…well, two minute chocolate cake. Good for a chocolate craving emergency. I used the Lucky Peach Magazine recipe Here. I had white chocolate chips instead of chocolate chips but that should not have affected the cake consistency. Good doused in ice-cream but still a bit odd and chewy. Try it for yourself and let me know. Maybe the microwave is to blame. Baked the two minute batter in a 350 oven for half an hour. Still, good flavor, strange texture. Fun to watch erupt in the microwave.
What constitutes a failed recipe?
- When the end product following the guidelines does not correspond to the image or expectation?
- When the instructions are not followed or understood?
- When the instructions are not clear?
Recipes are an odd conceptual category between practical instruction and theoretical consistency. The material threat of subverting conceptual clarity as any humble cook knows is very high. Altitude, humidity, quality of ingredients, interaction of ingredients, measurement discrepancies, tools used, water quality, everything contributes the supposed success of the recipe (not to mention subjective tastes). Recipes should be used as a list and an ontographic map towards a particular gastronomic experience that someone else found. If we want to reach the same destination, we need to follow the directions as best we can. We can never know if we arrived at the exact taste location (unless we are recreating a known or familial taste). Good recipes give us skills that take us to different related places, like my favorite zucchini bread or chocolate chip cookie recipe. How you relate to recipes is a philosophical preference. Do you nervously follow every detail, blame the recipe if it doesn’t meet expectation, blame yourself and accuse your skill level, blame the ingredients? A lot of anxiety related to cooking comes from relinquishing too much power to the recipe.
I enjoy trying recipes and watching the process of either supposed success or failure. I say “try” because I rarely exactly follow a recipe. Here is another experiment from the weekend that I would say was a success. The pancake recipe from Southern Living advised not to beat the ingredients vigorously together with an image that showed very lumpy batter and gave instructions on when to flip the pancake.
“Cook the pancakes 3-4 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look dry and cooked.”
This is a good example of object oriented material thinking. It is not only a measure of time but an assessment of how the ingredients are reacting together. Even with these gentle guidelines, I found it tricky to modulate the heat of my cast iron pan so that the bubbles would form just in time the edges and bottom turned golden, not burnt. Some batches were better than others. Ironically, the first two (usually the worst) were the best. Delicious pancakes. Fluffy, flavorful, buttery…oh yes…very buttery, crispy edges. Thank you, Southern Living recipe writer and tester.
Then there are delicious dishes that need no recipe, no introduction. Just yummy. Ugly maybe, but so yummy, like my fried egg with bread, marscapone and raspberry jelly. Just dip and enjoy. Or Brie and jam baked in puff pasty. Gooey melting cheese that lazily spills out of flaky pastry. Puff pastry makes everything decadent and as Atiya would say, regal.
That’s my weekend report. It was delicious.
Next time you cook, call it an experiment in material philosophy. Notice how you feel and make decisions when things work and when they don’t. Then, come back and share your experiences here with other hungryphilosophers. No judgment, just awareness.
Wishing you a wonderful and delicious weekend ahead,