Baking

Introducing: The Hassle-Meter!

An explanation of my recipe ranking system – how much hassle a given recipe is likely to entail. (Eventually, I'll get around to adding these to older posts)

Sometimes when I’m browsing a baking blog, I’m just looking for a quick sugar-fix. And sometimes I’m looking for a more elaborate project. But it can be disappointing to get excited about a flavor profile only to start reading a recipe and discover it’s going to require random specialty ingredients, or takes more refrigeration time than I want to deal with, or involves multiple complex steps and highly specific equipment… basically, finding out it’ll be a huge hassle.

And so! I’ve created a new ranking system for recipes on my blog based on the level of hassle involved. This will hopefully serve to give you a very quick sense of whether a recipe is likely to be something you want to tackle. You’ll (eventually) be able to sort by hassle level, too, making it easy to find quick, simple recipes when you just want some sugar NOW.

And, because I find it both hilarious and delightful, I’ll be using pictures of David Hasselhoff to make it immediately apparent what level of hassle you’re dealing with.

When I sat down to figure out this system, I realized that what makes a recipe a “hassle” (to me) can be a range of reasons. Ultimately, I wrangled things into four main categories: ingredients, equipment, time, and complexity. Recipes are ranked from 0-4 Hassles, zero being no hassle and 4 being the most hassle. Here’s a basic rundown of what each ranking might involve.

Zero Hassle Recipes (0/4)

no-hassel-banner

Zero Hassle recipes are the easiest, quickest, totally simple recipes on the site. These are the ones where you can suddenly decide you want something sweet and with no preparation and no waiting beyond actual bake time be able to stuff your face with sweet, sweet goodness.

More specifically, Zero Hassle recipes involve:

  • Ingredients: standard pantry items. Things that you probably have on-hand without notice if you bake with any frequency – think, milk, butter, eggs, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, etc. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary.
  • Equipment: no specialty equipment, not even a mixer. You should be able to make a Zero Hassle recipe in any kitchen.
  • Time: probably under an hour, no prep, no refrigeration. Your only time considerations are actual bake time and cool-down time.
  • Complexity: straightforward processes (mixing, pouring, melting) and probably doesn’t dirty more than two bowls or pans.

Level One Hassle Recipes (1/4)

One-Hassel-banner

Recipes that rank as hassle-level one involve relatively standard baking activities and ingredients but might take a little bit of time to prep. If you can’t just jump into baking immediately, it might score as a level One Hassle – so anything that requires you to bring butter to room temperature, for example. These recipes aren’t very complicated, but they also do require a little bit of wait time or a slightly more specialty ingredient or a few more dirty dishes.

More specifically, Level One Hassle recipes involve:

  • Ingredients: standard pantry items. Things that you probably have on-hand without notice if you bake with any frequency – think, milk, butter, eggs, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, etc. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary.
  • Equipment: no specialty equipment, but might use standard baking pans and might be a lot easier with an electric mixer. These recipes will likely involve creaming the butter, for example.
  • Time: normal/reasonable amount of wait time. You might have to bring ingredients to room temperature or chill the batter for 20-30 minutes before baking. Nothing requiring more than an hour of lag time on one side of mixing or the other.
  • Complexity: basic processes. These recipes might involve rolling out dough, shaping, greasing the pan, etc. But nothing particularly out of the ordinary, and shouldn’t involve having to clean more than two or three bowls or pans.

Level Two Hassle Recipes (2/4)

Level two hassle recipe

Level two recipes achieve their double-hassle ranking by being a bit more involved than a standard, run of the mill recipe. So, you might have to run to the store for an ingredient you don’t always have on hand. You might have to interrupt your processes for extended chilling or setting times. You might need a stand mixer. These should still be pretty manageable for anyone, but you might have to do some planning ahead.

Level Two Hassle recipes might involve:

  • Ingredients: not necessarily in your pantry already. Probably requires a trip to the store, but any ingredients can usually be acquired at most grocery stores. (The exception to this might be malted milk powder which has become annoyingly hard to find in Portland. But you used to be able to find it, so I’m not counting it as overly specialized.)
  • Equipment: standard baking needs – electric hand mixer, normal cake pan, normal pie plate, etc. Might be easier with a stand mixer, but can be accomplished with a hand mixer. Probably can’t be done entirely by hand.
  • Time: might involve annoying wait times – required to refrigerate the dough for an extended period or pause or interrupt processes after starting.
  • Complexity: moderately complicated or involving multiple steps. This might entail separating eggs and whipping egg whites, making more than one wet mixture to fold together, etc. You’ll probably have to wash three or more bowls/pots/pans once you hit level two.

Level Three Hassle Recipes (3/4)

Three-Hassel-banner

Three Hassle recipes are where things get involved. We’ve moved out of the casual baking territory and into the realm of things that require a bit of planning and prep and commitment. You will probably have to track down an ingredient you wouldn’t normally have on hand – which might involve trips to various stores or enough advance planning to order online. These recipes might also involve an annoying amount of wait time – like letting your filling set before adding an additional layer, only to then have to let that set, too. Basically, we’ve entered the territory of actual Hassle. See how serious he looks? He’s not here to play.

  • Ingredients: probably something unusual. It might be something you can track down at the right grocery store – if you know where to find it. Or, you might need to order it online. Anything that I can’t necessarily assume will be at your standard American grocery store.
  • Equipment: this is where we start getting into moderately specialized items: springform pan, deep dish pie plate, bundt pan, food processor, blender, etc. If a recipe can’t be accomplished without a stand mixer, it may end up as a level three unless all other criteria make it straightforward.
  • Time: mostly likely involves an extended amount of time – whether because ingredients/sub-recipes need to chill or set, things need to rise, etc. If you have to bake a crust, let it chill, make a filling and let that chill? It’s a level three.
  • Complexity: these recipes are probably somewhat complex, but the steps are relatively straightforward or linear. Crème Brûlée, for example. It’s not the most complicated thing to make, but it’s kind of fussy and involved and time consuming.

Level Four Hassle Recipes (4/4)

Four-Hassel-banner

These recipes are the most hassle. See his brooding gaze off into the distance? That’s because these recipes are only for the most serious of bakers. I will occasionally post these kinds of recipes, but only if I believe they’re truly worth it. These are the seriously impressive and delicious desserts – the ones that take advance planning, a fair bit of patience, and possibly more than one day to create and assemble. They are an ordeal

  • Ingredients: you may have to just order it online. Whatever weird, random ingredient this calls for (I’m looking at you barley malt syrup), you’re likely better off not trying to track it down via trips to five different stores.
  • Equipment: you need something that only the most baker of bakers is likely to have in their cupboards – mini tart pans, for example. A kitchen blow torch. 6″ cake pans. The kinds of things you eventually add to your gift list because you (like me) already have everything else in duplicate.
  • Time: probably involves at least one or more sub-recipes that are time consuming in and of themselves. Between mixing, baking, chilling and trying to have a life, it very well may take you two or more days to make and then assemble everything you need for the final product.
  • Complexity: these recipes are probably complicated and nonlinear. In other words, the steps might be staggered across a lot of time or things might be happening simultaneously. These recipes will require your attention and planning.

2 comments

  1. Love this idea. I agree I get so excited about a new recipe then realize I don’t have all the ingredients and I’m suddenly deflated. It’s been worse since the pandemic because I won’t just make a run to the store for 1 ingredient.

    Like

    1. Totally! Some of the recipes I’ve posted lately have been pretty high on the hassle-level, while I’ve got one or two coming up that are super simple. I really wanted to be able to make that clear sooner. Glad you like it! 🙂

      Like

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