Right recipe research methodology

This article is dedicated to all the dessert-lovers who found a seemingly “easy” recipe, started preparing it full of dreams and hope… And then, there came tears and anger…

Snow White finishing a pie with the help of a little bird
From the classic Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Here’s something that has probably happened to any amateur or beginner baker: We found a recipe on the internet, in a magazine, in a book -it doesn’t matter where- its photo looked delicious, we had almost all the necessary ingredients, its execution seemed pretty easy. We felt full of confidence about our competence, we made grand statements to our loved ones, such as “oh, I’m going to make you a dessert to die for” etc. and we begun. At the beginning everything went well, we were happy just like in a family movie. Suddenly, something started to go wrong…

The Fairy putting candles on a huge cake that is melting
From the classic Disney movie Sleeping Beauty

Just like when I was making Christmas cookies for a gift… What can go wrong with a simple cookie recipe? Apparently, a lot! I weighed (probably) correctly my ingredients and started, sure of myself. I even had grandiose plans for their decoration! But as soon as my ingredients got into the mixer, there came chaos… The dough became a clumpy mass, that stuck to everything it could… to the mixing bowl, the hooks, the mixer itself, the spatula, my hands, only the ceiling got away with it… I yelled, I cried, I added flour, I got even more frustrated, and finally I through it into the dumbster, which was also a fight as it stuck even there. When I finally got myself together, I started all over with another, already tested recipe and ended up with a batch of appetizing, buttery cookies.

A black and a blue plate with Christmas cookies in various shapes
Christmas cookies, nailed it!

Such failures and mishaps, thankfully along with a lot of victories and achievements that come with experience and diligent study, made us feel that we have to share with you two things: firstly, some conclusiond we have reached on how we should make our reserch in order to find the proper recipe for us, and secondly a little gift for you to write down your successful recipes.

Download the free recipe sheet we designed, print it multiple times, write down your favourite recipes and create your own recipe book!

In our file we keep a record of recipes for desserts or dessert components such as doughs and custards that we have successfuly tested, we note where we found them (as our scientific ethics command) so that we can go back to them in the future, and finally we keep count of the changes and variations we have tried in order to adapt the recipe to our tastes.

A page with a handwritten recipe and the recipes' file
Our recipe book

Sometimes, when we want to come up with a recipe for a more complex dessert or a cake with multiple layers, we draw some little sketches. We have seen such diagrams in professional chefs’ recipes and, except for their extreme cuteness, we believe that they are really helpful in organizing our thinking in advance, in choosing our cake’s elements (sponges, custards, fruit layers, crunchy stuff etc.), as well as in working as a guide during the preparation of our cake’s components.

Three sketches drawed by hand showing the multiple layers of the desserts
Our sketches for layer cakes

For example, if we wish to make a birthday cake we do the following: we choose a cake, tart dough or even cookies recipe from our file, to work as our cake’s base, we select the custards we will use and a recipe for a fruit jelly, caramelised nuts, caramel etc. We assign them the right positions in our sketch, taking into account gravity and coagulation laws, and voilà! a diagram to follow. That way, our every cake will be one and only, and in the same time the outcome will be mostly guaranteed, as the cake’s components will be already tested!

A piece of layer cake with layers of sponges, custards and green and red jelly
A piece of a birthday layer cake

But before getting to the point of having a big enough stock of successful recipes, we are faced with the problem of finding them. On the web, in newspapers, in books there is an unlimited variety of choices, by professionals or not. A beginner baker has a wide range of choices. We didn’t earlier mention our scientific ethics by chance… We did that because in this article we will attempt to tackle the hard task of finding the right recipe in a somehow scientific manner. That is the reason why we named our article “Research methodology”.

Research methodology is in fact a plan of the researcher’s techniques and strategies that he uses to gather, process and analyze his data. In our case, the role of the researcher plays any aspiring baker, while the data are all the recipes available. The techniques we use to analyze, judge and finally choose the right recipe, along with our own interventions on the ingredients and the procedure make up our methodology. So, we ventured to list some of the techniques we have come to find useful, hoping to help any amateur and beginner baker who longs for taking out of the oven or the fridge a dessert that will bring joy and smiles to himself and his loved ones.

The Fairy folding two whole uncracked eggs into a dough
Από την κλασική ταινία της Disney Η ωραία κοιμωμένη
  1. We prefer recipes providing an analytical description of the procedure. Recipes that refer with precision to the time needed for each step (e.g. how long to whip the butter with the sugar in the mixer), the tools used (e.g. whip the eggs with a hand whisk) and the desired outcome (e.g. the meringue is ready when it forms soft peaks as you lift the whisk) show that they have been carefully written by an expert.
  2. We choose recipes that show all the steps in photos. Especially for a beginner it is really helpful to see a picture of the desired outcome, as the written description may not be fully understood (e.g. it took us a long time to understand what “whip heavy cream to soft peaks” exactly means. As they say, an image is worth a thousand words.
  3. It is really helpful when recipes have troubleshooting. Troubleshooting is usually a list noting the “wrong” outcomes and the possible reasons why. For example, for cookies the possible explanations concern their being too hard, too spread, not enough spread or unevenly browned.
  4. Recipes describing the reasons for what we do are more reliable. A recipe that explains why, for example, we use baking soda instead of baking powder, or why we shouldn’t knead a tart dough for too long, offer us a deeper understanding of what we do and valuable knowledge that makes us evolve as bakers.
  5. We prefer recipes listing the ingredients’ quantities in grams. Recipes that measure ingredients by volume, which means in cups, lack in accuracy, as we may use cups that differ in size, we may fill the cups in different ways (e.g. press too much), we may have a different sense of what full or half or one third means etc. On the contrary, a scale (if used correctly) doesn’t make mistakes. When we want to follow a recipe that describes the ingredients in cups, we usually look for conversion tables and convert the cups into grams. Then, we weigh our ingredients carefully.
  6. We pay attention when we substitute ingredients. If we lack an ingredient listed in the recipe (or if it’s too expensive and we don’t want to buy it, which happens a lot) we make a small research for alternatives. For example, we frequently choose recipes in English, containing Golden Syrup, which is rare in Greece. So far we haven’t made up our minds to make this investment. But we always have honey on hand. We use the online search engine (g—-e) and write phrases such as “substitute for golden syrup”. We carefully read some pages and choose the most reliable way to make the substitution. Substitutions are often needed when we want to make a recipe healthier, fasting or vegan.
Beauty tasting with her hands desserts that pass in front of her on a table
From Disney’s classic movie Beauty and the Beast

We on our part try to follow all those criteria and tips when we look for a new recipe, as well as when we alter it to create something new. As we are amateurs, we choose our recipes to have a reliable base (whose creator of course we mention) to which we add our own touches in order to create something new, or we combine elements from different recipes with . Weour improvisations. We use our imagination to make flavor combinations and variations that make our desserts more healthy, modern or Greek.

On Baking A Textbook of Baking & Pastry Fundamentals by chefs and professors Labensky, Van Damme and Martel, an awesome professional book that tought us almost everything we know, available for online order

We read professional books to learn the reasons for every little thing, the chemistry behind the procedures, the safety and sanitation rules and much more. All those we try to convey in our personal way, hoping to offer tasty recipes and also knowledge that will help anyone wishing to create his own sweets. So, we wish great, sweet creations to everyone!

A tart with mango and strawberries on a wooden plate
Sweet creation with mango and strawberries

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