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Cooking with Ratios

Bakers hand with dough on a table. Image has Bakers Ratio and 3;2;1 on it

Ratios represent the backbone of cooking, particularly in baking where precision is key. Understanding the fundamental ratios of ingredients can transform your cooking from following recipes to creating them. It’s not just about measurements but about understanding the relationships between ingredients. Understanding a little bit about the science goes a long way in producing brilliant food.

Unlocking the Secret Language of Chefs. It’s all about the Ratios!

Need a refresher on ratios? Try this video by Michael Ruhlman.

Classes if you are local (Melbourne) or Zooms from anywhere 🙂

The Power of Ratios for Cooking

Imagine making any bread without a recipe just by knowing the ratio of flour to water. Or whipping up the perfect vinaigrette with the knowledge of oil and vinegar (i.e., the ratio). This isn’t just efficient; it’s empowering.

One last thought before we look at some common cooking ratios is that for Cooking and Baking, we generally refer to quantities by weight (e.g., grams or ounces). In some countries, recipes may use volume rather than weight (e.g., cups). Ratios will work in both cases, but you need to use only one measurement style within a recipe. I prefer to do everything by weight because it achieves more consistent results. If you have a recipe that’s written in volume and would like to “convert” to weight, try our handy conversion chart.

Key cooking Ratios

  1. Bread: The basic bread ratio is 5:3, flour to water. With this ratio in your arsenal, the world of bread is at your fingertips. You can explore different flours, hydrations, and additions like seeds and nuts from here. For example;
    • This means for every 5 parts flour, you use 3 parts water. For example, 300g flour and 180g water.
      • The other important quantities for bread are;
        • Salt: Around 2% of the flour weight (e.g. 6g salt for 300g flour) 
        • Yeast: Around 1% of the flour weight (e.g. 3g yeast for 300g flour) 
  2. Vinaigrette: A simple vinaigrette ratio is 3:1, oil to vinegar. This is a launching pad for endless variations—add herbs, garlic, or mustard to elevate your dressing, and you can whip up a salad you will win friends with.
  3. Cookies: The 1-2-3 cookie dough ratio (sugar: butter: flour) can be the base for an infinite variety of cookies, from simple sugar cookies to elaborate holiday treats. Of course, this ratio has many variations, but if you want cookies and don’t have a recipe, this works as a base. Other ingredients like eggs, baking powder, and flavourings can be added, but the core 3:2:1 ratio for the main dry, fat, and sweet components is the foundation.  For example, a cookie recipe could use:
    • 300g flour
    • 200g butter (or other fat)
    • 100g sugar
  4. Buttercake or Pound Cake: As you’ve probably worked out, the typical ratio for making a pound cake is a pound of each ingredient or 1:1:1:1. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a pound; it can be whatever amount you like. Here’s an example:
    • 250g unsalted butter
    • 250g sugar
    • 250g flour
    • 250g eggs

From Ratios to Innovations

Knowing these ratios simplifies the process and frees your creativity. By changing the types of ingredients while keeping the ratios generally the same, you can create something entirely new and exciting every time you cook or bake.

4 Comments

  1. Thankyou for all this information, it’s really useful!
    I’m going to give this recipe a go in another attempt to get my kids to eat eggplant!

    1. You’re welcome Bridget. Good luck with it. I’m sure my kids don’t even know what they’re eating when I serve up this. Then tend to just hoover food though. 🤪🤣🤣

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