Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Value of Recipes

On Christmas eve I found myself desperately trying to find recipes on the Internet. It's a little harder than it sounds. For example, I brought all of the ingredients I need for my especially dark chocolate mousse and couldn't quite remember the ratios so I hopped onto the internet for a recipe. Reading through 5 recipes or so later, I gave up.

For your (and my) reference:

This recipe makes a very dark chocolate mousse that works with red wine or whiskey (my intention when making it). I don't really have much of a sweet tooth (and actually dislike milk chocolate) so it's a recipe that works for people without a sweet tooth - and of course, could be sweetened up using grated chocolate on top or.... a chocolate wafer or something.

Especially Dark Chocolate Mousse

1 big bar of dark chocolate (I used a 72% this time around). Avoid Cadbury chocolate - they don't do anything even near a decent dark chocolate.
6 egg whites, 4 egg yolks

In one bowl, whip egg whites until stiffened. In another similar bowl, whip up the cream - about the same quantity as the egg whites.

Melt chocolate using a double boiler (put some boiling water into the bottom of a large pot. Put a smaller pot in there. Do not let the smaller pot touch the water on the bottom of the large pot). Chuck in a couple of tablespoons of cocoa just to screw with the cocoa ratio. Add a touch of cream to chocolate to avoid it from setting. When the chocolate has only just melted, add the egg yolks. This adds a richness. Too hot, the yolks cook. Too cold, and the yolks and chocolate separate (while it tastes okay, the texture is a little odd).

Put chocolate into a large bowl. Fold in cream slowly (too quickly and the temperature differential causes the chocolate to set, again, giving it an odd texture). Once fully integrated, take one third of the egg whites, and mix it into the chocolate. Don't be too precious about the 1st third as it'll be quite difficult to fold it. Take the next third, and fold it in carefully. And again with the rest.

Pour into vessels and put into fridge (or, if you're as slack as I am, chuck some gladwrap over the bowl and chuck it into the fridge) for 12 hours or so. At this stage, it might be quite liquid. Don't panic.

Serve up with berries (something with a bit of tartness - canned works okay but a coulis thrown together from frozen berries works better) and maybe a touch of cream.

The whole thing got me thinking about recipes. In the good ol' days before the Internet, people would have to go through some effort. Writing out recipes on cards to fit into their recipe boxes or photocopying recipes. You'd only bother giving someone a recipe if the recipe was worth giving it.

The Internet however - it doesn't matter how incredibly crap the recipe, it's probably there. Distributed to billions. At times, it feels like I'm spending more time trying to find a recipe than actually cooking.

And there are LOADS of recipe sites out there. Whether they're vetted or not is a completely different story. And the country of origin is never really stated. It shouldn't make a difference, but I find it infuriating when recipes list a particular brand in their recipes. The pizza dough recipe (The vegetarian option this year) called for, not only a particular brand of yeast, but also a pre-measured amount - i.e. it's not cool to say "one sachet of". So, either recipes need to be made to be universal - sans-brand names and easy conversion of measurements OR their country of origin stated.

So, we're looking for reputable recipes. Probably the most successful ones I've come across have been on people's blogs. This one for passionfruit friands for example.

Except... I don't really record which recipes I've tried and haven't tried. So every year during Christmas, I make bread (a loaf of Ciabatta). It never quite works as intended. My first attempt was all air in the top and dense on the bottom. Last year didn't really work at all - it didn't raise at all really. This year's was pretty good. The texture was perfect BUT it hadn't risen (Up. It went sideways). That was a no-knead recipe and I'm convinced it's going not perfect as due to the humidity and temperature during the proofing period.

But back to the original point (I seem to be doing loads of tangents at the moment), recipes have very little value nowadays. Good recipes though... where do you find them? BBC Food's pretty cool. Blogs - after a trial (I found a chocolate chip cookie recipe on a blog that was pretty much chocolate chips suspending in caramel with a touch of flour) - can be a fairly decent source. But surely, there's got to be a source of recipes, for foods that you're specifically looking for recipes of, which doesn't require weeks of trial and error in order to find a decent recipe...


  1. awww man. that sounds like a really yummy mousse. im sorry i missed it !

  2. Easy enough to make yourself... And I'm sure I'll make it again within the next couple of years. I was going to put a mention in there about the cocoa. It can be omitted and if you're using baking cocoa, it's probably best omitted.