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Recipe instructions you have ignored for years to their detriment


Shalmanese
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Ever since I started making risotto, I largely ignored the finishing instructions to add cheese and butter to the risotto just before serving. I might throw in a small handful of cheese if I had it around but certainly not butter, it just seemed like a caloric extravagance to me. All of my risottos were good, flavor wise but I never got that flowing, molten lava risotto I would see elsewhere. It wasn't until making it tonight with the full dose of butter and cheese that I finally realized that the sauce for risotto is really a butter emulsion and that it was impossible to get the same effect any other way. Finally, a bowl of sexy, silky risotto.

What are some recipe instructions that you've routinely ignored over the years, only to finally become a convert?

PS: I am a guy.

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It's no so much that I have ignored it so much as sometimes I am a bit lazy or in a rush to get several things done in a short period of time.

I have some old, old cake recipes that instruct one to sift the flour three times, the last time with the other dry ingredients.

My rationale was that back when these recipes were developed or written down, flour was different from that we have today, might contain some larger particles and debris that had to be sifted out.

They didn't have cake flour so this cake was made with "regular" or all-purpose flour.

There's one "chiffon" cake that I make fairly often and one day I decided to follow the original directions to the letter. I dutifully sifted the flour twice by itself, measured out the stated amount (by volume) and added the dry ingredients and sifted it a final time and as the instructions said, "stir the grated orange rind gently into the flour then add flour a handful at a time to the wet ingredients, stirring just enough to moisten it and finally, beating the batter just till no lumps are on the surface, then fold in the beaten egg whites" performed this task.

Okay, with everything the same, except for triple-sifting the flour, the cake rose an inch above the edge of the angel food pan, almost an inch higher and it was very tender.

I can't really get my mind around how this could have an effect on the end product but it did.

Am I going to do this every time I make this cake? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm going to revisit some of the other old recipes I have "improved and modernized" over the years to see if there is some arcane procedure that seemed to make no sense but might have an effect on the final result.

In my experience, some "new" procedures work better than the old ways but not always.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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"Add wet ingredients to dry."

I do it the other way around because it saves washing an extra bowl. I whisk dry ingredients in the bowl, then turn out onto waxed paper. Next I beat eggs in the same bowl and add other wet ingredients. Dump in dry ingredients and fold. (I still have to use an extra bowl or cup to melt the butter, but it's a little one.) You can also use a food processor to mix, but washing that is even worse.

As a matter of fact, I often change recipes using the "cake method" (cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs, alternately add dry ingredients and liquids) to the above "muffin method", especially when I am actually making muffins or coffeecake.

Oops...forgot to mention detriment. None I can see, except when I change from cake method the crumb is a little less fine. Doesn't bother me.

Edited by ruthcooks (log)

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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I have a couple of coffee bread recipes that urge me to add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between. I'm normally lazy as sin, so I rarely do this - they go in all at once; the other day I had the luxury of extra time so I followed to the letter.

Yup, three times fluffier and lighter, for reasons I can't fathom at all.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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Alton Brown always gave dry ingredients a spin in the food processor bowl rather than sifting them. In my house, any time saved by using the food processor was given right back in washing the food processor afterwards, as we never seem to have the room in the dishwasher.

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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I have a couple of coffee bread recipes that urge me to add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between. I'm normally lazy as sin, so I rarely do this - they go in all at once; the other day I had the luxury of extra time so I followed to the letter.

Yup, three times fluffier and lighter, for reasons I can't fathom at all.

I bet this is because it emulsifies properly when you do it slowly. Think about mayonnaise or aioli. If you don't add the fat slowly, it won't come together properly. Perhaps a similar effect is happening with the eggs going into the coffee cake batter.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Okay, with everything the same, except for triple-sifting the flour, the cake rose an inch above the edge of the angel food pan, almost an inch higher and it was very tender.

I can't really get my mind around how this could have an effect on the end product but it did.

Hi andiesenji,

The purpose of sifting the flour three times is to aerate it, which is why your cake rises higher than when you don't sift the flour. Same with beating the bejeesus out of the eggs (beat them until they just start to fall) - you are strengthening the protein structure and whipping in as much air as possible.

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There were some interesting revelations when my Dad took over the kitchen and started taking on some of Mom's classic cookie recipes. He actually chopped the raisins for oatmeal cookies--and it made quite a difference to have smaller bits spread throughout, no big burnt raisins on the outside, better balance between batter and fruit. He also followed the directions and did not refrigerate the dough for gingersnaps, and they came out higher, rounder, quite different. So many things in the directions we just ignored because we learned from watching Mom make things, and just referred to the directions to verify the quantities of the ingredients.

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