Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

The Codes Behind the Craft

We know that analysis of many great works of art has revealed they employ what’s known as the “golden mean,” a geometric ratio said to produce aesthetically pleasing results. Well, what ratios lead to delicious results?

Michael Ruhlman new book Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking uncovers the relationships that define basic recipes.

The book doesn’t provide do-this-or-else directions, nor does it offer The Ultimate version of anything. Instead, Ratio shows the basic governing relationships of a recipe so that you can see how to go from cake to muffins to crepes, and then wing it.

Each section in Ratio covers a different food group and includes recipes as well as opportunities for variation. Doughs and batters are first. The ratio for pie dough is 3 parts flour :  2 parts fat : 1 part water. The book’s basic pie dough recipe is known as pate brisee, the all-purpose classic. Repeatedly folding and rolling this dough will increase its number of layers and make it perform like puff pastry. Adding sugar and it’s a pate sucree to be used in some sweet pies and tarts.

Other sections are devoted to stocks; meat-related ratios such as sausages, mousseline and brine; fat-based sauces (mayonnaise, vinaigrette, hollandaise); and custards. There’s a recipe for standard mayonnaise as well as an “instant” version using an immersion blender instead of a whisk.

Ruhlman says that “Ratios liberate you — when you know the ratio and some basic techniques, then you can really start to cook.” Though his book contains recipes, he likes to think of it as “an anti-recipe book, a book that teaches you and frees you from the need to follow.”




I've heard of this book - I hear it's a good one. I always prefer cooking with ratios as opposed to set amounts - it feels much less constraining and makes me feel like I have more control over what I'm doing.
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