Please Explain: Recipes

Friday, April 29, 2011

On today's Please Explain, we'll look into the art of crafting the perfect recipe. Deb Perelman, author of the popular blog, and John Willoughby, the executive editor of America's Test Kitchen, join us. They'll explain how to best translate home cook's imprecise cooking strategies into publishable recipes, how preparation times are calculated, and examine their favorite examples of recipes both perfect and terrible.

WEIGH IN: What are some of your most poignant recipe disasters? Did you use a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon? Let us know in the comments below!


Deb Perelman and John Willoughby

Comments [18]

Deb from NYC

Hi Cynthia -- It's Deb from the show. I actually find that it relates to the age of the eggs, not the cooking method. Fresher eggs (like those from the farmer's market) seem to never peel cleanly, older ones (usually ordinary grocery store eggs) give me a clean peel. Hope that helps!

Apr. 30 2011 01:49 PM
stephanie from cambridge, ma

@ cynthia re: hardboiled eggs -

put your eggs in a pot and cover with cold water. add some salt, bring to a boil. turn off the heat but keep them on the burner and cover for 10 minutes. (at least, i've left them longer and nothing bad happens, heh.)

i give them one soft crack on the edge of the sink and then peel them under cool running water, never have any problems.

Apr. 30 2011 04:13 AM
Cynthia from Manhattan

How on god's earth does one hard boil an egg that is later peel-able without throwing out the whites with the shell.

This is no easy matter.

Apr. 30 2011 01:46 AM
Andy in Nebraska from Nebraska

"What are some of your most poignant recipe disasters? Did you use a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon?"

I'm not a good cook at all, so I'm constantly in danger of doing this, but my main incident with exactly this problem was when I took the time to make Leonard Lopate Pancakes, instead of doing a mix out of a box (Leonard's guilt trip got to me, and the reviews sounded great). I wound up using a tablespoon of salt instead of a teaspoon. They were still tasty, but we wound up drinking an awful lot of coffee to wash them down...

Apr. 29 2011 04:20 PM
Ray Skorupa from Pelham NY

Baking soda reacts with acid release carbon dioxide. That's why it causes a flour mixture to "rise".

As a kid, we used to make a fizzy drink by mixing baking soda, water, sugar, and a little vinegar and get this wonderful fizzy drink for free!

Apr. 29 2011 01:53 PM
antonio from bayside, formerly park slope...

That was a great tip about the buttermilk, I always make leonard's griddle cakes without true buttermilk...

My girlfriend loves them Leonard!

Apr. 29 2011 01:49 PM
Nicole from Boonton, NJ

I have been experimenting with switching corn syrup to other sweeteners for my son's corn allergy. Any tips for keeping sweets soft with agave or other sugars in stead of corn syrups?

Apr. 29 2011 01:43 PM

if a cake recipe calls for milk can I substitute buttermilk and if so do i need to alter recipe.
also vice versa (milk for buttermilk)

Apr. 29 2011 01:41 PM
Amelia from Tarrytown

I'm a big fan of Deb's and would love for her to work her updating magic with some of Elizabeth David's recipes. I find the measurements so confusing and vague -- what is a "gill"?! Thanks!

Apr. 29 2011 01:39 PM
Jane from Brooklyn


Apr. 29 2011 01:39 PM
Paul from Ridgewood, NJ

The first cookbook ever was written by a Sicilian Greek named Archestratus in 350 BC. It was called Hedypatheia (Pleasant Living or Life of Luxury).

Apr. 29 2011 01:37 PM
soigne (swan-yay) from Madison, NJ

I understand that recipes cannot be copyrighted. When publishing your own recipes, are there any rules of thumb as to whether to attribute your own recipe as an "adaptation" of another? E.g., you are inspired by a recipe published by another and you develop your own similar recipe for publication on your own, when I have crossed from inspiration to adaptation?

Apr. 29 2011 01:34 PM
Ned Visser from New City, NY

Roman recipes:

I often wonder if the recipes in a cookbook have been tried and tested ,,, especially when you compare them from one book to another. I like getting recipes online so I can rant on the author/chef when there is a mistake or variation in ingredients, etc.

Apr. 29 2011 01:34 PM
Anne Sailer from Montclair, NJ

When my son was 2-years-old and my daughter was an infant, we were pretty sleep-deprived. That Christmas, my husband had the grand idea to make a steamed cranberry pudding. Fresh out of the pressure cooker, we took one taste and spat it out immediately. He'd used ONE teaspoon of ground cloves, instead of AN EIGHTH of a teaspoon. He hasn't attempted a steamed pudding since.

Apr. 29 2011 01:30 PM
Jane from Brooklyn, NY

I'd love to know if there's a trick to making hollandaise sauce. There are SO many recipes out there -- some that require double boilers, others basic sauce pans, some recipes use blenders, some whisks... I haven't succeeded with any. Is there a fail-proof, or near-fail-proof version out there?

Apr. 29 2011 01:29 PM
Hal from Crown Heights

I have tried many recipes to cook octopus, but have little success getting it tender. I'm particularly interested in a Spanish dish called Pulpo a la Galega.

Apr. 29 2011 01:28 PM

I would like to understand the difference between the functions of baking soda vs. baking powder in recipes. Recipes for the same type of muffin, from various sources, can have vastly different proportions of these--or even none at all of one. Why? And how does one handle the batter differently depending on the presence of these? (I think one is time-sensitive and the other isn't--?)

Apr. 29 2011 01:28 PM

Dude, Apicius. 4th century AD. Roman cookbook. Are you serious?

Apr. 29 2011 01:28 PM

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