Greenbean, a reader and real-life recipe user, wrote in to ask about my process for developing, tweaking, and finalizing my recipes:
I love how you describe how you develop your recipes. You make it sound so easy. Is it really this easy? How many attempts does it usually take for you to settle on a recipe?
Hi, Greenbean! Thanks for writing in. That's a great question.
I've been pretty good with getting the flavors and textures of my cookies to match my expectations. But there have been a few times when the recipes I thought up just didn't work. (Check out some of my failures here, here, and here.)
I usually get the recipe right on the first test. I've been baking cookies for so long now that I've got a pretty good feel for the measurements. I've learned that some ingredients are tricky and unpredictable, though: apples, for example, because moisture and sweetness levels can vary from one piece of fruit to another. So sometimes I get a cookie that's slightly cakier than I expected but that still tastes great.
I think the key thing is to have fun and not take the process too seriously. If a batch of cookies comes out wrong or just plain inedible, I toss out the cookies along with the recipe, analyze what went wrong, and start over. In baking, as in life, you learn from your mistakes.
Too sweet? Cut back on the sugar or rethink another ingredient that brings too much sweetness to the party. Too flat? Rethink the wet ingredients. Bland? Pump up the flavorings or add them to each step of the recipe--creamables, wet ingredients, and dry ingredients. Too plump? Either increase the wet ingredients or, if the taste is just right, add a smooshing step while baking to make the cookies a little flatter.
It really is just about improvising and making corrections as needed as you go along. Believe me. I've made some humdingers. Just check out my Oops! postings.