I've worked on projects where it was suggested that we just reformat the functional specification a little and use that as a user guide. Does this seem like a good idea? Let's see how that works for a pancake recipe...

Pancakes, recipe style

 Ingredients: 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil, 1 cup plain flour, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp baking powder, ¼ tsp salt

  1. Sift together the dry ingredients.
  2. Beat the eggs, then combine with all other ingredients.
  3. Stir with a wooden spoon until there are only small lumps in the batter.
  4. Pour or spoon the batter onto a hot buttered pan (do not allow the butter to burn).
  5. Cook the first side until small bubbles cover the uncooked side.
  6. Turn the pancake and cook about one more minute on the second side.


Pancakes, functional specification style

1.    General

1.1.   Batter: According to Merriam-Webster online, the term “batter” comes from the Middle English bater, probably from bateren, and denotes a mixture of similar ingredients to those defined in this recipe, being thin enough to pour or drop from a spoon. Thus this is an appropriate characterization of the mix prepared herein.

1.2.   Each ingredient must be free of contaminants and its use by date shall not have been reached.

1.3.   Pancakes have two sides upon which heat transfer is to be performed.

2.     Wet ingredients

2.1.   The liquidity of the mix is regulated by the proportion of milk to other ingredients in the recipe, especially the dry ones.

2.2.   Any oil pressing is adequate if the correct oil variety is selected. Oil should be very light in flavor, such as peanut or vegetable. Heavily flavored oils such as extra-virgin kalamata olive oil, sesame oil, and similar perfumed oleic liquids are to be avoided.

2.3.   Eggs are to be selected for best freshness and should be beaten to a uniform consistency independently of other ingredients. In number they correspond to the number of half-cups of flour used and to the number of half-cups of milk. One per recipe unit.

2.4.   Various lipids may be used to promote thermal transfer to the mix being cooked, and to ensure lack of adhesion on the pan surface with the mix, butter being the preferred, although melting must be achieved and cautions apply (see section on burning).

2.5.   When burned, butter has an unpleasant bitter flavor that is undesirable with respect to this recipe.

3.     Dry ingredients

3.1.   Proportionality of sweetening to leavening agent is unitary (1:1).

3.2.   Flour is refined from wheat or other grain; there are various grades of refinement. Wheat flour of standard grade is to be preferred; the absence of chemical leavening agents is required by the addition of such agents elsewhere in this recipe.

3.3.   All dry ingredients must be well integrated.

3.4.   An experimental description concerning different baking powder reactions exists at: http://users.rcn.com/sue.interport/food/sodaexpt.html.

3.5.   Per recipe unit, the nominal proportion of flour in the recipe (see the section on flours) is a half cup.

3.6.   Sodium chloride, or a refined table version thereof, though preferably not one such as fleur de la mer which might be too strongly flavored, is to be used in proportion of 1:8 part of the sweetening agent used.

3.7.   Sweetness in the mix may be provided by sucrose, in proportion one tablespoon for each recipe unit.

3.8.   The preferred chemical leavening agent for pancakes is a double-acting baking powder. Single-acting powders may also be used, either tartrate based (containing potassium acid tartrate and tartaric acid) or phosphate (calcium phosphate or potassium pyrophosphate), though results may be less than optimum.

4.     Process characterization

4.1.   Completeness of thermal transfer on the first side of each pancake is indicated by the presence of small bubbles distributed across the surface of the non-cooking side.

4.2.   Cooking of the pancakes is achieved by the high temperature of the surface of the frying pan.

4.3.   Gas stove burners allow quicker modulation of the thermal source, although electric burners may provide greater overall BTU generation. Other types are not considered here.

4.4.   Heat must not be applied to unmixed ingredients. Pancakes are not complete without adequate heat application on both sides.

4.5.   Heat transfer to ingredients, singly or in combination, is commonly referred to as “cooking”.

4.6.   Proper agitation of the mix is to proceed until uniform lumps are obtained.

4.7.   Sifting dry ingredients together is not mandatory, but is a good way of integrating them.

4.8.   The temperature must be such that the pancakes cook at the correct rate.

4.9.   Whisks are deprecated for integration of wet and dry ingredients; wooden spoons are preferred due to the need to preserve a slight lumpiness of the mix.