When I read this line, I felt a shudder of recognition: “How many times have I begun working through a recipe only to realize halfway through that I needed to have started yesterday? “
You’re probably nodding. Thewriter of that line hates not being warned about steps to take in advance. He probably also dislikes recipes-within-a-recipe.
As a cook, I don’t like them either. Yet as a recipe writer, it’s inevitable that I write them. Subrecipes (recipes within a recipe, often on another page) are a necessary evil to keep recipes from appearing even longer.
Fortunately, The Washington Post‘s Bonnie Benwick figured out how to keep readers from fuming. After she explained her method to me, I wrote all the recipes in my latest cookbook using her genious approach:
Tell readers to make the subrecipes first.
Traditionally in recipes with subrecipes, readers reach for the sauce and realize they haven’t made it yet. Hence the swearing. But you could change that. Here’s all it takes:
- List the subrecipe titles at the top of the ingredients list, rather than later, when readers need them.
- Begin the method with instructions to make the subrecipes before continuing with the recipe. Here’s how I started instructions for a pizza recipe, for example: “Make the pizza dough at least 24 hours ahead. Rest the dough on the counter until it comes to room temperature, about 1 hour. Make the chunky tomato sauce.”
It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? So yes, for my recipe, the irate reader really did have to start yesterday. But at least he knows up front what to expect, and how to plan.
What do you think? Does it make sense to put subrecipes first in the ingredients list and the method? Do you have other ideas on how to handle them?
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You might also like:
- The WaPo’s Bonnie Benwick: Send Me a Clever Recipe
- ‘Salt to taste,’ taken with a grain of regret — and Do You Make These 5 Mistakes with Salt in Recipes?