A few months ago, a publisher sent me a baking cookbook that I’d been very excited to read. It was heavy and exquisite, printed on expensive paper with the kind of binding that stayed open on its own. Eagerly I began flipping through it, reading through the recipes like it was a novel. I couldn’t wait to begin baking. And then I realized: almost every single interesting-sounding recipe required a sourdough starter. The cookbook of course provided a recipe for a sourdough starter, but there is a reason I have gone through nearly a year of this pandemic without making one on my own: sourdough starters are a pain in the ass. They need to be fed. They need to be cared for. I already have a dog and several plants. Isn’t that enough to take care of? Anyway, I already killed all the plants that aren’t succulents.
I did make a few recipes out of that cookbook, and they were as delicious as promised. But I know that I would never experience the book in its full glory because sourdough starter is one of my oh-hell-no recipe components. (Yes, I’m a coward. I own it proudly.)
There are a few others: anything that requires a new and destined-to-be-rarely-used piece of cooking equipment (like a baking ring, say, or a new cake pan, or an oversized pickle crock) or a rare and expensive cut of meat that requires me to travel halfway across the city. Or any chocolate chip cookie recipe that calls for any more than an hour in the fridge. This morning my colleague Dennis Lee showed me a new TikTok hack for making cloud eggs in the microwave. The second step called for beating egg whites to soft peaks, which would require dragging out the hand mixer and washing it afterward. As opposed to cracking an egg in the pan and letting it sizzle for a minute or so. “I briefly considered trying it, but the mixing part kinda ruined the appeal,” Dennis told me. “Yeah,” I agreed, “that’s way too much work.”
What are your recipe red flags?