Book: Recipes into Type

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    Mike Nolan

    A while back I bought a copy of Recipes into Type, a style handbook for cookbook writers and editors. It got set aside and somewhat forgotten, but I picked it up last night and started reading it. (I still have a long term goal of coming up with a recipe format/structure that works better for baking, especially resizing recipes.)

    It was written in 1993, long before the Internet and blogs, but a lot of what it says about how to phrase the listing of ingredients and preparations is still worthwhile. I do disagree with the authors when they recommend against including the weight of flour in a bread recipe, just the volumetric amount. As we all know, the weight of a cup of flour can vary by 25% or more, depending on how it is measured and, of course, the accuracy of your measuring cups. (I have one that is is terribly inaccurate, no matter how I measure flour, what it says is a cup of flour is always at least 6 ounces.)

    It is interesting how it uses The Joy of Cooking as examples of both good and bad recipe writing practices.

    Spread the word

    I bought a scale at a thrift store so I can attempt using weight based recipes, but I'll probably write down the volume for my own use. This is a big batteryless analog scale so its probably not very accurate. It will give me a starting point and most recipes have to be individually customized for the cook and the locale.
    I was so happy when I found a part rye bread recipe that was old enough to be in cups and not grams/ounces two years ago. I wanted to experiment with rye but not enough to buy a scale. This was Brody's pumpkin rye recipe. Rye bread is complicated and uses different techniques than whole wheat.
    I'm still not in a place to do much baking and the weather is just perfect to bake.

    Mike Nolan

    Digital scales are pretty cheap, the last one I bought, a Zibet, was $25 on Amazon, measures in 1 gram or 1/10 ounce increments and can handle up to 33 pounds, but even a spring scale can be fairly accurate. I also have a smaller $15 scale that measures in 1/10 gram increments that I use for amounts under about 25 grams.

    Many people are pretty consistent about how they measure their flour, and after you've made a recipe a couple of times you will probably know how to tweak the amount of flour or liquid. And as I've said quite a few times, one of the best bakers I knew when I was young never measured her ingredients, but she baked nearly every day.

    I find weighing ingredients especially helpful when trying out a new recipe, it gives you some hope that you're actually doing what the recipe author intended.

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