Sunday, May 31, 2009

Writing a Recipe

This past Friday I tested my final recipe for my third Williams Sonoma book. It was a whirlwind of a schedule with me creating 47 recipes in about 5 weeks! I'm often asked how I do it. Not the timing so much but, the recipe development.

It's actually a fun process. When I work on these books, my publisher actually gives me a list of dishes to work from. For example, it will say Persimmon Pudding or Roasted Chicken with Apricots. I start by taking all 47 dishes and writing recipes. Some are easy to do right off the cuff. The chicken, for example, I know how to do from beginning to end and it was easy to figure out how to incorporate the fruit. The pudding was another story. I'd never made one before so I did a lot of research-looking at recipes online and in cookbooks and talking to pastry chefs I know. I then took all the recipes I'd gathered and compared them side by side. Does it need eggs, how much butter, what kind of sugar, how much cooking time, etc. From there I wrote my own version, seasoning it with the spices I thought would taste good. I made the dish once and it didn't seen right. I made it again and it was a lot better. I had more persimmon puree and had the idea to use it in place of bananas in my banana bread recipe (one I'd evolved over many years). Now that recipes turned out amazing. I was then able to go back to my publisher and convince them more people would make persimmon bread than persimmon pudding and we changed the recipe.

These were simple recipes-using fresh ingredients from the farmer's market. For more involved recipes, especially when it comes to baking, it takes a lot more time. I will often hire another person to come it at the end and cook all the recipes I'm not getting quite right. It's great to have another set of eyes and hands to poke holes in the recipes during the process.

Now it's just copy editing. Of course someone else does this once I hand over the manuscript but, I like my version to be as clean as possible. I think it'll go off by Tuesday and I'm very excited. It should be a beautiful book when it's done. I'm guessing it'll hit the shelves this fall but I'll certainly keep you posted.

Now, on to the next one!


Paikimin said...

I'm looking forward to try your persimon bread! what's the name of your cookbook?

Mmm....that's good said...

Not sure of the name yet...When I get it I'll certainly post it here.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting! I'm not sure if I could create recipes, but it sure would be fun to be a tester!

Amelia PS said...

That's is exactly how approach recipes when I think of what to do with an ingredient.
I look a few recipes from books, magazine, sites and from my personal notebook, and then I actually right down the list of common denominator ingredients and right down the amounts for each recipe and compare.
recipe #1 recipe #2
butter 1/2 cup 1 cup
eggs 3 2
flour 1 cup 1 1/2 cup
sugar 1/4 cup 1/3 cup
other vanilla cinnamon

...this allows me to compare and chose based on rationale...for example if I want less butter or more sugar.
And then I look at the technique and tips that each recipe provides and selectively choose what I think will work best.

And then of course there is the testing and tasting and tweaking. VERY important part. Sometimes what sounds good on paper turns out into distaster in the kitchen!

I enjoy comparing and bringing together different ideas into a new version that is all mine.

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