The Year of Cozy: How to Develop and Write a Recipe

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The Year of Cozy: How to Develop and Write a Recipe

When I was writing The Year of Cozy, I thought A LOT about how the recipes were written. I thought it might be interesting to share my process with you.

Some of you may write your own recipes too, and some of you may have very little idea about the process. Obviously this is simply the way I do it, it might not be the right way (I’m not sure!).

If you do write recipes, I’d LOVE to hear your process in the comments below. I’m always thinking of ways to improve, be better and more efficient.

The Year of Cozy: How to Develop and Write a Recipe

Inspiration

For me, every food idea comes from somewhere. Food ideas for me come from all sorts of places. Sometimes it’s a simple craving that keeps me up at night, other times it’s a more modern rendition of something I had as a kid.

When I go to a new city, I always, always hit up bakeries and restaurants for inspiration. I don’t usually just eat a meal to eat a meal, I make them count! I probably get most of my inspiration from restaurants and bakeries since I feel like they’re usually on the cutting edge.

I also get the most inspiration from the actual eating part: the texture of a certain dough or the flavor combinations of two things together that aren’t typical. I think it’s hard to get this type of inspo from simply reading about food; I have to experience it!

If I am reading a cookbook for inspiration, you can pretty much guarantee it’s an older cookbook. I find myself visiting The Breakfast Book over and over and over again. It’s the most perfect book.

The Year of Cozy: How to Develop and Write a Recipe

For the book, I had a written list of recipes titles that I wanted to be in the book. This list existed in the proposal and it’s one of many million reasons why making a proposal is so important.

This list changed, obviously. There were a ton of recipes that I tried out that they didn’t make the final cut. Other times recipes started off as one thing and then evolved into something else, taking a new and better form.

When I finally land on an idea that I love, I do research.

Research 

If it’s baking, I’ll reference one of my favorite books RATIOS by Michael Ruhlman. I’ll get a general idea of what it should look like from this book. It’s the perfect book if you’re a beginner (or advanced) recipe developer. I love looking at recipes on The Guardian, recipes from Nigella, Ina and Otteleghni. I also love looking at The Fundamental Technique of Classic Pastry Arts. It’s a winner.

The Year of Cozy: How to Develop and Write a Recipe

I’ll study the ratios of sugars to salt to additions like vanilla bean or spices in other recipes. And then, I’ll write my own recipe, deciding what I think is right.

So, before I even cook anything, I write a full recipe. I like to write the directions, too because this helps me give better descriptor words.

I write the recipe in Evernote and print it out on my printer (have I ever told you how much I hate printers?). I have this Canon and it’s the least offensive one I’ve ever experienced.

The Year of Cozy: How to Write a Recipe

Testing

After I write a recipe, I’ll make it! This usually involves a big mess, music blasting, you know good vibes.

I try and change as I go. I do this with baking and cooking. Obviously it’s harder to change as you go with baking but if I can, I definitely will.

When I’m done making it, I’ll have a good idea if it works. I make Josh try it or Billy since a lot of times he’s here. There are rare occasions when it’s just me tasting it. For the book this never happened. Different feedback from very different people was really important.

While I’m super open to feedback, I ultimately make the call. There were instances when people thought maybe something could be left out or skipped and I disagreed so you know, the final decision ends with me. As it should, I think.

The Year of Cozy: How to Develop and Write a Recipe

A lot of times, dishes and baked goods need to be made again and again until they’re right. This can be crazy time consuming so I try and make it in the same day over and over. There’s something about already having the ingredients out that makes it that much easier for me. There were days when I baked the same batch of cookies like four or five times.

I use Evernote to keep my files and version in check. This is not sponsored, I just loove their app. Another tool that made my life easier was Instacart. It delivers ingredients right to my door. I bought a yearly pass (think á la Amazon prime) so delivery is free.

Style Guide

Most publishers have what they call a Style Guide. It’s a list of guidelines to follow as you write the recipes. Luckily for me, when I received this document it was no big deal because I tend to follow them anyway but it was a very good reminder that these details really matter.

1. Ingredients should be listed in the order in which they’re used. This is a must. It makes it easier for the reader to follow along in the directions.

2. Give readers not only a time but a result. For instance, if something says “bake cake for 45 minutes…” add a description of how it will look, how it will smell or how it will feel. This way if someone’s oven is off or it takes a bit longer than it took you, they’ll know what to look out for. The end goal for any recipe is writer is for the reader to succeed; this makes it that much more possible.

4. Give substitutions if an ingredient is hard to find. I like to do this if an ingredient is kind of rare or difficult to find. There are some instances where no substitution is worthy. I know that sounds dramatic but sometimes you gotta use honey to make this taste like a Chamomile Honey Cake! There’s no way around it!

5. Think about grocery shopping. If an ingredient is listed as 1 cup of corn kernels, well, how many ears of corn do they need to buy? I like to write it like this (this was also in the style guide): 1 cup corn kernels (from 3 ears of corn). It makes the ingredient gathering that much easier!

The Year of Cozy: How to Write a Recipe

Cross Testing

A recipe tester should test your recipes. It’s super important that you’re not present. Don’t allow testers to ask you questions or talk them through the recipes! The whole point is that they need to read the recipe and then follow along and then hopefully succeed.

For my book I found it important for both novices and professionals to test the recipes so I could gauge if the recipes worked with all different skill levels. Just because someone isn’t an experienced baker, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t succeed.

The most valuable part with a testers is that sometimes, as the writer, you’ll write things thinking someone will understand it (because, well, you do) but the tester might end up having trouble. This is great because it gives you the opportunity to fix it and make it a whole lot better.

Copy Editing

A good copy editor will catch all your nasty mistakes. This person will diligently comb through the book and question all sorts of things, circle a ton of mistakes you’ve made and correct your grammar. This process is probably the most humbling because it reminded me I know nothing! I had an amazing copy editor who asked me so many tough questions that made my recipes so much better and easier to understand.

After this is done, which definitely takes a few months of back and forth, you’ll probably want to retest a few last things to juuuuust make sure they’re ok. It gives you peace of mind and helps with sleeping at night.

After that, BOOM! DONE.

If you haven’t pre-ordered The Year of Cozy, you can here!

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49 Comments

  • Reply Theodora Nan September 22, 2015 at 2:24 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this post! Very useful information! I bet your book will be amazing! Xo.

  • Reply Tori September 22, 2015 at 4:28 am

    Love this post!!! As someone who has written many recipes I can really appreciate all of these tips! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Reply Catherine Kelly September 22, 2015 at 8:24 am

    thank you!!!

  • Reply Nicole @ Young, Broke and Hungry September 22, 2015 at 9:41 am

    I just started getting into recipe developing and found this post super helpful! Writing the recipe out beforehand is smart, compared to what I do – walk in the kitchen and throw what I think works into a bowl and pray it turns out well.

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme September 22, 2015 at 11:12 am

      Oh good! That’s awesome. Everyone develops their own way that works for them. You’ll definitely end up finding things that make sense for you.

  • Reply Megan September 22, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Love this! These tips will be really helpful. 🙂

    Are you going to be doing a book tour? I would love to meet you!

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme September 22, 2015 at 11:12 am

      Where do you live? Maybe! I’m figuring that out right now. I’m definitely doing something in LA (details to come!).

      • Reply Megan September 22, 2015 at 11:14 am

        I live in Eugene, Oregon. Which is about 2 hours south of Portland, it would be so cool if you came up here!

        • Adrianna Adarme
          Reply Adrianna Adarme September 22, 2015 at 5:57 pm

          Ohhh! That is so sweet of you. I might be coming to Portland. Stand by! I’ve also never been and wanna visit.

  • Reply Elizabeth Cooper September 22, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Thanks so much for this post! The behind the scenes look is fascinating. 🙂

    I really love the second point you made about giving times but also general guidance. It also goes the other way. As a novice cook, nothing frustrates me more than reading a recipe that says something like, “stir onions until lightly caramelized”. Umm… How long is that? What’s a light caramel color to you might look too dark to me. At least saying something like “stir onion for 5 minutes until lightly caramelized” gives me a good starting point to go on.

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme September 22, 2015 at 11:13 am

      Interesting. Yeah I always try and give both. It doesn’t always work in some instances but I try. I think it makes it a whole lot eaiser on the person reading. AND, sometimes people don’t set timers so they just want to go off of results. Other people looove setting timers.

  • Reply Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) September 22, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Loved getting a little behind-the-scenes look into how you developed the recipes for the cookbook (and for the blog). I do something sorta similar, but sometimes for savory recipes, I’m doing this organically as I’ve mentally thought through the recipe and have an idea–and am just writing down a lot during the recipe making process/making it again once I’ve done that. Other times, I’ve scribbled the recipe onto a sheet on paper beforehand (but I think your idea of printing would be MUCH better–especially since I’ve been prone to lose those sheets of paper–UGH). Why are printers one of the worst things ever?!

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme September 22, 2015 at 11:14 am

      Ahh yeah, I do the cook without a recipe all the time when I’m not testing. A lot of times recipes come from that and I can just remember the exact ingredients and directions but I always have to retest it because I always forget certain things.

      I’ve lose sooo many recipes and they’ve all been printed so it’s definitely not fool proof. :/

  • Reply Lily | Kale & Caramel September 22, 2015 at 10:53 am

    This made me so, so excited to have your book in my hands. CONGRATS on basically writing a million recipes. I mean, y’know, or not, but doesn’t it feel that way sometimes? Love this.

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme September 22, 2015 at 11:15 am

      It feels like a million recipes even tho it isn’t. How people come out with books with 300 recipes I’LL NEVER KNOW!

  • Reply Julianne @ Beyond Frosting September 22, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I am mid way through my development timeline. It’s great to hear what others have to say!

  • Reply Sara @ Cake Over Steak September 22, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Love this! This is actually really similar to how I test and develop recipes for my blog. In fact, I think you were the one who originally got me hooked on Evernote, and now it’s my lifeline. And now I have my dad hooked on it too. It’s the best! I can’t wait for my copy of your book to arrive – just looking at these printouts is making me drool. 🙂

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme September 22, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      YASS! My life would be a hot mess if it weren’t for Evernote.

  • Reply Allison September 22, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    I love hearing how other bloggers/cooks write and develop recipes. It is interesting to write the recipe out beforehand. I usually try to write as I go and then clean it up, but I like this idea! I am also a big fan of evernote. My boyfriend turned me onto it and now I’d be lost without it. 🙂

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme September 22, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      I do this too sometimes if the recipe is super easy and the directions part isn’t that big of a deal. 🙂

  • Reply Sarah // The Sugar Hit September 22, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    DREAM: One day we start like a blogger/authors co-op kitchen where we all can hang out and do our writing and testing, and then throw parties and run workshops and shit in the afternoon. FUN!

  • Reply Kate September 23, 2015 at 7:24 am

    Oooooh, I love this post!!! Our processes are remarkably similar. I’m obsessed with Evernote, too!

  • Reply Janice @Kitchen Heals Soul September 23, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Loved reading this and getting a look into your process! I have never used Evernote, but it’s on my list of apps to try. I just need to go download it and give it a whirl.
    I too write out my recipe completely before heading to the kitchen, with all the conversions (cups to grams) first so that I can check the measurements when I’m in the kitchen.
    I find it a little scary to tell people how I “operate”, don’t you? Kinda like I’m revealing what’s in my closet or something… or maybe that people will think my method is stupid, or inefficient. I wrote this post for Food Bloggers of Canada a little while back about how to keep a kitchen notebook, and how I organize each page. Writing that pos scared me, lol! http://www.foodbloggersofcanada.com/2015/05/kitchen-geekery-the-food-bloggers-notebook/
    Anyways, all that to say, I really appreciate that you took the time to share your process with us. I think it’s so interesting!

  • Reply Kathryn @ The Scratch Artist September 23, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    This was great Adrianna! I loved learning your process. I think I am the exact opposite of you in terms of recipe formulation. I cook by taste first, then I write everything down. Before starting my blog I just tossed in this and that and voila, delicious! But recently, due to my blog, I have kept a notebook at my side and I force myself to use measuring spoons, etc… so that I can record as I go. Once I get the recipe down on paper, I make it again…and again to make sure everything is just right. Thanks for sharing how the pros do it! I get my inspiration from blogs like yours, cookbooks, and restaurants.

  • Reply lynn @ the actor's diet September 23, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Congrats on the book, Adrianna!!!

  • Reply Nicole September 23, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Whoooooa. That’s crazy in-depth. LOVE having an insight to what goes on behind the scenes of recipe book business. Ha.

    P.S. uh….how does one become a novice recipe tester? ‘Cause I wanna be all over that. lol #bakeallthethings

  • Reply Brie September 24, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Loved reading about the recipe development process & all of the details that go into it. Maybe that’s why I enjoy ‘reading’ cookbooks for fun. Haha. I particularly like it when there’s a story connected to a recipe, in many ways like your blog posts! I almost laughed out loud at work while reading about your love of specialty baking pans and how clever it is that the volume amounts correlate with larger pans. It’s fantastic when that works out.

    I do have one question though…what’s point #3 in the style guide? Or did I miss it?

    PS: I’d like to second that congrats on the book! I’ve been subscribed to your blog for a while, but this is my first time commenting.

  • Reply Janice September 24, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    This was so interesting! Congrats on the book, I’ve been following your blog for a while and couldn’t be more excited for you! Will you be selling any signed copies you think?

  • Reply Allison from Baking: a Love Story September 24, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    This post is super-awesome and is the only post on any site ever that I clicked on all the links. Thank you for sharing your process. I can’t wait to study my new books.

    And now I know your book will be well worth it because you’ve tested, re-tested and rested the final version with your own opinion. I’m so down with that.

    xox,

    A.

  • Reply Ann Godfrey September 26, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Hello Adrianna….I was intrigued by your post today. I am a personal chef/caterer and I do cook a lot with kids…I am a retired teacher as well. I am more interesetd right now in writing a children’s cookbook and making it an interactive one where when they read the recipes, it almost sounds like I am there teaching them……
    I would welcome any good suggestions. Wording is so very important as I have read many recipes that were either partially clear or not clear enough….I am a visual learner so the wording is so important to understand. Not just for me but also for children, as well……Thanks, Ann

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme September 27, 2015 at 11:08 am

      Hi Ann, I had a cookbook as a kid (it was a kid’s cookbook) and it was step-by-step with very simple wording. I loved it! I forget what it was called but the food was divided into chapters from different countries. I made crepes from it and it was the first time I had ever had French food! I was about 8 years old and it was super easy to understand. I would maybe suggest the step-by-step photo thing, along with simple wording with each step being no longer than two sentences. 🙂

      • Adrianna Adarme
        Reply Adrianna Adarme September 27, 2015 at 11:08 am

        I would also test the recipes on kids and then maybe even a few with parents and kids since I remember my mom helped me.

  • Reply Karen @ On the Banks of Salt Creek September 27, 2015 at 9:13 am

    Thank you for all your hard work you put into your recipes. There is no way in HELL that I could manage all of that 🙂 Which is why I really appreciate good recipes. Thanx again, Karen

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme September 27, 2015 at 11:09 am

      Hahah. The management side was insane. The cooking part is easy but the project management gave me a headache. 🙂

  • Reply Catriona | Analog Eats September 29, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    Great post and congratulations! That is a lot of work you have done there!! And I agree with you 100% on printers – the worst pieces of technology I’ve known.

  • Reply I’m Loving… | The Dreamery October 2, 2015 at 4:01 am

    […] this piece by Adrianna on how to develop and write recipes. Thanks for the inspiration! {via The Year of Cozy} Guys, I seriously am obsessed with Duran Duran’s new one “Pressure Off”. I mean […]

  • Reply Aysegul October 2, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Very useful and well-written.
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  • Reply Rebecca @ NOURISHED.theblog October 7, 2015 at 5:55 am

    Thank you for sharing this post. (And congrats on the book! I can’t wait to get my hands on it!) I love your evernote tip – I have 2 or 3 notebooks that I use when I am in the kitchen but it ends up getting really messing and hard to keep organized. I definitely need to switch to digital!!

  • Reply Vineetha @ Mint and Mimosas October 7, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    This was so helpful! While I’m not planning a cookbook any time soon, I do have a blog full of recipes, and the use of Evernote and how organized you’ve made your process is great inspiration! Thanks for this post!

  • Reply Ana November 7, 2015 at 9:31 am

    What a helpful, well-written article. Bookmarking for future reference! Thank you so much.

  • Reply Roberta Briffa April 7, 2016 at 7:42 am

    Thank you for sharing your tips. Will surely keep coming back to this! 🙂

  • Reply Tracy September 26, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    Many thanks Adrianna, a wonderful rundown of the process. I am starting my own blog soon and VERY nervous :]. But i am looking forward to all the hard work. Thanks again.

  • Reply Loganayaki Thamilselvan December 11, 2016 at 7:02 am

    Really useful information for food blogger. Thanks for sharing..:-)

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