Recipe creation for advance kitchen users
Sugar and spice and everything nice
There are only two ways to make new food.
First, make something up. Mix random stuff and see what happened. Like mixing pasta with the cheese and beans with a little smoked paprika, sweetcorn, oregano, salt pepper and a BBQ sauce for the smoky feel to bind it all together. Then bake it and once baked put it in the wrap with some slaw. A BBQ Bean Mac’n’Cheese Burrito. Smoky creamy delicious pasta in the easy form. Sounds amazing doesn't it? Except I haven't actually made this. I made it up, it took me 20 seconds. I can't say whether it's tasty or not but it certainly can be once it’s cooked a couple of times. Imagine it!
That’s the fun of cooking, sometimes you just stumble on a good recipe by accident, by cooking what you feel like. If it’s great you will end up sharing it with the whole world, if not you can eat it in shame (and learn), so the world never sees another mac-kenstein monster.
Second type are creations based on the theme, information, plans, foundation and successful test drive of those recipes.
Neither method is superior. The success of each method depends on the individual but if you ask me, combination of both moves the foodie world forward.
By now I have written plenty on the creation of the new dishes by methods of tweaking, combinations or complete rejection of the existing norms, so give it a read for a bigger picture.
Today I would like to take a closer look at how I make new products, dishes and recipes. I will describe how I start the process, what I do to prepare, how I do multiple variations of the new recipe at the same time, what I am looking for in the new creation of the dish and how it all comes together.
First step of recipe development is - theme choice. I often receive briefs that would describe expectations in regard to the flavour profiles, function or idea behind new products. Briefs are usually vague - summer flavours, asian cuisine, BBQ, Christmas ideas, make it easier, reduce cost, etc. They are built around the upcoming season, or a need to feel the gap in the market. In the manufacturing world, new foods are expected to be new yet familiar as they have to be marketed for a large population of people. Tastes that are too specific or polarizing often get thrown away. Familiarity has to be obvious but also special to create a unique selling point. Besides briefs, an inspiration for the new product can be a simple crazy suggestion that just has to be realized. Like a mac and cheese burrito. Who wouldn't want the comfort of a mac with the convenience of a hot pocket food?
Once I have a theme I explore the culture, history, essential characteristics of foods and people who ate it. This is a research stage of the process. This part is essential to create the authentic products with the best flavour combination, establish where this theme is going and what connects people to their food. There are multiple stages of the research. First is the collection of information. It is essential to know what product, flavours and ingredients are a must to create an authentic product. At the same time, knowing what a particular theme is, helps establish what it isn’t. This is a part of boundary creation around the theme. Moving within the established frame allows me to explore the specter of flavours and moving out explores the potential fusions, innovative breakthroughs or other themes. At this stage reading, watching chefs cook and talk about their food, chatting to the real people about the selected category contributes to the knowledge base. Understanding every aspect, whenever possible (within the timeline), results in greater products.
Now, it’s time to get physical with food. At this point I explore locations, touch, smell, listen, envision and taste the ingredients and similar products. I also use my experience working in the kitchen and production facilities to think within the borders of the process. For the homemade recipe it’s all about comfort and flavours even if it takes a while to clean after. I say use all the tools that you need to make your food taste amazing; with food there is rarely a space for compromise. Cooking at home I want to know that the food I make is simple, healthy, creative, yet delicious. For the industrial project I have to understand what are the limitations and what sort of equipment, people, skills and expertise available that can be harnessed for the best outcome.
The next step is to make a quick and easy decision between breaking the frame or following the traditions. The choice is essentially between true innovation, the kind that changes the world like microwave meals, bottled smoothies, canned baked beans, etc. and flavour of those currently existing food products and recipes. I will call the first one - the true innovation, and the second - reinvention.
True innovation is hard to come by because it relies on technology in the making. Sometimes it requires the invention of new technology specifically for the type of food you are looking to make. It’s possible to bring true innovation to ingredients, flavours and structure of food but it’s a complicated process (think introduction of coffee or fast food) because it relies on breaking the norms. When it’s done right this process creates a ripple that changes why, how and what we eat. Previously I have talked about breaking the frame with anti-rules for creation, give it a read here (https://www.eatxperiment.space/post/total-innovation).
The latter type of innovation is more straightforward, it requires the change of more than one parameter until the product properties satisfy the brief. There are many nuances that go into making the productwork based on the category you are working on, current trends / needs / preferences / requirements and creation limitations (or, simply speaking, production capabilities).
Now, it is time for the most interesting part of product and recipe development - cooking. Once you have chosen the direction and are ready to innovate or break the rules, it’s time to test some ideas. A little step back and you get into a preparation stage of the development. At this point you have to choose the supplier of your ingredients, write the very first draft of the recipe that will be tweaked and adjusted through the process; ideas on how you are going to make all of that, and finally, who will be the judge of your creations (judge can be yourself or a small trusted group that will help move development in the right direction). Cooking might start on the day by buying ingredients in the shop and diving straight into the theme. Or it can be as elaborate as getting a variety of samples requested from the supplier to be certain that the process is followed correctly. The requirements and scale of the project will dictate the choice and the amount of preparations. Once cooking, remember to always keep notes of what works as well as what doesn't, remember to keep track of the new ideas and techniques to trial before the end of the project.
I like to cook multiple variations of the same recipe/product at the same time. If it’s a flavour I'm working with I will have a base recipe for spices and then have 2-4 variations with varied amounts of spices and additions to test for changing end result. I would also try to split it into groups if I want to test a couple of different cooking methods. All in all, I start with a huge range of combinations of ingredients, techniques and tools and narrow it down to what makes me feel a tingle on the tip of my tongue and exclaim “Freaking Amazing!”.
After I got all successful variations ready to taste I would compare them side by side, making notes on what I thought and what happened. For my trusted judges I would prepare a blind trial of products I consider ready for tasting. Blind trials must be expectations-free and for best results recorded individually. I would usually let judges make notes about samples, then listen to their feedback and record what they are saying. Remember to trust yourself too, expect to hear hursh notes but keep working using your own judgment with learning points from others. Even when I have a candidate to be the best product ever I still work with variations.
Quantity of the tests will determine the quality of the end result.
I usually cycle through stages of research, cooking, tasting and feedback until I’m getting to the point where the product (or a range) is great, 5 out of 5 stars, A grade, certified fresh, almost perfect. If you are cooking for long enough you know that no recipe is ever perfect, that whatever base recipe you have used at some point, now changed to work for you. Don't try to make your recipe perfect, it will never happen but if you tried many times and figured what works to make it 80% amazing, you have done a great job. You have to do your best within the time limit.
Once my products are at their final stage I’m ready to share the recipe or my newly developed food with the wider audience, customers and other experts for their critical point of view. This last portion of feedback helps me look back at what I have done, what I learned and where I can take this recipe/product next. After that I finalize the recipe, process, method, techniques, write useful additional notes, add pictures whenever possible, share it with the team if they have to use it for further tests, jobs, etc. and move on to the next project.
If you think this is it for the process, you are wrong. Development never stops. For the best result for myself and others I would look into a variety of other aspects and work on them until the launch / release date / end of project. Among those aspects are nutritional information, cost of the product, availability of the ingredients, potential allergen removal, optional pairing, process simplification, and many others. Allergen removal, nutrition, cost and convenience would be the first aspects I work on straight after, while the project is still hot, while others would be something to do going forward if I want to redevelop the recipe/product or keep it fresh. It’s good to plan for the future but remember to stay within the scope of the project.
Now that all the tests are done, all parties satisfied, every required test is complete, everything recorded and shared among people involved, and even plans for the future are ready to roll when necessary, there is only one thing to do now - take a selfie with your newly developed food. Ok, that’s just me. Do that OR look back at the progress and celebrate.
And if you enjoy creating new things and find this and many other articles useful, please follow, tip and comment for more of the tasty t-reads! ^_^
First published in June 2021 on eatxperiment.space by E.K aka TheFoodGuy
About the Creator
The Food Guy
I read about food politics like it's a Harry Potter.
Eating my way through culture and cooking up the future.
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