I don’t recommend many “cookbooks” because they are sort of all the same to me. Some have way pretty photography. Some have interesting recipes that a recipe developer somewhere has made up. Still they are sort of all the same - little tidbits of difference here and there, but ultimately the same.
That’s why I want to recommend “Ratios” to anyone who has a deep interest in cooking or baking, but may already have the standard cookbooks and want to take cooking to the next level. This book does exactly what the title says - it tells you those important, key ratios in cooking i.e. 5 parts flour to 3 parts water for a basic bread dough, and 3 parts flour to 2 parts fat to 1 part water for that magic “3, 2, 1” pie dough.
I really enjoyed how the author, Michael Ruhlman, presented the book. He said this book doesn’t teach you how to make the best of anything. Although it contains recipes, it’s not really a recipe book. This book is sort of for when you don’t have any recipes. You can still put together the staples - bread, muffins, chicken stock, mayonnaise, creme anglaise, etc. with the ingredients you have in stock. The book teaches you the ratios for stock be stock or pound cake to be pound cake. The flavors you choose to add to it afterwards like salt, extra sugar, cinnamon, et cetera is up to you. If you like your cakes or cookies to be more moist and decide to add more butter or more egg yolks afterwards, that is up to you as well. The book takes the dependency on cookbooks away from the home chef and really transforms that home chef into something more of a creator.
Another neat thing about the book is that it really educates you on each staple item and how to manipulate it to become other things. The book talks about how sometimes, food items actually contain the same ratio, but it is how the item is prepared that determines what it will become. For example, pound cake and sponge cake both have the same ratio of fat to sugar to flour to egg. The only difference is procedure. In a pound cake, you cream together the butter and sugar first. In a sponge cake, you beat the eggs and sugar until it becomes light and fluffy.
So yes, this is one of those books that I highly recommend - maybe for the somewhat more advanced chef who wants to read a “cookbook” that can build on his or her understanding of food. Or it can be for those cooks who are just creative at heart and are rebels when it comes to following recipes. Either way, it’s a surprisingly good read.