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View Poll Results: Do you follow the directions or wing it?
I follow the recipe exactly and I measure! 2 6.67%
I follow the recipe pretty closely 2 6.67%
I follow the recipe but usually don't measure and sometimes make substitutions 9 30.00%
I review the recipe and then do whatever the heck I feel like. 17 56.67%
Voters: 30. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 09-11-2009, 01:40 PM   #1
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Cook by book or seat of pants?

I have been wondering about how we view recipes and use them.

Do you carefully follow recipes or change them as you go along, preferring to use recipes as a creative catalyst?

Do you measure or wing it?

Are you a daredevil cook; do you have the guts to serve an untried recipe to guests?

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Old 09-11-2009, 02:07 PM   #2
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I do all of the above.

If I want to recreate a special or classic recipe, I do it by the book. I measure and follow procedure at least for the first time. I may or may not make changes later.

If I find a recipe I mostly like I may change minor stuff to accommodate my tastes.

If I find several different recipes for a specific dish, I compare them and try to reach a consensus on what the key parts are and make a version that can be a combination of several of the recipes.

I don't always measure exactly. Sometimes not at all.

Then there are the times when I wing it and make dinner from what I have on hand. But if I do and it's a success, SO expects me to be able to make it the same way again. I have written down what I did so I can make it the same again.

Then there are a number of recipes that I make regularly I just make "automatically". Actually I'm following a recipe, it's just been memorized.

There is a time and place for each of the choices.
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Old 09-11-2009, 02:54 PM   #3
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I have to agree.
When I make a recipe that I have found the first time, I do it by the book, as it were. That's how the author intended and that's how I make it. After all it appealed to me for a reason to begin with. Then later after I have, I decide if I want to tweak it to my tastes.
If I'm creating a new recipe, I don't measure a thing, I guesstimate on what I'm doing and go from there.
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Old 09-11-2009, 03:06 PM   #4
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I agree with Andy. For me, it depends on how familiar I am with the recipe, both eating it and preparing it.

If I've never eaten that dish or perhaps only had it once, I follow the recipe as closely as possible and I measure everything.

If I am familiar with the dish and had it a number of times but never prepared it before, I may alter some of the ingredients depending upon personal taste and how comfortable I feel in achieving a successful change.

If the dish is something that I have prepared often with total success each time, I may wing it, but I still quickly review the recipe at the last moment before it hits the oven or stove, just to be certain I haven't forgotten anything.

In baking (breads, pastries, cakes) - I ALWAYS measure and follow a recipe. Baking is chemistry-in-action. 9 out of 10 baking failures doesn't come from poor ingredients or bad equipment, it comes from a bad baker who decided to "wing it" in stead of working from their card file and measuring cup.
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Old 09-11-2009, 03:21 PM   #5
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The first time I make a recipe I stick pretty close to the original. After that I will make substitutions if I want. I usually measure liquids when it calls for more than just a few tablespoons, but sometimes I just pour in what looks right. It kind of depends on the recipe.

I use a recipe as a guide, but not as a hard and fast rule. I am not crazy about mushrooms so when a recipe calls for mushrooms I will leave them out or sub something else for instance.
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Old 09-11-2009, 06:38 PM   #6
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ditto on baking, measure carefully for success. new one i follow closely and when i make em up, i guess but write it down, in order to make again if it turns out well
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Old 09-11-2009, 06:59 PM   #7
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I have a pretty good eye so I rarely measure anything (and that includes baking). I use recipes, I create and I do both measuring and winging it.

I think cooking and baking is like anything else, it must be learned. Once you learn what things must go together and what things don't its easier. Also some proportions is key to making things successful.

I'm at the point where I look at a recipe and often I will modify the method unless there is something very particular in it.

Guess I'm like everyone else here, a little bit of everything. Sorry Janet, not sure what to vote for.
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Old 09-12-2009, 04:38 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Selkie View Post
I agree with Andy. For me, it depends on how familiar I am with the recipe, both eating it and preparing it.

If I've never eaten that dish or perhaps only had it once, I follow the recipe as closely as possible and I measure everything.

If I am familiar with the dish and had it a number of times but never prepared it before, I may alter some of the ingredients depending upon personal taste and how comfortable I feel in achieving a successful change.

If the dish is something that I have prepared often with total success each time, I may wing it, but I still quickly review the recipe at the last moment before it hits the oven or stove, just to be certain I haven't forgotten anything.

In baking (breads, pastries, cakes) - I ALWAYS measure and follow a recipe. Baking is chemistry-in-action. 9 out of 10 baking failures doesn't come from poor ingredients or bad equipment, it comes from a bad baker who decided to "wing it" in stead of working from their card file and measuring cup.



"Cooking is a art, Baking is science."
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Old 09-12-2009, 05:24 AM   #9
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Like Andy too, I will usually follow the recipe pretty closely at first. If it is perfect, Ill leave it as is. If it needs modification, Ill make my changes. If it is crap with ni hope, Ill toss it.

After cooking for so long, I can usually get a good feel for the recipe just by reading it, which limits my failures, But , as everyone else, I have my share of disasters too. I actually have a file on my computer labeled " Untried Recipes". I put all the new recipes I am thinking about trying in this file. I do this so I dont mix them up with my already tried and proven good recipes. After I make them, they either make it into my regular recipe file, or into the trash it goes.
Also, since Im a vegetarian, many times Ill try recipes that have supposed to be made with some kind of meat, and Ill have to change things around to vegitarianize it. I find this a challenge, but a fun one. It tests my creativity.

Actually, Just the other day I made moussaka. I found a vegetarian recipe but i wasnt too crazy about it. So I then found a meat recipe which looked better ( not because it had the meat, but it just looked " right" ) so I kinda used both recipes, taking what i liked out of them, and trashing the rest. It came out pretty good. Still needs a few adjustments, but definitely workable .

Anyway, time to go to work.

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Old 09-12-2009, 06:28 AM   #10
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Like many who've responded, I've been cooking since I was a kid ... let's call it 40 years, give or take. I will start by saying I do not bake. I feel that is more of a science. But when trying something new, I tend to look up (I have an extensive cookbook library) several recipes to get a feel for it, then make up a list of ingredients I might not have at home, shop, and dig in, using two or three recipes as guidelines.
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Old 09-12-2009, 06:33 AM   #11
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Oh, I just looked at the answers so far, and no one follows the recipe exactly? I have several friends who do and they are excellent cooks; perhaps not as experienced or confident, but that's a good place to be.
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Old 09-12-2009, 06:47 AM   #12
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Before I was confident in the kitchen I would follow the recipe exactly to the letter. My wife is still at that stage. Once I got my confidence I realized I sometimes knew better than the recipe and was able to spot mistakes or things that might not look right to me before I made them.
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Old 09-12-2009, 09:35 AM   #13
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Quote:
When I make a recipe that I have found the first time, I do it by the book, as it were. That's how the author intended and that's how I make it. After all it appealed to me for a reason to begin with. Then later after I have, I decide if I want to tweak it to my tastes.
Guess you missed this one Claire. I Do follow a recipe the first time I make it. And that includes measuring so that I get the ing. just as they intended. I want to know what the author/cook was going for in the beginning. Their taste, so to speak. Then, after I have made it once I might change it to my tastes if I think I'd like something different.
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Old 09-12-2009, 09:44 AM   #14
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yes I do for sure
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Old 09-12-2009, 10:08 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PattY1 View Post
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"Cooking is a art, Baking is science."
Oh, and Andy; now I know why I agree with you 99.99% of the time. In cooking at least, we are virtual twins.

Good cooking skills come from knowledge of the basic cooking techniques, how foods and ingredients react with each other, a knowledge base built on the knowledge of other before us, and personal experience. To some, baking is a science. And indeed, some things have to be done in exact ways. I don't htink you can uct corners when making puff pastry. It has to be done according to proven tecchnique to get the layerd, flaky texture. Cakes, pie dough, bread doughs, and all quickbreads can be played with. by altering the ingredients, or ratios of ingredients, I can tailor my baked goods to my needs. For instance, I can use flavored soup bases instead of salt in a pie dough, for when I'm making a meat pie. I've also been known to add sugar and spices to the crust, especially when making a fruit pie. And most cakes and quickbreads are simply a large batch of flavored pancake batter, with a few changes to the recipe.

With breads, I never use a recipe. Instead, I look for the dough texture, and flavor to determine when I've got it right. I can also change baking temperatures, and bake rustic style breads, or in a loaf pan, or even braid as for a brioche. I've rolled various ingredients into my dough, and have made both savory and sweet breads, all by knowing what the dough is supposed to feel and taste like in my head. It's the same with pie crusts. Mine always come out flaky and tender, with a light flavor. They're never soggy on the bottom. Again, it's the feel of the dough before water is added that garuntees my pie crust quality. This its true for making streusel, or crumb toppings, pizza crust, almost everything I beak, including shortbread and cookies too.

Baking is as much an art as it is a science. Did you know you can make cookies in the microwave, or bicuits and breads on the stove top?

I cheat though. I have thirty or so years of playing with food in my kitchen and so have built an extensive knowledge base in my head. believe me, there have been some mistakes, some that were so bad that the pan had to be thrown away. But they were few and far between.

I better get off the soapbox now. It just kind of bothers me when people say that baking has to be so exact to a recipe. To me, that stifles creativity.

I have to admit though, that to enable others to re-create what you have made, you'd better be able to turn it into a recipe, complete with quantities and techniques. Sometimes that can be difficult when you are always winging it.

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Old 09-12-2009, 10:46 AM   #16
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Goodweed, the point about baking that you made is why I said baking is a science and winging it is not always the best way to go:

Consistency - "Always getting it to come out nearly perfect, particularly when guests are coming, you are best served by a recipe."

Sharing - "Being able to share with others what you have made or created, passing on a recipe."

Science and Flavor - "The ratios of baking ingredients, particularly baking soda, baking powder, eggs and buttermilk can affect the lift of the item and flavor if they get too out of balance."

Like you, with all of your experience, I'm not saying that people shouldn't experiment or "wing it", because that's one of the things that drew me into this wonderful pasttime. All I'm saying is that unlike other cooking, baking requires being well grounded in baking techniques, ratios and amounts in order to not be disappointed in your results. I wouldn't want anyone to be put off from baking and being creative simply because they mix flour, water and yeast together and end up with a brick instead of a James Beard Award winner! Yes, that's a little extreme, but I WAS put off from baking for nearly 20 years because I thought I could "wing" baking recipes - because I knew better - and ended up with garbage. But that's just not the case.

Someone once stated the difference between regular cooking and baking is that bakers create living things - Cakes rise - Souffles grow - Breads swell and stiffen - and we must do our best to help them.
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Old 09-12-2009, 02:52 PM   #17
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This is all well and good if it's the home version of baking and not professional baking. Professionals always speak of "scaling" and formulas. There's a scientific accuracy in the procedures and complex reaction in mixing and baking in a professional bake shop as compared to home baking. That's why the products always come out looking the same and perfect in a bakeshop. Professional rarely measure by volume because of the inconsistency.
That's not to say that the home baker can't play with their recipe, it's just not the same as professionals where accuracy is essential. Unless done in small batches of course.
For instance a pint of water weighs more than a pound, although it's 16 ounces, and sometimes that matters.
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Old 09-12-2009, 06:14 PM   #18
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I look at the basics measurable amounts...and applications...
scrutinizing the seasonings and subject to alter from the git-go..
I try to stick closely to cooking time and temps..but I never
serve the 1st attempt to quest..prefer to see if it kills me first...
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Old 09-12-2009, 09:54 PM   #19
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Selkie and ChefKathleen. I see and agree with your points. Though my breads always come out great, each batch is slightly different. Not my pie crust though. And for a professional bakery, product must maintain a standard of uniformity, hence the recipes. This is also true though, of many other foods besides baked goods. I can't say that my various tomato based sauces always taste the same. They are always very good, but they are not uniform enough to bottle and sell, knowing that the customer would get a standardized product every time. And the cheesecake I make, though I altered the recipe that I first used, has become a standard recipe, so that I can produce the same cheesecake every time.

Where uniform results are required, a recipe, including technique, tools, and ingredients is a handy tool to have.

For my home cooking though, I dont' use recipes often as I have to try new things all the time. It's just my nature. And even when using the scientific approach to cooking, science is only a standardized process for disovering new information, and then acting upon that information. Good science often leads to artistic creation, as the science produced the knowledge that enables one to be creative.

You ahve toaught me to be more open-minded about something I already knew, but bristled at due to terminology, and there was nothing wrong with the phrase in the first place. How strange we humans can be.

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Old 09-15-2009, 08:39 AM   #20
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Cooking--recipes are guidelines, not written in stone, and I rarely follow one exactly.
Baking--except for bread, I follow a recipe. I rarely bake anything except bread. I have baked enough bread to be able to do it without a recipe, and I can add ingredients or sub one flour for another, with (mostly) good results.
Canning--follow directions to the letter. I don't wanna die.
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