We’re pleased to introduce our guest blogger this week: Wendi Spraker. Wendi is the CEO, Food Writer, Recipe Developer and Dish Washer at Loaves and Dishes! She has a passion for food, recipes and keeping thing delicious.
How many times have you come across an old recipe stuck away in a decrepit family bible or found an ancient cookbook at a yard sale with interesting recipes hidden inside? Maybe you found a recipe that YOU created tucked away in your kitchen and it reads simply as a few ingredients and measurements with no instructions that someone else could EVER follow? If you are a cooking enthusiast and recipe addict like I am, then I suspect this has happened WAY MORE than is comfortable to admit!
A recipe I am so thankful, I have ready to share - Mamaw’s Lemon Pound Cake Recipe.
The problem is, when you get right down to it, that we want to be able to SHARE our recipes and thus, language must be standardized, ingredients must be called by a current name (Oleo vs. margarine anyone?) and measurements must be done in units useful for the person using your recipe ( imperial versus metric). How do we go about testing recipes to find the best way to make a dish using current language, methods, measurements, and ingredients?
Fortunately, it isn’t terribly difficult to update or write a new recipe but it DOES require testing. Once you have the recipe dialed in so that you can make it consistently THEN you want to write it down so that you can share the recipe with others.
I write recipes for a living over at Loaves and Dishes. Many of the most popular recipes on my site are family classics that were originally written in another era with ingredients called by another name or with ingredients that are no longer available thus requiring a modern day rewrite (Hello Collard Greens and Pinto Beans). Sometimes, my recipes are just something scribbled on scrap paper to jog my own memory (Sweet Tea anyone)?
What follows are some tips that have helped me sort all of this information out and write recipes that anyone can follow.
Another recipe that I've tested and is ready to share - Classic Cabbage Rolls.
After you have collected all of your thoughts on the first try, think about the things that must change. Write those into your recipe using the following list as a guideline for writing your rough draft recipe. Then, wait for a week or so before you try making the recipe again. On the second recipe test, use and follow your own recipe. Again, do so on paper and keep a pen handy while cooking so you can write notes to yourself as you go.
Before you begin on this wonderful odyssey of recipe writing, I thought that you might want to just think about a few things.
Recipes follow a format where ingredients come first and instructions second. There is a vocabulary that comes with writing and testing recipes. You will want to pick terms and stick with them for all of your recipes.
When testing a new recipe, you’ll want to clear your mind of distractions. Put the phone on vibrate, play some calm music and plan to enjoy your time in the kitchen. It is very difficult to test a recipe with the cat under your feet, a hungry belly and kids fighting in the next room.
Decide early on if you will remind the reader in the steps to do things like “mince the garlic” or if you will just assume that they understand that they need to prepare all ingredients before starting the recipe. Once you decide, stick with what you decide for all of your recipes.
Taste your own recipe at each step (unless doing so could endanger your health. (e.g. Don’t taste raw eggs). You’ll want to know how something tastes as you make adjustments and move to the next step. This can be very valuable information to share in your recipe.
Finally, if you plan to share your recipes with the world, the most sage advice I ever received is this…..
“You can be the most wonderful, freshest, firmest, fleshiest and beautiful peach that ever came into existence and there will STILL be people who don’t like peaches”.
Bonus: one more delicious tested and ready recipe - Cinnamon Roll Cake From Scratch!
All your recipes won’t please everyone all the time. It’s not personal and you shouldn’t take it as such. Are YOU happy with the recipe? Did you notice that most people cleaned their plates when you served the dish? Then don’t worry about a single negative comment. You are the one who has put yourself on the line to offer something to others. You have done a thing to be proud of. Hold your head high and move forward.
Consider for just a moment what recipe testing means, literally, to the world. Think of ALL of the wonderful dishes that you have ever enjoyed. Every single one of those recipes started as a test recipe in someone’s kitchen somewhere.
Where would we be if cooks hadn’t experimented with multitudes of flavors? I think about this every time I add lemon juice to a savory dish to brighten the flavor or sneak a pinch of salt into a dessert item. How GLORIOUS the process to find new taste sensations!
Without recipe testing, none of that would be possible. I wish you all the best in your recipe testing and most of all I encourage you to let your wild side loose, express yourself, experiment and go all out. The world needs you!
As Daniel Tompson once said, “A recipe is a story with a happy ending!”
Make sure to follow Wendi for more inspiration and recipes!