Baking Bread in the Digital Era with Michael Ruhlman

| June 28, 2011 | 0 Comments
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Bread Baking App for iPhone and iPadYou’re probably already familiar with Michael Ruhlman. He’s written many popular food-related books, and is a regular guest on a host of television cooking shows. Media-wise, he’s everywhere.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that Ruhlman has also made been actively porting his brand over to the mobile app space. His first iPhone/iPad app, Ratio, is a digital followup to his book Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. The Ratio app helps you calculate the amount of ingredients necessary to create a series of fundamental culinary preparations. The rational behind both the book and the app is that when you know a culinary ratio, you don’t need a recipe. Instead, you have thousands of possibilities at your fingertips — no cookbook required.

Michael’s second mobile app, Bread Baking for iPhone/iPad, takes it a step further and focuses on one particular topic: baking bread. The app provides users with a primer on home bread baking, offering clear descriptions of the tools and techniques you need for successful results. The Bread Baking Basics app measures all the ingredients, calculates the amounts, and gives you step-by-step instructions for making great bread based on what you want.

Please welcome Michael Ruhlman as he tells us more about his new app, and shares his overall love of bread baking.

Bread Baking App for iPhone and iPad

Can you give us an overview of Bread Baking Basics, in your own words?

Bread Baking Basics is an app that describes the fundamentals of baking bread. It automatically calculates ingredient amounts according to how much bread you want to make and gives you techniques for all kinds of breads, from sourdough to rye to multigrain.

What made you decide to develop an app that teaches people how to bake bread? What was your inspiration?

My initial inclination, along with my partner in these products, was to develop a series of cooking apps for the iPad and iPhone, but especially the tablet, which presents images so well.  Bread was first because bread baking, completely reliant on ratios, so readily lent itself to tablets and smart phones and what they are capable of doing that books, television and the internet can’t do: create recipes designed specifically for each user.

Do you measure in ounces or grams? The app adjusts to your preference. Do you have a stand mixer or are you mixing by hand? The app changes instructions and images based on your equipment. Do you want to make one pizza dough or four? Bread Baking Basics calculates how much flour, water, yeast and salt you will need depending on what you tell it. It also allows us to include many, many images for each recipe step (I’m very lucky to be married to a photographer who can shoot high quality pix).

One of the coolest things about apps is that they’re organic — they can change.  I’ll be adding a no-knead ratio and a gluten-free ratio soon, which will automatically update to anyone who has already purchased the original app.

Next up, we’re planning a sausage making basics app, followed by a pickling app.

Bread Baking App for iPhone and iPad

Can you tell us a little about the process of developing the app? Was it like developing a cookbook?

For me, it was very much like developing a book.  Writing text, taking shots of what the food should really look like in your kitchen, writing and then testing recipes. Will Turnage takes care of all the coding, debugging, beta testing, and uploading to the apple store.

What can a user expect to learn from your Bread Baking Basics app?

Users will learn the primary steps of making satisfying bread, but more, I hope, they will gain the confidence and excitement to engage in this ancient, fundamental, and deeply satisfying craft.

Entitled “Bread Baking Basics,” it sounds like the app is geared towards those just starting out baking bread. Will it appeal to intermediate and advanced bakers as well? How so?

If a beginner reads the text and follows the recipes, the app will give them the ability to make good bread at home. For intermediate bakers it will introduce them to different bread doughs, such as multigrains and ryes and wild yeast doughs. The app is not intended for the advanced baker (most of whom could teach me more than I can teach them), but it does provide them a handy bread calculator based on standard bakers percentages.  And it’s a great resource for professional cooks who may need to come up with some bread recipes on the fly.

Michael Ruhlman
Photo credit: Donna Ruhlman

How is Bread Baking Basics different from the bread baking portion of the Ratio app?

That just gives one ratio for a basic bread dough, white bread; the Bread Baking Basics app adds multiple doughs, multiple shapes, a great deal more written information, with lots of images.

If someone wanted to continue their bread baking education after they’ve made it through all of the recipes and tutorials in your app, what would you recommend as the next step?

Read and practice.  Professional bread bakers spend their whole lives focused on the various combinations of just four fundamental ingredients.  It’s inexhaustible and infinitely complex.

What other bread baking resources, book, etc, would you recommend to readers?

I like thefreshloaf blog, and we give a list of recommended bread books for further reading.


Other related posts you might enjoy on Ruhlman.com:

2010 Interview:
Food Blogger Spotlight: Michael Ruhlman

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Category: baking and bakeries, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, chefs, cooking techniques and tips, food trends and technology

About the Author ()

Stephanie is a writer and cookbook author recovering from her former tech-startup life. On the side she's also a media consultant, specializing in all forms of digital goodness: audio, video, print, design, and social media. After leaving the tech world nearly a decade ago, Stephanie made a career jump to her lifetime love, writing. She currently writes for the Huffington Post, KQED's Bay Area Bites, NPR, and other select media outlets. Her first cookbook,Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, is due out in fall 2013 on Little, Brown with coauthor Garrett McCord. Being a recovering techy leaves an indelible mark, and everything Stephanie does is infused with her deep fascination with digital technology. She has been blogging since 1999, before blog engines even existed and a great readership consisted of a handful of friends who occasionally thought to check out your site. In 2005 she started her first food blog, which she repurposed in 2007 to become The Culinary Life. Stephanie can be called many things: food writer, essayist, professional recipe developer, cookbook author, social media consultant, videographer, documentary maker, website developer, archivist of life. Despite all of these titles, she most commonly responds to Steph.