The blog of cooking-ez.com

Devising a recipe


Devising a recipe
A question I'm often asked is: how do you come up with your recipes? How do you perfect them? This is something I've already mentioned on this page, but I'll take this opportunity to go into a bit more detail.
13K 21 4.4
Grade this page:

Last modified on: October 15th 2012

Devising a recipe
So, how do I devise my recipes? Just like everyone else (I imagine), I start with an idea, an article I've read, a television programme, an ingredient I've seen in a shop or on a market, or just something I fancy doing. I make a first attempt, which usually fails! Sometimes I persevere, I start all over gain, often many times, and sometimes – maybe half the time – I end up with a good recipe.

Here's a real example: I wanted to come up with a recipe for my niece Elsa, who is away on a course on the Island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. In spite of the enchanting surroundings, she's emotionally up and down due to being so far from her family. I visited Reunion once many, many years ago. Although it's no doubt an over-simplification, the tastes that have stayed with me are coconut (ah – coconut punch!) and vanilla (the famous Bourbon vanilla, like pods Elsa gave me for Christmas).

vanilla pod



That was the starting point: coconut-vanilla, but where to take it from there? Some sort of biscuit maybe, with ground coconut mixed with flour and vanilla sugar? Hm, yes… classic, a bit too classic perhaps, and I've a dread of coconut biscuits and cakes (apart from rochers coco) being rather stodgy.

No – some sort of coconut-vanilla cream would be better, smooth and rich but with two complementary flavours. OK, here we go!

1sttry: a vanilla cream, with the powdered coconut left to infuse in the milk. Result: fairly good, but the vanilla is too strong and the coconut hardly noticeable. Failed! No, that doesn't work, better not to mix them. Two separate creams would be better, that can be turned out one on top of the other, then coated with caramel.

2ndtry: a vanilla cream made with eggs, like for a crème brulée, baked in the oven in a bain-marie, then moulded in a ramekin. Then a coconut cream made with coconut milk, a little sugar, and set using agar-agar. Result: the vanilla cream holds its shape quite well when turned out, but the coconut cream has set stiff because of the agar-agar, and when this is turned out on top, it squashes the layer underneath and the whole thing collapses. The vanilla cream is smooth, but the coconut cream is too firm in the mouth; there's too much contrast. And besides, the strong flavour of the caramel overpowers the rest and is the only thing you can taste. Failed again! It's still not right; the vanilla part works, but the coconut needs something better.

3rdtry: I leave out the caramel; I cook the vanilla cream with a circle on the bottom to make turning out easier. Once it's cold, I pour a little melted chocolate on top, then when that has set, I pour the coconut cream over. In the ramekin it all looks fine… Let's turn it out: disaster! The chocolate has acts like a skating rink and the coconut cream (which is still too firm) just slides off the vanilla. Another failure!

Right – time for a change of plan! No turning out this time, we'll cook it in a clear glass with the creams cooked on top of each other, and it can be eaten with a small spoon. Let's have a go!

4thtry: I cook the vanilla cream in the glasses, I prepare the coconut cream with less agar-agar to make it less firm, then pour it onto the cooked vanilla cream. Disaster! The vanilla cream is so fragile that the coconut cream goes straight through it and the two mingle and break up. Not to worry, for the rest, I pour the coconut cream gently over the back of a spoon and this works. Once cooled, there are two lovely layers of yellow (vanilla) and white (Coconut). The vanilla flavour is good but the coconut is still too firm, so still not right. Failed again!

So, the problem lies with the coconut cream, which needs a complete rethink. The coconut milk with agar-agar doesn't work because it sets like a firm custard.

5thtry: I try adding a little pouring cream to the coconut milk and I replace the agar-agar with gelatin. It's still slightly runny so much better on top of the vanilla cream – a good sign! Another tasting: oh, yes – that's it! There's the creaminess of the vanilla underneath and a very similar texture in the coconut on top. With two layers of different colours, it looks good as well.

Finished? Almost, but it was Nicolas's question that really clinched it: “What kind of cream did you use for the vanilla?” Reply: the same as for a crème brulée. Ah-ha! It would be great if there was a crust to break on top. So, more caramel? No – we've already tried that, and the flavour didn't work. What we need is some sort of thin crunchy biscuit, like an almond tuile. OK, we're off again!


6thtry: Vanilla cream, coconut and a thin coconut tuile on the top. This time, there's a real harmony of balanced flavours and it's in the style of a crème brulée, with a thin crust to break through.


coconut-vanilla cream for Elsa



All that remains is to sort through the photos and upload the recipe for “Coconut-vanilla cream for Elsa” .

I admit that this one is a real text-book case where I was very patient and because I was determined to create a recipe for Elsa.

In general, it's rare for me to go beyond a third try if that fails. Maybe the idea wasn't such a great one after all…



Back to top of page

Lasts posts
Cutting soft cheeses
Cutting soft cheeses
As you may have already noticed, when you have to use a "soft" cheese in a recipe - their exact name is "soft cheese" - such as Camembert, Munster or Mont d'or, it's not easy to make anything other than thick slices.
5235 February 20th 2024
It's spinning too fast!
It's spinning too fast!
When you need to grate or slice vegetables, you generally use an electric machine that does all the work: a food processor, a mixer with a "slicer" extension or similar. Are these machines really suitable? Generally speaking, yes of course, but there's one criterion that often poses a problem,...
3,7285 November 12th 2023
When I was a kid, I didn't like...
When I was a kid, I didn't like...
Maybe you've already made this strange observation: when you were a kid, there were things you hated, but as an adult it's almost the opposite? For example, you used to hate spinach or chicory, but now you love it?
3,3835 November 5th 2023
How easy is it to chop herbs?
How easy is it to chop herbs?
Whenever you have fresh herbs - parsley, chervil, coriander, mint, etc. - to incorporate into a recipe, we tell you to chop them up. In this case, "chopping" means separating the leaves from the stems, keeping only the leaves, and chopping them more or less finely. It's not very complicated,...
5,3515 September 12th 2023
The softness of sandwich bread
The softness of sandwich bread
You're probably familiar with what's known in France as "pain de mie", a very white, molded and rather soft bread, widely used in cooking, particularly for croque-monsieur. Let's find out what it's all about.
5,789 September 5th 2023
Other pages you may also like
The secret of cooking until "done"
The secret of cooking until "done"
This is a real chef's skill: being able to look at a fish fillet cooking and say, "Stop – that's enough, it's cooked". I always admire this ability to see at a glance if something is done. It is what sets the professionals apart from us mere amateurs. And it's true that how fish is cooked is...
15K4.4 November 26th 2012
Brioche for a savoury recipe
Brioche for a savoury recipe
When we make brioche, it is generally sweet, that is to say that in the dough there is sugar or honey or dried or candied fruits, or even sometimes the 3 together. It's normal, it's very good, it's a pastry. But you may also need brioche for a savoury dish, like a sausage or a sausage in brioche...
7,9904.9 June 30th 2019
Kitchen ovens
Kitchen ovens
You certainly have one in your kitchen, an oven, the essential tool for all kinds of cooking, whether in the kitchen of course, but also in pastry, bakery, pizza, and many others. Here is some information on its structure and operation.
22K4.4 May 16th 2020
In praise of slow cooking
In praise of slow cooking
You will no doubt have noticed that in cookery, it's often the actual cooking process that gets neglected. This is understandable; it comes at the end of the recipe and getting the dish in the oven is something of a relief (ah, that's done!), which frees us to cope with what's left: tidying the...
36K4.2 February 9th 2011
Should I believe my oven?
Should I believe my oven?
Can you really trust your oven? This is an important question as we are always tempted to take the temperature indicated as gospel truth and, unfortunately, this is rarely very precise. .
27K4.6 July 4th 2011
Follow this page
If you are interested in this page, you can "follow" it, by entering your email address here. You will then receive a notification immediately each time the page is modified or a new comment is added. Please note that you will need to confirm this following.
I am not a leaving thing
Note: We'll never share your e-mail address with anyone else.
Alternatively: you can subscribe to the mailing list of cooling-ez.com , you will receive a e-mail for each new recipe published on the site.

Back to top of page