Failure to Launch: In the World of Poorly Written Recipes

17 03 2009

You can really get upset when you’ve planned on baking something for a special dessert only to find that you failed to procure baking powder on your trip to the store (while they were still open). Why didn’t you get baking powder? The answer is, at once, simple and aggravating; because the recipe didn’t list baking powder in the ingredient list… it only appears for the first time in step 3: mix in baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. This is a clear infraction of Poorly Written Recipe INFRACTION 2B (to follow).

Fortunately, that particular recipe could be salvaged with 2 parts Cream of Tartar to 1 part Baking Soda (happened to have them in the pantry). That does notblog picture, however, give the publisher of that particular recipe a free pass on the infraction. It could have easily ruined your dessert, wasted your money, and tarnished your SWEET reputation. The biggest problem with poorly written recipes is that they can be really confusing.

Let’s review the list of Poorly Written Recipe INFRACTIONS:

  • 1. How big is an onion? (could be golf ball… could be softball… be specific.)
  • 2A. Appears in Ingredients… does NOT appear in Instructions
  • 2B. Does NOT appear in Ingredients… DOES appear in Instructions
  • 3. Mixed language descriptors (a HANDFUL of flour & 1 1/2 Tablespoons of shortening called for in same recipe… should have been; a HANDFUL of flour and then add SOME flour… to paraphrase… Start Vague=Stay Vague.
  • 4. Blatant PRODUCT PLACEMENT. We’ve all been put-off by not having Lawrie McPerrin’s Seasoned Salt on hand or a bottle of BLAM! All-purpose seasoning… not to mention the specific kind velvety smooth of ‘Government Cheese’ needed for a particular recipe. Just say, “Seasoning Salt” or “processed cheese product” and let us make our own BRAND selection.
  • 5. The over 20 ingredient INFRACTION. C’mon? Get real and scale it back.
  • 6. The ‘What kind of pan?’ & ‘How high a heat?’ INFRACTION. The direction cook for 3 minutes while stirring takes on new meaning at SMOKIN’ HOT than at Simmer.
  • 7. Ingredients that can only be purchased in remote areas of Morocco… and only then if you ‘know someone’. (Hey… rewrite w/ substitutes)
  • 8. Science and/or Math issues. simple infractions being ‘6 teaspoons’ instead of ‘2 Tablespoons’… complicated infractions being ‘liquid measurement/dry measurement’ confusion… catastrophic infractions being cooking times & temps don’t allow recipe to be safely cooked.
  • 9. Recipes written as narratives. (need to be read 15 times to grasp the quantities AND concepts.)
  • 10. Recipes with names that are too embarrassing to tell anyone else: Snickiepoopers, or Hot Doggy Weenie Beanies…etc.

Let’s all start taking notes on other INFRACTIONS we discover as we cook our way through our recipe libraries. If we write recipes let’s commit to consistency. If we don’t care about any of this… well… enjoy your Snickiepoopers.

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