How would you like to be able to create hundreds of new recipes, recipes that are your own and fit your tastes perfectly? You can. One of the joys of baking is creating your own recipes, making something truly scrumptious that is uniquely yours.
While baking is precise and requires a knowledge of baking science and formulation to create recipes from scratch, it’s very practical to modify existing recipes.
Understanding Before Creating and Customizing Recipes
A recipe can be broken down into two parts: the basic ingredients and the inclusions. The basic ingredients include flour, butter, sugar, eggs, water, salt, and leavening. These are the ingredients that must be in the right ratio for a good product. While there is some margin for error, generally, you want to leave these unchanged when creating or modifying recipes.
Inclusions are what are included in the basic recipe formula for color, texture, and taste. Though there are exceptions, inclusions will not change the formula of basic ingredients. Dried fruit, nuts, candies, flavors, and baking chips are common inclusions. These you can usually change to fit your desires.
So you can take an oatmeal raisin cookie and substitute dried cranberries and white chocolate chips to create a chewy cranberry white chocolate cookie. Instead of vanilla extract, you may wish to use a French vanilla, a maple, or an orange flavor.
Just Keep Trying
Don’t expect your first trial to be perfect. Often it will be, but many times, you’ll have to make additional changes to make it just right. You may decide that cranberry, white chocolate, and orange wasn’t as good as you expected or maybe you had too much orange and not enough cranberries. Be prepared to try again.
Creating Recipes: Start with the Basics
But where do you start with creating recipes? For example, how do you know how much white chocolate to put in your cookies?
Start with a proven recipe. Look at the ratio of ingredients in that recipe. If your favorite white chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for one cup of chips for three cups of flour, that’s a good place to start. If your new recipe uses only two cups of flour, then start with 2/3’s cup of chips.
This procedure works remarkably well—until you come to cocoa. Cocoa changes the ratio of your basic ingredients. If you want to add cocoa to a recipe, you must remove some of the flour. If you want to exclude cocoa, you must replace it with flour. But the ratio is not one to one. If you want to add a half cup of cocoa to your recipe, reduce the flour by two tablespoons. Likewise, if you want to remove a half cup of cocoa, then you need to add two tablespoons of flour.
Adding Cinnamon Chips
Cinnamon chips are a simple inclusion to add to your recipe. Just be sure to add them at the end of the mixing or kneading process, or they will melt. Here’s a good list to start with for getting the ratios right.
- Pancakes: 2/3 cup per pound of pancake mix
- Yeast Bread: 3/4 cup per loaf
- Sweet Bread: 1 cup per loaf
- Cookies: 1 1/2 to 2 cups per 4 dozen batch
- Muffins: 1 cup per 12 muffins
- Sheet Cake: 1 to 1 1/2 cups per large cake
For most recipes, the amount of liquid is important. Too much, and your cookies may spread too much and your cake may not rise. If you’re going to add wet ingredients, you will need to reduce other liquids.
If you wish to add canned pineapple, drain it well and then substitute the pineapple juice for other liquids in the recipe.
Zucchini is mostly water. If you want to add zucchini, consult our e-book,“The Last Zucchini Cookie.”
Sugar melts in the oven. If you want your recipe to be sweeter, you may need to adjust other liquids.
The world of flavors is amazing. We use maybe 80 flavors in our test kitchen and sell about 40.(See our available flavors here.)
If you want just a hint of flavor, try a half teaspoon. If you want a more pronounced flavor, try a teaspoon. Be careful not to add too much; many flavors become bitter if the concentration to is too much.
Ingredients and How They Work
Are there other ingredients that you need to be careful with? Most inclusions are pretty safe but changing the basic ingredients—like substituting sour cream for butter—takes care. Either study up on your food science or be prepared to experiment. (We recommend reading “Ingredients and How They Work,” a free e-book.) But there is nothing wrong with experimenting.
Beware the Acids When Creating Recipes
Be particularly careful with acids. In many recipes, the acid is intended to react with baking soda to create leavening. If the acid is removed, the leavening is upset. For instance, if you remove buttermilk from most pancake recipes and replace it with milk, your pancakes will be flat.
Our Favorite Modified Recipes
We hope that we have told you enough to get you started on the fascinating journey of creating your own recipes. The following recipes will give you examples of new recipes created from old.
- Strawberry Sugarsnap Cookies with a frosted variation >>
- Raspberry Sour Cream Pancakes >>
- Blueberry Lemon Muffins >>
- Mix-in-a-Jar: Mint Fudge Cookies >>
- Vanilla Bean Carrot Cake >>
(Updated from May 10, 2014)