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When Recipes Attack!


Andy Lynes
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Recipes are a cooks best friend. They guide him through the culinary jungle to the perfect result, a wonderful braise, a beautifully reduced sauce, a towering souffle.

But sometimes a recipe turns rogue. 5 teaspoons becomes 5 tablespoons, 5g turns into 50g, key ingredients and stages of preperation are missed out entirely. What are the terrifying results of such incompleteness and inaccuracy? How many dinners have been ruined? What happens

WHEN RECIPES ATTACK!!!!!

We want to hear your stories.

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All my worst recipe experiences -- veritable muggings I tell you -- involve baked goods. The following things have been true of 90% of the baking recipes I've tried, and I attribute the success of the other 10% to happenstance:

- The prescribed oven temperature is wrong for my oven, even though my oven is properly calibrated.

- Likewise, even when proper temperature is determined such that correct results can be achieved, the recommended baking time is wrong.

- Quantities of flour are wrong, in no predictable pattern. (And of course the stupid publishing-industry-wide practice of measuring flour by volume makes this impossible to remedy.)

- Various essential measures and specifications are not specified: the size of eggs, the type of brown sugar, the strength of vanilla extract, the strength of chocolate . . .

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 agree with Fat Guy. For most recipes your experience will tell you when something is 'wrong'. But you dare not stray from the prescribed path with the mysterious alchemy that is baking. Maybe that is why the reliable baking book is the most cherished possession of any keen cook.

I tend to find that most good cookbooks give a little warning or explanation ahead of an unusual quantity, ingredient or technique (Like quantities of dried chillies in some szechuan dishes - surely a misprint!). The danger mainly comes if you are trying to follow an old recipe or a translation.

I was once cooked something by someone who had a garlic clove/bulb confusion. Not the recipes fault though. I didn't actually think it was too bad, but then again, I do love garlic!

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Yikes. I hope it wasn't "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic."

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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Yikes. I hope it wasn't "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic."

:biggrin:

No, it was some student bastardized style coq au vin variant I think.

The garlic probably helped the cheap wine and economy supermarket chicken. I can't remember the exact quantity - probably 2 bulbs instead of 2 cloves.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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(And of course the stupid publishing-industry-wide practice of measuring flour by volume makes this impossible to remedy.)

Insert the word "American" between "stupid" and "publishing". Most of the rest of the world (where cooking is a pleasure not just a necessity) weigh the ingredients.

Of course the weights can still be wrong.

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Andy, I just had to say: great title.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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i was making some onion marmalade from Simon Hopkinson's Roast Chicken and Other Stories - as he says you might as well make double as much as you need because it can go with anything. and the amount of salt is listed in the ingredients as 1.5 tsp. looking at it now it is obviously teaspoons but at the time i was convinced it was tablespoons (why bother to list it otherwise?). there is no way out from such a mistake...

Edited by enthusiast (log)
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Alton Brown's pizza recipe calls for 2 T. kosher salt in the dough. It was the worst pizza we have ever made.

We complained on the FTV Good Eats message board, and AB explained that 2T of Diamond kosher (what he uses) was not the same as Morton's kosher (what we use), and changed the recipe to reflect that.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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I bought 5 pounds of Concord grapes last weekend for Concord grape pies, two of them.

You have to pop the pulp out of the skins and cook the pulp to strain it and get the seeds out. I valiantly popped and popped, saving the skins, all the way through this giant bag of grapes.

I then cooked the pulp, ran it through the food mill, added the sugar, flour and lemon, poured the filling into two pie shells I had made (oil crust, 5 minutes and absolutely foolproof and impossibly flaky). Hmm, looks a little low, I thought, and popped them into the oven. I turned to the counter and moved some stuff and saw: another giant bag of grapes.

I had used only half the grapes, making the filling twice as sugary. The result was grape jelly pie. I threw them away. D'oh!

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I have a cookbook that frequently calls for sesame oil and I'm not sure if she means toasted or plain. The dishes are aisan in influence which would lead me believe toasted sesame oil is called for, but the amounts called for are so large (1 cup or more), it would seem that plain is in order.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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A cornbread recipe that did not list eggs in the ingredients, but included the instruction, "Beat in the eggs." I decided on two, and the results were good.

A pumpkin pie recipe (printed in Esquire magazine) that also omitted the eggs, this time entirely, screwing up untold numbers of readers' Thanksgiving dinners (my sister was one.)

A recipe for a "hot and spicy" roasted red pepper soup that called for 3 tablespoons of cayenne. My then-boyfriend wanted to make it that way; fortunately I talked him into 3 teaspoons.

And my personal favorite: a recipe for beer rocks that lists the yield as 36 but which has you divide the dough into 30 pieces.

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Insert the word "American" between "stupid" and "publishing". Most of the rest of the world (where cooking is a pleasure not just a necessity) weigh the ingredients.

There's a publishing industry in the rest of the world? :laugh:

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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In general, recipes LIE.

My favourite sticking point is the onion softening/browning.

Nearly every cookery book has something like 'soften the onions without browning on a low heat - about 3-mins' - NO NO NO , who are they trying to kid?

And when they need browning, and they say it is going to take 5 minutes?

Some books are good, and tell the truth. I would like to know why they do it though. Do they think people will not cook any recipe that says it will take over 20 minutes?

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Jean George Vongerichtens Warm, Soft Chocolate Cake : recipe says it takes 6-7 minutes to cook at 450F. Yeah, if you like raw cake mix. Real life says more like 15-18 minutes and you have to watch it like a hawk to catch it at exactly the right moment or you will have Hot, Solid Chocolate Cake.

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Most of the River Cafe cake/tart (Rogers Grey) baking exercises you have to double the time given, unless you like your cake 'medium-rare.'

And often the temps are a little too high.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Alton Brown's pizza recipe calls for 2 T. kosher salt in the dough.  It was the worst pizza we have ever made.

We complained on the FTV Good Eats message board, and AB explained that 2T of Diamond kosher (what he uses) was not the same as Morton's kosher (what we use), and changed the recipe to reflect that.

I use both brands, so I'd love to know what the difference is. Could you (or someone) post the URL of AB's post or tell us which section and subsection of the message board it was in and the date of his answer? Thanks!

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Alton Brown's pizza recipe calls for 2 T. kosher salt in the dough.  It was the worst pizza we have ever made.

We complained on the FTV Good Eats message board, and AB explained that 2T of Diamond kosher (what he uses) was not the same as Morton's kosher (what we use), and changed the recipe to reflect that.

I use both brands, so I'd love to know what the difference is. Could you (or someone) post the URL of AB's post or tell us which section and subsection of the message board it was in and the date of his answer? Thanks!

In general:

table salt = 10 oz. per cup

Morton's Coarse Kosher Salt = 7.7 oz. per cup

Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt = 5 oz. per cup

Use 1.5 times as much if you use Morton, or twice as much if you use DC.

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In general:

table salt = 10 oz. per cup

Morton's Coarse Kosher Salt = 7.7 oz. per cup

Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt = 5 oz. per cup

Use 1.5 times as much if you use Morton, or twice as much if you use DC.

Thanks, Mr. g!

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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In general:

table salt = 10 oz. per cup

Morton's Coarse Kosher Salt = 7.7 oz. per cup

Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt = 5 oz. per cup

Use 1.5 times as much if you use Morton, or twice as much if you use DC.

G, could you put this in your sig line so we don't forget where to find this info? :smile:

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In general:

table salt = 10 oz. per cup

Morton's Coarse Kosher Salt = 7.7 oz. per cup

Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt = 5 oz. per cup

Use 1.5 times as much if you use Morton, or twice as much if you use DC.

G, could you put this in your sig line so we don't forget where to find this info? :smile:

Do you want me to get into a discussion on how the distance you pour the salt will affect its density?

Edited by guajolote (log)
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