Cooking For Engineers

Off Topic

Michael Ohene's Cookie Recipe Generator

by Michael Ohene
In December 2011, Michael Ohene, author of the Analyzing a Baking Recipe article, sent me a new essay (on creating personalized cookie recipes) and a link to an online tool he wrote that generates cookie recipes on demand (Create-a-Cookie). I was immediately a fan of the flexibility of the cookie generator (Just tell it what type of cookie, how rich, and how sweet you want it and it randomly generates a cookie of the type you want. Don't like the ingredients? No problem, just generate another set of ingredients. Then have it display the detailed recipe in whatever units you prefer.) and agreed to publish Michael's article. - Michael Chu


Late into the night I finished my cookie recipe generator; the idea originated from talks about food at the Café du Monde in nearby New Orleans, LA. My friend Erik, suggested that I build a "random cookie generator" after viewing my "Analyzing a Baking Recipe" article and web application. Erik made sense. It was taking me longer than the back side of a business card to explain the intent of my "Baking Recipe" article. In fact, "Create-a-Cookie" does sound more appealing than "Analyzing a Baking Recipe".

The major challenge was actually accepting to continue my project. I had already spent countless hours recording detailed information about recipes, so the question was, was it worth the trouble to make such a small, essentially automated step to allow people to create recipes?

What did I use to make my decision? Question number one: Does it scare people? Yes. Question number two: Does it help people have fun? Yes. And Finally: Is it a vice? Not really, though it may consume your time at work, sorry? Perfect. But considering a reason with more teeth, giving people the opportunity to choose their sweetness and richness preference for baked goods, was the best reason.

Will people churn the Create-a-Cookie machine for their next oatmeal whole wheat banana bread, classic chocolate chip cookie, or pecan meal pound cake recipe? I hope so. It's a web app that's fun to use and generates useful recipes within seconds, what more do you need?

In developing the app, there were two main goals:
1. Let people determine the baked good recipes they want without restricting them.
2. Show the beauty of ingredients/local foods by exposing their possibilities.
Where I live, a quick bicycle ride will bring you to forests littered with unharvested pecans. Also, the pecan meal, leftover after processing is sometimes sold for $3.00/lb because there is no use for "broken" pecan pieces. In contrast, high-demand almond meal sells for $9.00/lb.
Food ingredients are like colors; you don't always have to paint your house white, or always wear khaki pants. My message is "Given the correct proportions, you can use any dry food item in your baked goods. Every ingredient is up for grabs!"

Overview and Background
From a bird's eye view, sequels usually don't work out well, and admittedly this sequel doesn't possess the same creative magic as the first project (Analyzing a Baking Recipe), but that is something we accept in life. Even though all my influences are not being forged together in this project, allowing people to create unique baked goods is more productive.

Yes, there are similar ideas floating around on various food websites, but they rely on selecting external recipes by filtering nutrition data and they use the word "random" fairly loosely. Create-a-Cookie actually generates original, homegrown recipes and lets you enter intuitive preferences. Being close-to-random, the scope of the Create-a-Cookie application is nearly all-possible cookie recipes for each given type.

If you could dig deep inside the cookie machine, the heart is a random number generator function - which is not truly random, but it's the best I could do. Also I do not index bad, poorly reviewed recipes, why would I do that? You can make bad cookies without my help?

To serve as a prototype, the Create-a-Cookie web application creates recipes for oatmeal, chocolate chip, peanut butter, butter cookies, banana bread, cinnamon rolls, and many more baked goods. The goal is that with support, the application may extend to include coffee cakes, king cakes, corn bread, and other baked goods. When appropriate, ground nuts, whole wheat flour, and other dry ingredients may appear in these recipes.

From these baked goods you can choose levels of richness ("not too rich", "rich", "super rich") and sweetness ("mildly sweet", "sweet", "really sweet"). To keep things simple these are two of the only three options.

For bakers wanting to test the waters, there is a built in converter to scale down the generated recipes. For others who swear by mass (grams) measurements, there is a cups-to-grams converter.

Conclusion: On Sweetness
In between overly sweet, sugar-topped, 100% All-purpose flour baked goods shining in display cases and the gluten-free, vegan foods of trendy cafes, there is a barren wasteland in the American pastry landscape. Therefore, a forgotten people may actually exist in the United States who would like to define their own richness and sweetness; i.e. people who find different sweetness/richness levels acceptable, most importantly sweetness.

Thinking back, it's a definite gamble. Are there people who wish to raise - probably not - or reduce the sweetness of their baked goods? It's a gamble that subtle sweetness is a universal concept and is not a unique product of British Colonial Extraction. Minus this feature, the application relies primarily on peoples' desire for mixed grains and spontaneous revelry in baked goods.

Michael Ohene produces cutting-edge gastronomy tools available at

Written by Michael Ohene
Published on December 30, 2011 at 07:45 AM
Hide comments
5 comments on Michael Ohene's Cookie Recipe Generator:(Post a comment)

On December 30, 2011 at 05:21 PM, Alicia Weir (guest) said...
Subject: App for recipe generators?
Have you ever thought about working with Michael to turn the recipe generator into an i-phone app? It seems like an ideal thing to have for random baking inspiration. :)

Anyway, just wanted to write that I loved the cookie generator idea in general - very fun.

Alicia Weir

On January 08, 2012 at 06:57 AM, (guest) said...
Subject: Cookie recipe generator
Maybe there are things in this universe I do not understand. But I paid for this darn cookie recipe generator thing and there is no way to receive it. Now what? I wrote Michael. No response (which infuriates me). Is this guy a right guy or did I get ripped off by him?


On January 08, 2012 at 08:29 PM, Michael Ohene (guest) said...
Subject: angry
Hello Richard,
I remember you Sir. You paid for the "Recipe Analyzer" not the "Cookie Recipe Generator". I thought that was a mistake so I emailed you to confirm your purchase. I never received a response; check the email address you used and check you email inbox. I will resend my original response.
Anyway, your account is now setup. As always, you can reach me at "". I hope things are clear now.

On January 27, 2012 at 08:46 AM, ruthie (guest) said...
Subject: cookie recipe generator
Unless I was doing something wrong, my choices of ingredients was limited to flour, eggs and butter. Not letting me add anything else. No sugar. No leavening. No salt. No liquid. Sorry if this is operator error. ;)

And for cookies, the sweetness, and richness are only part of the equation, if you will. What if I want a very sweet, chewy, rich cookie? Or a soft, not too sweet, not too rich cookie? Or a crunchy cookie? Amounts of baking time and baking temps, as well as additional liquids, sugar and eggs also affect these characteristics.

And using sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies as the choices is also not the best. How about a basic cookie dough to which you can add raisins, nuts, chips and so on? Or a moist/wet dough that can take ingredients like oatmeal? Etc.

This seems like a decent start, but I'd love to see more permutations added. Thanks for thinking of this!

On January 29, 2012 at 08:21 AM, Michael Ohene (guest) said...
Subject: recipe
Thanks for being so positive. Most of your concerns will disappear once you hit the "Instructions|(Convert" Button

1.Hitting the "instructions(convert)" button will give you the full recipe with baking instructions
2.The chewyness and such are largely due to the time and temperature, so if you see 9-12 minutes, you can decide within that time range
3.Most chocolate chip, peanut butter cookies, do not have extra liquid because liquid makes baked goods cakey. In rare occasions a chocolate chip cookie will have 2 tsp of hot water for about 1 3/4 cups of flour, but this is a slight of hand touch the baker can add.

I will definitely add some brief instructions due to your input, btw just noticed all the different emoticons in the responses. Life.