Cookies Without a Recipe
AOLFood writer Michael Ruhlman's book, Ratio, might just free you from cookbooks forever. Instead of relying on recipes, Ruhlman breaks down cooking into easy-to-understand ratios of ingredients, a method he says allows for more creativity in the kitchen. "When you know a ratio, you don't know a single recipe, you know a thousand," he says. Once you've mastered the basics, you're free to start experimenting by adding or subtracting flavors.
1-2-3 SHORTBREAD COOKIE RATIO: 1 part fat: 2 parts sugar: 3 parts flourIf you're ready to dive into the world of baking ratios, Ruhlman's 1-2-3 cookie dough (the ratio is by weight) is the logical place to start. "The dough is easy to remember, easy to make, and allows you to make one cookie or three dozen " he says. In fact, he calls this product of this dough "the essence-of-a-cookie" cookie: "One you know this dough, you really see how cookies work."
On its own, the combination of one part fat, two parts sugar, and three parts flour bakes up into a crisp, buttery shortbread with just a hint of sweetness. It's the kind of cookie that's perfect with tea, or as an after-dinner treat for an adult crowd who appreciates its sophistication. But the real genius of this dough is its simplicity: Because the flavors are so basic, the cookie can be endlessly modified. Doing one of three things-changing the flavor, swapping an ingredient or altering the proportion of flour-will net a different result, giving you literally hundreds of different cookies options.
Where to begin? Add almond or vanilla extract. Try brown sugar in place of white. Swirl in a dollop of peanut butter. Throw in nuts, chocolate chips, or dried fruit. Sprinkle in some cinnamon or nutmeg. Experiment with eggs and baking powder-they'll give the cookie a lighter crumb. Don't be afraid to try new combinations, Ruhlman says.
But if you're going to stick close to the original ratio, he advises would-be bakers to pay attention to the quality of your ingredients, especially the butter. "If you want to splurge on Plugra, it's going to be a better cookie, " he says, "but I think the most important part is to use fresh butter. Butter has a tendency to pick up odors from the refrigerator, so you want a clean, fresh-tasting butter."
After that, whipping up these cookies is as simple as one, two, three.
From RATIO: THE SIMPLE CODES BEHIND THE CRAFT OF EVERYDAY COOKING by Michael Ruhlman. Copyright 2009 by Ruhlman. Reprinted by permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.