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Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking Paperback – 7 Sep 2010
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Description for Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking
"Cooking, like so many creative endeavors, is defined by relationships. For instance, knowing exactly how much flour to put into a loaf of bread isn't nearly as useful as understanding the relationship between the flour and the water, or fat, or salt . That relationship is defined by a 'ratio, ' and having a ratio in hand is like having a secret decoder ring that frees you from the tyranny of recipes. Professional cooks and bakers guard ratios passionately so it wouldn't surprise me a bit if Michael Ruhlman is forced into hiding like a modern-day Prometheus, who in handing us mortals a power better suited to the gods, has changed the balance of kitchen power forever. I for one am grateful. I suspect you will be too." -- Alton Brown, author of "I'm Just Here for the Food"
About the Author
Michael Ruhlman is the author of twelve books, including the bestselling The Making of a Chef and The French Laundry Cookbook. He lives in Cleveland with his wife, daughter, and son and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and Gourmet as well as his highly popular blog at Ruhlman.com.
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For example, a cook will get some decent bread by using the 5:3 ratio in the book and a standard breadmaking technique. However, if she reduces the water, the bread will be better for bagels and pretzels. If she increases the water, it will tend toward a ciabatta or pugliese. Changing the salt and yeast will affect the rise time and flavor. That's how knowing a ratio becomes useful. The cook knows altering it little in one direction will change the results in a predictable way. Some of this information was haphazardly indicated in the chapter introductions, but it would have been much more effective if it were thoroughly explained and organized in the context of the recipe ratio.
To me, this was the information missing that would have made this book an invaluable resource. It's not just knowing the ratios - it's knowing how to tweak them to get the results I want in each particular instance. I think any mid-level cook knows that adding a few herbs and spices to their homemade biscuits won't break the recipe. But if she wants to be able to tweak her basic biscuit recipe so that just a little more moist and tender to go with fried chicken, or a little more sturdy to stand up to a lot of sausage gravy, this book doesn't offer anything. Many problems with recipes can be solved by altering the ratio slightly: cookies spreading too much, cakes collapsing, biscuits not rising, bread too dense, pie dough overbrowning, etc. (Of course, these problems can also sometimes be solved by technique, but because technique is not the theme of the book, I'm not going to fault Mr. Ruhlman for hardly mentioning it.) If the book explained how slightly altering the standard ratio affects the result, not only could I have improvised the perfect biscuit for each situation, but I could have better used the book to fix unsatisfactory (but promising) recipes.
Since the entire book could probably be summed up in a chart (with baking times and temperatures when required), I think the price is way out of line with its value. Since most passionate home cooks probably already have a decent set of recipes that duplicate what the book offers, I can't say it's even worth the recipes. Two stars for a good idea.
I love this book! It's written clearly with a just-right amount of information. I also really love experimenting with food and making this up so this book gives me a starting point from which I can run wild.
Some may think it's sparse (he doesn't explain much beyond the basic ratio) but Ruhlman emphasizes the reader's ability to experiment and play with the ratios to make your own creations. I made biscuits using his ratio the other day and they turned out great!! Next time, I'm going to change the liquid I used and add some flavorings. I eventually want to see how the biscuit/muffin ratio can transform into a scone (i'll need to do research for that!) I want to make creme anglaise and pound cake next. I've read sections several times over to the point that I'm looking out for ratios in cookbooks. Yesterday I began compiling Genoise Sponge recipes to find the ratio.
UPDATE: I feel like I have superpowers. I have made muffins on the fly before a trip. Today, I had leftover egg yolks I didnt want to waste and turned them into crepes. Delicious and bright yellow! You will become a superchef with this book
Only half read so far, but I feel like I have – finally - found the key to the art of baking and I intend to practice, practice. Until now I have used various recipes to bake cakes and cookies with limited success. I wanted to get the fundamentals, and this is exactly what I found in this book. Now I have the know-how to experiment and expect good results. For the first time I know the difference between a pound cake and a sponge cake. What a revelation it was for me.
Edited 19 October 2015: Since I've read Ratios cover-to-cover several times now, I found it useful to create a chart of the ratios along with their basic techniques, encase it in clear contact paper, and post it on my fridge. Now, I don't read my extensive collection of cookbooks for recipes, but for ideas and flavor combinations to use with those ratios.
He was correct. My son enjoys this book.
This book provides ratios of cooking. You can take some amount of flour, add some amount of water and you have pie dough. You want more, just increase the ratio. You need less, decrease the ratio.
Memorize a few ratios and you have a cookbook in your head. Start experimenting, as any teenager wants to do, and you can soon figure out what happens when you add too much water or too little to your pie dough. You will quickly be able to come up with what you think is the best pie dough for your liking.
I enjoy reading cookbooks and I enjoy learning new skills. I think I might not use this book as much as my son who really enjoys the math and can easily memorize. For me what I liked was reading about the ratios and then reading the recipes that were attached to that. So, a chapter in the book might look like this....here is the ratio for cookie dough and here is why it works and how you can change it and here is a sample cookie dough recipe.