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Professionally written recipes?

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 

I'm finding it difficult to find good recipes. They have confusing, non-standard type instructions, unpredictable results, etc. Published cookbooks aren't so helpful either since anyone can self publish these days. 

I'm not experienced enough to be able to spot and correct mistakes before I make the recipe. Recipe websites with reviews aren't really helpful either because people drastically change the recipe and then review the changed recipe. 

So, I guess I'm asking for websites that offer professionally written recipes. Which would you recommend? 

I've already got foodnetwork, cooking channel, recipetv and PBS.

post #2 of 31
What you need to understand about recipes, even ones that are tested thoroughly, is that the user may need to improvise to get best results. You are cooking with organic material that was alive. It is highly variable between one orange and the next. How sweet is it, how acidic, how much did it rain. It could affect how much sugar or vinegar you need to use. You have to taste and think at every step. Maybe Jacques Pepin can explain it better:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/jacques-pepin-says-following-a-recipe-can-lead-to-disaster/


It's difficult because people who need recipes the most are the ones who don't know enough to improvise. Fundamental cooking knowledge and techniques are more important than any single recipe.
post #3 of 31
I agree with everything millions said. That said, Essential Jacques pepin has recipes that everyone seems to agree are well tested, and also comes with a DVD of techniques and has sidenotes about the techniques for many of the dishes.

Standard cookbook recommendations also include joy of cooking and fannie farmer, but I've actually never used either.

Websites it seems like the new York times is full of good recipes, although I'm not sure how thoroughly they're tested. Serious eats seems to be somewhat polarizing, but I don't think anyone would say the kenji Lopez or Daniel gritzer recipes haven't at least been tested.

If you're looking for a particular style of food somebody might be able to make a recommendation for that if you call it out.
post #4 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by MillionsKnives View Post

What you need to understand about recipes, even ones that are tested thoroughly, is that the user may need to improvise to get best results. You are cooking with organic material that was alive. It is highly variable between one orange and the next. How sweet is it, how acidic, how much did it rain. It could affect how much sugar or vinegar you need to use. You have to taste and think at every step. Maybe Jacques Pepin can explain it better:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/jacques-pepin-says-following-a-recipe-can-lead-to-disaster/


It's difficult because people who need recipes the most are the ones who don't know enough to improvise. Fundamental cooking knowledge and techniques are more important than any single recipe.

 

Jacques Pepin can make warmed up cardboard look tasty.....I recall he noted that recipes are more of a 'roadmap' and not something that is followed in a rote manner.

post #5 of 31

Recipes come in various formats. Professional recipes aren't as descriptive as you might think, and depend on your experience to aid you through the process. Like what MillionsKnives said. Recipes for non professionals or people with little kitchen experience are better off followed to the letter, and should be chosen based on reputation.  I've found poorly written recipes littered with mistakes online as well as everything from a Williams Sonoma catalog and a Food and Wine magazine to a Jean-Georges Vongerichten cook bookRead recipes twice and thrice before starting, imagining every step.

 

It should also be noted that everyone has a different cognitive process, and requires a different approach to get to the same place. I always like to give the example of a crane. Many people require a basic understanding of levers, fulcrums, etc,  first, to understand how a crane works. In other words, provide information in a sequential order, ignoring the big picture or concept. Others want the concept first, and the details afterwards. It's linear thinking vs abstract. Some people can jump between the two, others not so much. 

 

If I know something is basically a roast, braise, or whatever, I read ingredient list and quantities and fill in the blanks based on my experience. I usually guess right on the process or technique, unless is something out of the ordinary. Then I monitor the process at every step, adjusting as need be. 

post #6 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by jake t buds View Post
 

Recipes come in various formats. Professional recipes aren't as descriptive as you might think, and depend on your experience to aid you through the process.

 

Have you ever read recipes from really old cookbooks, especially cookbooks prior to 1900?  In many cases the recipes aren't a whole lot more than a listing of ingredients with the vaguest of directions because it was expected that the reader already knew how to cook.  They are priceless, but useless to those that those that aren't strong cooks already.

post #7 of 31
I think technique and end objective matters

The recipe process is a guiding step of approximate measures only

I just cant follow recipes, it needs my touch, else all products would taste like frozen fries
post #8 of 31

A local newspaper ran an article about a farmers market in Santa Barbara, CA.  The writer included a recipe for a fish dish at a local restaurant.  The court bullion serving for four used two ounces of saffron.  This is an example of garbage food reviews and recipes in magazines and on the net.  These are published by journalists and writers not cooks.  I imagine that the original court bullion recipe called for two or three threads of saffron.  Saffron at $320.00 per ounce would ruin the food cost and taste terrible.

post #9 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimyra View Post
 

A local newspaper ran an article about a farmers market in Santa Barbara, CA.  The writer included a recipe for a fish dish at a local restaurant.  The court bullion serving for four used two ounces of saffron.  This is an example of garbage food reviews and recipes in magazines and on the net.  These are published by journalists and writers not cooks.  I imagine that the original court bullion recipe called for two or three threads of saffron.  Saffron at $320.00 per ounce would ruin the food cost and taste terrible.

That IS a lot of saffron!  

 

This is how I feel when i see asian recipes for one or two servings calling for 1/2 cup of soy sauce.  Do people understand how much salt that is?  

post #10 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by MillionsKnives View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimyra View Post
 

A local newspaper ran an article about a farmers market in Santa Barbara, CA.  The writer included a recipe for a fish dish at a local restaurant.  The court bullion serving for four used two ounces of saffron.  This is an example of garbage food reviews and recipes in magazines and on the net.  These are published by journalists and writers not cooks.  I imagine that the original court bullion recipe called for two or three threads of saffron.  Saffron at $320.00 per ounce would ruin the food cost and taste terrible.

That IS a lot of saffron!  

 

This is how I feel when i see asian recipes for one or two servings calling for 1/2 cup of soy sauce.  Do people understand how much salt that is?  

 

:eek:.

 

Wonder what happened to the OP.

I came to stand up for the self published cookbooks.

Esp those printed by church ladies organizations as they include the dishes we learned as we "came up" cooking at Gma's or mommy's (or daddy's ;-) knees.

Not fancy but good solid (edible) dishes that apply technique and seasonings in a manner that encourages "play".

As in "I like to use MaryLou's meatloaf recipe but always substitute the diced celery for a good celery salt..."

 

I think I am safe saying none of the rock star chefs learned to cook by reading "Joy".

 

mimi

post #11 of 31

I can't speak for anyone else, but I have been called upon in my career to write and share recipes.

 

It is not easy to do, and having to use your own own hand written recipe is even worse.

 

Only through trial and error, and with many crossed out sentences, and changed punctuation, can result in a good guide that someone else can read and follow along.

I agree that it seems like some of those written recipes assume the reader has some grasp on cooking.

 

I have found Cooks Illustrated to be a very good reference recipe book for beginners and pro's alike.

It's recipes have already been tweeked and tested for you.

It even has troubleshooting FIY (fix it yourself) ideas to compensate for ingredients.

It tests gadgets and kitchen equipment and prints the results.

post #12 of 31
Your description of your written recipes made me chuckle Ross.
Having been made the designated repository of the family collection I seldom come across a favorite that has not been altered in some fashion .
Usually they come in the form of notes in the margins.
I keep telling myself to take some time and add an index explaining who made what alteration and when it was added .

mimi

CI is a great publication for learning the ins and outs of the kitchen.
My favorite feature is the ingredient test drives.
I sometimes get overwhelmed when trying to decide which brands to invest in .
So many choices and price is not always a good indicator .

m.
post #13 of 31

I agree with everything above about the value of recipes.  Cooking techniques are much more important than recipes.  Watch online or on TV and focus on HOW they cook, when you will be able to make good decision thought the cooking process.  You will know you are there when you can open up the fridge and make something from what is on hand.  

 

My go to recipe site is probably SimplyRecipes.com.  Also consistently good stuff at NY Times Cooking, Gourmet, and Fine Cooking.  Martha Stewart is good too.  

 

And ask questions.  I hear ChefTalk.com has good advice from experienced home cooks and professional chefs, and lots friendly people.  :)

If you make a pizza you can eat for a day.  If you make two pizzas you can eat for a day.
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If you make a pizza you can eat for a day.  If you make two pizzas you can eat for a day.
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post #14 of 31
"Professionaly written", to me, means:

1)Anyone in the kitchen should be able to make fairly accurate renditions of it

2) I should be able to scale the recipie up, or down with nothing more than a cheap calculator and less than two minutes

3) most importantly, I should be able to calculate the food cost easily from the ingredient list and yield..

4)The recipie should follow haccp guidlines

What all of this means is that firstly all ingredients should be listed by weight, never, ever, ever! volume. Secondly, metric is easy enough for any child to grasp as there are no fractions or base units of16. This is where most cooks and bakers go astray, futzing around with fractions.

The recipie should be written in chronological order. No glossy glamour shots, no romantic asides of why this is a wonderfull recipie
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #15 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by flipflopgirl View Post
 

 

:eek:.

I came to stand up for the self published cookbooks.

I have one my mom and her sisters did for my grandparents 50th anniversary, as said lots of good basic stuff.  Who would have guessed that the secret to Grandma's 'sinkers' or do-nuts was that she fried them in tallow, something you can still find out west but unheard of here in the south.

 

I think I am safe saying none of the rock star chefs learned to cook by reading "Joy".

Is there a new cook book that can compare with an older edition of Joy of Cooking ?  My edition is old enough that it includes how to clean, dress, and cook small game, and explains the how and why of all basic cooking techniques.  I have given 6 or 7 copies away to aspiring teen cooks.

 

scott

Scott just a tired old sailor glad to be home from the sea
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Scott just a tired old sailor glad to be home from the sea
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post #16 of 31

I know what you are gettin' at Scott...and my Grands are all brilliant but none could read more than their names before they hit their 4th bday (which is the average age of teaching simple dishes ...in my kitchen anyways).

 

mimi

 

... sorry @msminnamouse for the OT wandering.

:)

 

m.

post #17 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

"Professionaly written", to me, means:

1)Anyone in the kitchen should be able to make fairly accurate renditions of it

2) I should be able to scale the recipie up, or down with nothing more than a cheap calculator and less than two minutes

3) most importantly, I should be able to calculate the food cost easily from the ingredient list and yield..

4)The recipie should follow haccp guidlines

What all of this means is that firstly all ingredients should be listed by weight, never, ever, ever! volume. Secondly, metric is easy enough for any child to grasp as there are no fractions or base units of16. This is where most cooks and bakers go astray, futzing around with fractions.

The recipie should be written in chronological order. No glossy glamour shots, no romantic asides of why this is a wonderfull recipie

Good answer.  I know bakers and pastry chefs use weight for measurements.  I think volume is ok for many recipes, say add a 750 ml bottle of white wine.  Professionally written or Standardized

  Recipe are they the same?  A professional kitchen should have standardized recipes for cost and consistently however there are a lot of professionally written cookbooks that are good reference.  Believe it or not some of us can do fractions and conversions in our head. .    

post #18 of 31

Which is it?

 

Professionally written recipes or recipes written for professionals?

 

One has to do with commercial kitchens, The other has to do with writing. 

 

Just askin' 

post #19 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by jake t buds View Post
 

Which is it?

 

Professionally written recipes or recipes written for professionals?

 

One has to do with commercial kitchens, The other has to do with writing. 

 

Just askin' 

 

Good point.  The 2 are very different things although I do feel that recipes written for the home cook could take some pointers from the way we often write recipes in the kitchens, some of which foodpump mentioned.

 

When I was in culinary school I learned a different way of writing recipes-the 2 column approach.  Instead of listing all of your ingredients on top then listing your directions, in order  underneath.  You listed your ingredients along the left hand side, in order, and grouping them together as they went together.  On the right hand side you listed the directions, in order, across from the ingredients as you used those ingredients.  It makes so much more sense.  It flows more smoothly, and the recipes read so much easier as you aren't having to constantly bounce from ingredient list to directions because they are both right there.  It makes it much harder for both the author, and the reader, to miss an ingredient.

post #20 of 31

Pete,

 

Yes this is what I call a  Standardized recipe. It will also include the number of portions, portion size, portion cost, and plating.

post #21 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

"Professionaly written", to me, means:

1)Anyone in the kitchen should be able to make fairly accurate renditions of it

2) I should be able to scale the recipie up, or down with nothing more than a cheap calculator and less than two minutes

3) most importantly, I should be able to calculate the food cost easily from the ingredient list and yield..

4)The recipie should follow haccp guidlines

What all of this means is that firstly all ingredients should be listed by weight, never, ever, ever! volume. Secondly, metric is easy enough for any child to grasp as there are no fractions or base units of16. This is where most cooks and bakers go astray, futzing around with fractions.

The recipie should be written in chronological order. No glossy glamour shots, no romantic asides of why this is a wonderfull recipie

 

 

I agree with you here.

I believe that weighing ingredients gives consistent results.

I have a couple hundred cookbooks that still are in the "volume" world. I have taken on a few of them converting to Metric in parenthesis.

It is so much easier to deal with Metric anyway.

 

That being said, the homemaker has to unlearn and relearn how to measure. Not easy.

post #22 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

"Professionally written", to me, means:

1)Anyone in the kitchen should be able to make fairly accurate renditions of it

2) I should be able to scale the recipe up or down with nothing more than a cheap calculator and less than two minutes

3) most importantly, I should be able to calculate the food cost easily from the ingredient list and yield..

4)The recipe should follow haccp guidelines

What all of this means is that firstly all ingredients should be listed by weight, never, ever, ever! volume. Secondly, metric is easy enough for any child to grasp as there are no fractions or base units of16. This is where most cooks and bakers go astray, futzing around with fractions.

The recipe should be written in chronological order. No glossy glamour shots, no romantic asides of why this is a wonderful recipe

I disagree. What you're describing is "written for professionals," not "professionally written" which I read as "written by professionals." What I want is a recipe written by professionals who have sought in some way to ensure that the end-user can more or less replicate the dish. For example, your principles:

 

1. Can't be done. A recipe that the most thoroughgoing moron can replicate is necessarily extremely long and complicated, because everything has to be explained. I have a friend who quite literally cannot make Jell-O. You know why? Because she simply cannot stop and follow the recipe step by step, even if she thinks she's doing it. When her husband had a day off, the kids used to beg him to make Jell-O with them, because mom couldn't. Please note: this woman is also a double-PhD professor of physics, not an idiot.

 

2. Scaling? Seriously? Not everything scales directly. You'd have to include specific instructions on how to scale it --which is going to cause problems for the "can't make Jell-O" crowd.

 

3. If you can't do that, the recipe doesn't have a list of ingredients and quantities, which is a little peculiar. I get that you want mass and not volume, which is fine with me.

 

4. HACCP? So you want utterly colorless.

 

I get it, I really do. I'm the sort of person who hates anything that looks even dimly like advertising. But you're claiming that a serious recipe is one that is designed exclusively for the use of people working the line. That's just not so.

 

My principles (not all of which are going to be obvious until you've actually tried to execute the recipe):

 

  • Quantities and ingredients should be specified clearly, including identifying those that you'll have to do by taste at the end
  • Ideally, at any point where technique becomes peculiar or confusing to the beginner, include some description of what ought to be happening. Julia Child did this with pate a choux: she says at this point, it will look like a shiny yellow softball. Paul Prudhomme did this in some of his later cookbooks, telling you that if you taste the mixture at X point, it will be overly sweet, extremely spicy, undersalted, etc.
  • Descriptive text and photos should be fairly understated, and should at least make a reasonable attempt to inform the reader of what's intended. The fact that your great-aunt Weezy used to make this is not important to me, but if you can keep such remarks to no more than 1/2 line I can live with them.
  • Valuable descriptive text should be included: This recipe is essentially the Escoffier classic X, but I have made the following alterations, and I think it's an improvement for the modern American palate. Be sure to use truly fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes here, or much of what makes this recipe excellent will be lost. And so on.
  • Historical and contextual information can certainly be valuable: this is a farmhouse classic of this region, apparently first described in around 1630 by an itinerant monk....
  • Instructions should be subdivided into units, and each unit as well as the total set of units should be presented chronologically.
  • If anything needs to be done to taste or feel -- and we all know that sometimes you just have to do things that way -- explain what the cook is supposed to be looking for. Rose Levy Beranbaum's bread recipes often say that you need to feel the dough, which should be slightly sticky/tacky but not actually stick to clean fingers, and she wants you to add water or flour at this point until you achieve this result.
  • If there is a strong element of technique, and/or the recipe can fail disastrously at a given point, call this out and explicate. Jacques Pepin's discussions of more or less anything involving a mayonnaise or hollandaise are good examples: what to do when you've added the fat too fast and it breaks, etc.
  • Unless there is reason to do otherwise, assume the reader is semi-competent in the kitchen: can make a few basic things without instructions, has some idea of what "season to taste" means for his or her family, but usually goes running for a cookbook or recipe every time anything is remotely complicated.
  • Above all I want the recipe to have been tested -- especially insofar as it involves very high or low temperatures, technical tours, and so on -- in a home kitchen, preferably with the person doing the cooking not a seasoned professional. Prudhomme did this: his team built a basic home kitchen in a shed out back and they got one of the team who'd never worked in a restaurant (I think maybe she'd done some FOH) to execute every single one.

 

Off the cuff, I can think of very few recipes or cookbooks that adhere to these principles.

  • Julia Child: almost everything she ever did
  • Paul Prudhomme: Louisiana Kitchen, Fork In the Road
  • Jacques Pepin: sort of, especially Essential Pepin
  • Rose Levy Beranbaum: most of her "bible" cookbooks
post #23 of 31
Great thread guys. My 2 cents:

The kitchen I work in we use no recipes except for the pastry chef. We are given ingredients and taste the previous product. We are told our expected yeild (i.e. 2 quarts, 1 pint) and given the go.

Obviously we want consistency so this can be hard for the average cook. I find it very interesting that our results have only made the end product better. Each time someone makes the chicken liver mousse it gets better and better.
post #24 of 31
Hi Chris,

I think a thread for another day would be, " what is a professional?".

But for this thread, its horses for courses. The chef wants a recipie for the reasons I listed, the home cook, wants recipies for those reasons you listed. And though I don't want to think about it, a publisher's idea of "professional" is what ever it takes to sell as many copies as possible.

I addition to your list of books, I would suggest,
Joy of cooking
Cooks Ilustrated

I have to disagree with your opinion of scales. The electronic scale is dirt cheap and very easy to use. There are many ways to measure a cup of flour: Sifted, tapped down and compacted, leveled off with a knife or similiar, etc. Each method will provide a different weight. The scale will provide only one weight. Need to measure out corn syrup? Put the bowl or pot directly in the scale, hit tare, pour until your weight registers. It cant get easier than that. The scale is far easier to use than the plethora of volume devices and their parralax issues.

I also have trouble connecting haccp protocol with "colourless". Haccp is all about identifying and avoiding potential problems. Thus, a haccp recipie for, say, chicken stock would read: "bring to a full boil for one minute, lower heat to a bare simmer, remove scum, simmer for 3hrs, strain into a s/s container, and cool down in a cold waterbath. Refrigerate and use within 2 days or freeze for up to 3 mths."
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #25 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post
I have to disagree with your opinion of scales. The electronic scale is dirt cheap and very easy to use. There are many ways to measure a cup of flour: Sifted, tapped down and compacted, leveled off with a knife or similiar, etc. Each method will provide a different weight. The scale will provide only one weight. Need to measure out corn syrup? Put the bowl or pot directly in the scale, hit tare, pour until your weight registers. It cant get easier than that. The scale is far easier to use than the plethora of volume devices and their parralax issues.

We agree about most things, unsurprisingly.

 

On this one: I didn't mean scales like weighing things. I meant that a recipe scales up or down, as in, here's a recipe that serves 4, let's scale it up to serve 40. Some recipes scale directly, some don't.

 

As to using  scale -- yes, we agree 100%.

post #26 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElzBoltleri View Post

That's interesting food for thought ... yes, the amount of rain would undoubtedly affect the acidity or otherwise of an orange, or any fruit. Thanks.

 

So does the soil, the latitude, the longitude, irrigated or not, etc. etc. etc.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by msminnamouse View Post


So, I guess I'm asking for websites that offer professionally written recipes. Which would you recommend? 
 

 

As to websites, I don't follow recipes I just browse for ideas and inspiration so take this with a grain if salt as I never cooked a recipe from any of these, but I generally stick to websites of individual chefs who I respect and who give me the feeling that they are very hands on with the recipes they post... a few examples

 

http://www.davidlebovitz.com

 

http://ruhlman.com

 

http://andrewzimmern.com

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #27 of 31
A recipe is essentially a guideline. You have to adjust for the specific conditions and quality of ingredients. With experience you learn to adjust to compensate for less than idea conditions and ingredients. Before you start cooking, you need to evaluate the quality of each ingredient. For instance, are your vegetables ripe? Overripe? How is the flavor--bland, bitter? How is the texture--hard, mushy? Do you have all the correct equipment to prepare the dish? Is the dish sensitive to ambient temperatures and humidity? As you evaluate your ingredients and conditions, ask what you need to do to correct the problems before you start cooking.

How does that play out in the kitchen? Over the holidays I wanted to make toffee. Problem was we had back to back rain storms over several weeks. I looked at the weather forecast and found a few days break in the rain. I then set up fans and heaters to dehumidify the kitchen and adjacent rooms for 48 hours before I started making candy. I calibrated two thermometers in advance to ensure accuracy of temperature readings.

When I was preparing to bake croissants, I purchased a different brand of butter that I know is more pliable than the brand I use for most of my baking. I knew my baking schedule would be over three days, so instead of instant yeast, I used active dry to slow rise.

It's all about identifying your challenges and problems before you start. Preparation isn't just shopping, chopping, and measuring, but evaluating conditions and ingredients, then adjusting to compensate for the challenges.
post #28 of 31
I tend to agree on this, a recipe can only take you that far, lot depends on our judgements and local parameters and availability of resources that should be modified to either reach the intended guideline or better it
post #29 of 31

Very interesting thread.  Being a military chef, we're usually forced to use standardized recipes that have been tested time and again for consistency.  The problem here, is that even these tested recipes are not necessarily accurate.  I invite all of you to check out this site. 

 

http://hprc-online.org/nutrition/go-for-green/go-for-green-r-operations2014getting-started/menu-revisions

 

Sections B through Q contain .pdf's of all of the recipes that are generally available to us.  They are all scaled to 100 portions and I generally need to scale UP to 250 or 300 portions.  I never really considered scaling down until now. 

 

Example: French onion soup calls for 15lbs of onions (which isn't enough for 100 servings anyway), and when I scale down to, say, 2 servings, I'm left with a working factor of .02.  .02x15lbs= .3lbs of onions.  Now, I may be over indulgent, but when I make French onion soup for just my wife and I, there's at least 3 ENTIRE onions in there, not .3 lbs. 

 

The difficulty now, and more to the point of the thread, is that I have been tasked to rewrite these "professionally written" recipes because, while they are standardized, they are not accurate.  This brings it back to what many people have said already, that it isn't so much about the recipe, as it is about the technique.    

post #30 of 31

Check out the Youtube channel Cooking in Russia. He's a professional chef who posts his recipes and writes cookbooks. May be of some use to you.

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