A formal language for recipes: brain dump

By Tom Moertel
Posted on
Tags: languages, baking, cooking, recipes, pie

One of the projects I’ve had in the back of my mind for a few years is a formal language for recipes. Professional bakers have long used formulas to express the core of their recipes. And with Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking being so well received by geeky home cooks, it seems the time may be right to start hacking away.

As a brain dump, here are some syntax ideas I’m playing with. (BTW, if you want to learn how to make a pie from scratch, here you go. Use butter or lard for the fat if you’re serious about pie.)

-- classic recipe for 3-2-1 pie pastry

pie_crust:

  3 flour
  2 fat, cold
  1 water, ice cold

  yields 1 dough  -- (optional: default result is final item)

  flour_fat_mix:
    flour
    fat
    "cut fat into walnut-sized pieces"
    "combine in chilled bowl"
    "mix until fat is pea sized"

  dough:
    flour_fat_mix
    water
    "add water while mixing gently"
    "stop when shaggy dough begins to form"
    "gently shape dough into portioned rounds by hand"
    "wrap portions with film-wrap"
    "refrigerate"


-- pie, which uses the crust recipe above

pie_9_inch:

  24 oz pie_crust, chilled
   1 pie_tin, 9 inch, chilled
   1 filling, enough for 9-inch pie

  yields 1 pie, 9 inch

  bottom_shell:
    pie_crust
    pie_tin
    filling
    take pie_crust, 13 oz, "portion dough"
    "roll into 11-inch round"
    "line pie tin with dough"
    "add filling"

  top_shell:
    pie_crust
    take pie_crust, remainder
    "roll into 10-inch round"

  pie:
    bottom_shell
    top_shell
    "top the pie, sealing edges well"
    "trim excess dough from edges, decorating if desired"
    "cut vent hole(s) in top"
    "refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set dough"
    "bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes"
    "reduce oven to 350 degrees F"
    "bake until done, about an hour"
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