The recipe - my 6 unconventional opinions
First of all, let's define what is a recipe: in the pastry terminology, recipe means a series of ingredients that are mixed together and processed resulting in a finished dessert (fondant, soufflé, baked cake) or it can also mean the components of a dessert.
In ancient times, the recipe was considered the fruit of years of research dedicated to a single dessert along with hundreds of trials and modifications, passed from one generation to the other, in mystical discretion.
In fact, many of the recipe books that I had the honour to examine were guarded very jealously by their owners and, each of these recipes has a romantic story of its own whether stolen, copied on napkins, secretly photographed. It might make some people laugh today, but that's how it has worked in the past, before the era of hyper-information, the one where you are submerged by millions of inputs of every kind.
Today, if you need a last-minute recipe, all you have to do is go to Google - and do not make fun of what I say, I know that you all have used it at least once in your lives!
After this due introduction, let us get down to my 6 key points about recipes:
1. DO NOT LEARN RECIPES, LEARN THE RULES. THEN FORGET THEM.
Pastry ingredients are not catalogued by a single product, but rather by families. Each family has a quantity range for each element in order to customize the final product. For example, the Milan shortbread, the sablè or the lean shortcrust pastry are part of the same family, differing only in the quantity of butter and sugar as it is a percentage of the flour weight. These differences also apply to creams, cakes, ganache etc. Each family has its own specific rules to understand what is being done when in production. These rules must be studied, assimilated, become part of you and then ... forget them. Only then can you work with awareness but with the freedom to create something absolutely personal.
2. KNOW THE COMPONENTS.
Each ingredient has its own history. Flour, fats, sugar or jelly are not the same. It is important to know their characteristics, nutritional values, melting points, and more, to know better how to incorporate or replace each item in a recipe.
3. THE PROCEDURE MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
If we give 3 professionals the same complete recipe, I am sure that we would get 3 different results, even if only slightly. What would influence the final result are the choice of raw materials, the technical-chemical knowledge of the chef, the equipment used, the sensitivity of the raw materials (when the product is leavened, mounted, cooked). It is agreed that the better the pastry chef is prepared, the higher his ability to manage every variable of the procedure will be, thus obtaining a better product.
4. SECRET RECIPES DO NOT EXIST.
I am seized by rage when, in the supermarket, I find myself in front of products with the words TRADITIONAL RECIPE, ANCIENT RECIPE, RICH RECIPE, etc. Wanting to sell the idea of exclusivity, tradition is a good concept only for marketing purposes. Every recipe is absolutely repeatable for the one who has the knowledge, and impossible for those who don't have it, so the secret doesn't make sense. Don't be overprotective of yours.
5. RECIPE WRITTEN CORRECTLY.
We, pastry chefs, will certainly not be perfect writers by nature, but when we write the procedure of a recipe, spelling and punctuation are of primary importance. Sometimes, simply the comma put in the wrong place can cause an irreparable disaster and lead to the loss of pounds and pounds of raw materials, especially if the reader does not understand the language properly. Happened to me before...
6. WRITE YOUR OWN RECIPE BOOK:
Every place you will work for or have worked for must have a catalogue including at least 4-5 recipes that will drive you crazy. Take a dozen jobs and collect 50-60 recipes that you like. This will give you your first recipe collection. Work as a Chef a few more years, learn the theory and technique and customize the recipes, so you will be able to create something truly unique. As a dear friend of mine once told me, you can consider yourself a pastry chef only when you have a recipe book of your own!
What is your recipe opinion? Add it in the comments!