Questions for You Cooks & Bakers

I have a recipe posted which continues to be the most-read entry on my blog.  It’s for gluten-free roll-out sugar cookies.  I got a fairly negative comment yesterday from someone who thought that the number of ingredients was excessive.  She called it “a thousand separate ingredients.”  It has 12, which I suppose is on the high end, but doesn’t seem extreme or anything like that to me.

However, I will say that I just keep turning the pages in a cookbook if the list of ingredients seems too long.  I probably won’t even read the recipe.  But for me, the number of ingredients don’t matter so much as, “Do I have these ingredients?  If not, do I have a sufficient substitute?  Or, can I easily obtain the ingredients?”  If the answer is “yes” and if the recipe looks good, I’ll give it a shot. 

So, for you cooks & bakers, at what ingredient-count do you say, “Well, that’s just too much.  That’s not even worth trying.”? 

I did a little look-see at my favorite recipes, and while most of them have 8-10 ingredients, many have far more, and few have less than 7.  How about your recipe favorites?  What is your average number of ingredients?

The commenter also said that the recipe was complicated.  By nature, roll-out cookies are somewhat labor-intensive — that’s just how they are.  One doesn’t make a billion different kind of cookies, say, at Christmas, just because they’re quick ‘n’ easy, though recipes that are tasty + easy + have few ingredients are always keepers.  Plus, being gluten-free, which usually means that in place of wheat flour, one is going to need a minumum of two separate non-gluten flours, plus a binder (like xanthan gum), it’s just going to be slightly longer and perhaps a bit more complicated than your standard eggs-butter-sugar-flour-baking powder cookie recipe. 

Anyways.  I guess I feel defensive about my recipe.  It doesn’t seem to me to have an excessive number of ingredients, nor does it seem (for the nature of the product) to be extremely complicated.  I know a lot of my readers do a fair amount of baking, and many are gluten-free, and I thought I’d pose the question to all of you.

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on August 2, 2007, in Celiac Disease, Cooking/Baking/Food/Recipes, GF Recipes, Random Stuff. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. You should mollify your commenters by launching a “Karen’s gluten-free roll-out sugar cookie mix” business.

  2. Uh…depending on what the ingredients are – I got scared off by a huge number of ingredients in a recipe, then looked again – there was a separate list for the main part and then again for the sauce. Water was on there twice, as was salt, butter…gee.

    You’re right, rolled out cookies are, by nature, more complicated – and they are worth the extra effort. If a person doesn’t wish to put forth that effort, that’s their deal.

    And the number of recipes for special needs diet further complicates things.

    What counts is that YOU and your family like the recipe.

    I’m making stuffed peppers tonight – and my sweetie does not like peppers (although he said that he’s willing to try this recipe for me 😉 If you don’t like the looks of the recipe, don’t worry about it, and don’t cook it.

    😉

  3. Quite frankly, 13 ingredients is not a lot. I just looked at the Toll House cookie recipe and it is 11 ingredients, 10 if you don’t add nuts and it is just a drop cookie not rolled. I am not intimidated by a lot of ingredients but I also like simple, quick and tasty. 🙂 Keep your GF recipes up as I am sure they are a blessing to many.

  4. Rubber Chicken Girl

    I dunno about the avg. I would have to look. But with my recipes I am concocting, I am aiming for 3 things I’d guess. One would be using as few measurements/ingredients as possible, so if something has a LOT of stuff in it, I’d shoot for a “mix” to be able to scoop out of when need arises. I am combining thins like xg and gel and egg replacer so I can do ONE measurement instead of 3. The only thing that gets hairy with gf is the number of possible flours….so, while I loved the results of your holy grail biscuit mix, I am gonna toy with it to do something similar with less flours and give the option of the other varieties of flour. Like have a base of *whatever 3-4* and then give 3-4 as optional add-ins. which leads to my 2 and 3 goals….options and saving money. What do I have on hand? What substitutions/omitions can I make and still have a better-than-just-a-food-like-substance in the end. All that to say, if I can do just brown sugar, rather than honey, brown sugar and white, I will. I’d have to look at your cookie recipe again to see what I think. It’s probably not excessive. Sugar cookies are HARD gf, lady, that’s all I have to say!! Bette Hagman said that it took many tries for her (in More From the Gluten Free Gourmet) and she was not kidding. I made like 30 batches last winter and still am not thrilled with ANY of them….so some recipes may be lengthy or complicated, but darnnit, if they work, they are worth their weight in gold!!

  5. Rubber Chicken Girl

    The ingredients would look visually like a LOT less if it just said gf flour or gf flour mix or kinnikinnick bread and bun mix, kwim? But often, the precise mix is necessary to success. If it is, I say stick with it. If you can make it with equal success with 3 flours instead of 4 or with a random mix, then go for that. Whatever works.

  6. For me, it depends on the recipe, how much time I have, how “exotic” the ingredients are. If a recipe had, say, five ingredients but I hadn’t heard of three of them and they’d be expensive or time-consuming to locate, then I wouldn’t be inclined to make it! But if the recipe had twelve ingredients I could readily put my hands on, I wouldn’t mind at all.

    I also think that when you’re making allergy-friendly recipes, you do need to put in a bit of extra effort but the pay-off is worth it. I have a soup recipe for Kiksy which is just brilliant – it has five kinds of vegetables in it as well as brown rice and other ingredients and takes a while to make but I know that a) he won’t react to it, b) it is highly nutritious, and c) nine times out of ten he will eat it. I could cut out the middle man by going to the shop and buying packet soup, all I’d probably need to add is water, but I doubt it would be good for him and he’d turn his nose up.

  7. Dystopos/John ~ Hmm… that’s a good idea. I don’t know how one gets into that business, but I’ve thought about it. And, “mollify.” That’s a great word. I can always count on you for a wider-than-average use of vocabulary.

    Ellen ~ Me & my family do indeed like that recipe, though I only make it about 3x/year, and have not made it at all since we took dairy out of our diet. But… In a way, I need others to like the recipe, too, because my friend Shellie & I are in the midst of writing a gluten-free cookbook. That’s one reason for my question. If I’m way off base by expecting folks to make a recipe that contains 12 items, well, I need to be aware of that, and take it into consideration when I’m crafting recipes. KWIM?

    Kiva/SG ~ Thanks for your encouragement!! (I don’t think I’ve ever heard an unkind word out of you, ever. 🙂 )

    RCG/Shellie ~ I’ve given a lot of thought as to why g.f. sugar cookies are so hard. I think it’s because they are depending solely on the subtleties of the ingredients (i.e., there’s nothing to mask the taste of an odd flour). And, because 99.9% of people have tasted sugar cookies, everyone has an opinion on what that should taste like. I mean, how does one get a rice flour cookie to NOT taste like rice?? Therein lies the difficulty. If one is adding chocolate, nuts, fruits, flavorings, etc., it’s easier to have a satisfactory result. But when it’s plain ol’ sugar cookies, it’s harder to get that “simple” taste & texture. And, IMO, you’re right about the precise mix being the key. BUT, if you can play with that recipe and come up w/ great results using fewer (or altogether different) ingredients, DO IT!!!

    Helen ~ I would LOVE that soup recipe. Would you e-mail it to me? And I love everything you said. It’s so true: When one hits upon a recipe that is received well by those for whom one is baking/cooking… well, one will jump through hoops to make it. I may not make it every week, but I’ll go through the effort to make it occasionally. Store-bought goods can be pleasing — at times — but to hit upon that combination of great taste, well-liked, nutritious, and cost-effective, nothing beats homemade. 🙂

  8. By no means does 12 ingredients seem like too much. Most things I cook have about 8-12 ingredients. Then again I love to cook.

  9. Hmm…I don’t think her negativity was directed at you specifically. I remember when my oldest was being tested for cd, and how overwhelmed I was at the few choices we had locally, not to mention the dramatic increase it would have been to our food budget.

    Some days, simple is as good as it gets. Other days are special days worthy of really yummy cookies. Had my son ended up with cd, I would have been happy to have access to both.

    (((hugs)))

  10. Rubber Chicken Girl

    Flavor is one part. But it is texture that is killing me right now. They are either cakey and puffy so your cut-out looks like a Pillsbury Dough Boy OR too crumbly and cannot be removed from the baking sheet OR you cannot even cut them out to begin with without them going to goo even after chilling. Grrr. We will prevail, but I am shot on patience at times.

  11. The thing I always look at first is prep time and cook time, rather than ingredient list. If the total time is more than I have available for a baking adventure (usually 30 min prep and an hour for cooking) then I flip the page.

  12. Obviously this person has no experience with gf cooking. Long ingredient lists are the norm, which she would have known had she known anything about it.

    Also, she probably is used to buying her cookies in a box and has absolutely no idea how to bake in the first place. Sugar cookies are fun but, yes, they are a lot of work.

    I was just thinking, I can’t imagine trying to finally learn to cook but having to learn the gf way. It’s taken me nearly two years just to do what I do and that’s not much and I knew how to cook & bake before hand so I at least have a general idea what I’m doing.

  13. TT ~ I think you’ve hit on a point there. If one loves to cook, then 12 ingredients are no problem. But if one hates it, and is always looking for the easiest way out, then 12 would seem like a mountain.

    Julie ~ I didn’t know your oldest daughter was ever tested for CD! I missed that (or forgot it) somehow. You’re right though. I think I’m much more ready to put those 12 items on there when I know they’re all handily available to ME. For others, it might not be so easy to pick up, say, amaranth flour. And, the budget issue is a HUGE one. Almost overnight, we went from spending $80/week to $120/week on groceries. For me, that was because so many g.f. items are expensive, AND because so many of the coupons that I used to use, I no longer could. I used to regularly save $35-40/week in coupons. But, when I can no longer buy those Cheez Its (or whatever), it doesn’t matter how smokin’ a deal I could get on them. I still use coupons, but it’s more like $4-10/week in savings.

    RCG ~ You’re right, too. Texture/consistency is a HUGE issue in g.f. baking.

    Erin ~ Me, too. Unless I’m bound and determined to make X item, prep time is a major factor for me. That’s why I so often get lazy and just bake from scratch, rather than pulling out the cookbooks. 🙂

    DBM ~ You’re right, TOO! Everyone’s right on my blog today!! 😉 That’s a huge consideration. If one has just found out that she needs to be g.f., but has never baked a batch of cookies in her life, then 12 ingredients would seem, again, like a mountain.

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