Recipe Experimentation

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The core idea behind a recipe expermentation event is to apply the spirit of scientific experimentation to the creation of a recipe. I say "the spirit" deliberately-- we're not going to be able to easily set up a double-blind taste test, people's opinions of a given recipe will vary wildly, and although we *could* chart the results of every possible change in every possible ingredient, we're generally not going to have the time, energy, or volunteers to do so. But, it's a lot better than nothing, and hopefully it will be fun.

The first thing to consider when running a recipe experimentation event is what recipe to pick. My guess (having thought hard about it, but never actually *run* one) is that you'll want to pick something fairly narrow. Don't start with "best truffle"-- start with "best basic dark chocolate truffle". Try "best moist-and-dense-and-chewy-but-plain brownie", not "best brownie". That way, we can then run later events involving adding flavorings to the truffle or nuts and swirls to the brownie, producing the kind of recipe most people would enjoy making from a cookbook.

The shape of a recipe experimentation event probably should go something like this:

  • Recipe is selected, with an eye towards having only a handful of variables to adjust in a given session.
  • Organizer charts out the variables and how they should change, and what all of the points being attempted are.
  • Organizer turns this skeleton into recipe sheets. (I'm planning on cheating and having fill-in-the-blanks recipes combined with a master sheet with all of the possible variations.)
  • Organizer figures out the equipment and time required for a single recipe run, and calculates what will be needed for the full set.
  • Organizer does all of the logistics (reserving room, acquiring materials, rounding up helpers, etc)
  • On the day of, Organizer is responsible for making sure that one of each recipe variant is made, by assigning helpers sensibly. (This should only be really tricky when you're dealing with things like varying oven temperatures, where order matters.)
  • Organizer should provide each team with some way of taking notes and associating them with the recipe, and encourage them to do so.
  • Organizer single-blinds the assorted recipe variations and hands them to the tasters, being aware that in some cases (shaped truffes, for example) teams may recognize their own work.
  • Organizer takes tasting comments and production comments and sorts them. After the event, this is either turned into an official Best Recipe/Master Recipe/whatever, or the results are written down and later turned into a new session with different variables, adjusted for the lessons learned.

Basic Dark Chocolate Truffle Recipe Experimentation Event

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