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Michael Ohene

What is your method of creating baking recipes?

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How does everyone create their unique recipes? Some people I know use the advice of food science books, but I find them hard to follow. Does anyone have a robust method of creating recipes for baking. I find baker's percentages are limited to butter and flour recipes and don translate well for ground almonds, melted chocolate, yogurt, etc.

 

I tried my hand at creating a method and called it Recipe Genius . It's pretty good so far, but I am still waiting for someone to tell me it gave them something wrong.

I included scaling, equivalents for baking ingredients,and  a recipe checker (is your recipe good, for flour based recipes). You can enter your entire recipe without having to calculate anything.

 

In the meantime please let me know what you rely on.

 

Thanks.


Edited by Michael Ohene (log)

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Frankly, I don't find databases helpful.  Instead, I developed my own chart of equivalents, which I'm posting in another thread rather than risk taking this one off topic.

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I did have a look at this site and conversion tool but, apologies for being negative, I can't quite see what it is aiming to achieve.  The heading 'Makes you think you can bake' is not really encouraging, is this perhaps a language issue and the text would seem less insulting to English speakers other than in England?  I know I can bake, I might seek help to improve what I do or to find something new.

 

The conversion chart, direct from your link, misses many ingredients I often use.  There are numerous quick and easy weight and measure converters already available, similarly web sites that will calculate nutritional info for your recipe.

 

I guess I need to know more about what you are trying to achieve before I can be constructive with advice.

 

Apologies again if this seems overly critical, I wish you luck with your project.

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I had a bit of fun with the tool and got this result:

 

Quote
Recipe Conversion for your Bad Recipe :P
 
6 Cups (6.00) Bread Flour
9 Cups (9.00) Rye Flour
1 Tbsp (0.06) Heavy Cream
84 1/2 Cups (84.53) Zucchini, Grated
Nutritional Information

Calories: 31.46
Total Fat:2.83g
Saturated Fat: 0.01g
Cholestrol: 0.00mg
Calories from Fat: 4.73
Carbohydrates: 4.91g
Protein: 1.74g

252 servings (11,360.89 grams)
*Nutritional information based on 45 gram servings

 

Smart tool ... it may not be anything I would actually use but at least it figured out that this is a BAD recipe (though it didn't tell me why - not that I didn't know). On the other hand it didn't seem to take account of the 3 litres of cream of tartar I chose as a leavener! I have no idea what size serving (unless I do my own math with the # of servings in x # of grams) is but hey apparently it is only 31.46 calories per - so (aside from the fact this would be totally unpalatable anyway) it is great diet food (for a carb based food) I would say. :)

 

What does it do with the information one might put in for hydration? Just for fun, I told it 125% hydration (but why am I asked to then give that a 'measurement' as well?) but that wasn't even a possible 'request'/desire given that I only told it 1 Tbsp of heavy cream and no other liquid (although I guess if one doesn't drain the zucchini after grating that might be a bit more of unspecified liquid-ity.

 

As to how I create recipes, that mostly happens through evolution (making a similar dish many times over the years, often when I don't have all the ingredients on hand) or sometimes I read a lot of cookbooks for 'ideas' and basics and then (without a specific recipe in front of me) I just start dumping into a bowl till the mixture or whatever seems the right texture (and I taste as I go along too - even at the raw stage if that is safe). Yes, I fail sometimes (but that is how I learn) but I have far more successes. Unfortunately though I rarely make exactly the same thing twice.


Edited by Deryn (log)
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gosh, you've been at this a while.

 

"How does everyone create their unique recipes? "
you might want to take a poll of how many people here create unique recipes from scratch.  that could explain a lot.

 

as for attempting to convert cups to grams, your app is doomed.  not only does stuff like flour vary by 'type' - AP/bread - etc. but it also varies by grind.  and you can't depend on 'descriptions' because Type 00 flour is a grind and the density, protein content, gluten are not part of that specification.


plus, supermarkets buy their house brand from the lowest dollar per ton supplier this week and what you bought last week is likely not what you'll get next week - not the same manufacturer or processor or density.


Salt - the size of the grind changes the weight per volume drastically.


same for sugar - there's more than granulated/powdered/brown sugar.


there's a USA and a European definition of egg sizes by weight.  they're not the same....


pasta - the shape&size of any "generic name pasta" is not identical and 'elbows' vary by more that 20% from brand to brand and/or sub-class of "elbow"


check out the diameter of "spaghetti" by brand.  then add in angel hair to thick descriptors and you've got 200% difference in cooked volumes.


and, even "perfectly" converting grams to cups, no one around here is likely to have a measuring cup with a line at 1.635 cups.  you could go for the "cups plus /minus table/teaspoon" route.

 

now, all things are possible.  you just need to buy and quantify every brand of everything in the market, list it all out in the app, and keep up with all the changes.  piece of cake, eh?

 

I've been doing this dance for decades.  I have a scale, I measure in grams, I keep notes.  I have 'conversion' factors for the stuff/brands I use.  for cooking it's hugely flexible; for baking, not so much - which is why I keep notes and know if I should use more or less grams next time.

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3 hours ago, DianaB said:

 The heading 'Makes you think you can bake' is not really encouraging, is this perhaps a language issue and the text would seem less insulting to English speakers other than in England?  I know I can bake, I might seek help to improve what I do or to find something new.

 

DianaB, very good point.. I need to understand the different cultures looking at the site in order not to be too harsh. My impression is that the British may take baking more seriously. In the US, the common person will just tell you "I want somethin good" and find it a miracle if they produce something decent.

 

1) The aim is to take the average person who eats baked goods but does not understand baked goods and give them a tool for recipes when they do decide to bake. In the US many things that are common place in England, e.g. scones, are exotic items and people are excited to make something English or Scottish. Many people here do not even know where to get started baking but are willing to try if it is kept simple.

2)Over the last 7 years there has been an ever growing demand in things like scones, kouign amann, and other ciabatta.

3) Over the past 7 years there has been an ever growing demand in baking science and recipe customization. e.g. Can I add extra eggs to my recipe? 

 

I think it is funny that you are concerned I will take criticism to heart. Thank you for being concerned. You remind me of the British librarian near London who once told me "We don't have internet, Im afraid". Here it have been "It aint workin'"

 

Deryn, I was thinking about adding notes about why a recipe failed, but thought it might confuse people. I will revisit the notes option.

125% hydration is the hydration value of the starter for bread. It is just another ingredient. For example "100grams of 125% hydration starter"

I have heard "I just throw things together" alot. This builds a case for adding more notes. Thanks

 

 

 

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People develop recipes all different ways. Some are more systematic than others, making the process more efficient, and making it based on reasonable decisions rather than guesses.

 

I'd suggest, for starters,

 

1. Find a couple of food science books/sites that are written to your level. Take the time with them. Without the basic principles you're flying blind.

2. Use principles from those sources, and use recipes you know to be excellent as starting points.

3. Use weights only. Ideally find professional sources that started out in gram measures; otherwise convert, like you've been doing. If no one else shares a good conversion table I can put one up somewhere.

4. Figure out proportions, so you can see how the ingredients relate. Baker's percentages were invented for flour-based recipes, but work well with anything. Make the main ingredient the 100% reference. Or figure out ratios, or overall percentages. Whatever's easiest to wrap your head around. 

5. Try to be methodical. I'd say "be scientific," but in reality few of us have the patience or resources to follow the standards of good science. We're probably going to change more than one variable at a time, and we probably won't double-blind test every result. So just do your best, within reason.

6. Document everything! Keep your old versions. I keep everything as text files on my computer, labeled v.1, v.2, etc.. My girlfriend thinks I'm crazy not to use GitHub, but that may be beyond my personal nerd horizon.

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Notes from the underbelly

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18 minutes ago, Michael Ohene said:

DianaB, very good point.. I need to understand the different cultures looking at the site in order not to be too harsh. My impression is that the British may take baking more seriously. In the US, the common person will just tell you "I want somethin good" and find it a miracle if they produce something decent.

 

1) The aim is to take the average person who eats baked goods but does not understand baked goods and give them a tool for recipes when they do decide to bake. In the US many things that are common place in England, e.g. scones, are exotic items and people are excited to make something English or Scottish. Many people here do not even know where to get started baking but are willing to try if it is kept simple.

2)Over the last 7 years there has been an ever growing demand in things like scones, kouign amann, and other ciabatta.

3) Over the past 7 years there has been an ever growing demand in baking science and recipe customization. e.g. Can I add extra eggs to my recipe? 

 

I think it is funny that you are concerned I will take criticism to heart. Thank you for being concerned. You remind me of the British librarian near London who once told me "We don't have internet, Im afraid". Here it have been "It aint workin'"

 

Deryn, I was thinking about adding notes about why a recipe failed, but thought it might confuse people. I will revisit the notes option.

125% hydration is the hydration value of the starter for bread. It is just another ingredient. For example "100grams of 125% hydration starter"

I have heard "I just throw things together" alot. This builds a case for adding more notes. Thanks

 

 

 

You seem to be all over the map here (intended in many different ways). Maybe you need to decide who your real audience might be? I think people who eat baked goods, but do not themselves bake, don't want to mess around with figuring out different measurements. They want a simple recipe, the easier the better (if they want a recipe at all), and there are many recipes out there. Just Google "scones" and you'll get hundreds of thousands. Conversion from volume to metric is also fairly easily found. (And there is nothing exotic about scones in the U.S. Maybe 20 years ago they were exotic, certainly not now.) 

 

There is more of a demand for different types of baked goods because they are now more readily available. I'm not sure this means people want to bake these items. They want to eat them. These are two very different things! This is true of even simple items like muffins. People who don't bake might try to make muffins once or twice, but for the most part if they want a muffin they'll go to a shop and buy one. 

 

The people who do actually want to learn about precision in baking science do not (in my opinion) want a simple chart. They want to learn. And that's much more involved than what you seem to be trying to do. So I think you should try to figure out who your intended target audience is, and then work on how to give them what you want them to have. 

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is a cup different in the US to down here in AUstralia? I seem to recall something about a US cup being around 200mL whereas an Australian cup is 250mL. That would change things too!

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A cup in the U.S. is 236.6 milliliters.  For more on the subject, see Wiki.

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6 hours ago, cakewalk said:

 

The people who do actually want to learn about precision in baking science do not (in my opinion) want a simple chart. They want to learn. And that's much more involved than what you seem to be trying to do. So I think you should try to figure out who your intended target audience is, and then work on how to give them what you want them to have. 

cakewalk, You seem to have missed the original question and actually the entire topic, "What method do you use?"

The only other issue I am concerned about is any bad results that were produced from my tool.

 

"People wont use it , Wont want it, etc. " - All I have to say is, Judgments say more about the people judging, than what is being judged.

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1 hour ago, Michael Ohene said:

You seem to have missed the original question and actually the entire topic, "What method do you use?"

 

To be fair, your question is very unclear. You ask what method we use to create recipes. I could answer that they come to me in dreams, or when I wonder in an idle moment what would happen if I added some X to Y, but all your site seems to be is yet another conversion tool, and there are many of them out there, more usable and professional.

 

If and when I create a new recipe, conversion isn't on my mind. When I write down the recipe later, it still isn't.

Like others, I am left unsure what it is you are trying to achieve. Or for whom?

Also, I don't get your ingredient classification at all.

Potatoes are a liquid? Peanut butter is a flour? Vinegar is sugar/salt?

No mention of high gluten wheat flour for breads.

And by the way SAF does more than one type of yeast.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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5 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

To be fair, your question is very unclear. ....there are many of them out there, more usable and professional.


Like others, I am left unsure what it is you are trying to achieve. Or for whom?

Also, I don't get your ingredient classification at all.

Potatoes are a liquid? Peanut butter is a flour? Vinegar is sugar/salt?

No mention of high gluten wheat flour for breads.

And by the way SAF does more than one type of yeast.

 

Liuzhou

1)  "What method do you use?" The reasons you gave for not being specific enough are actually reasons for the question not applying to your baking style.

2) Thanks for letting me know this is nothing new. I was unaware there were better online baking tools. Every product/invention has a competitor/prior art so this would be a great point from which to learn. Would you mind sharing a link to any of the professional/more usable sites out there?

3) Potatoes are liquid, yes. Peanut Butter is a flour yes and no, Vinegar, definitely not a salt or sugar. Thanks, got to correct vinegar.

4) No mention of high gluten flours. No, I dont want to confuse people. The high gluten flour would not effect results of this tool since the tool deals with weight of flours only. There are multiple values for weight listed that can be used in place of high gluten flour. Therefore adding high gluten would functionally be redundant.

4) SAF yeast, I have to determine the weights for the different types. Thanks

 

These are the tough, hard questions I was looking for.


Edited by Michael Ohene (log)

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I am still trying to figure out who exactly you think is your target market for this 'tool'.

 

Novice bakers will usually follow a recipe they feel is tried and true - created by someone else. They want (hope for) instant success and good results from the outset - most won't experiment too much at that stage.

 

Many home bakers will rarely vary their base recipe(s) once they have figured out they actually work, especially since there are so many variables anyway (humidity in the air, a new brand of flour, etc. being a couple) that one can make the same thing many times and each will come out good perhaps but no two iterations will be 'exactly the same'.

 

Professional bakers I believe will usually use standardized recipes since they need to produce a product that their customers have come to expect will be 'the same' each day. 

 

And then there are crazy people like me who have been cooking and baking and eating for so long I just wing it most of the time .. mostly because I can pull from taste memory, and long experience learning the basics - leading to some understanding of the properties of/'kitchen chemistry' involved in mixing basic ingredients - but I don't write anything down .. the results (good or bad) and the analysis of those results just go into my personal 'memory bank' - sometimes under the 'don't do that again' file. And these days, I don't 'plan' to bake too much in advance - I keep basic ingredients around in case the mood strikes me and if I am out of something, I toss in something else or leave it out. I don't even measure very accurately (oh the horror) most of the time unless I KNOW that a particular measure is critical to the success of the recipe. And I measure success perhaps not the way you would - is it interesting, is it palatable, would I serve this to guests, what can I 'do' with this now I have made it (and made too much) ... can I use it in something else perhaps?).

 

Most people aren't writing cookbooks so they don't really experiment too much unless it is to make a slight variation from a base recipe they trust. Perhaps they add a different kind of nut one day or try applesauce as a bit of the sweetening element - and they may discover through a process of trial and elimination what works for them and what doesn't - but usually they all start from a basic known recipe while widening their horizons with the added ingredients (like chocolate chips or spices, etc.) ... until over time perhaps that basic recipe has morphed into something more akin to another basic recipe.

 

So who exactly IS your target audience?


Edited by Deryn (log)
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On June 30, 2016 at 9:26 PM, Michael Ohene said:

How does everyone create their unique recipes?

I'm not sure I qualify as a creator of "unique recipes" but if I come up with something different, it's usually driven by a specific special ingredient (fresh seasonal fruit, a special chocolate, etc.) or a flavor combination that I want to highlight.  I usually refer first to my cookbook collection, via Eat Your Books, then to the internet to see what looks similar. I evaluate these recipes for technique and scan the rough ratios of the ingredients used.  Then I'll either pick one recipe to modify or sometimes a mash-up of several, using simple arithmetic or maybe the "Units" app on my phone to calculate any adjustments.  It's pretty rare that I would pull something entirely "unique" out of thin air.   I'm more of an editor than an inventor and perhaps that is why I don't quite understand how I would use this tool.

 

Here's an example. You mentioned scones, so I assume they are in scope of the tool.  I have some lovely white peaches and would like to make some scones that showcase the peaches and are flavored with fresh rosemary.  Would your tool help in this sort of situation?

 

2 hours ago, Michael Ohene said:

These are the tough, hard questions I was looking for.

 

9 hours ago, Michael Ohene said:

The only other issue I am concerned about is any bad results that were produced from my tool.

It seems that you are looking for some feedback, some "tough hard questions" but you have been unwilling to define your target audience, a piece of information that would be helpful to to anyone who might test the system. 

In order to determine if any "bad results" were produced from the tool, it's rather necessary that the tester know what  a "good" or "desired" result actually is.     

 

If my example above wasn't a good one, would you be willing to take us through your process of creating a recipe so we can understand how your find it useful?   

 

 

 

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Michael, I notice this is a hobby of yours.  Prior threads in a similar vein include Baking Formula (2008), Need input on baked goods calculator (2010), Input needed for recipe analysis technique (2010) and Cookie Recipe Creator (2011).  From these, it's evident this way of looking at recipes works for you.  It doesn't follow, however, that it works for anyone else.

 

Focusing on the thread title rather than the calculator, as blue dolphin says, very few people (almost no one) tries to develop unique recipes.  Rather, almost all recipes are either variations on a prior one or a synthesis of several.  On the rare occasion I do tackle what I call a "blue sky" recipe, it consists of putting  ingredients on the counter based on experience and intuition, then doing trial after trial.  Asking me to explain how I make it work is like asking a musician to explain how s/he writes a song.  Can't imagine a scenario, though, where a tool like you're trying to devise would be helpful..

 

Also, I don't think anyone is going to take the time to enter a bunch of data to get an analysis.  I know I won't.


Edited by pbear (log)
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I agree. Not much of this is making much sense to me right now. But obviously I am less than the 'average person' since I cannot quite comprehend without further information and I cannot mind read. Working on those skills but I am slow.

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On 7/1/2016 at 0:26 AM, Michael Ohene said:

How does everyone create their unique recipes?

 

I only have one that I would consider "mine" on the baking side, and that's my Southern Indian (the continent)/Southern American fusion corn pone vegetable pancakes. It started out as trying to duplicate utthapam with carrot, onion, peas and hot peppers cooked into one side of a lentil/rice flatbread pancake cooked on a griddle or skillet. I did a lot of research on line and asked questions here about making the batter for utthapam and came to believe it was similar to dosa batter, with dosa batter only being more hydrated. I tried for a while to make this and finally gave up on it after a lot of effort and time. My results were just not as good as the inspiring Southern Indian restaurant's were, and it was a lot of work. It didn't help at all that I did not have the right grinding equipment to reduce the rice and lentils to a smooth batter, and was using an Osterizer blender circa 1989 as a stand-in. I don't consider it a waste of time at all though, because I learned a lot in the process, and it brought me to a great recipe that I could master.

 

I had been for many years making corn meal and wheat flour pancakes and thought they would pair well with the caramelized grilled veggie topping. This is one of my favorites in the rotation now, and I usually serve it when I cook up a pot of beans. It's not utthapam, but it's delicious, and I can always go the the Udipi Cafe if I need a genuine utthapam or dosa fix.

 

So like the other experienced cooks here who have tried to help you, I start with something I know is going to work well, or if trying to do something completely new to me, do a lot of research and asked trusted sources about their experience, procedures and results.

 

It would probably take something on the order of artificial intelligence for a software program to be helpful in this area, IMO. We just aren't there yet, but I do find the research fascinating if a little scary. 

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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