On Recipe Development

Though it was a footnote, I’ve mentioned once before that I don’t understand how other food bloggers develop recipes, in part due to the repetition. And in part due to the fact that sometimes perfection happens out of accident.

I never did manage to replicate that pasta sauce. And, post-move, we no longer have the base to compare it to. In some ways, that’s good. It means I can just start from scratch and say, “I want to make a smoked pasta sauce.” In some ways, though, it’s bad. I can’t compare to perfection. I think of this because I’ve recently been working on a squash custard recipe.

The very first time I tasted delicata squash earlier this year, I immediately thought “dessert.” I wanted to make a pie.

I made a pie for my parents, Bill, and I just to test the idea. It was a light, delicate pie with chocolate flavor, and the crust (store-bought) completely overwhelmed it. We ended up scraping the custard out of the crust and just eating it. And it was, frankly, amazing.

A close-up of delicata squash.

The problem?

I’d made the pie with a random cocoa mix I’d thrown together ages ago. I only have the very vaguest idea of what is in there, and certainly no proportions. So, having an amazing pie was both nice and frustrating. I’d been looking for some confirmation that these flavors would be good together, and I had it. But I couldn’t share it with you guys at all.

So, I went and tried again later. I pulled out the ingredients I was pretty sure I’d put into the mix, and I started experimenting.

A table covered in jars, plates, silverware, a camera, a notebook, and a variety of other things for intentional food experiments.

I couldn’t make it work.

I tried three versions, if I recall correctly. And I made Bill try them and I passed them out to staffers here in our building and I got some really big compliments and it was awesome.

There came a point where it still wasn’t even remotely what I’d gotten when I just whipped up my “proof of concept” custard, but it was very good. At least, to my taste-testers (except Bill, for whom it was never the thing he wanted). So, I planned to post the recipe here. Maybe tweak it one last time first.

Foreground is a close up of a measuring cup slightly overfilled (but not overflowing) with squash puree. Background is a out-of-focus image of an empty glass bowl that's dirty enough to be clear it once held the squash puree.

Then I lost my notes.

Because sometimes, that’s how recipe development goes. It’s a ton of hard work, it doesn’t quite come together, then something goes horribly wrong. It’d be amusing if it wasn’t so frustrating.

Hell, it is kind of amusing, let’s be honest.

Anyway, so that’s the story of why today you get pretty pictures of squash, but no recipe. Because I have to go start from scratch and try to build this recipe. Again.

But I will ask a favor. Please help me feel better about this by telling me a story of when you had a so frustrating it was amusing moment.

I’ll be back Monday with links. I hope you all have a fantastic weekend.