Archive for the ‘Kitchen Equipment’ Category

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Belgian beauties. Yes, they’re worth it. (Have fun, search engines.)

September 15, 2009

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For many years, I claimed to be a strict savory breakfast eater. No pancakes for me. No waffles. No French toast. No funny little Danishes. No, thank you. I’ll take eggs, I’d say. Give me an omelet any day. And more bacon. And sausage.

I stand by my love for the saltier breakfast fare, but I admit that a taste for the sweet has crept in there. And in the case of these Belgian waffles, perhaps more than crept. Maybe more like stormed in with the sound and fury of the first ten minutes of a Michael Bay movie.

It’s important to note that I included the nationality “Belgian” in the description of these waffles. I mean, an ordinary waffle is nothing to stop traffic for. A pancake, unless packed with extra love and ingredients (see the husband’s Orange Ricotta Pancakes), is tasty but not remarkable. French toast is, too often, just some eggy bread. But those Belgians were onto something. They’ve taken an ordinary breakfast bread and, er, waffled it, expanding the possible crispy delectable surface area by multiples. It’s crispy, yet fluffy and soft. It’s caramelly and yet also complex. It’s fragrant and, yes, oh so seductive. Still more fiendishly, it has these generous square cups to hold syrup or trap dainty pieces of fruit or puddles of ice cream in. Is genius too strong a word? I think not.

How did this love affair begin? When we encountered some outstanding Belgian waffles at a local restaurant one evening as a dessert item. Granted, I was nine months pregnant and out for the rare dinner without a two-year-old, so that might have made them extra delicious. But the husband’s reaction was even more mighty (and, let’s face it, predictable). He ran right out and bought himself a Belgian waffle iron (natch) and set to work trying to replicate said waffles. After several batches of subpar waffles – which I managed to force down – this recipe emerged.

Is it worth it? Is it worth wrangling with those yeastie-beasties? Waiting an hour for the batter to “develop flavors”? Worth buying a freakin’ Belgian waffle maker? I can only speak for myself. And the answer is: Yes, indeed, and please pass the waffles.

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And now, the Husband’s take…

I know, you’re thinking, “Waffles are easy.” And if you just whip together commercial pancake mix, then you’re right. These waffles are something else. They’re more like a “gateway drug” to interesting culinary possibilities. You see, these waffles eschew chemical leaveners like baking soda and baking powder. Instead, they gain their volume and gusto from a combination of whipped egg whites and slower acting yeast.

Wait, wait… I know what you are thinking: Yeast is a microorganism that should be left in the hands of serious bakers. But, think of the potential magic to be unlocked. The yeast provides not only volume, but also delicious taste. It provides the tang of fermentation that makes these waffles serious contenders for glory. While they are a great breakfast/brunch food, they are also great for dessert with a little ice cream or even just nude as a snack.

In addition, if you get hooked on these waffles, you just might find yourself experimenting with other tasty, yeast-oriented projects… like donuts, bagels, country loaves or those crunchy, crusty French baguettes. The possibilities are really endless once you make friends with yeast. You just might become an addict.

Before I go, just a little note. These are not quick-to-make waffles from the back of the box. I typically make them for weekend brunch or as a dessert for a party. The big reason is that you need some time to let the flavor develop. So, either begin the process early in the morning or start the night before, refrigerate the batter and then let it warm back up on the counter an hour or two before you make the waffles. In any case, you will be incredibly well rewarded for a little patience.

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Belgian Waffles

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk (warm or room temperature)
4 egg whites
2 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
3 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. rapid rise yeast
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Let the milk come to room temperature, or warm it. This is important because the yeast will not be getting the classic bloom you see with bread recipes.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt (dry ingredients) and whisk to integrate. In another bowl, combine the milk, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla and whisk until homogeneous (wet ingredients). Finally, in a third bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.

3. In the larger bowl, combine the dry and wet ingredients until they just come together. The mass should be relatively dense and very sticky.

4. Fold in the egg white in three stages. In the first stage, you can be a tad bit rougher as the moisture of the whites will make the mixture more workable. In the next two installments, simply work the whites in just enough as to bring the mixture together and ensure there are no large portions of whites. You don’t want to overdo this step. We want the air and moisture to integrate well.

5. Let the batter rest covered on the counter for a minimum of 1 hour. If you take more than 3 hours, move the batter to the refrigerator. The batter should expand significantly (double) and may require a stir to keep form overflowing if the bowl is small.

6. Ensure your waffle maker is as hot as possible before pouring on the batter. Cook until the waffles reach a golden brown. Serve as desired.

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MHC Goes Molecular: Olive Oil Bonbons

November 6, 2006

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I don’t think it’s shocking to anyone that I’m a bit of an experimenter. And last week, while making brittle and talking about molecular gastronomy in relation to Top Chef, I decided to adventure out on my own and try to replicate a molecular gastronomy dish—the olive oil bonbon. This experiment was cause for great debate between my wife and I, but being the intrepid and confident one I proceeded. And her being the loving wife, she assisted and was vital in my mad lab.

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Get candy, get candy, get candy…

November 1, 2006

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I return home from work to find that my husband has distributed every last piece of the three pounds of candy we had bought. (Well, except for two measly Smarties’ rolls, which I immediately claimed and devoured.) He didn’t save even a single bite-sized chocolate bar for his candy-ravenous wife. Apparently, he’s a softie for 4-year-olds in head-to-toe Elmo outfits and gave out candy by the handful. Sucker.He did, however, prepare homemade candy…

… So I suppose I can forgive him.

His spicy pumpkin-seed brittle is beautiful to behold. In fact, it looks a little like the prehistoric amber you might see in a museum — minus the bugs, of course — or some snazzy amber jewelry. But edible. Actually, it’s more than edible — it was delicious. It was sweet, of course, but it also had a wonderful and unexpected kick — not unlike a Red Hot. And the pumpkin seeds make for an intriguing break in the sugar-britle texture, little bits of chewy goodness that mingle with the heat from the cinnamon.

Quite delicious, and I guess — I say begrudgingly — an adequate substitute to gorging on leftover KitKat bars.

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Bread + pudding = Dessert bliss

October 11, 2006

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It’s puddin’ time.

Yes, it was only a matter of time until my husband concocted the perfect homemade recipe for bread pudding. He loves bread pudding. Even if he’s filled to the brim with food at a restaurant and groaning in his chair, if bread pudding is on the dessert menu he manages to find still more room in his hollow leg. Yes, I’ve no doubt that the extra consumption of puddin’ is probably equally parts pleasure and discomfort. “Ah, bread pudding, eating you is such exquisite torture.”

Me? I like bread pudding very much. But I’m an equal opportunity dessert eater. The fabulous thing about making bread pudding at home, though, is:

1) You use up all that stale bread in a manner other than french toast. (Yet another breakfast favorite of hubby’s.)

2) It takes about an hour to cook, giving you time to loosen your belt after dinner and actually enjoy dessert.

Plus, as I always do, I must praise my husband’s excellent and tasty bread pudding. Delicious creamy custard baked into every nook and cranny of now cake-like bread. And let’s not forget the all-important golden brown texture of the top, perfect for ramming your spoon through. This, of course, will send out a puff of steam — that signature of all truly magnificent desserts: It’s hot and fresh, and just for you. Read on for the recipe, puddin’ lovers.

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My knives need an edge…

October 6, 2006

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IMG_1928.JPGIMG_1926.JPGBesides gun owners and golfers, there are perhaps no group of people who talk more about their gear than cooks. We love our tools. We love to discuss our pots and pans. I’ve had an hour-long conversation about the pros and cons of my Kitchen Aid mixer. Heck, my wife loves to tell the story of when we registered for gifts when we were getting married. I told her to stop obsessing over the price of everything, only to find out when we got home that we registered for a $120 pepper mill — and it was already purchased before I could make amends for my hubris. (But it’s a really, really nice pepper mill.)

So two weeks ago, I bought my wife a new knife. She had decided to join me in the kitchen, and the Wustof Grand Prix I’s we’ve had since we moved in together years ago were never quite right for her smaller hands. Her beautiful, razor-sharp Shun knife made it even clearer that my own knives need serious sharpening.

I’ve been looking for a solution for sometime. I have considered buying a sharpener, but I hear bad things. I have considered taking a national retailer up on their offer to sharpen them. And I know that I could always do it myself — but I must admit that I’m not inclined to learn on my own good knives.

So, I am looking for assistance from my readers. How do you sharpen your knives? Professionally? Personally? Do you trust those chain stores to whack away at your blades? And which ones? Any and all advice is welcome.