WireWorld » Food » Cooking notes and changed recipes

My goals behind cooking are often different from everybody else's.

I hate mixes. See, the problem with a mix is that you are beholden to whoever is making it to continue to make it for the rest of eternity. Often times, desirable properties of cooking are abandoned in favor of something that can be combined with a minimum of other ingredients.

I also hate having too many ingredients to gather and especially too many ingredients that can spoil. So I make a lot of stuff that gets moldy within a week from scratch from bulk ingredients and just concentrate on getting fresh veggies and meats.

Measuring

For many recipes, no measurements are really required. Given that most spices start out fresh and get progressively less flavorful over time, you really can't assume that two teaspoons of chopped garlic is going to taste the same all the time. So I do not know my grandfather's Kielbasa recipe because there never was a recipe. He just sniffed and tasted while appropriate and mixed things up.

The thing is, by trying to control your main dishes too much, you remove a lot of the fun and creativity from the process. If you want to make the same thing every day, work as a cook in a chain restaurant. So, for making a stir fry of chicken, broccoli, and onions in brown sauce, there's considerable latitude.

For baking, this usually not the case. It turns out that even the standard American way of doing things is not really accurate. So 1 cup of flour can weight between 100g and 140g depending on moisture and if it has been sifted. And this can make a difference between a dough that comes together well and something that's dry and powdery.

It really does seem, most of the time, like you either don't bother measuring or you need to measure things right.

Because of this, I've been converting existing recipes that are based on volumetric measurements to use weight measurements where appropriate, for improved accuracy. But, for some recipes, I don't even bother posting because it really boils down to adding enough spice until it smells right.

Ingredient swaps and recipe tweaks

I've been reformulating recipes. See, I have blood sugar problems. The exact medical ways and means of it are mysterious and somewhat controversial -- some doctors maintain that hypoglycemia is a myth. And, ever since my mother discovered that she couldn't handle milk when I was but a kid, messing around with recipes has been a common occurrence.

I started out replacing table sugar with crystalline fructose and pretty much trying to find every substitute for table sugar possible. I found that it still screwed up my blood sugar, just less, so I've put that experience in screwing with recipes into other things and just don't have anything sugary... substitute or otherwise... before about 5-6pm. Which means that lately I've just been using real sugar. However, I learned some stuff along the way about other sweetners.

I have discovered that honey is really magical stuff and proof that God wants us to eat yummy food. See, it's got more than just sweetness in it. It's got honey-taste which, when used properly, enhances the flavor. Plus, it absorbs water from the air which means that stuff doesn't get dry and stale, plus it has some natural preservatives. So I've found, and I've seen Alton Brown do this on Good Eats as well, that a lot of recipes are enhanced by it.

The problem is that it's a syrup, so if you want to replace the sugar, you need to adjust everything else to compensate. And you need to be careful, because if you do it wrong, it will taste horrible. So there's often a certain amount of reducing other ingredients.... and this can require some larger scale adjustments.

Furthermore, I tend to believe that we've gone backwards by insisting that everything be made with standard all purpose flour. It turns out that the big reason why whole wheat bread tastes the way it does is because it's made with red wheat instead of white wheat. So if you don't bother process it as much, you get a whole wheat that doesn't have quite as strong of a taste. If you replace the all-purpose flour in your recipes with white whole wheat... you get really branny stuff that doesn't rise so well. But when you screw around with multiple flours and other ingredients, you start to get something that's actually pretty good.

Also, fiber makes your digestive tract work much better. So I have started keeping more types of flour around the house and figuring out how much bran you can put in recipes.

There are swaps that people like to think they can make but really can't. For example, if you try and leave the yolks out of your eggs for any recipe, you'll discover that it isn't nearly as good. Egg whites are structural protein elements that add body. Egg yolks add fat and shorten a recipe. Remember, the whole "eat less cholesterol" thing is largely based on speculation and I think it's much better to do a fatty recipe RIGHT as a treat instead of eating halfassed food all the time.

But, when you get down to it, it's probably just about control over my world and a form of amusement. I can make things a little different and more tuned to my preferences than something out of a cookbook.

Stealing of recipes

So it turns out that, according to the US copyright office, "Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds, or prescriptions are not subject to copyright protection" What this means is that if you have a recipe for pound cake and I have a recipe for pound cake, you can't accuse me of stealing your recipe if the ingredients match. The important part is the descriptions that go with it and the accumulation of the recipes into a cookbook.

I usually try to attribute a recipe and keep a link to my source... largely because this way I don't need to write up my own narrative directions for each possible recipe.

XML formatting

I've looked through several different fancy formatting schemes for recipes. The problem is, it's fairly easy to dream one up, so people are more likely to make their own format instead of using an existing one.

The problem is, most of the time, these are flawed. See, if you are making a recipe for a European audience, you will tend to formulate it in terms of the metric units and you will tend to round it off at even spots, to save people from too much precision. You may want to use weights for the European audience and volume for the American audience. So trying to properly tag up a recipe so that you can convert it from one set of measurements to the other isn't always the most useful thing because it's going to be easier and friendlier to make two slightly different recipes for different audiences.

Plus, basic products are often different. Self rising flour like they use in the UK, for example, as compared to baking powder plus flour like we tend to use in America.

So I'm not really bothering trying to spend any time making it perfectly XML formatted.