*the ideal*ratio. This would be a mistake and I'll illustrate why with an example. Here's the average ingredient ratio for Swedish Pancakes based on about 200 distinct recipe ratios: 1:3.5:1:0.16 (all purpose flour:milk:medium egg:butter). And here is an ingredient list for 450 grams of batter.

**Swedish Pancakes (Pannkakor)**

79g or 150ml all purpose flour

278g or 278ml milk

80g, 68ml or 2 eggs where each egg is ~53g

13g or 13ml unsalted butter

1/4 tsp salt

The above ingredient ratio comes with a high level of confidence, statistically speaking, in the sense that if I were to collect another 200 distinct recipe ratios, I would be quite likely to get the same ratio. If you're interested in the actual confidence intervals, feel free to download and run the code.

Even though the Swedish pancake ratio is very stable, it is still not the case that this is the

*ideal*ratio. Take a look at this, very similar, recipe ratio: 1:3.2:1.3:0.3 (all purpose flour:milk:egg:butter).

**Swedish Pancakes**

78g or 148ml all purpose flour

249g or 249ml milk

103g, 87ml or 2 eggs where each egg is ~53g

20g or 20ml unsalted butter

1/4 tsp salt

Clearly these two ratios are different, and yet the second ratio is also the average of 200 distinct recipes. So what's going on?

The first ratio is the result of 200 recipes written in Swedish, whereas the second comes from 200 recipes for Swedish pancakes written in English. Maybe these differences are due to cultural preferences in taste or accompaniments, although it could just as easily be the influence of TV chefs. In fact the only thing that can be said with any certainty is that average recipe ratios can change depending on the source of the information. The ratios I present here are predominantly from online sources. Perhaps the results would be different if I had taken the ratios from cookbooks. And then again, there would likely be a difference between older and newer cookbooks.

When I first looked at average recipe ratios for crumble, for my own convenience I selected recipes based on weight measurements rather than volume. Although I didn't do a systematic study of the differences, it was clear just browsing through the recipes that both weight based and volume based recipes tended towards rounded figures. I would expect to see marked differences between recipe ratios collected using the two different measurement systems and, coming back to pancakes, this could account for the difference between the Swedish pancake recipe ratios given that most online recipes written in English include measurements in US cups, whereas Swedish recipes are generally given in deciliters.

Let's imagine there is some way to collect recipe ratios in a way that avoids introducing any bias of the kind mentioned above. Could we then obtain an

*ideal*recipe ratio? The answer is still*no*! Here is an extract from user Athanasius' excellent review of Michael Ruhlman's book*Ratio.*[...] That is really where the "ratio" argument falls apart. Cooking and baking are about ratios, but in a larger sense they're about FORMULAS. That is, you have a ratio of ingredients, but you combine things in certain ways (using different mixing techniques, timing, etc.), and then you prepare them by cooking them in certain ways (at certain temperatures, with certain timing, perhaps adding or changing things at various times, etc.). A ratio tells you very little if you know nothing about the rest of the formula and the techniques required to prepare a dish. If "ratio" was the only thing needed, recipes would only consist of lists of ingredients with no instructions.

Does this observation apply to a recipe as simple as pancakes? Indeed it does. On the Seasoned Advice Q&A site I answered a question about the differences between Swedish Pancakes and Crêpes. Here is the average Crêpes ratio: 1:1.97:0.75:0.17 (all purpose flour:milk:medium egg:butter). And again, as an ingredients list for 450 grams of batter,

**Crêpes (French recipes)**

116g or 219ml all purpose flour

228g or 228ml milk

86g, 73ml or 2 eggs where each egg is 53g

20g or 20ml unsalted butter

1/4 tsp salt

As I remarked in my answer, the Crêpes were a little tougher than Swedish pancakes. What I missed in my analysis is the fact that Crêpes and Swedish pancakes are traditionally cooked differently. Swedish pancakes are made by swirling batter around a frying pan whereas French Crêpes are made on a Crêpes maker where the batter is spread out with a specially designed utensil. It seems reasonable to suppose that Crêpes made using the traditional method would not be as tough as those I made.

So comparing recipe ratios without reference to cooking technique can lead you astray. This argues in favour of

*maximising*bias! An ideal recipe ratio, if there were such a thing, would be tightly coupled to a procedure for using the ratio. For a thorough investigation into the ideal Swedish Pancake we would differentiate between recipes that use cold butter or melted. And if melted, we would again differentiate between melted butter where the milk solids have been toasted or not. If this gives us an ideal ratio, it is ideal in a very narrow sense.
This last criticism applies equally to recipe ratios arrived at via experimentation or any other means. In conclusion: there is no such thing as an ideal or perfect recipe ratio. So why go to the trouble of finding average recipes at all? I'll answer that question in my next post.