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.
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.
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.
Thanks for elaborating :)
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.
Just try measuring 1 cup of butter accurately without making a mess.
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.
I’ll have to try your other recommendations now. :)
So a selection of tropes can be copyrightable.
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.
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 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.
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.
start with simple recipes.
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
"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."
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.
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.
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.