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My mom made the best pie crust anybody who ate it ever tasted. Her recipe came from a Crisco label.

One of the steps specifically said to slowly stir a liquid into the mix with a fork. Everybody else who attempted the recipe used a spoon and didn't get anywhere near the proper texture. So her difference was simply that others wouldn't follow the directions exactly.

It's more than that.

I have an amazing chocolate cake recipe--I'm SURE it's cribbed from some magazine, chocolate container, or something. I have stopped giving it out as people simply can't get it right.

There are three classes of failure:

The first class of failure is in not following directions. When it says "1/2 teaspoon", they mean it. Baking is like lab--small things often make big differences. "Helping" one of these people is frustrating--"Um, try actually following the recipe."

The second class of failure is that a lot of people don't have basic cooking skills. "My chocolate is weird"--yeah, water does that to melted chocolate. "I can't whip this meringue"--yeah, you can't get even a trace of yolk in that or it's not going to work.

The third class of failure is that people don't seem to pay attention and learn. Hmmm, that cake recipe doesn't seem to like humid days. Uh, oh, there aren't any bubbles in my batter--my baking soda/baking powder are probably bad. Sniff, sniff--that doesn't smell right--did you use margarine or butter to prepare that pan?

One of my favorite for this was reconstructing my grandmothers kalach recipe. It just never smelled right. Until I remembered that she used to have a container underneath the cabinet that she used for the recipe--as a kid that never meant anything. As an adult, I was like "Hmmmmm, I bet that was lard." Sure enough, that made it smell right.

Cooking requires paying attention, but baking, especially, is in the details.

Yes, in cooking you can fairly freely adjust ingredients and quantities to taste, but baking is science for hungry people.

We're getting into Reddit levels of off-topicness here, but I actually kinda like where QC went: robot-sexuality is now a valid subject, as are light-hearted probes into the personhood of AIs, in a slice of life-esque drama.

What do you think is wrong these days?

Oh fsck didn't see the answer 7 days ago hopefully you see my reply.

Jeph started without a story and mediocre drawing style but loveable interesting characters. We got our weird relationships of our nerdy main character with many interesting side characters. Over time his artstyle got better and we got to know the main characters with their backstories, quirks and robot sidekicks.

What went wrong (imo) is that jeph wanted to experiment. We now got inconsistent personalities and people acting out of character. There are many people we got to know who now only get occasional cameos, but every week a new sode char (at least it feels like it). In this process marty dates a trans person and had sex with her, faye fell in love with a robot and everything "controversial" what you can think of was tried leaving established characters behind and just showing me an empty shell of a webcomic I once really liked.

There are no indy music references, much less robotic weirdness and every small robot seems to get a humanoid chassis. The comic lost the edge it oncehad tryimg to be edgy.

At least that's what I think and I'm still sad that I'm alienated from the comic.

I kind of agree that some things are bit different, and I do miss some of the obscure indie music stuff, but in general I like it a lot more than the very beginning (like the first 1-2 years) with the different art style - I felt it was a bit episodic and mopey. I also only read those first years afterwards, when I was already a fan. Now I'd say it's definitely different, but I don't think it's worse in a noticeable - at least for me. On the other hand I'm glad it's changing, I couldn't continue watching e.g. The Simpsons after 10 years - too similar and no development.

Thanks for elaborating :)

On the first class of failure, sometimes people take it a bit too far. I've watched people stress about how they level off their 1/4 tsp because if it's too heaped, it will be too much, or if there is a divot, it will be too little. As a percent error, there really isn't a real difference. Just the differences in brands and batches of ingredients will cause more error in your recipes than a slight miss-measure.

There's definitely a need to measure well, but that third class of failure you mentioned is probably better to pay attention to. If you know your ingredients and operating conditions, you'll definitely fair better.

On the topic of measuring, I do wish more new recipe books went back to using weights. Baking with a scale is so much easier/faster/less clean up. It surprises me how many people I know who think it is too much work to use a scale until they see me do it and how little effort it really is.

I find it amusing you downplay the importance (not that I disagree) of precision, and than advocate for measuring by weight for entirely different reasons. Precision is the typical argument people make for scales.

I see the similar behaviour with measurement on scales though. There is this need to make it EXACTLY 2.50 pounds. If it is 2.52, well that just unacceptable, and the seesaw of removing and adding begins. I'll admit, I occasionally fall into this trap until I consider what the consequences are (pretty much nothing in terms of what I'm baking, but a decent waste of time).

My wife sees me bake bread by weight (basically putting all ingredients in the same bowl, pressing "tare" between each), and still believes it's more work that way... (?!?!?)

Just try measuring 1 cup of butter accurately without making a mess.

The problem is while recipes are facts and can be freely spread, prose about how to make cookies is copyrighted. So you get lots of recipes but the important instructions are losts, and people get used to the idea that a recipe is just ingredients and easy to follow steps. The results is lots of recipes that are pretty easy follow, but as always when a design meets a user someone is going to misinterpret your fool proof design. So good simple recipes is a lot like UX when the needs are simple. Think: Recorder app vs. Audacity.

My wife and I always hate reading recipes online. We finally spent like $50 and bought three of the most amazing cookbooks. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, which explains how cooking works, Food Lab, and America’s Test Kitchen.

I made a baked potato with a perfect inside and perfect crisp skin from the books, it involved like 4 steps of how to cook, like bathing them in a specific mixture of salt water, baking for 45 minutes, then running olive oil on the skins, then baking for another 15 minutes.

If they didn’t explain the why in the book, which I guess is the copyrighted part, and what the results are, I never would have tried that recipe.

Food labs actually levelled up my cooking to the next level. So many great recipes and ideas. It was a very readable book too, I pretty much read it cover to cover. The best thing was buying a meat thermometer. Why did I cook for so long without it?

I’ll have to try your other recommendations now. :)

I should try that just to see if it's better than my old standby: poke potato a few times, microwave for 10 minutes, brush with oil and bake at 400F for 10 minutes.

Interesting fact - recipies cannot be copyrighted. Pictures can, but the recipe itself cannot.

The list of ingredients can't. But the instructions/explanation and description might be (in addition to the pictures/illustrations, as you mentioned.)


There is a fine line you have to thread while copying instructions, usually you can't copy them verbatim. It is a rather strange quirk, if you rewrite a literary works you get slammed by the copyright hammer but not with recipes.

So a selection of tropes can be copyrightable.

A recipe can't (in USA and UK, AFAIK) but the specific presentation of the recipe can. It's an extension of facts not falling within copyright.

"Hmmm, that cake recipe doesn't seem to like humid days. "

I wouldn't even know to pay attention to this, as someone who cooks but doesn't bake (at least not anything more complicated than a batch of cookies). Ironically, now that I think about it, my mom has a thing she bakes that she won't make on humid days...

I also majored in chemistry and stopped doing it because everything I did in actual labs (as opposed to lab classes where the details were a little more worked out ahead of time by people in charge of the class) failed. Sometimes because water got into the reaction vessel that wasn't supposed to.

There's probably a connection here.

I had to take 2 semesters of Chemistry in college. The first semester I took honors chemistry, and the labs were done all individually. I learned I'm terrible at it.

The second semester I took non-honors Chemistry where the labs were done in groups. I said "I will do all of the lab write-ups if I never have to touch a beaker." My lab partners were more than happy with that arrangement and I got an A instead of a C on the lab portion of the class...

My wife found this amazing cookie recipe online.

My mom gave her some of her 1950s cookbooks. That exact same recipe was in this cookbook. We just laughed.

At least my family is lazy, when they use a recipe from a box, jar, or whatever, they just peal/cut it off and stick it to a 3x5 card or put it in a recipe book on a blank page. So you know where that "family secret" actually came from.

The only unique sauce I've ever tried was my grandfather's BBQ sauce. It's just a bunch of other sauces mixed together, but it's pretty different. He was always changing it up but most everyone in my family has a bottle of grandpa's "condiment concoction" as my evil-ex called it.

I use the cooks illustrated chocolate chip recipe, which specifically says to mix wet and dry ingredients, then let it stand for a few minutes, and repeat a few times in a row.

Apparently someone in the test kitchen was sidetracked by something, stepped away, and when they returned to finish the mix, the resulting in a better cookie.

it never ceases to amaze me the people who won't follow a recipe then complain it is not a good recipe. the number of people whom I led down the road of cooking; this is especially true for techies who seem adverse or even scared to try; is quite long and it came down to one thing.

start with simple recipes. follow exactly.

then work your way to complex items and personal variations but the key to understanding cooking is to follow a recipe and see why it works.

if you want to scare yourself later go play with browning butter, reducing, and for real fun making candies

This is a common trope on recipe sites that allow comments or reviews.

"I halved the amount of butter it called for and added 3 tbsp of cinnamon and 4 cloves of garlic. This recipe is awful, one star."

Making caramel and butterscotch were some of the most terrifying kitchen moments the first time. It was quite clear to me that the mixture I had going there was quite a bit hotter than the boiling point of water (the water had all cooked off). The thought of a sugar burn was concerning. But it all turned out ok, and we had some delicious syrups. Just had to be careful.

> if you want to scare yourself later go play with browning butter

what's scary about browning butter? It seemed to work great for me on the first try. Whole kitchen smelled delicious, and so were the chocolate chip cookies I was browning it for.

My great grandmother had the best pie crust I've ever had, and she got it from Crisco as well.

She did something odd though, like running the dough under a stream of cold water in the sink while making it, or something like that. After all, it's not the ingredients but how you go about it.

I, on the other hand, have my own personal not-secret sauce recipe for ravioli I created from scratch. It's made to my personal tastes, so I'm biased. Not all secret recipes are from the label.

I'm pretty sure that specifically "cold" water is listed in that Crisco recipe as well.

These little tricks & tips are actually part of the recorded recipes, as people knew they were differentiating factors that made it turn out really well, and made sure they were noted.

Edit: https://www.crisco.com/recipes/classic-crisco-pie-crust-1242 Fork, ice cold water, lots of very specific tips, etc.

I think a specific step is what makes my wifes whipped cream stand out. It can't be the ingredients.

Uh, you're not being very clear but I feel I have to say this: some people add sugar when whipping cream, more or less automatically. It's not at all strictly necessary in order to, you know, whip the cream, but it will affect both flavor and texture. If you like your sweets, you're probably going to think that the cream with added sugar tastes better.

Or salt.

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