Ever wondered what goes into developing a recipe from start to finish? While you might feel intimidated to break away from a written recipe, some of the best dishes are invented with creativity. And as the holidays approach, an original recipe is exactly what you need to impress the crowd.
Here’s how to deal with the recipe making process:
Know your audience.
If you’re a blogger or freelancer, this is one of the most important places to start, because–if you’re anything like us–you’ll actually want people to try recreating your recipes. Tools like Google Analytics, Iconosquare and Buffer will help you find out who your readers are, what they’re interested in and what you’ve made in the past that resonates with them most.
Google Trends is another powerful tool that can give you insight into browsing behaviours, food trends as well as top key-word searches.
Brainstorm and plan.
Most of our recipe ideas start with a good old-fashioned brainstorming session, where we’ll sit down together for an hour or more and just hammer out ideas. We might be focusing on a single ingredient, a particular holiday or product–it doesn’t really matter. The gradual talking and note-taking process is what helps us to sort through our ideas until we find the best ones.
Once know what we’d like to cook in general, we then begin conceptualizing the recipe itself. Most of this process is based on pure intuition, and will be flexible during the testing phase, but it’s important to think ahead to what you’re looking to accomplish flavour-wise.
Improvise like no one’s watching.
If you’re having trouble envisioning an entirely new recipe from scratch, it can usually be helpful to hit up the Internet for some inspiration. The key word here is inspiration, not stealing. Immersing yourself in food ideas on websites like Gusto or Pinterest can be great ways to just get your juices flowing, and may lead to your next big idea.
For example, if we’re thinking of making a pasta dish, we might start by looking at what other seasonal pastas have been made already, then look for ways to switch it up or incorporate something entirely new to the mix. Nothing is completely original, mind you, but it’s important to give credit to others where it’s due, especially if you’re taking ideas directly from someone else. The internet is a surprisingly small place, and we believe in karma.
Adapt existing recipes.
There’s no hard rule on this one, but we’re big on following your cook’s intuition when modifying recipes. Switch things up the way you see fit. Just remember: If you’re straying completely from someone else’s ingredient measurements and method, be prepared for anything and refrain from critiquing the results.
When it comes to improvising with recipes, we’re of two minds about it. On one hand, it’s great to adapt to the seasons and work with what you’ve got, but at the same time, some recipes just shouldn’t be made without key ingredients. The trick, we suppose, is knowing where and when you can work a little improvisational magic (which comes with a fair amount of trial and error). That’s what makes a home cook grow, after all.
Shop with a plan, and stick to it (most of the time).
Working full-time as recipe developers has taught us how important the planning stage is—if not for your sanity, than just to keep costs in line. Having a strategy and cooking recipes in bulk helps cut costs across the board, and allows us to effectively use the ingredients we purchase in multiple dishes. We’re usually pretty strict about making a detailed list of what’s needed, and will rarely stray from it—unless there’s a particularly beautiful piece of produce calling our name. At the end of the day, we are only human.
Practice makes perfect.
Every recipe developer has a different process, but for us, we believe a recipe should be tested at least three times…or as many as it takes to get just right! We recently began developing a pavlova recipe that took five tries to get where we wanted it, and that’s just the way it goes sometimes.
It depends on your level of experience, perfectionism and other personality traits that come into play. On occasion, we hit it on the head at the first try, but still opt for a second and third test just to be sure the recipe is completely sound, and easy to recreate.