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Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking [Format Kindle]

Michael Ruhlman
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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"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

Présentation de l'éditeur

Michael Ruhlman’s groundbreaking New York Times bestseller takes us to the very “truth” of cooking: it is not about recipes but rather about basic ratios and fundamental techniques that makes all food come together, simply.

When you know a culinary ratio, it’s not like knowing a single recipe, it’s instantly knowing a thousand.

Why spend time sorting through the millions of cookie recipes available in books, magazines, and on the Internet? Isn’t it easier just to remember 1-2-3? That’s the ratio of ingredients that always make a basic, delicious cookie dough: 1 part sugar, 2 parts fat, and 3 parts flour. From there, add anything you want—chocolate, lemon and orange zest, nuts, poppy seeds, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, almond extract, or peanut butter, to name a few favorite additions. Replace white sugar with brown for a darker, chewier cookie. Add baking powder and/or eggs for a lighter, airier texture.

Ratios are the starting point from which a thousand variations begin.

Ratios are the simple proportions of one ingredient to another. Biscuit dough is 3:1:2—or 3 parts flour, 1 part fat, and 2 parts liquid. This ratio is the beginning of many variations, and because the biscuit takes sweet and savory flavors with equal grace, you can top it with whipped cream and strawberries or sausage gravy. Vinaigrette is 3:1, or 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, and is one of the most useful sauces imaginable, giving everything from grilled meats and fish to steamed vegetables or lettuces intense flavor.

Cooking with ratios will unchain you from recipes and set you free. With thirty-three ratios and suggestions for enticing variations, Ratio is the truth of cooking: basic preparations that teach us how the fundamental ingredients of the kitchen—water, flour, butter and oils, milk and cream, and eggs—work. Change the ratio and bread dough becomes pasta dough, cakes become muffins become popovers become crepes.

As the culinary world fills up with overly complicated recipes and never-ending ingredient lists, Michael Ruhlman blasts through the surplus of information and delivers this innovative, straightforward book that cuts to the core of cooking. Ratio provides one of the greatest kitchen lessons there is—and it makes the cooking easier and more satisfying than ever.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles
5.0 étoiles sur 5 What your mother never told you 15 novembre 2010
Par bernie
Strangely enough I took a course in cooking in Jr. High and have a book case if various related books from the beginning of writing to today, yet none of the books and literature does have a ratio approach.

This animal is an eye opener. I finally feel that I have a handle on the art. I tried a few simple things but working my way up.

I bought this book before the Kindle. So I will also go back and get the Kindle text-to speak version and re-read the book to see if I missed anything important.

Only a few black and white pictures. But formulas do not require pictures. People may have an issue with what the book is not. However no book can be an end all be all. With the basic understanding from the sample is the book it is potable to extrapolate and expand the theory to just about anything you put in your mouth.
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157 internautes sur 163 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Changes the way you think about food and cooking 12 juin 2009
Par C. Nielsen - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I've been cooking without recipes for 20 years now, pretty much since I could reach the counter, and I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the fundamentals of home cooking.

Still, there are certain things that remained mystical. For some reason, we think of dough as something only a baker can make. It's not. It's 5 parts flour and 3 parts water. Home-made pies are too much trouble, right? Wrong. I can make a pie dough in less time than a typical TV commercial break (and now I know where the term 'easy as pie' came from). Homemade mayo is great, everyone knows that, but emulsions are hard to make and easy to break, right? Wrong. Just make sure you have the proper ratio of water to oil and you'll be fine (and you can easily re-emulsify if it does break).

If you're a novice in the kitchen, this book is going to really do a lot for you. You'll walk past the cake mixes and straight to the bags of flour. You'll find yourself never throwing leftovers away because leftovers+stock=fantastic soup. You'll transcend simple bread baking (which is still quite enjoyable) and discover the splendor of choux paste.

More importantly however, if you're very comfortable in the kitchen as I was, but still see a division between home cooking and fine cuisine, this is even more so the book for you. It will help bring things to your plate that you thought were reserved for the outer world. The best bread is the bread you bake. The best sauce is the sauce you dream up. The best soup is the one you made from scraps.

Of special note is the very important fact that everything in this book is not just possible, but it's easy as well. I am a big Alton Brown fan, and his endorsement of this book played a big part in my purchasing it, but ironically it was Alton himself that gave rise to much of my fear of trying to make certain types of food. As much as I love him, sometimes Alton makes things sound more complicated and delicate than they are. Ruhlman does the exact opposite and makes you realize just how simple most things are (or the foundations of those things at least). I've made some pretty bad stuff in my experiments so far, but the important thing is I know what made them bad and how to correct next time. I also understand how to manipulate ingredients to vary the results of the finished food (even when baking), which is priceless.

The bottom line is this: whether you're an experienced home cook or a slave to box mixes, you will learn a lot from Ratio and will be rewarded constantly. There hasn't been a Sunday morning since this book hit my door that hasn't been spent enjoying fresh, hot biscuits (3 parts flour, 1 part fat, 2 parts liquid; 5 minutes from brain to oven).

233 internautes sur 246 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 essential home-cook revelations 17 avril 2009
Par Kal Cobalt - Publié sur
Ever since Ruhlman first started pondering this book on his blog years ago, I've been eagerly anticipating its arrival, and it has not disappointed. The theory of ratio and its present and historical value are engagingly presented, and the book quickly ushers openminded readers to the kitchen to see these things at work themselves. So far I have baked two "experiments" I would never have had the bravery to tackle without this knowledge, and both have been educational and delicious accomplishments!

This is not a cookbook -- indeed, it is an anti-cookbook. Those expecting complex recipes, or the "best" way to make something, will be dissatisfied. This is a manual for real cooks who want to understand the fundamental underpinnings of what makes food FOOD in order to play, tweak, recontextualize, and personalize their methods in infinite variations. It's a book for culinary explorers who don't wish to be, pardon the pun, spoon-fed.

As always, Ruhlman's fresh, engaging, personal writing style leaves this an entertaining read even if you're not stopping every few pages to try your hand at the techniques. (If telling you it was a real page-turner while I was awaiting jury duty doesn't convince you, I don't know what will!)
107 internautes sur 111 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Ratios, period. 5 septembre 2012
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
After reading through the book, I was left feeling that it should have offered me a lot more. Perhaps Mr. Ruhlman should have given the basic ratio, and then gone on to explain what the results would be. After that, he could have discussed how changing each ingredient in the ratio would change the results.

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.
267 internautes sur 296 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Almost getting teaching kitchen improv right: priceless 14 mai 2009
Par Brian Connors - Publié sur
(This review originally appeared in a somewhat different form at my blog, OffSeasonTV at Blogspot.)

This book purports to be the latest and greatest in books claiming to teach how to cook without recipes, a trail blazed not all that successfully by authors such as Pam Anderson. Derived from a chart Ruhlman acquired from Chef Uwe Hestnar, at the Culinary Institute of America, it actually does a fairly creditable job of showing how certain aspects of cooking (particularly baking, charcuterie, and saucemaking) are based heavily on ingredient ratios (weight, by the way, not volume ratios, which are somewhat useless due to differences in ingredient density). Hestnar felt quite strongly (and presumably still does) that these ratios were the most critical things a professional chef needs to know, and that pretty much anything else is secondary.

As is often the case with books of this sort, Ratio oversells itself; anyone who's spent a great deal of time studying politics can tell you that something that claims to be the utmost in simplicity seldom really is, and truthfully this book has a tendency to downplay technique (entire books can be and have been written on the subject, which really isn't a very simple subject at all), as well as hyperfocusing on classical Franco-international cuisine. The question really comes down to this: how valid is Hestnar's point, and can a non-cook learn to cook from Ruhlman's book?

Well, Hestnar's not wrong. Certainly a lot of this book comes down to the interactions of the chemical components of food; mayonnaise, for example, and its dependence on egg yolk as an emulsifier is an extreme example, since it really takes very little yolk to emulsify oil and vinegar (indeed, Ruhlman quotes a 20:1:1 ratio for oil/vinegar/yolk), but the ratio in question is extremely squishy compared to the rather strict 5:3 ratio of flour to water for a standard loaf bread (hardcore bakers will recognize that as a baker's percentage of 66%). And indeed these ratios are fairly important for the subjects that Hestnar's chart covers -- too little liquid will create a gloppy sauce, and too much will create a hard-to-handle bread dough (although this is something you actually want for a ciabatta). And fat ratios make the difference between a bread dough and a pastry dough.

But as I said, I do think it's oversold. The simple fact is that these ratios really aren't as general as Ruhlman wants to think; they cover only certain parts of the culinary arts, and are mainly of use for troubleshooting purposes outside the realms the book covers. And Ruhlman's work only covers classical French-based cuisine; there isn't a tomato sauce to be found in here, for example, nor any discussion of rice or other grains (if cooking rice isn't ratio-driven I don't know what is). But what is in here is quite useful, and it does promote the use of weight measurements in the American kitchen, something people seem to be afraid of. It's an interesting read, and I do recommend it, but as a guide to improvisational cooking it only does half the job.
307 internautes sur 365 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 An important concept, but not much depth 9 décembre 2009
Par Athanasius - Publié sur
Have you ever doubled or halved a recipe? Have you ever successfully added an extra ingredient to a recipe to "spice it up" or give it a different flavor without changing the basic recipe? Have you ever thrown together some soup or made up some oil-and-vinegar dressing by adding "a pinch of this, a handful of that, a lot of this, and maybe about twice as much of that," and then repeated the same approximate amounts again?

Congratulations -- you've learned 95% of what you can learn from this book. Move along.

The basic idea of this book, which you can find out from the numerous other (mostly glowing) reviews is that cooking and baking are based on ratios of ingredients. If you didn't realize that from following a few recipes, you can do the same thing this book does by finding a recipe that works and then doubling, tripling, or halving all the quantities. Often it works. (Actually, in baking, it often doesn't work if you make a particularly large or small batch, usually due to problems with leavening agents, but nevermind -- that's already more advanced than this book usually is.) Moreover, if you've never tried this, you can actually modify good recipes by adding or removing a flavor ingredient. So, go ahead -- got a good butter cookie recipe in a cookbook? Try adding some lavender flowers. You'll get lavender butter cookies. Go crazy and double it, and you'll get twice as many cookies -- amazing! Or, do you have a good white bread recipe that you use? Try adding some herbs or some dried fruit or whatever -- you'll get bread with stuff in it. That's basically what this book is about.

I guess this book is meaningful to a certain type of person who only follows recipes religiously and never varies them, or who never noticed that that new pancake recipe you're about to try uses twice as much milk per cup of flour compared to every other pancake recipe you've ever made. But I think for most people, this is common sense. You can add a little bit of X and vary a recipe, and if you see something weird compared to every other recipe you've ever used, you're probably going to end up with something different.

There are a couple other good points this book makes. For example, measuring by weight is generally a good idea, particularly in baking. Most people who have read any other good cookbooks specializing in cake-making or bread-baking already have heard that. (Ruhlman is a little inconsistent about when he uses weight instead of volume measurements; sometimes, for things often done in small amounts, volume would be easier.)

And the table of ratios is useful. In fact, if you could buy that separately, I'd say that'd be worth a few bucks right there. But only a few bucks, because the table only gives a selection of possible ratios, and the ratios that are there are only rough approximations to get you into the ballpark. For example, bread is a weight ratio of 5 parts flour to 3 parts water (with a little salt and yeast), so the book tells us. Well, that's a good general guideline. But if you want to make stiff dough (e.g., for bagels), you'll want a ratio closer to 2:1. If you want a slack dough (e.g., for ciabatta or focaccia), you'll want something closer to 5:4. That's a HUGE range of ratios and huge range of different types of bread dough. And all of this says nothing about the type of flour used (all-purpose versus bread versus high gluten versus whole wheat, etc. all could require significant adjustment to a ratio). Even the humidity and room temperature can greatly change the way bread dough behaves, and the baker has to take that into account.

One could say the same for most of the ratios given -- they are not magical or correct in every circumstance, nor are they even the best starting off point for many dishes if you want a particular variant. Many of them give a sense of exactness that is undeserved -- vinaigrette and mayonnaise, for example, can be made with a large variety of ingredient ratios and still be successful, often depending on other ingredients and desired consistency and flavor.

Moreover, each of these types of bread dough requires different handling procedures. That is really where the "ratio" argument falls apart. Cooking and baking are about ratios, but in a larger sense they're about FORMULAS. That is, you have a ratio of ingredients, but you combine things in certain ways (using different mixing techniques, timing, etc.), and then you prepare them by cooking them in certain ways (at certain temperatures, with certain timing, perhaps adding or changing things at various times, etc.). A ratio tells you very little if you know nothing about the rest of the formula and the techniques required to prepare a dish. If "ratio" was the only thing needed, recipes would only consist of lists of ingredients with no instructions.

For another example, take Ruhlman's sponge cake formula of 1:1:1:1 for eggs, flour, fat, and sugar. (That's also the same as his ratio for pound cake, requiring a different technique, which immediately points out the fundamental flaw of a ratio without anything else.) Compare Ruhlman's ratio to a chart of ratios for sponge cake alone in Bo Friberg's "Professional Pastry Chef." Friberg gives ratios for eight different types of sponge cakes, all with different ingredients and vastly different techniques. For the weight equivalent of 12 eggs, flour varies from 5 to 21 oz. (and types of flour vary from 100% cake flour to mixtures with bread flour or cornstarch), fat 0-12 oz., and sugar 6-24 oz. So much for Ruhlman's simple ratio. What he's really giving you is a specific recipe that isn't very useful at all. In the process, he ignores the natural variation in recipes that come from small (or large!) variations in ingredients and technique to produce superior results. Lest you think that Friberg's table is only for professionals, I need to point out that over half of these sponge cake types are found in standard home cookbooks, and only two are rather advanced types generally only used by pastry chefs. With Ruhlman, you get one ratio, and it isn't really close to any of Friberg's ratios, and Friberg writes books on cake and pastry technique for professional cooks. Whom would you trust?

That's not to say that the ratio is useless. In fact, it's the way people used to remember recipes. They are particularly important for successful baking using leavening, where ingredient ratios determine the success of the chemical changes; generally most other cooking is more forgiving. My mother still can recite baking recipes for cakes, icing, biscuits, etc. this way. My grandmother probably knew 4-5 times as many recipes by heart in the same way. Ruhlman's book basically repackages these rules of thumb your grandmother might have known. But these only work when you know the rest of the technique, and even then, they are generally only guidelines that don't always produce stellar results without careful tweaking. Otherwise, you get a successful -- but generally mediocre -- result.

People make a big deal out of the idea of varying a recipe, or knowing that by adding more of X or subtracting Y, your batter will turn from pancake batter into crepes or into biscuits. That's fun to know, but it doesn't actually help in the kitchen very much, particularly since changing one thing into another usually involves significant changes to preparation. Certain professional cookbooks that discuss the theory of building a recipe will provide more insight than a simple chart of ratios (with minimal instruction) can. If Ruhlman really wanted to make this part useful, he would provide some more charts for each of the ratios that show what happens as you vary each ingredient. What happens if there is less liquid in your pancake batter, for example? Well, the batter will be stiffer, which means thicker pancakes, which might be useful if you want large, thick diner-style pancakes, but you'll have to lower the heat in the pan to cook them. If you add more liquid, the opposite applies. Vary too much, and you'll need to play with baking soda/powder.

Other charts could be devoted to the discussion of adding other common ingredient types, and the way the ratios (as well as the technique) require adjustment. For example, if you enrich a bread dough with oil, milk, and/or eggs, you'll need to decrease the water content, perhaps raise the yeast content (or modify rising time), and lower the baking temperature while lengthening the baking time. (Ruhlman, if you use these ideas for your next book, please give me a footnote!)

And a final set of charts could be troubleshooting -- you try to vary a recipe or a new recipe from your favorite book doesn't turn out? Why not? Well, it could be that the ratios are off -- Ruhlman could point out that the most useful aspect of basic ratios for professional cooks is not actually to develop recipes, but rather to serve as guidelines to see why a divergence from a ratio doesn't work in a particular case.

Yes, these ratios could be immensely useful in the kitchen if they went beyond the basics. But, of course, such charts would be boring, and most people don't want to buy a book full of charts. So instead we're left with pages and pages of sometimes insightful and sometime rambling prose that are essentially annotations, explanations, and corrections to those master ratios that are supposed to be so important. But the annotations, explanations, and corrections are what makes one a good cook. The ratio by itself is meaningless and almost useless. The infinite variety that Ruhlman promises is most successful when you know how to alter a formula or how to correct for a problem.

People compare this to cooking as "engineering," but an engineering textbook would be filled with these charts and equations to help one derive a correct formula and ratio for a given situation. For some things, such equations do exist in research done for professional cooking and in food science, and certainly there are plenty of tables and charts in such articles and books that give more information on varying ratios than is possible in prose. Most people wouldn't want that, but that's what an "engineering approach" to cooking would actually be. This isn't it.

In the end, it's a good idea, but the basic idea is only enough to keep you occupied for a few weeks of cooking. The ratio approach is too simplistic to go further. After that, the more useful thing to do is to start noticing how other recipes in other books draw on or diverge from these ratios and why. You can find good recipes and vary them yourself. Or buy some cookbooks that tell you about the theory behind cooking that goes beyond basic ratios. Or simply start comparing recipes for similar dishes from different books and notice the proportions yourself; it's that easy. But you don't need "Ratio" to tell you these things. It appears to be inspirational for a lot of people, but the basic ideas are simple, and I've already told you them here. Now go out and play with your own recipes -- you don't need Ruhlman's permission.

Two stars -- one for a generally good idea that people have forgotten about simple ratios in cooking, and one for the useful abbreviated chart. I would have given three stars, since there are more insights, but the poor organization of the writing and the many typographical errors make it undeserving.
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