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Hot app: 'Ratio' made even more rational

December 21, 2009 |  4:43 pm

My old friend Michael Ruhlman wrote a really good book earlier this year called "Ratio." Now he's gone out and turned it into an even better IPhone application. The idea behind the book is that for so many things in cooking, specific recipes aren't nearly as important as basic formulas. If you know that a pie crust is always three parts flour, two parts fat and one part water, you don't really need a recipe to tell you that a single-crust pie will take about 1 1/4 cups of flour, a half-cup of butter and a quarter-cup of liquid. And if you want to make that a double crust, you can easily do the math. (Needless to say, "Ratio" is based on the thoroughly sensible idea that ingredients should be measured by weight, not by volume.)

And though that approach may seem a little mechanistic in a cookbook (what if you happen to want a cookie with a different texture than the one chosen?), it's sheer genius in an app, where the expectations are different. Think of "Ratio, the App" as a combination culinary pocket calculator and aide-memoir. How many times have you been in the middle of a dish and blanked on whether a basic white sauce takes two tablespoons of flour and butter for every cup of milk, or three. (Maybe "Ratio 2.0" will address adjusting the formula to make it thin enough for a cream soup or thick enough for a souffle base.)

"Ratio: The App" breaks down 32 commonly used cooking formulas for everything from cakes to sauces and allows you to easily scale up or down and even measure by volume or weight (and either in ounces or grams).

They say the mark of a good cookbook is plenty of food stains on the pages. Fortunately, IPhones wipe clean, or mine would already be covered with flour.

Ratio application for the IPhone downloadable from ITunes, $4.99.

-- Russ Parsons

Photo courtesy of Ruhlman Enterprises