How I write my recipe.
Since writing my first cookbook, I have learned how to write simple and straightforward recipes. I have noticed a lot of bloggers out there tend to write lengthy recipes, is like trying to show everyone how serious you are and how sophisticated your creations are. Trust me, I’ve been there before, trying to be a recipe snob. Nowadays, I actually think lengthy recipes just make me lazy to read and follow. Same principles go to writing a cookbook, no one will ever buy your cookbook with lengthy recipes, because simply no one can be bothered to follow and cook anything from it!
And also, lengthy recipe needs extra page in a cookbook, and publishers simply won’t pay for that because it can easily get carried away from a 250 pages book to become an encyclopedia. Keep it short but accurate and try not to be too wordy is the key. These days I try to keep my recipes no more than 10 steps, or less than 5 if is a very simple dish. If it gets too long, group them into one sentence.
It is always good practice to indicate the speed of a mixer and the setting on the cooktop – high, medium-high, medium-low or low. Also, pretend you are reading your own recipe for the first time and know nothing about it and never cook the dish before. It is also very useful to indicate the duration to perform each step in the recipe, for eg. sauteed onion for 5 minutes or until translucent, caramelise sugar until turning dark brown, about 10 minutes.
When writing ingredient lists, the first item usually is the hero ingredient, typically a protein. I used to do that too, but not anymore. Well, most publishers now prefer to list the ingredients as they are being used following the steps in the method. It does make it easier to follow.
This is not mandatory, when I was writing my book, I had to convert all metrics into imperials measurement. My old habit of working in kitchen is always just using cups, tablespoons, teaspoons, because is easy and no weighing needed. However, if a US reader is using my recipe with their own version of cups, there will be a problem. 1 cup of 250ml in Australia is 236ml in US, 1 tablespoon of 20ml in Australia is only 15 ml in US, and so on. As lazy as I am these days and still using cups, but I do place the cup on a scale first before adding ingredient to it and weigh it at the same time.
Then there is cooking time, prep time, serving size and etc, it is up to you really what to add and what not to make the recipe more useful for others. I tend not to put cooking and prep time because everyone’s skill and experience in kitchen is different. I am sure we all can use common sense by reading through the recipe and figure out how involved it will be and how much time we need to spend in the kitchen.
Ironically, I probably have just thrown all the things I said about writing simple recipe out of the window with this lengthy Red Velvet cupcake recipe. It is possibly the longest red velvet cupcake recipe you’ve ever seen on internet! But if you read it carefully, making the cupcakes is actually only take 5 steps, making the cream cheese icing is 1 step, and decorating the cupcakes takes 2. So overall, it ain’t so bad and it is a darn good red velvet cupcake too!
Last but not least, make your recipe a little bit different from others. It is that little extra step or ingredient that makes it a tad more special and stands out from the sea of million recipes on the interweb. For eg, I gave my red velvet cupcake a light brush of rose syrup water before icing to give the cupcake a hint of aroma. Shexy….
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes or 24 minis
150g self raising flour
150g plain flour
A pinch of salt
A pinch of bi-carb baking soda
150g unsalted butter, softened
150g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200ml full cream milk
1 teaspoon of red colouring paste
1 tablespoon apricot jam
1 teaspoon rose water
cream cheese icing
250g cream cheese, room temperature
115g butter, softened
2 cups icing (confectioners’) sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Sift flours, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl. Set aside, ready to be used.
2. Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a food mixer, beat until pale and light on high speed. Turn the speed down to low, add vanilla, then eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Add 1/3 of flour into the mixer then alternate with 1/3 of milk, repeat until everything is well incorporated. Stop the mixer, add red colouring paste, turn the mixer back on on low speed until beat until the mixture is now evenly coloured.
4. Turn oven on to 180C. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with cupcake cases. Use an ice cream scoop, scoop a dollop of the mixture and drop into a case, repeat until all cases are filled.
5. Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes. Check by inserting a skewer into the center of the cake and comes out clean. Remove the tray from oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes, then turn the cupcakes onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
6. To make cream cheese icing, beat cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer on high speed until softened. Add butter and continue beating until well combined. Add icing sugar, one tablespoon at a time until all used. Add vanilla and beat well. Scrape cream cheese icing into a piping bag with a 1-cm hole round tip.
7. Add apricot jam and 1/2 cup of water in a mixing bowl, microwave for 1 minute, stir well until the jam has dissolved. Add rose water and stir well.
8. Use a skewer, poke a few holes on top of each cupcake, then brush the rose water on top. Pipe cream cheese icing on top of each cupcake, decorate with a sprinkle of ‘disco dusts’.