Recipes Are Made To Be Broken, Part One
When someone creates a recipe, they are creating it from a particular point of view with a particular set of tools. Ovens and stovetop ranges all have their peculiarities. The oven in the house I grew up in had some issues, including a definite hot-spot. Baking in it would be a very different experience than baking in a high-end oven with incredible temperature control, much less one of those newfangled hybrid radiant/convection ovens. Even a medium heat on a high-end Viking gas range is going to be different than the medium heat on a forty year old electric burner.
The recipe author and I are unlikely to be using identical ingredients. Fresh foods not only have a different taste, but (due to things as simple as moisture content) they can cook differently than foods that have been stored. The source of your food matters - what sort of soil were your vegetables grown in? It will make a difference. Spices and dried herbs lose flavor with age. How fresh are the ingredients being used by the recipe author? Are they fresher than yours? Not as fresh? Even among ingredients of similar freshness, there are going to be significant differences. Not all tomatoes are created equally. Even processed ingredients can vary. Different brands of butter might have different salt content. Even the same brand in another country will often have a different formula.
The other thing to keep in mind is that people have varying preferences. Even if you had the recipe exactly as prepared by the author, it might not be designed to suit your tastes. While you select recipes based upon what sounds good to you, chances are good that the recipe author didn't have you in mind when they created the recipe. So, while the general flavor profile of a dish might be appealing to you, there's a decent chance that it can be tweaked so that you'll like it even more.
I treat recipes as frameworks. A recipe, to me, is a set of guidelines for creating a dish. I might change very little, or I might substitute something in for nearly every ingredients.
In this series of posts, I'm going to discuss how I use recipes, how I learn from them, and how I break them up into little pieces and put them back together again.