What’s “a handful”?

I recently read The Pedant in the Kitchen, which Michael Ruhlman also wrote up, and while I found it an enjoyable rant, one vexing thought that stuck in the author’s craw was recipe instructions that call for “a handful” of something. He didn’t know what that meant and wondered why recipes couldn’t be more precise.

handfulrosemary

Writing a recipe that’s acceptable to absolutely everyone can be daunting, if not impossible. The purpose of any recipe is the guide the cook through the process; too much explanation and overtly-long recipes turn readers off, while short recipes often get accused of not giving enough information. How much is enough, and how little is not enough?

I once saw a three page recipe for chocolate brownies from a famed pastry chef.


The recipe wasn’t anything unusual and didn’t have anything tricky, and was accompanied by an in-depth explanations of each process: the stirring, the melting, the scraping of the bowl, etc. There was a discussion recently about recipe “deal-breakers”, and to me, excessive-length is my waterloo. That recipe would’ve scared me off.
Which it did.

cookiefrosting

Recipes have to assume a modicum of knowledge, otherwise they’d be dreadfully long-winded. I try to pare things down by using more specific, descriptive words. I’ve stopped using the word “cream” when blending butter and sugar, and now use “beat”, since some folks ask where, or what quantity, of cream is called for.

(A favorite is Marion Cunningham’s story about a reader complaining they couldn’t find the “powdered sherry” used in her recipe—which called for “dry sherry”.)

Obviously baking requires a bit more precision and instruction than, say, making soup. You can’t just say, “add a handful of flour” to make a cake. Although watch your grandparents bake, and that’s how they do it without any worries.

The trick is to balance it so you don’t scare people away. I have a couple of baking books where the author is so frighteningly precise, I’m afraid to make anything, fearing if I don’t measure my ingredients with a professionally-calibrated scale or a certain brand of measuring cups, I’ll have a full-scale disaster on my hands.

And some recipes, like pâte à choux are often based on a recipe, but so many variants can come into play (like bread recipes), that often the cook needs to do a bit of improvising. One day the flour may be damper or have more protein, the large eggs might not be as large as the others, and the butter may have more water or fat. Don’t forget that flour, butter, and other ingredients aren’t necessarily standardized and aren’t always exactly the same. Adding to the conundrum are “premium” and “European-style” products, which often vary radically from their everyday counterparts.

(For published recipes, I try to test recipes using store-brand products, which I figure the majority of people use. Afterwards, I send my recipes to people who I would consider “normal” home cooks to test and see what their results are. I try not to tell them specific ingredients to use, unless it’s critical to the result. The other “deal breaker” for me are recipes in books where a specific brand of ingredient is called for, one that I don’t have and can’t easily get. But do I post recipes on the blog using peach leaves and other esoteric things, since the blog is a diary of what I’m cooking and sometimes I’ll have ingredients on hand that possibly aren’t widely available.)

handfulbasil

So, back to that pesky handful.

You’ll notice sometimes I, like other authors, will use the term “add a handful.” But what does that mean?

It means that the exact quantity isn’t important.

Of course, recipes need to work and be follow-able. If you’re making a fruit salad and a recipe said, “Scatter a handful of raspberries over the top.” Do you really need to be told, “Scatter 7.5 ounces of raspberries over the top.” To me, that’s annoying and I doubt anyone really needs to haul out their scale and measure the berries.

capucchino

Like your morning toast, which you might “spread with a thin layer of jam”, do you need to “use a elongated butter knife, or spatula, grasping the handle, dipping the blade in teh jam pot, and coating the bread with 1 3/4 tablespoons of the jam”? If I asked, “How much milk do you take in your coffee?” or “How much hot fudge should I ladle over my ice cream?”, no one would answer with a precise quantity. I know, and I hope that you know, you can eyeball it perfectly, using your instincts, without taking out the measuring spoons.

(And I speak from experience, since anyone else would need to be a biochemist to get my all-important morning café au lait just the way I like it. But I can tell, precisely by looking at it, by instinct and by color.)

Like handfuls, you’ll also notice I never call for specific quantities of citrus zest in recipes. If you grate a lemon over a cutting board, then measure out the zest, you’ll lose a great deal of the flavorful, citrus oil, which will spray all over the counter. And I’d rather you got that in your ice cream base. So I’ll say, “zest of 1 lemon”, and if your lemon is slightly larger or smaller than mine, I’d rather you not risk losing all that tasty oil in the name of methodical precision.

Cooking should be about feeding yourself, and sharing with others, especially true when baking cakes, cookies, and churning up batches of ice cream. And while the details may often be of importance, don’t let them interfere with your instincts and enjoyment of the process.

57 comments

  • one word. SUPER!

  • What a well timed post! I just finished making your “No-Recipe (yikes!) Cherry Jam“, I’d say I used about 15 handfuls of cherries. Turned out deeeeeeeelicious! I might have a fistful of bread later with a finger tip of butter and enjoy my sweet labors. AWESOME post!!!

  • Well put.

  • You see it all through Italian recipes, too. La mancia, a fistful. I reckon big or little must not matter. I was much more stymied by a really old recipe that said to use 1.5 small cups and then other different numbers of them. I can provide from a huge caffè-latte cup down to an espresso cup with about 6 stops between. Which remains a mystery.

  • GREAT post – I loved reading this and it reflects my exact attitudes to cooking, “chucking in” (I’m an Aussie) a bit of this or that, and the fear I feel when faced with over complicated recipes!

  • Great post!

  • Oh man, you hit bulleye with this. I had a discussion with my other half yesterday about Delia Smith recipes. If you’ve ever watched her shows, they are obviously for people who’ve never cooked anything in their lives: “Take the clove of the garlic which is a segment of the whole bulb and peel off the paper around it which is the skin..etc”. I call her ‘Delia the Facist’, but cooks like her serve a purpose. There are people out there who simply don’t have the foggiest idea what to do. And when these clueless haps invite me over for dinner, I am thankful Delia is the fascist she is.

  • Unless you’re Andre the Giant, a handful is pretty self explanatory :)

  • Well said, David! Making a few independent decisions should be fun, not intimidating. Now if only I could convince my pedantic scientist boyfriend of this… ;)

  • This is a lovely, lovely post. I often think about how sometimes I measure and weigh ingredients, and other times I just throw things together “by feel”, and would be hard-pressed to even give a real recipe for such dishes. You make clear why this is so, and why it should be so. Baking? Yes, I measure, but then (especially if it’s something I’ve made often) I may make changes depending on the look or feel of the dough, or variations depending on my mood. Other cooking is much more improvisational, except for jam, which is a newish venture for me. That means I’m still hesitant, and doing a fair amount of measuring and weighing…

  • Absolutely, David, it’s about what feels right! I find that in most cooking, aside from baking, precision isn’t usually that necessary. Baking, of course, does require more precision but, like you said, my grandmother’s recipes tend to include, “until it’s done,” or, “…enough flour until it’s right.” Thankfully I got to make most of those recipes by her side over the years that I know what that means.

    And I’m happily throwing my name in to the hat of willing recipe testing volunteers! :-)

  • I just wrote a very similar post on recipe deal breakers! my recipe deal breaker is recipes within recipes that divert you to other recipes within a book. That drives me crazy!

  • This post is timed perfectly, because today is my mom’s birthday and I inherited lots of recipes from her (and my grandma) that are, shall we say, casual in their approach to measurement and timing. So “cream butter and sugar, add eggs and milk, then stir in vanilla and almond extracts” was okay, but it left out something vital to perfect pound cake: the amount of time needed to beat the batter.

    Then I received a copy of Flo Braker’s “The Simple Art of Perfect Baking” as a gift, and she told me why cake batter may need to be beaten for a full 5 minutes. So that was extremely helpful. My baking has improved, and when I pass along recipes I resist the temptation to shorten the instructions, because sometimes the devil truly is in the details. (And thank you, David, for explaining about citrus zest!) I came to this site after seeing a PBS show about food blogs yesterday, and I am now going in search of your chocolate strings in ice cream recipe….

  • Winslow: Flo’s book is excellent! And as you mentioned, a great resource for learning and—more importantly, understanding the techniques of cake baking, which is one of the most exact of all cooking tasks.

    As Michael Ruhlman often points out, once we understand the ‘Elements of Cooking’, then we can feel more free to improvise and trust our instincts.

    I think books like hers are great for learning the basics of baking, and after a while, one can be more comfortable about knowing when it’s important to stick to the “rules”, and when it’s okay to veer away from them a bit.

  • Excellent post! This is precisely why I will never write a cookbook: I cook with pinches and handfuls, and bake my cookies until they look right.

  • Because I write my blog and recipes for my kids, I often find myself droning on and on, boring myself silly with details. I should give my kids more credit for knowing a thing or two themselves and stop with the tedious explanations. Thank you for this timely post.

  • Amen! I also agree with Karina about Delia Smith’s recipes…come on! I always think of the line from the Beatles movie “Help!”….”I’m moving my left foot…..I’m moving my right foot…” and usually re-write her recipes to be less detailed and certainly less ‘chatty’.

    Writers should assume a certain level of competence, and should also use ingredients that are fairly common. For the less common ingredients, suggested substitutions would be great. I never know what to use if I don’t have sherry or allspice.

  • What a great post. It’s so easy, especially for novice cooks, to get bogged down in the particulars of a recipe and worry that if you don’t follow it exactly, it will be a disaster.

    But once you get a feel for the ingredients, it’s so much easier to know instinctively where you can wing it on amounts, a little more, a little less, a handful, a pinch.

    Your analogies explain it perfectly.

  • Good article. Some recipes are not always clear in details, but merely serve as guidelines, like you said. What’s more,I find it terribly difficult when recipes ask to use a “pinch” of something. Just how much is a “pinch?”

  • What a magnificent post. I feel this is what cookbooks are for, anyway: you can follow a recipe once, but if it’s a great recipe (Marcella Hazan’s come to mind), it’s really a description of a certain process, and not a precise laundry list of what needs to be in the dish. I can make eggplant parmigiana precisely as Marcella tells me to, but when I come back to it on my own, with the book back on the shelf and only my instincts (and her beautifully-laid-out process) to go by, the dish tastes much, much more wonderful.

  • Great post, David. Cooking is for everyone, something to be shared and enjoyed. But! There seems to be this idea, or pressure almost, that everyone can achieve elaborate success in the kitchen if they just follow some recipes. A friend of mine tried to make ice cream recently and it didn’t turn out. When she described the recipe to me it was obvious to me what the problems were. But as a beginner she wasn’t equipped with any knowledge of the “elements” to make that determination — she had no instincts to trust. I say, learn the fundamentals, keep it simple, and then start improvising!

  • “And some recipes, like pâte à choux are often based on a recipe, but so many variants can come into play….”

    Thank you for the excellent list of variants, which I intend to use liberally as excuses the next time I’ve made a pastry that has the texture of kiln-fired clay.

    The rest of this post is spot on as well. People feel the need for precise direction because so many of us have lost touch with the kitchen and the preparation of meals. My Mom says she learned a number of cooking skills from my Grandmother; how many kids or adults these days are in the kitchen, working hands on with a parent?

  • One of the things that I tease my Indian-born hubby about is that when I ask his sisters for cooking advice for Indian dishes, they stick up their little finger, tuck the next three fingers down and then use their thumb to show me how much (turmeric, ginger, garlic, etc., etc.) of something to add. So, I guess the fingertip means just a dash, whereas up to the first knuckle means a teaspoon or so, etc. This is true not only of his family, but lots of Indians. I love it. And I’ve adapted it for my own purposes. Now, when I want to be sly about something (esp. how much an item of home furnishing costs), I’ll use the pinky finger method of delivery. I guess every culture has their fistful measurement system. It’s interesting to think about.

  • I own a very old cookbook which calls, in one recipe, for “a lump of butter the size of a walnut”.

  • Just tried your candied cherry and toasted almond ice cream from ‘The Perfect Scoop’. All I can say is WOW!!! Fights almost broke out over who got the last spoonful.

  • Bravo! Life’s too short to measure every little thing that comes across the cutting board. That’s what tasting spoons are for!

  • I have a lot of trouble with this position, because I am not as sophisticated a cook as you are, and I bet that I am not alone on this. I LOVE this blog, but there is a plenty of middle ground between a recipe that calls for “a handful” of something and a recipe that insists on “77.7224699 grams as measured on a Vitameatavegamin digital scale Model NC502 on a day with a 3/4 moon and 42.5% humidity (and don’t try this recipe at any other time or with any other scale)”. I tried to follow your recipe for cherry jam, and got in a lot of trouble because I found you were unclear about amount of citrus to be added, amount of cooking time needed, amount of heat to be applied, and how the test for done-ness works without the tiny pictures from the website handy. I wound up with a jam that I thought was too tight and too tart (and that others loved). The problem is that I am not sure how to fix it because I am uncertain what needs to be changed-what matters, and what doesn’t.

    Your position also suprised me because YOU have complained about recipes that did not work for you (witness: the no-knead bread that you despise but that MADE Mark Bittman’s reputation). I read your comments and wondered if you might have had more success with different type of flour or yeast, different timing of rises, or different measures. I have made this bread repeatedly, to consistent raves.

    Bear with us, Dave, and we might learn MORE from you, and not merely be entertained.

  • The first time i made bagels, i searched the dry aisles of three supermarkets for “barley malt”. I ended up buying…barley flour.

    (bagels still tasted great!)

  • Love the citrus zest comment — I’d never thought there was any cooking situation when measuring an ingredient could be detrimental to the recipe, but there you are!
    Clotilde.

  • Hi Steve: Thanks for your thoughts. The idea of this post was to let people know that recipes don’t always need to be followed exactly, and to make things less-intimidating for cooks of all abilities and interests.

    Some recipes I’ve posted, like the No-Recipe Cherry Jam, as well as the Blood Orange Sorbet, are specifically designed to let folks know it’s possible to take leeway in recipes. “Medium heat” to someone with a Wolf Range is going to mean something different to someone with a cheap electric stove, and although recipe writers strive to hit all the notes, sometimes it’s just not possible with the space allocated in books.

    Adding to it all are the various measuring methods: while metrics are easier and more accurate, Americans cling to our cups & teaspoons. I write my recipes in both, but I’m hoping at some point, someone will come to a consensus on this!
    : )

    (Apologies for the less-than optimal photos on the cherry jam, but they were taken in 2005, when I had a point & shoot camera and my server wouldn’t allow me to post larger, hi-resolution pictures, as I can and do now.)

  • What a refreshing post – so helpful. And incidentally all your recipes I’ve tried have been entirely fabulous and easy to use(especially now that I don’t need to convert the cups and sticks!) and very popular – especially the chocolate/banana cake.
    My little gripe with cookbooks is where they’re merrily telling you to make something as part of the recipe and then to ‘keep it warm’ while you assemble the rest. Keep it warm?? In an airing cupboard? A low oven? A sunny windowledge? Wrap it in a cardigan???

  • I measured one of my handfuls a while back, and it turns out one of my handfuls is about 1/2 C.
    I’m a woman and 5’4″. I’m sure that has something to do with it. ;-)

    This post made me think of my great great grandmother’s “cookbook” (more of a scrapbook), given to me before I got married. Many of the recipes in it are quite “loosely” written, a pinch of this, a dash of that, bake until done… that sort of thing. I guess it’s all part of the adventure!

  • Awesome post!
    I often choose not to bake because I love freedom in the kitchen. I can’t remember the last time I followed a recipe without changing it a little bit (sometimes a lot) to fit my taste.

  • “And while the details may often be of importance, don’t let them interfere with your instincts and enjoyment of the process.”…AMEN!

  • My favorite is when I describe how to cook something to someone and they say, “Well, how long will that take?” I DON”T KNOW. I just told you how to tell when it’s done!

  • The answer to how much hot fudge should be ladled over the ice cream is…more!

  • funny, I just blogged about a book that was annoying me with vague measurements. I don’t have any issues with “a handful” or “a splash”, but WTF is “1/3-mug bacon”. There’s a point where charming crosses over to precious :D

  • I’m in total agreement. I like more precise measurements. Also, I’m sure you saw that the whole “recipe deal breaker” is the subject of our July Monthly Mouthful! :)

  • This is a great post! I know I struggle with giving specific measurements in my recipes, because I am more of a pinch and dash cooker.

  • It is funny to read this post from you because I always consider your recipes towards the precise side of the precision/imprecision spectrum. I frankly have the opposite reaction. When I see an un-detailed recipe with loose quantities, my immediate impression is this author/cook was careless writing this recipe, so why should I have faith that my attempt to reproduce this will be successful–it comes across to me as laziness.

    Being a musician, I think of recipes like musical scores, and cooking/baking is the performance. Bach’s music has almost no additional markings besides the notes. Chopin’s scores, however, are full of phrasing and subtleties of articulation and dynamics. Any average musician can come up with a decent performance of Bach, but to have a truly great performance you need historical training and advanced education to “supply” the information not offered by the score.

    I think the same is true of baking. While it is certainly possible to bake a good cake without weighing or using precise ingredients (just “flour ” vs “bleached cake flour”), many of us amateurs want to take it to the next level and crave instruction that isn’t watered down. Personally I am thankful for those precise three-pager recipes, and I would include you in that category, even though your recipes are less well endowed!

  • Here here, David! oh, I am completely, shamelessly in the ‘loose to no measure’ camp!

    a handful means a handful – if you love the ingredient, a big handful, if you don’t love it, a small one. or none. same with a pinch or a sprinkling etc etc.

    and don’t tell me to marinate 220g of chicken breast meat. tell me to cut 2 chicken breasts into strips and marinate them!

    I know baking is a bit different, but even there I splodge, pour and bluff my way as much as possible!

  • the present very prolific food culture has the tendency to demistify and simultaneously deify the process of cooking. it is often like a spectator sport…you can watch how it is done, play a pick up game with your pals on the weekend, but for the most part it is for entertainment. to be done well, it should really be left to the pros. thanks for lightening up the otherwise sacred text of measurements. people shouldn’t feel they need the le creuset cookware, pro-range and cuisinart measuring spoons, and whatever else isn’t on sale at sur la table,to be a good cook. just some feeling and a couple of handfulls!

  • I relish the story told by Dorie Greenspan about how she got to work with Julia Child. It had to do with the very same topic as you’re addressing, that is, writing a recipe. Julia, as I understand it, was so impressed by the completeness of Dorie’s recipe writing that she invited her to work with her on a now quite famous book together.
    I think that as there are numbers of cooks and chefs that’s precisely how many opinions there will be as to which manner of articulating is best. Like any writing style – some chef-authors relate so well with their readers that many inferences are made that turn out to be correct simply by virtue of the nature of the relationship and, in particular, the writer’s consistency. Other chef authors do change what they mean as they go along and for those individuals trying to follow them it’s usually best that they formulatize right down to the n/th degree.

  • Hi Matthew: My recipes, like most baking recipes, do fall on the ‘more precise’ end of the spectrum, since baking is more precise.

    I always think it’s funny when people tell me, “I can’t bake”, since baking recipes are precise: 1 cup of sugar is 1 cup of sugar. Contrast that to cooking a steak, and who can say exactly how long, and how much heat it needs, to cook correctly?

    Yes, I don’t specifically call for things like ‘unbleached flour’, and ’64% bittersweet chocolate’, unless that’s’ absolutely imperative for the recipe to work. It usually isn’t.

    Sometimes those appear in books because the author/chef is sponsored by a company to promote those products. Which I don’t do.

    Justin: Dorie is really good at being precise, but without making you feel that if you don’t get the flour measured out by the exact millimeter, you’ll still have good results. Like Julia Child, her writing tone is friendly and approachable.

    Anita: What the heck is “1/3 mug of bacon?” That takes the cake, so to speak…

  • Thanks for that, David.

    But I’d like to offer a slightly dissenting view. I like recipes with lots of information. Not pointless precision (toss 7.5 oz of raspberries …) but recipes that educate me about the underlying structure of what’s going on.

    It’s not because I like to slavishly follow recipes, but specifically because I don’t. If I make a recipe of yours and I like it, I’m going to want to know why it works. And if I don’t quite like it, then I’m REALLY going to want to know how it works … so I can more intelligently tweak it to get the results I want.

    I love your Perfect Scoop book, but since I’m an opinionated bastard with two much time on my hands, I find myself adjusting all the recipes to my own tastes, sometimes radically. Your recipes give me a starting point, but the boook doesn’t give me the theoretical background I need to be really creative (at least in an efficient way). So I’ve had to turn to dozens of other sources to get my edumacation.

    I want the hows and whys, and if the recipe is 3 pages long (but not filled with useless info) so much the better!

  • If you use a fistful of hot fudge you get to lick your fingers too.

  • @AHarste

    which is a good thing, if the fudge is too hot…

  • ah… hitting the happy medium between overly detailed recipes and obscure instructions. I sometime peruse old cook-books, the types where the instructions are: cook until it’s done. They certainly assume that the reader can visualize and understand a lot – because those are terse recipes!

    I think we have to know our audience. For some of my students it’s liberating to know that some recipe are guidelines and they can tinker with the quantities and even the ingredients – yes, it won’t exactly be the same as mine or the one you made the week before – so what? I am in Virginia, we have pecan, so why not substitute pecans for pine nuts in your “pesto”. So it won’t be pistou nor pesto. But still very good, more adapted to where I live and it can be used the same way. and if you don’t like it, well there is always tomorrow.

    Other recipes require closer attention to quantities and proportion, but as long as one understand the basic techniques behind it, they should be fine. Which is why for anybody learning to cook it’s better to learn “classically” but learning basic techniques and variations. ANd then start exploring on your own.

    It’s easier when you are teaching face to face hands-on to see where your students are in the culinary realm. It’s harder otherwise. Witness one of my friends I taught to make cream of tomato soup and she loved it and was so proud of herself. This was in the fall and she wanted to try another vegetable. So I suggested butternut squash. It did not work she said. Upon quizzing her and what she did, it turned out she never peeled not seeded the squash…

    Or the one – not mine – I think I read it in the Washington Post (last year?) who was interviewing chefs about teaching and they were explaining that although they were careful, even they sometimes misjudged what their students knew. One of them (can’t remember who it was) was teaching how to make stock at home. After hours of simmering the broth, it was time to drain it. So he instructed his students to drain it. Without specifying “over a large pot to catch the liquid”. You may guess correctly that one of them drain it down the kitchen sink… arg!

  • Sylvie: Ha! I love that dumping the stock down the drain. I think teaching cooking, like anything else, is about learning common sense and to trust your instincts. (Like don’t dump the stock down the drain…)

    Other things, like boning a leg of lamb or making puff pastry, are techniques that need to be learned.

    When I started baking, my pastry chef made me eat a rancid walnut. After that, you can be sure that I made sure no one ever got a rancid walnut!

  • Nice post! Recipes which are extremely precise with the ingredient list usually scare me because I don’t know exactly HOW precise I must be and if there is any room for deviation. I tried a recipe once for a cake that recommended measuring the volume of eggs. I didn’t and just used the number of eggs as stated and it totally failed. I’m now pretty afraid to touch that particular cookbook. That said, as a non-American, I really hate it when American authors just specify the number of ‘sticks’ of butter needed in the recipe. It took me quite some time to figure out what a ‘stick’ of butter meant.

    However, from a beginner’s perspective, I like it when recipes are precise with the techniques used, give rationale for the methods and provide description for how the product is supposed to look like at the different stages (especially for bread and pastry). I guess it depends on the type of book the writer wants to create. I’ve learnt the most important basic skills from these technique-type of books – like how to make pie crust, how to knead bread etc.

    Regarding your comment on beating the butter, I recall one of the first recipes I tried was for cookies and I had no clue what “cream the butter and sugar” meant. I didn’t own a mixer, didn’t know that I needed one, didn’t know how the ‘creamed butter and sugar mixture’ should have looked like. I ended up just mashing the whole thing with a fork. Needless to say, it was a flop :p

  • mj: One problem authors—no matter where they are in the world— is that each and every publishing house, and magazine, and newspaper, has their own Style Sheet, which describes how they like their recipes to be written and how ingredient lists should read.

    Yes, the ‘sticks of butter’ issue is especially vexing, which I had to work with on a couple of projects. It took me a while to figure it out: “Um…now how many sticks is 9 tablespoons of butter?”

    Metrics really seems to take care of all that, although eggs will still vary by region and standards, unless people weigh them. I’ve never seen a recipe that’s so precise that a slight variation in the egg size would make a difference—and I hope I never do!

  • For a professional, you are exceedingly patient and kind and haven’t lost your compassion for rank beginners! It is amazing, really and distinguishes you as a wonderful teacher to all of those whose experience in the modern world has robbed them of the senses that used to be called common and are now rare indeed, thanks to the fact that, until the last decade or so no one’s cooked much since the advent of pre-packaged food. Great job.

  • I am an engineer. Learning to cook helped me temper my need for precision. Pinches, handfuls, about a minute, are all very useful terms in getting me to relax and go with the flow of the recipe.

    I think recipes should be written for specific audiences. A beginning home cook needs more help and therefore more precision. They have to learn from somewhere. On the other hand, the advanced cook needs nothing more than a list of ingredients and a guideline for its method.

    On a separate note:
    I love The Perfect Scoop. I used your delicious green tea ice cream recipe as the basis for my latest post — Green Tea Ice Cream with Chocolate Rice Crisps.

  • Hi David! I need to put this in the preface as a reference…I started second guessing myself writing down some recipes but I think that there is a point when you got to say “enough” and keep on going because there will *always* be people not happy with a recipe.

  • This comment is for Judith in Umbria….
    I realize the point of this post is that it is not always necessary to know EXACT measurements…but I lived in Italy for a long time and found out that the “cup” your Italian recipes are talking about is in fact a small juice glass, the size of which is very close to our 8 ounce measuring cup.