am adding a lot raw to a dish as garnish, and I want the flavour without making it too lethal.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Yep, that's another thing -- I actually rinse/wash mushrooms. Brushing them off never works, and I haven't got time anyway. (Wait, that totally contradicts what I said earlier. Never mind; I just turned 50 so now I have an official license to be inconsistent whenever I want to be.)

However, I have never heard of peeling a mushroom, and I can't even imagine how you would do that.

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Economies of scale mostly. Feel free to ignore me! of course.

I have to say I had a laugh with David Lebovitz when he posted this on his blog the other day :^D "I was thinking of having "If you change the ingredients in a recipe, results will vary" tattooed on my forehead, but there wasn't enough room."

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However, I have never heard of peeling a mushroom, and I can't even imagine how you would do that.

Dead simple

With a paring knife between thumb and forefinger, start under the cap and pull off a layer. It's almost like the 'shroom has an outside skin, like an orange, and this skin can be easily and quickly removed.

iWhy it is removed is another story, and I don't have a clue. My theories, however, include:

-Easier to "turn" or to flute a mushroom.

-Skinned mushrooms keep whiter after cooking (never tried out this theory)

-knife skills for apprentices and as an excuse for mushroom trimmings in stocks, etc.

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I never buy or use unsalted butter

Really, I never buy salted butter. For bread and things I want to taste the butter on, I use my own. I make my own salted butter and freeze it. Then I get to control exactly how much salt is in it.

I like to say things and eat stuff.

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For me it is a bit more general. Any recipe that has a lot of liquid or bulk (sauces, stews, hearty pastas, and soups for instance) that say add 1/4 teaspoon of any spice, I ignore. I usually double it (at least). Also that one bay leaf thing has never made sense to me.

I like to say things and eat stuff.

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  • 1 year later...

I virtually never cook shrimp in with a sauce despite being regularly instructed to do so by recipes. Shrimp don't cook long enough to soak up much flavor so I'd rather just saute them separately and add at the last minute. That way, I get perfectly cooked shrimp in my shrimp curry or shrimp and grits.

If I think the sauce needs a little extra shrimpiness, I add some shrimp stock or just throw some shells in a cheesecloth and cook that with the sauce.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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Speaking for myself on the issue of bother, I find it annoying to have both salted and unsalted butter in stock because then I have to check labels instead of being able just to grab butter. It also doubles the inventory requirements if you keep both types around, not that butter takes a ton of space.

so just buy unsalted, then taste for salt whenever you feel the need to. ;)

I'm with Mitch. If it's something I've never made before, I follow the recipe to a "T". Afterwards, I'll ignore or make shortcuts as I see fit.

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