When does a recipe become your own?

I have many recipes that we make over and over again. My mom’s family recipe for light delicious waffles, passed down from a previous generation of Southern cooks, rich fudgy brownies, pistachio pesto pasta with cooked random veggies, Asian stir fry with vegetables of the week, and on and on. Each has become a favorite– like a familiar comfy sweater that you grab at the last minute to warm you up on a cold night. All of these recipes started out as ones that I either copied from Mom’s files or found in various cookbooks– such as the ones listed at right. However, over the years, I have changed them, added, deleted, substituted, so that the original is quite altered. In the process of cooking these over several years, I have wondered when this recipe becomes MINE. Any recipe that a person touts as theirs didn’t just magically appear in their brains, it was the result of unconscious comparison and experimentation with other recipes. In the case of the brownie recipe, I have written in the book (this one, in case you were wondering appears in its original form in King Arthur Flour: 200th Anniversary Cookbook) various choices one could add or not as supply or desire dictated. After reading multiple brownie recipes such as one from Martha Stewart Living I made some changes. However– when does this recipe become one that I, catherine illian, could enter in the Pillsbury Gluten Free Bake Off, if such a thing exists? I give you the original, my changes, and ask you– is it mine?


4 ounces (squares) unsweetened chocolate

1/2 cup (1 stick butter

2 cups sugar or brown sugar

2 to 4 eggs

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup whole wheat flour


6 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/3 cup butter (preferably Amish roll butter)

1 3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour (Bob’s Red Mill)

optional add ins

chocolate chips– quantity TBD by baker

1/4 cup dutch cocoa powder (or you can use regular)

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 cup of chopped nuts of any variety

1 package of peppermint patties strewn on at the last five minutes of baking and then spread around creating mint brownies– people will think you have gone to alot of trouble

1-2 tsp. chocolate extract

For both recipes, you melt choc. and butter in a saucepan. Take off the heat and then stir in the rest of the ingredients. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes. (always underbaking as to ensure gooey consistency that looks like horse poop but tastes divine)


2 responses to “When does a recipe become your own?

  1. You can definitely submit it. It is a totally different recipe. Just because something has the same ingredients doesn’t make it the same recipe. Good Luck!

  2. Pingback: Food « Catherine Illian

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