About a year ago, I got it into my head that I’d like a kitchen scale and I’d like to figure out ratio baking. The Husband got me a kitchen scale for Christmas, probably because I wouldn’t shut up about it, and then my brain panicked because it meant I should actually use it.
I spent the first few weeks of the year thinking about it, thinking of taking the scale out of the cabinet and making something. I wasn’t quite sure of what to make, and I froze again. Then I decided I wanted cake, and the cake ratio looked simple (1:1:1:1 flour to sugar to eggs to butter) enough, so it seemed like the perfect thing to start with.
Well, my first attempts at chocolate cake were interesting. Of course, it took me a few weeks to realize the ratio I was working with is for a pound cake. I mean, I should have seen it. Equal measurements of the basic ingredients, which is basically what a pound cake is. So I went online, did some research, and hit on something called high ratio cakes, among others. These have a ratio of 2:2:1:1 flour to sugar to butter to eggs. They yield the sweeter, bakery-style cakes. Of course my family and I were hooked and I made chocolate cakes, lemon cakes, funfetti cakes, and a chocolate gluten-free cake for my gluten-free mom.
And then I got tired of cake. I spent months making cake almost every week. It was bound to happen. Around that time, the weather was finally starting to warm up and I was getting itchy to try out bread. It was almost July before it was warm enough for the dough to rise. But first I made a detour into cookies. That…didn’t go quite as planned. I have no idea what I’m doing with the cookie ratio. It yields a very nice shortbread cookie, but I am not a big fan of shortbread, so I shelved cookies for the time being. It’ll require more research, and I have no idea where to direct it.
Anyways, back to the bread. It was surprisingly simple. I haven’t made much bread in my life, so have always been a little intimidated. I was also afraid I would forget it and end up with a massive mountain of bread dough (there’s an episode of I Love Lucy that plays in my head every time I think of making bread). It turned out to be a big hit with my family. My kids and husband kept stealing slices and the kids would demand bread as soon as it came out of the oven. Of course, they have yet to realize things that come out of the oven are hot. I thought it was a little salty, but my husband, the salt lover, enjoyed it. I did cut back on the salt a little and have had no complaints. So…shhh! It’s a secret.
My husband recently started a new job, one that calls for meetings right around lunchtime. I hate the idea of people having meetings instead of lunch (must be the sliver of my grandmother who wanted to feed everyone all the time in me), so I decided it was time to try out the muffin ratio. It took some trial and error and I had to experiment with how much sugar to add, but they turned out to be a hit, especially when I made blueberry muffins. From muffins, I jumped into quick breads since they use the same ratio. The techniques are a little different, but it wasn’t too hard to figure out. Of course, the only quick bread I managed was a pumpkin one since it was October, and then I promptly lost interest in muffins and quick breads. Oops.
I needed something sweet. As yummy as the muffins and quick breads were, I was missing my sweetness. I decided to try making pie. An apple pie. A solitary pie. I haven’t managed to figure out what kind of pie I’d like to try next, so I’m basically stopped at the one pie. I also don’t find the idea of eating a whole pie by myself to be too appealing. So, I started making custard. Well, I’ve only made it twice, the stirred custard and not the baked custard, and the first was quite an adventure using sweetened condensed milk (don’t do it), but the second was quite delicious. My daughter ate half and demanded the bowl. So I guess it was a success.
Looking back, I’m a little amazed at all the baking and experimenting I did. It was fun, but a little exhausting. I quickly learned that ratio baking involved more than simply using a ratio. It involved a surprising amount of research. See, the ratios only cover the basic ingredients. They don’t have anything about things like baking powder and, sometimes, sugar. Neither do they really involve mixing methods, how long to bake, and at what temperature to bake. I spend a few days researching whatever I want to bake before I actually try it. I learned my lesson with that cake! I also learned the upsides and downsides and figured out the basic ingredients for cakes, cookies, and bread.
Next year, I plan to continue ratio baking. There are still more ratios to explore and more ratios to tweak. There are a few different pies I’d like to try to make and, of course, that baked custard. And those blasted cookies. But there’s also pasta, and I think my pasta maker has been feeling lonely because I’ve had it almost a year and still haven’t touched it. So, I plan to continue experimenting and will hopefully turn out a few recipes, but my goal is just to have fun and let you in on my sometimes wild ride.
Check out more of my kitchen adventures here!
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