Writing a Better Recipe (and Blueberry Graham Whoopie Pies)

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This past weekend was a whirlwind of excitement and learning with fellow bloggers at the Healthy Living Summit in Philadelphia.  I’m still digesting everything from the food consumed to the information shared, and will surely be sharing it in some shape or form in due time.

For now, I’ve got blueberry graham whoopie pies.  And I’ve implemented some great recipe writing tips I acquired at HLS this weekend!  Stepfanie Romine from SparkRecipes gave a very informative presentation on how to build a better recipe, breaking it into six key parts: title, headnote, yield, prep/cook time, ingredient list, and instructions.

I’ve always felt I write recipes fairly well, but Stepfanie’s tips definitely made me reassess how I share my creations.  For a mini case study, let’s look at my recipe for honey nut cereal treats as an example.

  • Title: Obvious as it may seem, several blogs and websites will post a recipe with the title in the post, omitting it from the recipe itself.  Both are necessary!  It looks like I’ve got this covered.
  • Headnote: Even though you might describe your recipe in the blog post itself, a one to two sentence summary within the recipe is key for someone who might print your recipe or just scroll straight past your post to the recipe.  You’ll also want to include recipe tips and alternatives here.  Point taken – my recipes need headnotes for quick readers.  And I’ll be sure to point out any tricky spots from now on as well.
  • Yield: Simple enough – people need to know how much they can expect to have.  Oh, and if your muffin recipe yielded 11 muffins, just round up to 12!  I’ll occasionally say a recipe yields 15 cookies, so this is something to think about.
  • Prep and cook time: Knowing how long those cookies need to bake is important, but it’s just as important to know how long you can expect to mix the cookie dough, chill it, etc. I get an F in this one – I never include prep time in my recipes!
  • Ingredient list: Write out ingredients in the order they’re used.  And if butter is used twice, just add the two together.  Specify and spell out measurements – you might know a T. is a tablespoon, but someone else might not.  Since my fingers don’t type enough keys at work all day, I’ll do my best to start typing out entire words – no abbreviated measurements here anymore!
  • Instructions: You’re not a drill sergeant.  It’s okay to use articles such as “the” in your instructions!  I apologize for yelling at you to beat butter and sugar!  From now on, we’re going to be beating the butter and sugar in the mixing bowl.  This is a happy place!

For me, what it boils down to is this: I love my recipes, and I want you to love them too.  My recipes are never difficult for me to make, so they shouldn’t be for you either.  You shouldn’t have to wonder whether a cookie recipe requires a tablespoon or teaspoon of baking soda.  And you should know if you’re going to have to DVR the Bachelorette because you’re going to need to keep a watchful eye on an upside down cake.

That being said, let’s see how I did with this new recipe for blueberry graham whoopie pies using Stepfanie’s tips.

I think these sort of speak for themselves.  But in case you can’t hear them, they’re soft, pillow-like graham cakes with a sweet, fluffy blueberry filling.  Heavy on sugar, they’re the kind of treat you might need to take a few bites of, leave for a bit, and come back for a few more bites later.  Sure, you can go ahead and eat a whole pie in one sitting, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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