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How To Convert Your Recipes

Many times I’ve been asked by friends and seen on the various internet forums, “How do I convert Recipe X to serve only 4 people from 12?” And, all things said and done, it’s a very simple and relatively quick process to do. All you need is a calculator or the calculator app on your cell phone.

I Googled for “Cake Recipe” and took the first white cake recipe I found from allrecipes.com. Now, they have a convenient little feature to switch between imperial and metric and, I’ll be very honest, when it comes to cooking and baking, metric is the way to go; hands down. With about 28 grams to an ounce, you really can’t get any more precise.

Here’s our recipe:
200 g white sugar
115 g butter
2 eggs (out of the shell, each egg weighs about 47g)
10 ml vanilla extract
190 g all-purpose flour
8 g baking powder
120 ml milk

The yield on this recipe is 12 servings, but lets say we wanted to make a baby cake enough to serve 5 people. The first thing we need to do is to find our conversion factor (C). Here’s the formula:

(C) = New Yield / Old Yield

Easy, huh? So, we want 5 servings, but the recipe is for 12. 5 / 12 = .416 — just make sure you don’t do the old yield divided by the new yield. ;)

Now that we have our conversion factor, we just multiple each ingredient by that number, so:

200 * .416 = 83g white sugar
94 * .416 = 39g egg (crack one, whip it up, remove 8g)
10 * .416 = 4ml vanilla
190 * .416 = 79g A.P. flour
8 * .416 = 3g baking powder
120 * .416 = 50ml milk

You now have a recipe that will create a cake suitable of serving 5 people. A few points to remember:

  1. When you scale down a recipe, the cooking time may be reduced, so be sure to keep a careful eye on your food. The opposite is true if you scale up.
  2. The above MAY be true. Bear in mind that, in the case of something like risotto, your rice will still take 20 minutes to cook to an al dente.
  3. When a recipe calls for a certain amount of butter or other fat for sauteing, you may need more than what is called for, just to get a good coating on the pan’s surface.

So, remember — (C) = New / Old. Then multiply your ingredients by the conversion factor. And, for goodness sakes, get a scale and switch to metric!

October 4, 2011   No Comments

It’s Official…

I’m a culinary student.

Well, technically speaking, I’ve been one ever since I registered for my classes last summer; however, I had attended my first class today: Sanitation. I’m taking it with Chef Ron Leounes, a gentleman who’s worked with the college now for close to 15 years or so focusing on front of house training, sanitation and cost control. Oh yeah, and he does the bartending classes. I’ve seen him around quite often, active in our annual Mardi Gras fundraiser for the college and, from what I’ve seen of him in board meetings on the matter, I know he knows what he’s talking about.

Hey there, Chef Ron, if you read this. :)

Food Prep I is on Saturday — that’s being taught by Chef Dave Lattomus, a Chef at Hotel DuPont here in Wilmington. Really looking forward to that class and finally being able to share my experiences with you on it.

I’m hoping to get some more podcasts going here soon, so please bear with me. In the meantime, I’ve recently dabbled a bit in molecular gastronomy (if you don’t know what that is, go turn on the Food Network, heh!). Here are my attempts at basic ionic spherefication in doing mango nectar “caviar” and a “ravioli.”

This is done by mixing sodium alginate into the mango nectar and dropping it with a spoon or special dropper into a water bath of calcium chloride.

This creates a thin, gelatin-like layer that encapsulates the liquid, but allows it to be easily pierced.

Neat, huh? Hoping to get a chance to use this in Food Prep I this semester.

August 23, 2011   2 Comments

Chef Tom’s French Bread

A few weeks back I had sent a question in to Chef Tom, the Chef Instructor and Breadman Extraordinaire at Le Cordon Bleu of Chicago.  Well, he also happens to run the “This Week in Food” podcast that I rave so much about.

You see, I’ve been having a lot of issues with yeast risen breads — they’re not my friend at all.  Because I don’t start my classes for another few weeks and I don’t really have any friends who are bakers, I implored Tom to do a video podcast that broke the process down step by step, showing textures, methods and techniques.

He was awesome enough to do just that.

So I took some time last night to try to follow his recipe — as I write this now, my bread is in the oven.  Here’s how I fared.

 Since I don’t need 4 1/2 loaves, I decided to halve his recipe after converting it from Imperial to Metric.

I use dry active yeast, so I took my yeast and hot tap water (which conveniently comes out right around 115F) and tossed it into my mixing bowl to proof whilst I mise en place’d my other ingredients.

I prepped 8 grams of salt which would be reserved for after the dough came together and 454 grams of my bread flour.

Now, the primary issue I’ve had in the past is hydration.  I’d scale correctly, but my doughs would wind up resembling batters rather than properly hydrated doughs.

In those particular instances, I’d wind up working so much more flour into the dough through the kneading process that my precise scaling may have well been me haphazardly mixing the ingredients together without taking any time to properly measure them.

In any case, after 10 minutes, my yeast had sufficiently proofed and I tossed in my ingredients, reserving the salt.

I put my KitchenAid on setting 2 for 4 minutes, allowing the dough to come together and knead a bit.

Once it came together and mixed for a while, I added in the salt.

After four minutes, I stopped the mixer, scraped the dough off of the hook, turned it upside down and let it go another 4 minutes at setting 4 on the mixer to develop the gluten.

Once the dough was done mixing, I split it out into 2 361g portions and tossed it into a bowl to ferment for an hour on the bench.

I stepped out to Kitchen and Company to pick up a silicone bowl scraper and a squirty bottle.  This was followed up by a trip to JoAnne Fabrics to pick up a yard of muslin to use as a couche.

When I returned home, it had been 70 minutes and my dough had risen quite nicely.

I turned the dough out onto the board and began forming batards.

I determined this would be my final shape as I knew I wanted to use the bread for something more along the lines of sopping up marinara, sandwiches and good french toast for the weekend.

I set them in their couche and gave them another 30 minutes or so to rise — as seen here, they look quite nice and ready to bake!

Since I don’t own a peel, I pulled my stone out of the oven and tossed some cornmeal onto it, watching the wisps of smoke rise, carrying the lovely aroma of toasted corn.

I scored the dough and moved the batards onto the stone as quickly as I could before placing the stone back into my oven which was at a balmy 475F.

I dropped the temperature down to 375 and cracked the oven open slightly to spritz in my water, creating steam on the sides and bottom of the oven.

It’s been about 30 minutes since I’ve started with this article.  Let me go check on my bread… :)

Well, it looks a lovely golden brown.

However, I’m a bit concerned.

Looking at the score marks (and the size in general), it didn’t really seem to get much in terms of oven spring.  I’d expect it to be a bit more stretched.

So, trying to reason that out logically, perhaps, in the the forming of the batard, the skin of the dough was too slack?

Additionally, taking the spine of a knife and tapping the crust yielded no give, making me think that the crust is quite thick as well.  Perhaps a symptom of the same issue with not forming the dough tight enough?

I’ll be back in the next paragraph after an hour or so when the bread has fully cooled down.

The bread has cooled to room temperature — I cut into it and here’s the result:

My fear was not unfounded.

You can see here, quite well, near the top of the slice, that the crust has cooked into the crumb.  Now, it’s not dreadful… I’ve managed to make bread that had a crust 1/8″ thick; talk about being hard to chew.

So, I’m thinking it’s one of these three issues:

  1. I didn’t stretch the bread enough in the forming of the batard.  The slack dough didn’t allow for optimal stretch during ovenspring and allowed the crust to overcook.
  2. Oven temperature.  I started the oven ripping hot — I don’t know if it was too hot or if too much heat escaped as I was putting the bread in to bake.
  3. Too much/not enough steam.  I spritzed in a good amount as soon as the bread was in and a bit more again after a couple of minutes had passed.
So, my dear readers, or Chef Tom if you happen to be reading this — any troubleshooting ideas?

In the meantime, it’s still a tender crumb.  I’ll slather a bit of butter on the slice, garnish it with a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel and enjoy the hearty, yeasty aroma just before it hits the palette.

August 10, 2011   2 Comments

Sanitation #7: Storage

In this episode of the Sanitation series on the Culinary Student Podcast, we continue our discussion of the Flow of Food with Storage.

Link to Podcast mentioned:

Chef Tom Beckman in This Week in Food.

July 30, 2011   No Comments

The Summer Lull

Greetings, folks.

No, I haven’t abandoned the project — I’d like to think that’s far from the truth.  I had my 8 and 5 year-olds’ birthday parties within 3 days of each other last week… and it was fun.  Tiring, but fun.  My oldest has a sleepover, for which I did a Pikachu Pokemon sheet cake with a marshmallow fondant and decorations and I whipped up a 4 lbs batch of dough for make-your-own pizzas; it was all wildly successful.  My 5 year old was much more laid back and I did a batch of my high-ratio yellow cake cupcakes with a strawberry buttercream (topped with Hello Kitty topper rings ;p) and a batch of dark chocolate cupcakes paired with a decadent cinnamon buttercream.

Now that my “summer rush” has calmed down, I’ve been trying to relax a bit — get more into bread making which is quickly becoming my enemy.  I’m starting to realize that, being the picky eater I am, I may enjoy what I make in the baking side more than I ever will on the culinary side.  I mean, what’s not to like about carbs?  Hah!

In all seriousness, I want to be well-rounded, so I picked up a 2 lbs pack of yeast and I’ve been trying breads of various sorts.  I did an awesome focaccia.  The pizza dough was so-so, it didn’t brown up like I expected, maybe should have brushed the crust with some oil now that I think of it.  I did a rustic wheat loaf and round which came out really dense and I did some white/wheat sandwich loafs which also came out dense.

I’ve recently learned that the amount of whole wheat can affect the formation of the gluten matrix and ultimately make the bread turn out to be dense, so I’ll need to watch my ratio of wheat to bread flour in future trials.

That being said, I’m hoping to return to the podcast soon — I’ll see if I can’t take some notes on the next chapter tomorrow and bang out Episode 7 of Sanitation on Saturday.

Thanks for your patience!

July 28, 2011   No Comments

Sanitation #6: Purchasing & Receiving

In this episode of Sanitation, we continue our discussion of the flow of food and cover the topics of purchasing and receiving and considerations for bringing in fresh, safe food into the establishment.

July 12, 2011   No Comments

Sanitation #5: The Flow of Food Introduction

In episode 5 of Sanitation on the Culinary Student Podcast, we begin unit 2 of the course where talk about the flow of food. Today, we’ll be discussing time and temperature control, preventing cross-contamination and the exciting topic of thermometers!

Note: I recorded this podcast on my porch with my tablet — I apologize for the different quality, but the day was too nice out to waste!

Be sure to take the quiz when you’re done listening.

July 1, 2011   No Comments

I’d Love to Taste…

…and write about it.

No, not like a full-blown food writer or even a food blogger.  I don’t know why, but I’d just like to share my opinions on the food I eat.  Is it pretentious to think that people would care what I think? :)

In part because I’m teaching myself to cook, I’m forcing myself to expand my palette and I’d like to get a bit more adventurous in what I eat and where I dine.  However, being the father of two — even with the wifes’ second income — putting the kids through school, paying the mortgage and the bills, it can be difficult to afford evenings out at an establishment that wouldn’t otherwise be considered fairly common.

I’ve always had an aversion to greens in general.  For the first time that I can remember I had asparagus on Saturday…  I’d love nothing more than to sit down to a wonderful green salad and chow down, but even the thought of eating some vegetables triggers a gag reflex — onions, in particular.

But, I suppose I’ll plod on and learn to like spinach, frisée and garlic (despite my huge sensitivity to garlic) and maybe consider writing about it when I get the opportunity to eat out.

What about you, where do you like to eat out?  Better yet, if you try a new restaurant, what do you like to eat as a benchmark for gauging the cuisine?  Leave your comments below!

June 28, 2011   No Comments

Sanitation #4: The Safe Foodhandler

In this episode of the Culinary Student Podcast, we’ll be discussing how to be a safer food handler. In particular, we’ll talk about how we, as foodhandlers, can contaminate food; the components of maintaining a good personal hygiene program as a food handler and as management.

Also, since we’ve been focusing so much on pathogens that can contaminate food, we’re going to talk about diseases that are not transmitted through food, despite social stigma.

When you’re done listening to the podcast, be sure to take the Quiz to test your knowledge!

June 26, 2011   No Comments


So, I was listening to the “This Week In Food” podcast by Chef Tom and he made mention of a recipe for a very special snack… actually one of my all-time favorite snacks, so of course I had to find it and make it for myself.  It’s an incredibly delicious caramel popcorn (which the friend who had gifted these little morsels of goodness unto him affectionately referred to them as “crack.”)

The recipe comes from a food blogger called Orangette and the process is, in and of itself, very simple.  I’ll explain it below… [Read more →]

June 19, 2011   No Comments