Shortbread cookies as easy as 1-2-3

Shortbread cookies with a ratio of 1 sugar: 2 fat: 3 flour.

I’m reading this book called Ratio, and if you like to cook, you’ll probably want to buy it. The author, Michael Ruhlman, also wrote The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon with Thomas Keller.

Ratio, however, isn’t about fine dining. It’s about the basic foods we eat most often: bread, cookies, pancakes, stock, vinaigrette and so on. The idea is that these recipes are based on ratios of a few ingredients, and if you know the ratio, you can then add spices, herbs or other elements to create an infinite number of recipes.

For example, the ratio for shortbread is 1 ounce of sugar to 2 ounces of fat (butter) and 3 ounces of flour. Or 1 sugar: 2 fat: 3 four.  To that, you can add vanilla or lemon and poppy seeds or dried cranberries or any number of  other spices, herbs or fruits to customize your cookies. Ruhlman also recommends adding a pinch of salt.

And, he recommends trying the basic cookie first, just so you have a feel for what it looks and tastes like before adding other elements. I made a small batch the other day. Literally, it was 1 ounce of sugar, 2 ounces of butter, 3 ounces of flour, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. It made eight cookies baked at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. They were as good as any shortbread I’ve ever purchased.

The other thing that I really like about Ratio is that it enables you to do small batches. I didn’t want to make a big batch of cookies because I was making them mostly to experiment, and G. and I certainly don’t need to be eating a lot of cookies. Being able to make just eight was great because we both had a couple over the next few days, and then they were gone. I didn’t worry about having to eat them before they went stale or giving them away to avoid eating a large quantity of sweets.

And now, I feel like I can make another batch with lemon or rosemary and play around with the recipe without ending up with dozens and dozens of cookies on hand. This is especially important, you know, if you occasionally come up with bad combinations, which I do. You don’t want to have to eat or throw out a big mistake.

Of course, if  you wanted or needed bigger batches, you could make them. Just multiply to get the number you want. You could use 4 ounces of sugar, 8 ounces of butter and 12 ounces of flour and that would make about 3 dozen small cookies.

I think Ruhlman makes bigger cookies than I did because he uses 2 ounces of sugar, 4 ounces of butter and 6 ounces of flour to  make five to 10 cookies. But that’s part of the beauty of it _ you can make the amount you want in the size you want with the flavor you want. How sweet is that?

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2 responses to “Shortbread cookies as easy as 1-2-3

  1. Am writing this one down! My wife was just saying yesterday she wants to create more and if she knew the ratios she could create her own recipes instead of just doctoring others. Am so glad I saw this!

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