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Monday, October 31, 2011

How to Develop New Recipes

OK L.A.B. Rats,

Just for once, I'm going to throw a post at you that is void of bells, whistles or Kleckoisms.

Today we are going to screw our minds on tight.....and do our best to focus.

My question to you is "Do you have a system, or formula for putting together new recipes?"

As you can imagine, that's part of my job description.

Funny thing though, during all my years in "The Show", I've never met 2 people who go about this the same way.

The first thing I like to ask myself is....

"What is the purpose?"

I think it was my last post where I posted that Hemp-Pecan cookie recipe.

One of the reasons I decided to make this was because I am adding several menu items that will rezonate with a younger base.

It's getting to the point in my career where many chefs, F&B's and other peeps with purchasing power are 1/2 my age.

Even though wisdom goes along with added birthday candles, people you do biz with want to make sure that their source is "Culinary Forward."

So with that in mind, I've (we've) launched a new campaign where I work with a more youthful vibe.

Starting this week, we will have 1/4 page ads in the Cities #1 free weekly rag, with pictures that are comprised of youthful, diversified people doing fun things in a fast paced metropolitan setting.

So that's why the first cookie I launched was the Hemp-Pecan. It skews so many demographics, and that's the name of the game guys.

So the first step I take, is I go onto the web and Google my topic of interest.

Praise Polish Christ for this tool. It seems like just yesterday that I would have to buy entire cookbooks just for a single recipe.

However....there are a lot of dumb a**es on the net as well.

I can't tell you how many bogus recipes I've encountered.

So now that your topic is selected, peruse the top 1/2 dozen recipes under your themes heading.

Look to see which ingredients, and methods seem to be universal, and then do your best to determine which ingredients the author may have thrown in to make this a unique signiture recipe.

The more you are familiar with a medium, the easier this process will become. For me, I've bounced through so many bread recipes over the years, I can do this with little effort.

But cookies on the other hand, I have worked with them sporadically, just enough to get myself in trouble.

So after looking through 8-9 or 10 Hemp-Pecan formulas, the following was the one that embodied the direction I wanted to go with.

The following came off "A Few Scraps" blogsite..........

Christina's Hemp Seed Cookies

2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup applesauce (a little single serving applesauce cup happens to be 1/4 cup!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup hulled hemp seed
1/2 cup ground flax meal
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 handful each chopped hazelnuts and chocolate chips

After looking at this recipe, Christina's ingredient percentages seemed spot on to me, and to be honest.....I really have no problem paying tribute to another baker and following their lead, I mean...it seems like so many cooks/chefs/and bakers feel as if they have to put their own signiture on something just to differeniate themselves from others....sigh.

I think that's childish. If I were a person with great painting skills, I would have no problem trying to impress you by replecating Mona Lisa or The Last Supper.

But remember, on this recipe Klecko wants the ingredients to appear youthful.

But whats the liquid agent in Christina's recipe, the ingredient that will end up binding the cookie?

Apple Sauce.

Let's face it, I do dig a little apple sauce here and there, but it isn't exactlly an ingredient prioritized by America's youth. In fact....apple sauce denotes "Old People" much like margerine, prunes and Fig Newtons.

So that was the first thing I had to swap out.

Also when I looked at the different flours, I had whole wheat, hemp seeds, flax meal and pecans.

There really isn't much gluten in that "flour base" so you can see immediatley that using an apple sauce for your liquid would certainly make it level 10 dense.

What could Klecko do to "lighten" this up a bit, w/o sacrificing the sweetness that we forfeited by ommiting the apple sauce?

My first thought was to use honey.

Honey is one of those default ingredients that you can never go wrong with, my baking instructors used to preach that it was the "Black Shoes" of your baking ensamble.

It pretty much goes with anything.

but sometimes when I've made up my mind, and decided I've found my answer....I kinda like to consult the angels of Warsaw and ask if there were any details that I may have overlooked.

I'm glad i did this, because Saint Faustina sent an epiphany to me.....

"Klecko.....why don't you swap out the honey for blue agave?"

This made total sense. Agave has a thinner viscosity, therefore our cookies base weight will be lighter, and the nice thing about agave is that it is really sweet, so the swap with honey wasn't going to decrease flavor.

Then my last thought on this topic is crucial, but not always easy to obtain.

When I prepare for a new recipe, I don't just write out the formula and show it to people for imput.

I like to scale out the ingredients, line them up on a table, and then see if I can find a second pair of eyes that I respect to double check my thought process.

I am not too proud to admit that by deferring to my colleagues, I have saved myself countless hours of R&D.

It will never cease to amaze me how each baker looks at a concepts through different lenses.

Case in point, I had all the ingredients listed above on top of a pallet of flour, when I called over my new pastry chef Hennessey.

She eyeballed everything, and then stopped for a moment with an inquisitive look....

"Did you taste that agave Klecko?" she asked.

When I informed her that I hadn't cracked the seal yet, she did and proceeded to taste it.......

"Whoa.....thats pretty sweet Danny. I'm not so sure you will want to use the granulated sugar. If you do....I'm guessing it will be way too sweet."

So I replaced that portion with a brown sugar.

Lo and Behold......when the first batch came out of the oven.....We were both really happy with the shape, consistancy and flavor profile.

Very-Very-Very seldom do you nail something like this on your first time.

I was pretty certain I had, but then the following day I saw Hennessey and her husband at the gym, and we both agreed that our 2nd day shelf life was a little advanced.....I.E. - we probably baked them a little longer than needed.

I also dropped a sample batch off to some of my girlio's at Mastel's Foods, which is a health food place.

Deb Z was stoked when she found out that she was getting the lead role as Klecko's guinea pig, in fact maybe a little too enthused.......

"You know Klecko, if I were you, I'd add cranberries to these, not those cheap-crappy craisns....but cranberries."

Lesson #Last.......

Don't start adding ancillary ingredients until after you've mastered the "mother dough".

And if you get lucky and hit the bulls-eye on your first try.....

Well then just make certain that you are able to get it right a few more times before you steer your concept into a totally different flavor profile.

Alright.....off the soap box and back to work.

Klecko Out..............

3 comments:

  1. That's pretty much what I do, too - the first part, anyway.
    After several botched attempts at "just making stuff up" in college (tuna fried rice? UGH not my finest hour), I try to look up similar recipes before I give it a shot. Last night, it worked out great, and my meatloaf hand was a rousing success. I'll be trying it again this week when I try my hand at candy making and make some of those peanut butter candies that my great-grandmother used to make around Halloween when I was little.
    Of course, I've had some success with the "I think these'll go together" method. Pumpkin-white chocolate-craisin cookies for one, and corned-beef-and-shrimp-alfredo for another, but really, it's about knowing food, loving food, and knowing whether or not the flavors will "go." And as I get more experienced cooking at home, I get better and better at it.

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  2. Maggie.....wow, you are busier than most, I have done very little candy making, do you find it difficult?

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