Posts Tagged ‘kitchen tips Tuesday’

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Blind Baking

May 30, 2017

Sometimes, we want to bake our pie or tart crusts before filling them. This can be done when you want to use a no-bake filling, one that is cooked on the stovetop, or to partially bake the crust if the filling is one which bakes faster than the crust. This process is referred to as “blind baking.”

To blind bake a crust, line it with aluminum foil or parchment paper, being sure to get the paper into the edges. Fill the lined crust with pie weights*, and bake covered for about 12-20 minutes, depending on the recipe and the oven temperature.

Once the crust has started to harden a bit and become less pliable, it is safe to carefully remove the lining and weights, and place the tart back into the oven to brown.

The concept of baking the crust this way is to emulate the weight and density of the absent filling, thus helping it hold it’s shape and prevent extreme shrinkage.

I generally trim the tart crust before blind baking, but last night, I was watching the contestants on the Great British Baking Show make cream filled tarts. Most of them left the dough untrimmed and hanging over the edges of the pan, and then trimmed it after it was baked. This accounted for shrinkage, and ensured that the crust came up to the top of the pan evenly each time. While some of theirs had a bit of a raggedy edge after baking, I found that trimming it after the first bake is a nice compromise, as the dough is softer and easier to trim without cracking and crumbling. This could work for a tart that is baked with the filling as well, just pulling it out part way in for the trim, and then placing it back in the oven to finish baking.

Be extra gentle when taking a blind baked tart from the ring…it tends to be more delicate than it’s filling baked counterparts.

*I use dried beans as weights, but rice or other grains that won’t burn or pop are also fine. You can purchase commercially made pie weights for this purpose at kitchen stores as well. I keep my beans and reuse them for this purpose only.

photos: Spencer Jones |Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Caramelizing Without a Blow Torch

March 7, 2017

Writing Kitchen Tips Tuesday gets tough after awhile. It is hard to come up with legitimate tips to share, week after week without running out of them. I just saw a video clip of this one, and it is definitely one we don’t all know and use on the reg.

When making things like meringues and creme brûlée, chef’s use a small kitchen blow torch to caramelize the sugar on top. I have placed things under the broiler in a pinch, but it takes constant watching, turning and stealth speed to make sure it doesn’t burn.

But what if you don’t own a small blow torch?

via Food Network

This tip, from Jeff Mauro of The Kitchen on The Food Network, uses a metal measuring cup to do the job. Sprinkle sugar on top of creme brulee, flan or even a lemon tart, heat a flat bottomed measuring cup on the stove, and carefully, using a pot holder to grab the hot handle, press the cup down on the sugared surface. You will hear a big sizzle, signaling that the sugar has melted and is fully caramelized.  Viola! A crisp caramel top without using any special equipment at all!

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Storing Citrus Zest

January 31, 2017

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Food waste has become so prevalent, that we sometimes toss the very things that we need later. Skins and peelings fit this category.

We often use the juice, or the flesh of citrus, and discard the peels. Yet, some of the most flavorful part is on the outside.

Before you squeeze or peel that lemon, lime or orange, stop and zest it first. Put the zest into a small glass jar and keep it in your freezer for later use.

Citrus zest adds a jolt of flavor and brightens up fish, chicken and vegetables and sauces, with just a little sprinkle. We also use it in baking, for scones, muffins and pound cakes.

How To Zest Citrus:

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Wash the outside of the fruit, and wipe it dry. Using a microplane grater, rub it all over the fruit, shaving off the colored part of the rind, and leaving the white pith behind. You can also use a vegetable peeler to peel off the rind, and then julienne it into tiny strips. Toss it in your jar, and enjoy it as needed.
The fruit can then be peeled or juiced as normal.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Eggplant Gender

January 10, 2017

Two Eggplants in Round Bowl, High Angle View

Today’s tip comes from a client of mine who shared a tidbit learned when he studied at the CIA.

( The CIA he is referring to is the Culinary School of America, where he studied to be a chef, not a spy, he quickly pointed out.)

It seems there are both male and female eggplants, and the taste is different among the two genders. Who knew?!

via Plant-based Paradise

via Plant-based Paradise

The female eggplant has a long brownish slit-like indentation at the bottom. The male’s marking is more round. The male eggplant has less seeds and tends to be less bitter, making it a better choice for cooking, especially for dishes that are not heavily sauced.

Thanks for the tip, Bob!

photos: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Thursday: Dried Fruit

December 8, 2016

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What exactly is Kitchen Tips Thursday, you may be asking? It’s when I am too busy to get the post up in time to call it Kitchen Tips Tuesday! Better late than never, right?
Today’s tip is about using dried fruit in baking. Before you stop reading, this isn’t just about fruit cake. In fact, I have never made a fruit cake, nor have I even considered it. I do however make delicious scones, and oatmeal walnut cookies, both of which use dried fruit in different ways.

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For the scones, the dried fruit (usually cranberries, but sometimes raisins, currents, dried cherries, dried blueberries or combination there of) are tossed in flour before being mixed into the dough. This is to keep them separated, and prevent them from getting sticky. This technique is often used in muffins when the fruit is fresh, as in the case of blueberry muffins, for example, to allow the fruit to disperse within the batter, rather than drop down to the bottom. Both of these items have heartier dough, and allow the fruit to become imbedded into the scone or muffin, thus protecting it from the heat of the oven.

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The opposite is the case for the cookies. My recipe calls for the dried fruit ( they use the classic raisins, but I make mine with cranberries) to be soaked in lightly beaten eggs and vanilla for an hour before getting added to the dry ingredients. This makes them plumper and prevents them from sucking the life out of the delicate cookie dough during baking. A very dry raisin will try to seek hydration from the moisture in the cookie, and it can also end up almost petrified after baking dries it out further. This method takes a bit longer ( get it started and go do something else for an hour) but it is well worth it for the end result.

Happy holiday baking!!!

photos: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Greasing + Flouring A Bundt Pan

October 4, 2016

Often, recipes call for greasing and flouring the baking pan. Normally, I line my pans with parchment paper, but in the case of bundt pans and other elaborately etched cake pans, parchment is not an option.

It is critical to get not only the butter or oil, but the also flour, into every nook and cranny of the pan, to ensure that the cake comes out easily,without chunks of flour on it, or bare spots where the cake got stuck to the pan. This can take a bit of shaking and patting, in an attempt to get the flour evenly distributed. It’s not foolproof, and can be a bit messy.

indigo jones eats | sour cream coffee cake

indigo jones eats | sour cream coffee cake

I use cooking spray to grease my pans, as it gives the best light and even coverage. I am not a fan of the baking spray that also flours the pans. It tends to glob up a bit, and gives less than stellar results.

Celebrity chef Alton Brown has a genius solution to this dilemma, and it is one I intend to use myself. He sprays the bundt pan with cooking spray (I like to use coconut oil spray) and then puts the flour in the bottom of the pan. Next, he covers the pan with plastic wrap, and secures it with a heavy duty rubber band. Then, he turns it upside down and shakes vigorously until the pan is perfectly and evenly coated. No mess, no wasted flour, and even better, no clumps or bare spots.

Thanks Alton!!!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: “Cleaner” Cookies

September 20, 2016
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double chocolate chip with sea salt

Lately, I’ve dipped my toe into the wholesale side of my little baking enterprise which is forcing me to expand my repertoire of sweets to keep the variety fresh for my clients. Last week, I came across a tip from the esteemed chef Thomas Keller when he spoke about his version of chocolate chip cookies. In the last few days, I have employed this technique multiple times.

Keller chops his own chocolate for his cookies, rather than buying pre-made chips. Although regular old chocolate chips are great for many things, sometimes chopping up a higher quality, or different cacao percentage makes a difference. I sometimes mix the two, to get even more complexity to the cookie. But, that’s not today’s tip, although it is a great one!

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“Kitchen sink cookies” have chocolate, butterscotch, coconut, pecan and oatmeal in them, among other things!

When chopping chocolate, or nuts for cookies, place them in a fine mesh strainer to allow the dusty particles to slip through. This keeps it out of the batter, allowing you to have a more perfect definition between chocolate, nut and cookie dough.

We have three new cookies to be added to our website, Etsy, Gourmly, Echohabitude, and Chocolate.org, where we are indigo jones eats. For now, stop by Pintail coffee on the LES or Red Hook, or order from Umi Kitchen’s convenient app ( Shari’s Healthy Eats) where each meal comes with the freshly baked treat of the day.

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Naked Cakes

September 6, 2016

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Naked cakes, or those which have icing on the top and between the layers but are bare on the sides have become a trend over the last few years. They have a rustic sensibility about them, and let the beauty of the cake shine through, unencumbered by too much, often cloying frosting. Not to mention the fact that they are easier to make, and to keep in the hot weather.

Earlier in the season, I had an epic cake fail. I was bringing a birthday cake to a catering gig just across town. The extreme temperatures made the cake difficult to ice, but a short stint in the fridge after the crumb coat took care of the problem, and I was able to get the it frosted and decorated without a hitch.

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As the cake sat on my lap in an Uber for the 15 minute ride, I could feel it melting. When I got it upstairs to the client, I discovered that a hunk had literally fallen off in my lap. If McGyver was a baker, he would have been proud of me. I had a thought ahead and brought a container of extra frosting along, and the tools to make repairs in case it smudged in the car. Well, this was a pretty big smudge.We’re talking a large handful of cake that plopped off! I used the icing to “glue” everything back together, and turned the cake so that the repairs were on the back. I went to wash my hands, and when I came back, I realized that the border of rosettes that I had piped along the top edge of the cake were gone. There was no icing thief, who snuck in and ate all the rosettes. They had melted, to the point that the entire cake was now dome shaped. I was scrolling through the phone trying to find the number for Billy’s Bakery, a local bakery who does cakes that start out looking very similar to this one, to see if I could just go and buy one, and add a few proprietary touches, when the group walked in for the party. At that moment, I vowed not to make another layer cake until the fall. (p.s. They were wonderful about it, and said it was delicious!)

Making a naked cake is not only the answer to my problems, but also brings the bonus of discovering that they look, and taste better than a traditional fully frosted layer cake. They also look amazing with a topping of edible flowers and fruit, rather than the standard piped decorations. Something that is simpler, tastier and and more chic than your basic run of the mill birthday cake? Count. Us. In!!!!

To make a naked cake, bake the layers as the recipe indicates. Any cake that can be made in layer cake pans, can be a naked cake.

Prepare your favorite frosting, or if you are serving it immediately, freshly whipped cream will do.

Place the first layer on the serving platter and spread a layer of frosting evenly on top. I like to use a pastry bag with a very large tip to pipe the frosting along the edge of the cake, and inside, so that when it is spread, there will be a perfect rim between the layers, and the frosting will be level. Smooth it with an offset spatula, and place the next layer carefully on top,making sure it is even. Repeat for subsequent layers. Ice the top of the cake, using the same method of piping the rim to ensure a perfect edge. If you like the look of smeared frosting on the sides, spread a thin coat of frosting on the sides and smear it along, keeping it transparent enough to allow the cake to show through. You can also accomplish this by over-filling the layers and smearing that excess along the sides.

If you would like to add fruit between the layers, place the cut fruit flat in concentric circles, paying special attention to the outer edge. You can also spread a layer of cooked fruit or preserves onto the cake before adding the frosting.

Decorate the cake as desired.I love the natural look of edible flowers, which I buy from Windfall Farms at the Union Square Greenmarket. You can also use fresh fruits and berries.
I tuck few sprigs of flowers into the sides of cake between the layers, and scatter some fruit and flowers on the plate, giving it a less contrived look than one would get with piped flowers and borders.

If it is hot, you can refrigerate the cake, pulling it out before you sit down to dinner, so that it is back to room temperature before you serve it.

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Gelatin

August 16, 2016

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Whether you are making jello-shots, candy, or unbaked cheesecakes, it is important that the gelatin completely dissolves, to avoid unpleasant gummy clumps.
The secret to working with gelatin is a technique referred to as “blooming.”  To do this, mix the liquid and the gelatin together with a fork until forms the consistency of apple sauce. Let it sit for several minutes to fully hydrate, before mixing in the other ingredients. This should allow the softened gelatin to integrate smoothly leaving you a lump free end product. We bloom our gelatin before mixing in the bubbling hot syrup when we make our marshmallows, and it gives us the light, fluffy texture we love.

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Burned Bottoms

August 9, 2016
My oven

My oven

I’ve written before about my erratic oven. It seems to cook unevenly, and sometimes items are burnt on the bottom and raw inside. I rotate my pans, adjust the temperature, and cover things to avoid them getting too brown before they are done, but sometimes I still get burned bottoms on cookies and cakes.

Recently, I discovered a solution to this issue. The heating element in my oven is on the bottom. Even once the oven is pre-heated, the coil intermittently ignites to retain the temperature. I have started placing a metal baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven, and putting the food I am cooking on the racks above. This seems to act as a barrier, absorbing the intense heat before it hits the bottom of the pans holding the food. So far, it has prevented my cookies and cakes from scorching.
If your baked goods are suffering the same fate, give it a try. It has made a big difference!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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