To Tinker or Not to Tinker – that is the question

When I started this blog, I had an idea of doing a weekly post titled “Varations on a theme”. This was because I would find recipes that I liked that I knew I could tinker with to change the flavor profile while keeping the basic components fairly similar. Certain things, such as the Slutty Brownies recipe, can be tinkered with to a certain extent. The cookie flavors can be changed, the base cookie can be changed, even the “brownie” part can be changed.

This is what is considered a “robust” recipe. A robust recipe can be tinkered with and not usually become an inedible mess. A fragile recipe must be adhered to rather strictly or it just doesn’t work.

I like working with robust recipes because it gives me a chance to explore my creativity with cooking. I also like the fact that once you’ve memorized the core recipe, it’s easy to tinker with it.

Fragile recipes are good for testing your ability as a cook. Your ability to follow directions, to measure accurately, and to pay attention to details. Fragile recipes show our flaws in preparation. They also show us things we didn’t expect, such as how humidity affects certain baking recipes or making things like homemade marshmallows. How not using a fermentation lock can cause the liqueur you are working on to explode when you use fresh fruit. How stopping the ice cream maker to melt the chocolate to make the ripple can cause the ice cream to completely freeze.

Sometimes it’s not the recipe that is fragile, it’s the procedure that makes it fragile. Try whipping eggs in a bowl that has any trace of grease or oil. Or whipping cream when it’s too warm. Or not greasing the angel food cake pan all the way up the center hole and the walls.

Just because a recipe looks as if it might be fragile, don’t be afraid to tinker with it. Some things can be changed and some things can’t, but it’s still fun to try.