I might as well make it explicit: I have been baking my way through Michael Ruhlman's book "Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind The Craft of Everyday Cooking". It's high time I brought my Rookie Cookery readers in on the fun.
Because this is a site for Rookie Cookery, you will rarely find exotic ingredients, complicated procedures, or fussy recipes here. What you will find are simple and straightforward recipes and techniques that will yield consistently delicious and satisfying results for the dinner table-- and the dessert plate too.
My favorite cook books tend to be those that teach me not only a recipe, but a theory and an approach to food and cooking that allow me to cook from memory as much as possible, as well as allow room for elaboration and improvisation. In short, to go from "open minded rookie" to become a Competent Home Cook (or CHC for short).
Michael Ruhlman's "Ratio" is just such a book. Here you will find the tried and true ratios of ingredients that, once understood and employed, will yield consistently good results for certain classes of baked goods (and some sauces as well).
Practice the ratios in this book, I reason, and one is well on the way to creating the foundation of a lifetime of excellent baking and cooking.
So today, it's all about the pound cake ratio!
I love the simplicity of a pound cake recipe. The crucial data is all right there in the title: A pound of flour, a pound of sugar, a pound of butter and you're good to go. In fact, as Ruhlman points out, the actual ratio of ingredients includes eggs and goes like this:
1 part butter, 1 part sugar, 1 part egg, 1 part flour.
NOTE: For best results and a true 1:1:1:1 ratio of ingredients, these are measurements by weight, not volume. (Buy a scale. It's important).
The method of combining ingredients is also important, and Ruhlman points out that the same ratio of ingredients, combined in a different order, will yield sponge cake instead of pound cake. More on that story later.
INGREDIENTS (Note: double this for true pound cake; This amount is for a half- pound cake and will fill a 9 inch loaf pan)
8 ounces butter (plus some to butter the pan)
8 ounces sugar
1 tsp salt
8 ounces eggs (approx. 4 large eggs plus one yolk-- I confess I omitted the extra yolk and nobody died)
juice and zest of a lemon (plus a lime if you have it-- I didn't)
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 ounces flour (about 1 and 3/4 cups)
First weigh out all your ingredients.
Cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is lighter in color and increases in volume by one third.
Add the salt.
Mix in eggs slowly, being careful not to over mix.
Add fruit juices and vanilla.
Add in flour slowly, mixing until incorporated.
Pour into buttered pan and bake for one hour at 325 degrees F. or until cake tests done.
Dress it up with a drizzle of citrus glaze (2 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice mixed with 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar), macerated and sweetened fruit, or a dusting of powdered sugar.
Commit this ratio to memory and you'll always have something sweet to snack on from the staples in your pantry.
Just for fun: Here's a variation on pound cake made with Sprite soda pop by Pioneer Woman!