Understanding how to read a recipe correctly is the first step in becoming the kind of baker you’ve always wanted to be. Or at least the kind of baker whose cookies don’t taste or look like a pile of hot garbage.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but the women in my family love to share recipes with each other. And they like to do it old-school-on an index card. Which is great because you have this cute little card with your recipe in your grandma’s handwriting and it’s sentimental as well as useful.
That is until you look at the recipe and realize Grandma gave instructions that are super vague and filled with abbreviations. Luckily, you know how to read a recipe so even Grandma’s ramblings won’t keep you from making that Strawberry Pizza.
Read through the whole recipe.
Then do it again. Reading through the whole thing will give you an idea about what you need and what you’re going to be doing. Need softened butter-great-you can get it out of the fridge a couple hours before instead of standing in your kitchen swearing because now you have to wait (side note-I have an excellent way to soften butter quickly).
Reading through the recipe also gives you an idea about the order of operations-basically if how you’re going to make the recipe.
Pay Attention to the Comma.
There is a difference between 1 cup chopped pecans and 1 cup pecans, chopped.
1 cup chopped pecans-take some pecans, chop them, dump the chopped pecans in your measuring cup until you have a full cup.
1 cup pecans, chopped-scoop up 1 cup of whole pecans, dump them onto a cutting board, and then chop them.
This goes for other instructions as well, like sifted and packed. 1 cup flour, sifted is a bit different than 1 cup sifted flour and it will make a big difference in your finished product.
Order of Operations:
Typically a recipe will list the ingredients in the order you need to use them. That’s why the butter and sugar are usually listed at the top of a cookie recipe and the flour is at the bottom.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2/3 c. shortening
- 2/3 c. butter
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 1 c. white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 12 oz package chocolate chips
- 1 c. nuts optional
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- If using a stand mixer, fit with paddle attachment. Cream together butter and shortening. Add in granulated sugar and white sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
- Add in eggs, one at a time. Beat to combine. Add in vanilla and beat to combine.
- Turn mixer speed to low. Add in baking soda and flour. Mix until just combined.
- Fold in chocolate chips. I like to use a rubber spatula for this, it helps distribute the chips throughout all the dough.
- Grease cookie sheets or line them with parchment.
- Scoop tablespoons of dough onto a cookie sheet.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes or until the bottoms are just starting to turn brown. My family prefers cookies on the gooier side, so I tend to try and err on the side of caution by pulling them out a bit early. However, if you like crunchy cookies, leave them in a minute or two longer.
Take this chocolate chip cookie recipe- one of the first steps is to cream the butter and shortening with the sugars, which is why they are listed as the top ingredients. The optional nut are folded in last so they are listed at the bottom of the ingredient list.
*Sometimes you’ll get a recipe where the person writing it didn’t know what they were doing. This is where it helps to read the recipe multiple times to be sure you have a grasp of how things should go instead of simply throwing things in the bowl in the order they are listed.
Mise En Place
Basically, a fancy French term for having all your stuff out and lined up before you start to bake. It means pre-heating the oven and lining those cookie sheets with parchment paper. It means having your butter out and softened. It means you did the first item on the list (read the recipe) and you bought all the ingredients (yes, all of them). Mise en place is a VERY important part of baking that I fail to observe fairly often but will result in a much more pleasant baking experience for all.
Common Baking Abbreviations
I can remember being a little girl and distinctly being confused about how much a tsp was. Now that I bake with more kids, inevitability they will ask what on earth a tsp is. Below are some common abbreviations you might run into when recipe reading:
- °F-degrees Fahrenheit
To make things a little easier in the kitchen, I’ve created a handy printable conversion chart (cause honestly, who can remember how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?). Sign up below and I’ll send it to you!