Why the internet is important for recipes
Now, before we start, this is not a shameless piece of publicity, why you should use thdinnerset 101 or anything like that; this is just the truth. As a pro chef and uber food geek my head is awash with recipes - I can pull one out at any time. Years of practice and trained taste buds also mean that give me an ingredient and my mind automatically thinks up the tasty things that work well with it. I'm a walking talking flavour thesaurus, but even I use the internet for recipes. Why? Well first of all it's good to know what other people are making; it keeps you abreast of trends and new/revived techniques.
Secondly comes inspiration. A quick browse around the internet and it fires up my creative juices, I might start off by googling recipes for what to do with shin beef, but wind up making a mish mash of many ideas I saw. It's a great brain storming tool without the socialising. Perfect.
Thirdly, and most importantly for me, I see if other people have already made the thing I'm thinking of, and how they did it. Not for copyright type stuff but for tips and seeing how someone else attempted what I'm thinking works wonders for me. Knowing their results and how they got there helps me make sense of my ideas, and if I disagree with their techniques I get to do a lot of tutting which I always enjoy, a cup of tea is always made better if you're tutting at something on the internet, TV or radio while you sip in my book.
Which is why when I looked for something recently and could find no real recipes I should have stopped there. Now, the internet is used by millions and we all know no idea is truly unique - especially not a food one. The fact no record of other recipes could be found should have been enough to let me know my results would be rubbish.
My idea sounded fun! And tasty, it involved peanut butter, what's not to like?
The plan was a picnic with friends, each of us would bring a couple of things and hang out by the river for a while. I love a good picnic, especially by Tower Bridge on a warm evening.
I decided my offering would be some home-made sweet potato crisps, a couscous salad, some scotch eggs and them, drum roll .... some peanut butter jelly rolls.
My idea: bake the peanut butter and jelly directly in the centre of the roll.
Sounds simple right? Well, experience already told me it wouldn't be that easy, so I went to my computer to see how others had fared; how they held the melting jam etc inside the bread while it baked; whether they used a sweet enriched dough or a classic white one. Finding nothing of note I shrugged and decided to have a go myself.
I plumped for my well used white dough recipe with honey as the sweetener for a little depth. I had lots of good quality pure peanut butter and a jar of my home-made rowan berry jelly, made from fruit scrumped by my own fair hands from bushes all over Brixton (I'm no longer welcome in the car park of access self storage...).
I made the dough, let it prove blah blah blah, cut it into small egg sized balls and pressed them flat in my hand. Then gently placed a dollop each of PB and J in there and lovingly sealed it in, pinching and wrapping at the bottom like dim sum buns.
After the second rise they were still looking ok. I popped them in the oven as per normal and ping! 15 minutes later I had.........crap.
Most had leaked out, the jam had escaped and it had all gone wrong, sticky, sticky wrong. Some had stayed sealed though and I whooped internally at the small triumph. I brushed the tops with melted butter for that lovely, fatty cuddle taste and waited for them to cool.
I tasted one and my internal whoop cried. The jam getting hot had boiled the inside of the roll and I had dense, chewy dough where the lovely fluffy bread should have been. I looked like a dog with peanut butter stuck on the roof of its mouth trying them. An angry dog at that.
Sad faced, I wrapped up the most edible and watched as my friends politely ate some and proclaimed them not so bad. I knew they were only being nice, but I hear one of my friends brother scoffed the rest while drunk without complaint. Not sure if that’s a recommendation though.
But I knew. I knew and I had learnt my lesson. If there isn't a recipe online, stop. There is a reason why. That's why the internet is important for recipes.