I have been a huge fan of Michael Ruhlman's book Ratio for quite some time. His work really came to life for me when I saw him speak at Blogher Food last year. He conveys his love of good food in a passionate manner, which I find compelling.So, when my friend Silvana invited me to participate in this month's Ratio Rally, I said yes, even though I have not really baked using ratios and scales. I am definitely a numbers person though, so the concept is not a daunting one. If you don't like numbers and scales, do not read any further. This post is not for you! If you're into making recipe templates that can serve as the basis for numerous other recipes, then proceed. And get out that scale!
According to Ruhlman, “a quick bread is composed of cake batter ingredients that are stirred together.” He goes on to say that “muffins are quick breads baked into cups.” Hence, my decision to make muffins. Ruhlman's ratio for making a quick bread using wheat flour is 2 parts flour: 2 parts liquid: 1 part egg: 1 part fat.
The ratio I came up with for muffins uses almond flour, and is 4 parts flour: 4 parts egg: 1 part sweetener. After much experimentation, I can say that I doubt these proportions will work with other flours as almond flour is a very unique ingredient.
So why create this recipe at all? Well, it is still versatile in two ways. First, it is a wonderful template for a muffin recipe. You can experiment by adding different flavor combinations including: date walnut, lemon poppyseed, dried cranberries with white chocolate chips, cinnamon raisin, and orange dark chocolate chip. Second, you can scale up the recipe and make as many muffins as you like. Double it for 8 muffins. Cut it in half for 2. It's that flexible.
The ratio for making a basic, lightly sweetened almond flour muffin is (4:4:1), and here is the complete recipe:
To make a loaf of quick bread, simply double the above batter and bake it for 35-40 minutes on the lower rack of your oven in an 6-½ x 4-inch baby loaf pan (Luminarc).
My findings? Because almond flour is more wet than wheat flour, I ended up eliminating the 2 parts of liquid that Ruhlman used in his ratios. And because almond flour is more fatty than wheat flour I have eliminated the fat that was part of his formula. Finally, I used equal parts almond flour and egg in my recipe because almond flour is heavy and requires extra leavening, and eggs are a wonderfully simple form of leavening that is high in protein.
I did not have a hypothesis when I began this experiment. I based my ratio on Ruhlman's and started out with liquids, fat and all sorts of unnecessary other ingredients (that I found are not relevant when baking with almond flour). In order to come up with the recipe above, I baked the muffins 4 times before the result was remotely edible, and 5 more times to perfect them. As you can see, when it comes to baking, hands on is the only way to go; guessing does not work.