September 2nd, 2011 § Comments Off § permalink
Do you not agree? Waffles just make sense on so many levels. Their shape is perfect for holding more butter and syrup. I personally don’t stop pouring until each indent is chock-full of the sweet sugary wonderfulness that is syrup. Even the process by which they are cooked has been cloned by so many others for their own personal gain (ahem.. George Foreman). When you cook them you are, essentially, frying the dough – not baking them – and that is yet another plus: fried food for breakfast.
I don’t have any waffle recipes of my own but I do have some tips to help you make your waffles better.
1) Don’t over-mix your batter. Alton Brown goes into explicit detail on what’s known as the “Muffin Method.” It involves mixing your dry goods together and separately mixing your wet works together and then combining the two by pouring the wet onto the dry. Stirring is to be done sparingly. The more you stir, the tougher the end result will be and that means leaving a lot of dry lumps. Need a visual? This photo is from our last waffle night and you can easily see all the lumps. The trick is to let the batter sit for 5 minutes after combining – that helps a lot with the mixing.
2) Stop using Bisquick or whatever Pancake mix you think is a waffle/pancake mix. I don’t care what the label says, it’s not waffle mix. Waffles have an insanely easy dry mix that you can easily make on your own.. so stop torturing your waffle iron with those wannabe waffle mixes.
3) Use a proper waffle iron or make yours proper. The best waffle irons weigh more than you want to carry so do what I did. I got the heaviest one I could find (which reall is not that heavy). No gimmicks, just a simple sliding lever to choose the doneness and an easy open-close lid. No spinning or flipping needed, no digital timer, no buttons, no removable plates, not even a retractable cord. Now, what I did to make my waffle iron work really well is place weight on the top of it. It’s a silicone pot holder and a sauce pan with water and it cooks waffles like your mom never could.
4) Don’t lift that lid until the “done” light is on. Once you open the lid, it’s all over. It’s better to get one that’s a little too crispy than one that’s full of uncooked flour and dough. If your waffle iron doesn’t have a “done” light, get a new one. If you do get some waffles a little to crispy, don’t worry. They’ll still go great with ice cream.
5) Making a lot of waffles? Store the finished waffles in a 250°F oven. They’ll stay warm and the dry heat will help make them just a little bit crispier.
Like I said, I don’t have a waffle recipe that is my own. I make the Luft waffles from Alton Brown’s book “I’m Just Here for More Food.” The recipe is really simple and good enough that it warrants having its place among our dinner nights – Waffle Night! Here’s his recipe, if you’re interested.
9.5 oz (2 cups) all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 oz (4 tbsp/ 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 large eggs, beaten
16 oz (2 cups) buttermilk
3 tbsp sugar
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Whisk the melted butter and eggs well then combine with the rest of the wet ingredients and whisk well.
Add the wet to the dry and mix just until the batter comes together. Do NOT overmix. This is very, very important!
Set the batter aside for 5 minutes (or refrigerate for up to an hour). In the mean time, preheat the waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Ladle the batter onto the waffle iron and spread lightly with the back of the ladle. Close the waffle iron and bake until the waffles are golden and crisp on both sides and can be easily removed from the iron; 3 to 4 minutes.
Serve immediately or keep warm in a 250°F oven or by swaddling in a clean kitchen towel and nuzzling under a heating pad set to high until ready to serve.
August 8th, 2011 § Comments Off § permalink
In a world riddled with financial unrest, it’s hard to find a tried and true money-saving short cut that won’t end up being a mistake down the road. This blog post is definitely not a money-saving short cut for the at-home cook, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look and drool, right? I’m talking about the DynaCube. I recently got to play with one of these things and I have to say.. wow. I have a french fry cutter, a mandolin slicer, and a nice chefs knife but the DynaCube makes my set up seem infantile. This thing can dice up an onion like a seasoned prep cook fresh from the prep line. It takes all the hard work out of slicing up tomatoes evenly and makes frenching fries easier than my fry cutter ever could.
The key to the DynaCube‘s success is the grid set of serrated blades. These blades move independent of each other creating a sawing action which cuts down severely on the effort needed to cut the food. The blade on the bottom of the unit rotates, hacking off the extruded food at just the right length. You could push the food through even slower and get a finer cut or faster and get a longer cut, but the device was meant to be fed evenly with minimal force. Best part about the blades? You don’t have to use all of them at once. Different configurations can be used to get different cuts. To cut french fries, just leave off the bottom blade. To julienne, use just one of the blade grids. There are also different sized blade grids that can be interchanged to make lots of different cuts.
Cleaning can be a pain if you don’t clean the machine right after use. None of the pieces are dishwasher-safe and the grids are small enough that you would have a tough time scrubbing if you were to allow food to dry onto them. Though, they are made of surgical steel and a quick rinse and dip in some soapy water after each use will keep them clean and pretty for years to come. The rest of the unit is plastic and very little of it actually comes in contact with the food so cleanup should be a snap.
Overall, this piece is really cool and makes you want to grab the nearest vegetable and slice it up straight-away. For the money, though, I’ll have to stick with my chefs knife and mandolin. Maybe I can con my parents to get me one for Christmas..
July 29th, 2011 § Comments Off § permalink
That’s pronounced “easy,” in case you wondered. I got some new measuring cups. I went into my local restaurant supply and saw these things and knew I had to have them. “Measuring cups? You had to have measuring cups? Why not something cool like a huge knife?” That would be because I don’t need a huge knife – I needed new measuring cups. Correction, I wanted new measuring cups.
I thought it would be a good time for a new product review since I have yet to do one and what’s better to evaluate than my new set of measuring cups? The story is simple: you’ve already combined all of your ingredients in your trusty Pyrex glass measuring cup with spout. Now, you need to pour that into your running stand mixer. Have you ever tried to do that? I have – it doesn’t work. If your mixer is shaped like mine, getting that last little bit out of the cup is impossible – spout or not.
The ISI measuring cups solve that problem. They’re soft and pliable; a feature I’ve never seen in a measuring cup. With this feature you can create a spout easily with just a little squeeze. The tops of the cups are also contoured so which aids the spout-making feature.
The cups are made of silicone so they don’t slide around the counter or out of your grip. They’re microwave-safe and can handle temperatures of up to 490°F. You could, essentially, put these in your oven.. I don’t know why you would want to, but you could. They’re also dishwasher-safe which is a must in my kitchen.
The same company also makes a line of mixing bowls. If I didn’t have 3 sets of mixing bowls already I probably would have bought these trendy little monsters. They’re made of the same material which is an ingenious idea for mixing bowls. A half-dozen eggs is just that much easier to pour into a pan when you can grip the bowl with one hand.
July 11th, 2011 § Comments Off § permalink
Over the past few years I’ve accumulated quite a bit of kitchen gadgetry but my kitchen is not cluttered. I have very little waste in my kitchen and I work hard to make sure that I use as much of my equipment as I can. I like to subscribe to the Alton Brown type of kitchenware philosophy: If you don’t use it in 6 months, someone else will. I think this rule is effective 95% of the time. There’s always going to be those one or two things that you simply cannot get rid of even though you never use it. I say that even though some of you is going to keep holding on to your Eggies System because you think it falls into that 5%. It’s really your choice, but don’t fool yourself; you aren’t really going to use it. With all that being said, I’d like to share where I go to add things to my ever-expanding collection.
Bed Bath and Beyond – I’m no civil rights activist but I am quite the miser. If I can’t buy something on sale or with a coupon then I’m likely to not purchase it. So, it’s no surprise that I like Bed Bath and Beyond. Their prices are ‘ok’ and with a coupon they’re the lowest. I don’t purchase everything there; usually it’s the higher-end pans that draw me in and they do have a good selection of “As Seen On TV” crap that is always a hoot to look at.
Restaurant Supply – The one place I get excited to shop at (aside from Guitar Center). I like looking at the commercial stuff as much as I like using it. I also like to support local business and my local restaurant supply store, Zesco, is one that I am proud to tell others about. They have low prices and the sales people are very knowledgeable. You should find your local restaurant supply store and bug their sales people; you’ll probably learn a lot.
Target - Ah yes, Target. How can you go wrong with Target? Target usually has a bit of a niche collection of kitchenwares. It’s usually stuff that’s a little modern, a little tacky, and pretty cool looking. I find a lot of good stuff there but mostly purchase dinnerware and serving dishes.
World Market – Honorable mention; they have a lot of cool stuff (usually overpriced) and I have found some good deals but I rarely shop there. I did, however, get my measuring cups and spoons from there.. so I got that goin’ for me.
There are always little shops and garage sales, consignment shops and Goodwill, but I never have much luck with those. I would like to encourage you to check out local businesses before you shop a chain store…you never know who you’re helping out by buying local.
July 1st, 2011 § Comments Off § permalink
Let’s be honest, we all have something in our kitchen that isn’t needed. Just because I don’t use it, though, doesn’t mean you wouldn’t need it. After some thought I’ve compiled a list of 10 things you must have in your kitchen. If you’re starting a home kitchen from scratch or trying to get your basics right; this is the list you need. This is based on a 3-person household. Larger households would obviously need more and/or larger versions of most of the items below.
-10″ stainless steel skillet – This is one place not to skimp. Get a good pan but remember, expensive does not always mean better. You want a stainless steel pan with a good core and it needs to be oven safe. Restaurant supply stores do not normally carry pans with copper cores because of their given price range but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good deal elsewhere. Bed Bath & Beyond carries a good one here Emerilware Stainless Steel 10″ Frypan.
-12 qt. stock pot – Getting a pot that is a little bigger than what you think you would need is a good idea but getting one too big is a recipe for disaster. Your pot should be thick and heavy (that means it would hold heat better) and have a solid lid that can be removed with one hand. I never go cheap on stock pots because a good stock pot could last you 20 years easily. I like this Vollrath Heavy Duty Sauce pots.
-mixing bowl(s) – A quality mixing bowl should not be underestimated. I prefer metal because I defrost meat in my mixing bowls often and use my hand mixer in them also. Having a variety of sizes is a good thing because sometimes a 4-quart bowl is just too much to beat a couple eggs in. I use some just like these Global Nested Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl Set.
-8″ chef’s knife – This is a highly debated kitchen piece. Some swear by certain brands and others by certain sharpeners. I’m just going to tell you to get a size: 8 inches. I’m not saying this is the only size you need, I’m just saying this is the only size you must have. Later, you can go and purchase your 10″, 12″, 16″, whatever” you want but at least get an 8″. This size is versatile and usually less expensive than the same knife in 10″ form. I actually use a pretty cheap 8″ Chicago Cutlery knife not unlike this one, but I keep it super sharp with my Chef’s Choice M450. I recommend getting a sharpener, otherwise your knife will be lame in no time.
-metal tongs – Ah yes, without metal tongs where would we be? I use tongs 6 days a week. They make just about anything easier. Flipping chicken breasts? Indeed. Getting baked potatoes out of the oven? Of course. Unscrewing a jar of pickles? Sure. All I’m saying is don’t underestimate the value of a good set of tongs. Also, don’t waste your time with the rubber handled, collapsible, crazy designed tongs. Get some good ol’ restaurant grade tongs. They won’t ever steer you the wrong way – plus they’re super cheap.
-rubber spatulas – With a good set of spatulas you can conquer the world. There are so many different kinds that it might be overwhelming to choose some. Let me help you there – buy the restaurant grade ones because they’re (you guessed it) cheap and will last just as long as those expensive ones at Target. You’ll need some that have the blade and handle molded together properly, heat resistant, and of proper stiffness (too soft and they’re useless in a fry pan, too stiff and you’ll never be able to scrape anything out of a bowl). I have had the same two for years and probably will for years to come. Heat Resistant Silicone Blade
-12″ splatter screen – So many uses for such a simple and cheap little thing. You can, of course, put on top of frying bacon to stop the fat from flying all over your cook top, you can use it as a pasta strainer (yes, I’ve done it), or even to steam buns over a pot of boiling water. I bought mine at Wal-Mart. A set of two like the link here and I only paid about $8.
-solid cutting board – By solid, I don’t mean hard, I mean good. “Good” means a lot of things to a lot of people but what “good” means to me is what “good” should mean to you. I only use cutting boards that are thick, flexible, dishwasher-safe, and are cheap. I like flexible because it adds value to the board by making it useful for other tasks. I like cheap because I feel that cutting boards need to be replaced from time to time and cost should not be a reason to stop you from replacing your cutting board. I use the Ikea bendable chopping boards because they’re good and it’s $2.99 for two. I replace them every few months.
-half-sheet baking pan – Simple. Don’t get insulated pans. Don’t worry about non-stick (there’s parchment paper for that). Don’t worry about infomercials that tell you their pans make cookies better because they don’t. Simply, restaurant supply. I have all different sizes but I only need my half-sheet pans.. and you mightaswell pick up some matching cooling racks, too.
-measuring cups and spoons – This is the one thing that might seem like you should only pay a couple dollars for but I would have to disagree. My set of measuring cups and spoons was rather expensive ($20) but I’ve had them now for 4 years and they’re still just as good as the day I bought them. Buying quality in measuring devices is a good investment because you can use them for years and years.. and years.
This list is not, by any means, exhaustive. These are just the essentials that I think any kitchen MUST have to be functioning. Sure, there are more things you need but if I would have had this list when I was starting my first kitchen, I could have saved myself so much money. So there’s my top 10 list.. maybe I’ll change my mind about some of these soon… I rather doubt it.