Food writer Michael Ruhlman's new book, Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking looks intriguing—and immensely useful. Instead of rote recipes, he teaches the reader to use ratios in cooking. From his blog post talking about the book:
When you are dependent on recipes, you are a factory worker on the assembly line; when you possess ratios and basic technique, you own the company.
With ratios (1:2:3 makes a basic cookie dough using 1 part sugar, 2 fat, 3 flour), you need only remember the proportion of ingredients, and from there you can improvise. You're freed from books, recipe cards, or print-outs.
Or, as Ruhlman says about the 5:3 bread dough ratio (flour-to-water), "With this bread dough ratio, you don’t have a single recipe, you have a thousand. Ratios are the launching point for infinite variations."
Ruhlman's wife, Donna Turner Ruhlman, shot the photos, and word is that she is working on a poster that illustrates the baking and pastry ratios—where proportion is especially important.