Rosemary Garlic and Lavender Bread Recipe

Kennon-Green & Co. Fiduciary Financial Advisor, Wealth Management, Global Value Investing

This is a mail bag question about the process I use to organize my kitchen and other things in general.

Mail Bag Question for Joshua KennonJoshua,

I love the food posts!  I don’t understand how you experiment and find new recipes.  What is your process?

Tracy V.

Like most things in my life, I build a system, adhere to it, and then monitor the data so I can analyze it.  I cook just like I play the piano, start a new business, make an investment, or these days, work on my own RPG.

First, I begin with a 11.75″ x 7.25″ record book, with 500 individually numbered, permanently bound pages.  I get mine at Office Depot and after tax they are barely more than $50 each.  It is worth every penny.

Then, whenever I am testing something, I document the entire process.  That way, I can identify trends and common ingredients that either work or don’t work in given situations.  I write down names of blogs to research, as well as tips and tricks I find online.  The page numbers help me keep track of everything.  I’ll scribble down ideas of things to try and areas I want to research.  My goal is to be at total world-class fluency within a few years.

[mainbodyad]Whenever I have a few moments, I will grab the book and start testing.  For example, a few days ago, I woke up at 9 a.m. or so and put on a 3 hour pork dish, knowing I wouldn’t be back until it was finished.  When I came back, I took 20 minutes to finish it, and then prepared it to drop off for friends and family to rate and review.  It doesn’t require a huge commitment.  Sometimes, I’ll stay up between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. testing in my kitchen.  It’s really whenever I get a moment here or there.  I’m so systematic about it, it’s not like I’m standing in the middle of the kitchen wasting time.

There is also always a camera nearby so I can photograph each step of the process.  It takes almost no time and it allows me to reduce my effort and schedule commitment to very small increments relative to the output.  It’s about efficiency.  It works for me. 

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been working on 2013’s recipe additions.  There is one bread that is almost completely done and I hope to post it sometime this upcoming week.  If I can modify the recipe enough to lower the salt content and increase the yeast a bit, it will be perfect.  It’s a rosemary, garlic, and lavender no-knead dough that has the perfect crunch on the outside and soft inside.

Here are a few pictures I grabbed from the file.  These were all taken in the past week or so and are the “working” images so sorry they aren’t staged and beautiful.  This is behind-the-scenes so that is to be expected.  This was probably 1/3 of the dishes that were prepared.  (Note: You can see the book I’m talking about in the picture of one of the icings, next to the blender.  I had just flipped to a fresh page to begin another test after finishing this one and taking a final picture.)

Fantastic Bread

This is a rosemary, garlic, and lavender no-knead dough that has the perfect crunch on the outside and soft inside.  I’m 90% finished with it – the bread recipe came from a blog I found and the herbal mixture inside from a cooking site, but neither is perfect so modifications are needed to get them up to our standards.  If I can ever finalize it, to the point people write home about it, I’ll post the recipe and pictures.


Testing Soups

I finished my perfect chicken, vegetable, and broth soup.  It ended up involving 22 individual spices and herbs, four vegetables, and chicken.  It was such a hit instantly that I ended up having people come over, shove cash in my face, and make multiple pots to distribute.  I’m going to begin pre-mixing the spices and herbs into pre-made containers so people can prepare it themselves.  I’m protective of the recipe and not willing to give it up, yet.


The McCormick Spices

To save time and make sure I always have what I need, I always keep at least 1 of every major spice on hand. I refill the pantry the first week of January every 2 years for whatever needs to be thrown out, though it is unnecessary since most of the spices get so much rotation that they are never out of date.  A few days ago, I reorganized the entire set (you can see part of it here) so that I could access them quicker.  I’m splitting the herbs, spices, and blends into separate areas and going to begin filling in with Penzey’s spices.  It’s not expensive – a basic collection of one of everything will cost around $500 and last for at least 24 months before losing their freshness – and it makes life tremendously easier when testing recipes.  It’s rare for me to be in the middle of something and realize we are out of a necessary ingredient.  It removes stress from the process so it is just fun.  That’s the key – keep it fun so you can play.


Creating Custom Spice Blends

This was a rosemary lavender and garlic blend that I needed for some breads I am testing.


Pork Ribs with Herb and Spice Rub

These sage-rubbed pork ribs were tested a few days ago.  They weren’t acceptable to me so I ended up taking all 5 pounds or whatever it was of the different ribs and feeding wildlife.  It seemed pointless to throw it away.


Herb Encrusted Glazed Pork Loin

I was asked to come up with or identify a series of main dishes that had low carbohydrates.  Last night, I had people over to test the first two in the series, which turned out amazingly well.  They were pork loins, roasted in the oven for hours after being encrusted with a sage-based herbal mixture, and then glazed with this sweet, almost Chinese-like sauce.  I am absolutely going to post those two sauce recipes because they are some of the best accent flavors I’ve ever experienced with any pork dish and could be made by almost anyone.


Testing Chocolate Frostings and Icings

I also tested 6 to 8 different icing and frosting consistencies until finally finding the buttercream recipe that we are going to use as a base for the flavor testings.  This cocoa frosting was one of the rejects, though it was well received, because it wasn’t quite perfect.


Testing Blue Almond Whipped Cream Frosting for Cakes and Fillings Full Width Size

I found a recipe for whipped cream frosting, like the whipped cream cakes you get at Walmart or other bakeries, and then began experimenting with flavorings.  This was a half-vanilla-half-almond flavor.  I was also, simultaneously, testing color additive concentration requirements (hence the bluish-greenish hue).


Chinese Garlic and Brown Sauce with Sticky Rice

A fantastic Chinese garlic and brown sauce with sticky rice from earlier this week.  This got added instantly to the permanent recipe collection.


Thai Based Spicy Fish Sauce ChickenThai Based Spicy Fish Sauce Chicken

This Thai Basil chicken with sticky rice was also a huge hit.  I can’t wait to have it again.

 Your process might be different.  For me it is about:

  • Tracking what I do as I do it
  • Photographing the process to make it very easy to reproduce in the future
  • Always keeping what I need on hand
  • Systematically working through different areas (e.g., pies, breads, etc.)
  • Seeking to only add those recipes that are so good people talk about them for weeks

For me, it is an intellectual challenge meets art. It serves the same purpose as doing the crossword or painting can for a lot of other people. Hope that helps.

Also, by keeping the book for each project around in easy access, I can write down ideas when they occur to me, reducing the risk that I forget something.