You may have gathered from some of my previous posts, but I like food. I like to cook. I love to bake. And I really enjoy trying new recipes/types of foods. As I mentioned in my croissants post, whenever I attempt something new in the kitchen, I tend to do a LOT of reading/research on the subject. I check several different websites; I print off two or three recipes; I read cookbooks. Then I try to synthesize all of that into one recipe. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Even if I follow a recipe faithfully, I usually think of a thing or two I might tweak if I make it again. If it’s a recipe I’ve printed from a website or email, sometimes I’ll make a note on the paper and file it away for later. I have a binder specifically for this purpose, where I keep recipes I’ve printed, used and liked.
More often, though, I don’t make any notes. I always assume that I will just remember the next time I use the recipe. This is rarely the case. I might have a vague recollection of doing something differently, but no record and therefore, I’m basically back at square one.
My practice of fusing recipes, scribbling notes (or not) and shoving bits of paper away for later use was developed when I started a pie baking blog a few years ago. I won’t get into all the reasons WHY I decided to start my sweet-dessert-American-style pie baking project (for that, go read the History and Why Pie? posts), but suffice it to say, my pie recipes tended to result in a jumble of scrawled ingredients, methods and ideas.
The “pie” section of my recipe binder has a decidedly more Beautiful Mind vibe than the rest of my recipes.
So why am I telling you all of this? Well, I’m trying to get better about making notes when I try a new recipe. I did a good job of this with some lemon curd I made last summer. I synthesized a couple of recipes and changed some amounts (since the recipe called for meyer lemons and I only had regular ones). The result was absolutely deeeelicious, if I do say so myself. I made a point of noting the alterations and I am so glad I did. I made it again recently and it was just as awesome as the original batch. I know if I hadn’t made the notes, I would never have remembered what I did.
My desire to keep better records also comes with a renewed zeal for pie. I had cooled on my passion project over the past year. I wasn’t really baking many pies; and the ones I did bake, I couldn’t be bothered to photograph or blog about. But Bethany gave me a great pie cookbook for my birthday (The Southern Pie Book, Jan Moon). Flipping through the recipes made me revisit my other pie cookbooks, which started me brainstorming about new recipes to attempt.
My renewed interest has also prompted me to keep a better record of the recipes I try and any notes/tweaks/changes/thoughts I have about them once I’ve baked and tasted them. So I invested in a little journal that I am going to use for all my pie attempts, thoughts and reviews.
The goal is to record each recipe I’ve tried, any important things to remember for the next time, any changes or variations I might want to try for the future, etc. etc. For example, I made a Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallow Meringue a couple weeks ago (I think it might be the one featured on the cover of the above book). The recipe makes SO MUCH filling and I used a slightly smaller pie plate than usual, so I had enough extra filling for nearly a whole other pie. I made a note to remember to use a full size 9-inch pie plate when I make the recipe in the future. If I don’t have one, I’ll know I need to reduce the amounts.
Hopefully making notes like this will help me to build my pie catalogue and perfect each recipe instead of reverting to square one every time I bake one of these wonderful desserts.
And if I have the space, I’m even drawing pictures of the finished product. What? It’s an artistic outlet!
How do you organize your recipes? Do you have any recipes that you’ve altered over the years to achieve the perfect version?