Pasta Mistakes to Stop Making

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Pasta is one of those things you’ve never going to stop making, so you should probably know how to do it well.  From the right size of pot to cooking time to storing leftovers, here are some pasta mistakes I suggest you stop making immediately.

Note: this guide is exclusive to standard, Italian-style wheat pasta. Many other types of noodles, like soba, glass, mixian, and rice vermicelli, as well as gluten-free pasta, sometimes cook differently, so for those, it’s best to consult the package for best practices.

 

1. Using a pot that’s too small

Sure, it’s a pain to wash a big stockpot, but you know what’s just plain dumb? Slowly shoving a pound of fettuccine into a one-quart saucepan until it snaps in half. When making pasta, especially longer noodles like spaghetti, linguine, and bucatini, it’s best to use a big pot (one with a diameter that is at least the same length as your noodle) with plenty of water. If you don’t have a stockpot, you can actually boil pasta in a skillet.

2. Not adding enough salt to the water

It may seem bonkers to toss a fistful of salt into pasta water, but keep in mind that you’re not actually ingesting all that water. To actually have a fighting chance at seasoning the pasta while it boils, you need a lot (like several tablespoons) of salt. There really isn’t an exact measurement to use here, but I would say a good rule is three tablespoons of Kosher salt per pound of pasta. If you don’t have Kosher salt, go buy some. Don’t use your fancy Himalayan pink or flakey sea salts (they’re expensive and most of this salt is going down the drain), nor iodized table salt (it sucks).

3. The water isn’t really boiling

In her brilliant book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat says to evenly prepare noodles made with wheat, they must be cooked at a vigorous boil, as “the pandemonium keeps the noodles moving, preventing them from sticking to one another as they release starch.” This isn’t a mere suggestion, folks. Bring your water to a rolling boil, dump in the pasta, give it a stir, and ensure that the pot continues to boil.

4. Adding oil to pasta water

Some people think that to keep pasta from sticking itself in the pot they must add olive oil to the pot. False. If your pot is large enough, at a rolling boil, and you’ve stirred the noodles around after dumping them in, there’s no reason pasta should stick to itself or to the pot while cooking.

5. Overcooking pasta

If you’re cooking pasta according to the package directions, odds are you’re going to overcook it. Especially if you’re planning to mix the pasta into heated sauce, pasta will taste perfectly cooked (that is, soft with a slight bite, also known as al dente) when it’s pulled out of the pot about three minutes earlier than the package says.

6. Tossing the pasta water

Most people simply dump their cooked pasta into a colander, letting all cooking liquid run down the drain. Don’t be one of those people. Instead, use a slotted spoon, spider, or tongs to pull out your pasta and drop it into your sauce or put it in a colander, leaving the pot of warm water on the stove. Starchy pasta water is the secret ingredient your sauces have been missing. Whether you’re making cacio e pepe or linguine with clams, a hefty splash of pasta water will thicken your sauce and encourage it to coat each noodle completely.

7. Rinsing the pasta after cooking

Shocking pasta with cold water after it comes out of the pot will indeed stop the pasta from cooking more, but it will also rinse away all the delightful starch that helps sauce cling to noodles. To avoid the overcooking factor, see rule #5. If you’re rinsing to ensure the noodles don’t stick together, you should simply be ready to add the pasta into your sauce as soon as it comes out of the pot.

8. Storing leftovers improperly

You can get very sick from poorly stored pasta, so if you pay attention to any of these tips, make it this one. After your pasta dish is cooked and divided among plates, any leftovers should be cooled, transferred to an airtight container, and refrigerated. When cooked food is held at a temperature between 40ºF and 140ºF, it’s known as the “danger zone” by the USDA. Bacteria love moist foods like pasta, so any leftovers should be stored in the fridge and fully reheated before you eat them again (and it’s best not to wait more than a day). You may feel bad about throwing away food, but we all know reheated mushy pasta isn’t very good anyway.

Pasta Mistakes to Stop Making

Making Kahlua is Easy

Did you always wonder what went into Kahlua? I love the taste when added to coffee but never knew what was in it.  When I was researching how to make your own Vanilla, the same website had a recipe for making Kahlua.

Homemade Kahlua Recipe

Homemade Kahlua

One of my favorite gifts to bring to holiday parties is handmade liquors; infused vodkas, coconut rum and my personal favorite, Kahlua. Homemade Kahlua is very easy to make. A few simple ingredients are all it takes and you’ll have a Kahlua that will rival any store brand.

Once your creation is completed, place the delicious Kahlua in a decorative glass bottle, tie with a pretty ribbon and tag telling the recipient it was made especially for them. Remember to put one aside for yourself to celebrate your thoughtfulness and your creation.

Homemade Kahlua Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 cups instant coffee crystals
  • 4 1/2 cups 100 proof vodka
  • 8 cups of sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans

Directions:

Mix water, sugar and coffee crystals. Heat and stir until dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Add vodka. Stir to combine. Pour mixture into 6, 12.5 oz. bottles. Cut each vanilla bean into thirds and drop the bean into each bottle. Cap. After 2-3 weeks strain, remove beans and rebottle.

Makes the perfect gift!

Making Kahlua is Easy

Make Your Own Vanilla

Vanilla is expensive and Imitation Vanilla is just that, and if you taste both they do NOT taste the same.  I never thought about making my own Vanilla till a group of cooks on Facebook of all places were talking about what kind of vanilla to use.

A good number of professional cooks and home cooks make their own.  It is just something I never thought of doing, but love the idea.  I am going to be making Vanilla this week.  I might make enough to give as gifts.  What a great idea!

Many people are often familiar with clear or imitation vanilla extract. The difference between pure vanilla and imitation vanilla is simple; the pure vanilla extract is made from whole vanilla beans extracted using 35%+ alcohol – that’s it! Don’t be fooled by extracts that claim to be pure. Imitation and clear vanilla utilize artificial flavors and harmful chemicals. Pure vanilla extract should be dark brown; the color of Vanilla Beans used in the extraction process.

Here is how simple it is to make your own Vanilla:

How to Make Vanilla Extract

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. Glass Bottle or Jar
  • 7 Vanilla Beans
  • 1 cup Vodka 70 Proof/35% Alcohol (or you can also use Bourbon, Rum or Brandy; any brand/quality)

Directions:

how-to-make-vanilla-extract

Step 1: SLICE

Slice each bean once long-ways and place in a bottle. (If it helps to cut them into smaller, tootsie roll-sized pieces so they fit in the bottle more easily, go for it).

how-to-use-vanilla-beans

Step 2: POUR

Pour one cup of vodka, rum or alcohol of your choice. Make sure vanilla beans are completely submerged.

vanilla-beans-in-vodka

Step 3: SHAKE

Shake once or twice a week.

Step 4: WAIT

Wait about 8 weeks
Presto, your alcohol has turned into delicious vanilla! Store it at room temp and out of direct sunlight, and you can enjoy this puppy til’ the last drop!

homemade-vanilla-extract-recipe

What makes homemade vanilla extract so much better than “store bought”? First, you have control over the quality and type of vanilla used in the extract. Using premium grade vanilla beans will provide significantly better flavor and aroma than commercially produced extracts. Did you know that you can make vanilla extract from different types of vanilla beans? Each different vanilla variety will create a unique flavor!

Do you prefer bold and smokey? If so, try Ugandan vanilla beans. Traditional, rich and creamy? Use Madagascar Vanilla Beans! Floral aroma with a unique cherry-chocolate flavor? Venture to the Tahitian vanilla beans. You can even blend various varieties together! The floral, fruity, cherry-like notes of the Tahitian variety blend wonderfully with the nutty-chocolate character of the Bourbon varieties.

After 8 weeks the vast majority of the extraction process is complete. At this point, the vanilla is ready to use and the vanilla beans can be removed. If the vanilla beans are left in the bottle, the flavor will continue to evolve just like a fine wine (just be sure the beans are always submerged in alcohol).

Whether you are a seasoned baker, procrastinating about making vanilla extract, or looking for the perfect holiday gift this year it is easy and will save you a lot of $$$$.

Making vanilla extract is a fun, easy way to bring a favorite recipe to the next level.

Make Your Own Vanilla

Tips from Culinary School

Found this article online by “my recipes” and thought the information was quite valuable.  I am always looking for ways to make things taste better in simple ways.

Good Stock Changes the Game:

This is probably something you’ve heard before, homemade stock is always going to be superior to the stuff you can buy in boxes, cans, or cubes at the grocery store. We use stock in almost everything. In classic French cuisine, so of course, There are all kinds of distinct schools that go about culinary training differently, but in French cooking, the sauces are everything. And the sauces are all built with great stock. Restaurants, of course, have the advantage of having many, many carcasses and scraps of mirepoix to put into huge vats of stock. It’s hard to get stock like that at home, without the industrial quantities that restaurants work with. But even just making quick stock in your Instant Pot will make your sauces and soups taste much, much better.

Watch the Bits at the Bottom of the Pan

When you’re searing meat or chicken on a pan, you’re, of course, watching the piece of meat so that it browns nicely and doesn’t burn. But it’s equally important to watch the browned bits at the bottom of the pan as they’re a good indicator of whether your pan is running too hot. Plus, those browned bits,  are incredibly dense in flavor. When you have them, you should always try to use them by degreasing and then deglazing the pan after you’re done cooking your meat. That just means pouring out any excess fat and then pouring wine, stock, or another liquid to help scrape up all the delicious bits. That’s an easy way to make a pan sauce, a great addition to your meal.

The Pan Cooks the Food, the Flame Doesn’t

You want to pay attention to how hot the surface of the pan is and how high your burner is turned up. Pans hold heat to varying degrees, and it’s important to keep that in mind when figuring out which one to use for what application. For very delicate things like fish, you often want to turn off the flame when the dish gets to a certain point of cooking, and the heat from the pan will continue to cook it. Pay more attention not just to how big the flame was under the pan, but how hot the pan was getting.

Weighing versus Measuring Cups

In applications where absolute precision isn’t necessary, eyeball amounts, and when precision was necessary, use kitchen scales. Bakers swear by using scales, and digital kitchen scales are a pretty cheap addition to the kitchen, and much better measuring by weight is than relying on measuring spoons and cups. Different flours and sugars weigh different amounts.

Reduce for Flavor, Thicken Later

When you’re making soup or stew, one of the steps is always to reduce a component. You reduce wine to syrup or cream to double cream, and on and on. Part of the point of reducing the liquid is to thicken it. But thickening really shouldn’t be a top priority when you’re reducing down a liquid. You can always use a roux or a quick beurre manie to thicken a liquid later. The point of reducing is to build flavor. You reduce it to the point where you like the flavor, season it, and then thicken it.

Rest Your Meat, Then Reheat

Resting meat is important. When you don’t let it rest after you cook it, whether its steak or roast chicken, the juices spill out over your cutting board and the meat gets dry. But It’s better to let the piece of meat rest even to the point of getting colder than you’d like, and then just put it in a very hot oven for a minute or two to reheat. That lets the juices reincorporate into the meat, then reheats it without cooking it further.

Reheating and Cooling Things Properly Is Crucial

Lots of things in restaurants are made beforehand and reheated because making things a la minute for hundreds of people is a good way to become very overwhelmed. You can bring up most things to the temperature they were when you were cooking them without cooking them further. That means that you cooked, say, a piece of chicken until its internal temperature is 165 degrees. As long as you cool that chicken properly, you can reheat it up to that internal temperature again without it getting overcooked. You don’t want to do that too many times, because the meat will dry out, but you won’t ever overcook your meat by reheating it if you keep that in mind. Similarly, with cooling things down, the danger zone for bacteria is when meat is in between piping hot and refrigerator cold. To get things cold quickly, it’s way more effective to put them in a bowl over a bowl of ice water than throwing them right into the fridge.

Depend on your Senses, Not the Directions

The throughline between very famous chefs of haute cuisine and my grandmother is that they don’t rely on recipes by the letter, they rely on their senses. Pay more attention to how the meat looks and smells and feels to tell when its done (and yeah, a thermometer too!) than what a recipe estimates. After all, recipes are great guidelines, but everyone’s kitchen equipment and conditions are totally different. You cook things until they’re done, and determine that doneness by visual and other cues.

Size Matters

This sort of cheeky mantra but it’s true so choose the right pot, pan, or bowl for the job and it makes all the difference. Too big of a pan means your meat won’t cook properly. Too small of a bowl, and whisking will be a huge chore. It matters not just because of convenience, but because your results will be different if you don’t pay attention.

Hot Plates for Hot Food

The quickest way you can give your at-home meals a restaurant touch is remembering to heat your plates before putting food on them that are meant to be eaten hot. All it takes is sticking them in the oven for a couple minutes before plating your meal. It means the food won’t cool down as fast, and you can enjoy it longer. Try it!

You Can Use Almost Every Scrap

Whether it’s egg whites or garlic skins, restaurant kitchens are geniuses at repurposing what would be food waste in most home kitchens. For them, it’s an economic concern as much as an environmental one, but it’s a practice that’s useful to adapt at home. You can use many of the things that you might otherwise scrap to make your food even better.

Tips from Culinary School

History of the KitchenAid Stand Mixer

kitchenaid k5a gradient

 I found this article online and just found it interesting, as most of cooks own a stand mixer of some kind.  I have had several in my lifetime. One caught on fire, although it was not a KitchenAid, it was a very high-quality Kenwood with too much cookie dough. I replaced it with a 4.5 quart KitchenAid which I used for years.  I added a 7-quart pro KitchenAid this last year and love both the old and the new.  I do not keep either of mine on the counter, as I love a clear counter.  One (the old one) is in the pantry, and the other lifts hydraulically from a space beneath the counter. I often did wonder about their history. 

KitchenAid’s story

When you envision a well-equipped kitchen, there’s probably a gleaming KitchenAid stand mixer sitting on the counter. The complex machine, camouflaged in Deco architecture and cheerful color, is a sign that one’s made it in the sphere of adulting.

The KitchenAid mixer has maintained its place as a status symbol for a century, doing far more than modernizing countless kitchens. The very appliance that has shaped so many lives directly reflects modern American history.

The KitchenAid mixer didn’t just save time in the kitchen; it helped time move forward.

The story goes that Herbert Johnston, an engineer working for the Hobart Corporation, conceptualized the standing mixer after watching a baker mix dough and thinking there had to be a better way. Development started in 1914, and the first standing mixers went somewhere that desperately needed to industrialize its kitchens: the military.

A lot of the military and government for soldiers is a large part of how our food system developed. Military chefs needed to feed a lot of people and cooked in bulk all day long, and updating kitchens were the best solution. By 1917, all U.S. Navy ships were equipped with model H mixers.

Hobart then shifted gears to produce home models, and soon after the KitchenAid C-10 mixer was born. At the time, although a sizeable chunk of employed women were maids (More than half of employed women worked in “domestic service” according to the 1870 census, and that percentage continued to increase), the early 20th century saw a shift away from live-in servants, meaning many women were now cooking for their families for the first time.

It’s difficult to look back at how cooking used to be compared to what we can do now. At this time women were expected to have a several-course meal, always with a dessert. That was a lot of labor that went into cooking for your family. Preparing elaborate meals was also tied to status. How much you loved your family was dependent on how elaborate your meal was. Having the standalone mixer wasn’t just a minor convenience. It could really change a woman’s day as she was doing all these various things that we take for granted today.

However, practicality didn’t come cheap. You had to have the money in those very early years to have a standalone mixer, adding that in today’s prices, the C-10 exceeded $1,000.

The KitchenAid mixer didn’t take off immediately as the high price deterred retailers, but word of mouth started a sales momentum among the upper class.

It was very much ‘I have to have this because so-and-so has it.

kitchenaid standing early

In the early days, KitchenAid sales were conducted by an entirely female, door-to-door force, the first of its kind, and a precursor for entrepreneurship such as Tupperware and Avon representatives. Since KitchenAid targeted wealthy housewives, the best way to market them was by coming into a woman’s home, preferably when her husband was around.

There was this idea that only a man could understand the engineering aspect of this appliance and how it worked, even though she’s gonna be the person using it. In that way, KitchenAid was just as much about the housewife’s relationship with her husband. KitchenAid would sell it every Christmas. It was obviously the gift that was given to the housewife. In some ways, it seems demeaning, given today’s lens, but at that point in time, it was a status symbol.

After World War II ended and the era of mass consumerism dawned, broad industrialization of the kitchen emerged. Appliances indicated that a family had made it, and other companies developed their own standing mixers. Despite the more affordable competition, KitchenAid held its own for two reasons. First, the quality couldn’t compare. And KitchenAid’s secret weapon took that longevity even further.

What was smart about what KitchenAid did that the others didn’t do was cross-generation accessories. What that means is that if you bought a KitchenAid mixer in 1950 and kept it through the years, even though the appliance itself would evolve, you could still use the accessories with the mixer you had. It meant that women could pass down their KitchenAid mixers and extensions to their daughters.

Whatever their design was at the beginning, they either smartly or were lucky to discover a concept that they could have evolved without having to start over with everything again. As our food systems changed over time, they were smart enough not to change the model of the concept that they had. They didn’t try to talk down to their consumer or try to be trendy. And sticking with that traditional model is what’s made them so successful. That combination of quality and commitment helped KitchenAid hold its own against competitors, and it’s a huge part of what keeps them successful today.

KitchenAid’s fate may have turned out differently without behind-the-scenes feedback from housewives. These women weren’t just the target audience, but also developers who emphasized that standing mixers should be in the home. They often had a significant voice in food products and appliances because they were the ones that were using these things all the time, although they rarely received the credit. Even the appliance’s name came from a wife’s feedback: “I don’t care what you call it, but I know it’s the best kitchen aid I’ve ever had!”

KitchenAid also helped women break outside domestic restrictions by giving them careers in home economics. We sometimes act as if women’s labor in certain generations made pin money, but a lot of women were supporting their families, Voss says. The KitchenAid mixer was its own Trojan horse: an industrial-grade machine disguised in a pretty color. Women found all sorts of ways to make money and have careers using the concept that only a woman could understand such things.

And the opportunities that evolved out of door-to-door KitchenAid sales, such as Tupperware parties, allowed women to safely gather and discuss topics that expanded far beyond cooking. These meetings inspired women to run for positions of power, such as school board, and eventually political office.

They had to work within what they had at the time. They couldn’t go out and do certain things, but if you look back over women’s history, they found a way.

It was amazingly progressive but done in such a way that seemed safe. It wasn’t just about the mixer itself. It was about what it represented.

History of the KitchenAid Stand Mixer

18 Bad Baking Habits You Need to Stop

I found this article online and made a few corrections and additions, but it has great information.

These baking mistakes threaten your beautiful bundts, bread, and bar cookies. Here’s what you should do instead…

In cooking, you’re encouraged to riff: Edamame in your stir-fry? Sure! A splash of rice wine vinegar in your pan sauce? Why not! Curious about herbes de Provence in your chicken rub? Give it a whirl!

In baking, however, creativity should be directed toward what you decide to make and how you decorate it—not how you cook it. That’s because baking is a science; cooking is an art. Science has rules. Art? Not so much.

You don’t read the recipe.

As you do with any IKEA furniture, you should read through the steps and gather your tools before you start mixing and whipping. Otherwise, you might get started and realize you’re one short a cup of cocoa powder of what your recipe needs. Or worse, you’ll start mixing up the dough for the birthday party you’re going to tonight and then realize it’s supposed to chill overnight. Oops!

The fix: Pull your recipe up on your phone, or get it from your cookbook. Read the ingredient list, and assemble everything that’s listed. Then, read the directions. You can even go so far as to “pretend” each step. This way, you can double check you have every ingredient and every appliance or tool you need.

You decide to wing it instead of measuring the ingredients.

The “a little of this, a little of that” mentality may suit you well in cooking, but in baking, it could backfire. After all, consider this: cookies, cakes, and bread contain many of the same ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar, butter, for example. In the right ratios, they make a specific type of baked good. In the wrong ratios, they could be a disaster. That’s why it’s vital to measure every ingredient, from the flour to the tiniest bit of cinnamon.

The fix: Use your measuring spoons and cups. You need the right ratios to get the best results. Save the winging it for your salad dressing.

You don’t respect the comma.

Has the comma in “1 cup flour, sifted” ever confused you? What about the comma in “1/2 cup pecans, chopped”? The comma is telling you something very important. Do you know what?

The fix: The comma is telling you to first measure the ingredient and then perform the task. Measure the cup of flour, then sift it. Or measure the half cup of pecans, then chop them. There’s a big difference between half a cup of chopped pecans and half a cup of pecans that were measured, then chopped. It can dramatically affect your final result.

You use liquid measuring cups for dry ingredients (or vice versa).

Liquid measuring cups and dry measuring cups measure things differently. Though it’s not a significant amount, it’s enough that it could affect the texture of your final product.

The fix: Use wet measuring cups (typically, the glass type you pour from) for everything liquid: water, oil, honey, milk, molasses, corn syrup, etc. Use dry cups for everything else, from flour and sugar to chocolate chips and yogurt. With the dry cups, be sure to use a flat surface, like the back of a knife, to swipe across the top of the cup to remove excess before adding to the batter.

You dip your measuring cup into the flour.

Dipping a measuring cup into a bag or jar of flour packs the flour into the well of the measuring cup. It may seem like the easiest way to scoop flour, but you’re actually getting more flour than you really need. Too much flour will turn into dense bread, hard cookies, and stiff cakes.

The fix: You need the same amount of flour each time to get consistent results, and you can do this in two ways: The less accurate option is to use a spoon to lightly scoop flour into a dry measuring cup, then use a flat edge (like a knife) to level off the flour. The most accurate way to measure flour is with a digital scale. A cup of all-purpose flour should be 130 grams.

You don’t preheat your oven.

We’ve all been there: You’ve just finished rolling out a tray full of cookie dough only to realize your oven is cool as a cucumber. So to save time, you turn the oven on and just stick the pan in any way. Bad idea. The quick and sudden heat is an important part of the baking process. If the dough heats slowly, you may have a mess on your hands.

The fix: If you realize the oven isn’t pre-heated when you’re ready to bake, just let the dough or batter sit while the oven heats up. Most ovens can be heated in about 10 minutes time. If you’re working with a temperature-sensitive dough, pop it in the fridge until the oven is ready.

You’ve never measured your oven’s temperature.

I have some bad news: Your oven could be lying to you. Just because it says 350°F doesn’t mean it really is. That means your brownies or pastries may not bake properly because your oven could be too hot, or even too cool. And 25°F in one direction can make a big difference in the final product.

The fix: Invest in an oven thermometer. Hang it from the grates in your oven the next time you turn it on. Let the oven pre-heat fully, and then see what the thermometer says. That will give you an idea of how correct your oven is—and how you need to adjust the oven when you bake in it.

You substitute baking powder for baking soda.

They might share a similar name, and they even look similar out of the box. But baking soda and baking powder are quite different. Baking soda must have an accompanying acid (lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, for example) to activate it; baking powder, on the other hand, has that acid already. If you use the wrong one, your baked goods will take a hit.

18 Bad Baking Habits You Need to Stop

Millionaires Shortbread Cookies

Millionaires.jpgIngredients

Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup corn syrup

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt Chocolate

8 oz bittersweet chocolate (6 oz chopped fine, 2 oz grated)

For the Crust: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of 13- by 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir with rubber spatula until the flour is evenly moistened. Crumble dough evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Using your fingertips and palm of your hand, press and smooth dough into an even thickness. Using a fork, pierce dough at 1-inch intervals. Bake until light golden brown and firm to touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack. Using a sturdy metal spatula, press on the entire surface of warm crust to compress (compressing crust while warm will make cutting finished bars easier). Cool crust to just warm, at least 20 minutes.

For the Filling: Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is homogenous and sugar is melted 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in sweetened condensed milk, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to boil. Cook, stirring constantly and scraping corners of the saucepan, until mixture registers 235 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in salt. Pour over crust and spread to even thickness. Let cool until filling is just warm, about 20 minutes.

For the Chocolate: Microwave 6 ounces chopped chocolate at 50 percent power, stirring every 15 seconds until fully melted but not much warmer than body temperature, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 2 ounces grated chocolate, and stir until melted, returning to microwave for no more than 5 seconds at a time to complete melting if necessary. Spread chocolate evenly over the surface of filling. Refrigerate shortbread until chocolate is just set, about 10 minutes. Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before cutting.

Using foil, remove shortbread from pan and transfer to cutting board; discard foil. Using a serrated knife and sawing motion, cut shortbread in half crosswise to create two 6 ½- by 9-inch rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half to make four 3 ½ – by 9-inch strips. Cut each strip crosswise into equal 10 pieces. (Shortbread can be stored at room temperature, between layers of parchment, for up to one week.) I just cut mine into squares, so they are not too big, as they are quite rich. (but yummy)

I like to put on parchment paper on a cooking tray after cutting and separating the cookies to freeze, then you can keep them a bit longer.

Millionaires Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Bliss Cake

Lemon 1.jpg
This wonderful recipe was from King Arthur Cake and is a lovely golden lemon cake, extra-moist and nicely tangy due to its fresh lemon juice glaze. Baking this cake in a Bundt pan turns it from everyday to special-occasion, perfect for everything from birthday parties to an elegant dinner.

Baking gluten-free? For great results, substitute King Arthur Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour for the all-purpose flour in this recipe; no other changes needed.

AT A GLANCE

PREP: 
BAKE: 
TOTAL: 
YIELD: 12 to 16 servings

INGREDIENTS

CAKE

  • 16 tablespoons (1 cup) unsalted butter*, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour
  • 1 cup milk, whole milk preferred
  • finely grated rind of 2 medium lemons OR 3/4 teaspoon lemon oil
  • *If you use salted butter, reduce the salt in the recipe to 3/4 teaspoon.

GLAZE

  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice; the juice of about 1 1/2 juicy lemons
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

ICING (OPTIONAL)

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat together the butter, sugar, and salt, first until combined, then until fluffy and lightened in color. 
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl once all the eggs have been added, and beat briefly to re-combine any residue.
  4. Measure the flour by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. Whisk the baking powder into the flour. Add the flour mixture to the batter in three parts alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. The batter may look slightly curdled when you add the milk. That’s OK; it’ll smooth out as you add the flour. Mix until everything is well combined; the batter will look a bit rough, but shouldn’t have any large lumps. Stir in the grated lemon rind or lemon oil.
  5. Thoroughly grease a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, leveling it and smoothing the top with a spatula.
  6. Bake the cake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. A pan with a dark interior will bake cake more quickly; start checking at 40 minutes.
  7. While the cake is baking, make the glaze by stirring together the lemon juice and sugar. Microwave or heat over a burner briefly, stirring to dissolve the sugar. You don’t want to cook the lemon juice, so microwave just until very warm, but not uncomfortably hot — less than 1 minute should do it. Set the glaze aside.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven, and carefully run a knife between cake and pan all around the edge. Place the pan upside down on a cooling rack. If the cake drops out of the pan onto the rack, remove the pan. If the cake doesn’t drop onto the rack, let it rest for 5 minutes, then carefully lift the pan off the cake. If the cake still feels like it’s sticking, give it another 5 minutes upside down, then very gently shake the pan back and forth to loosen and remove it.
  9. Brush the glaze all over the hot cake, both top and sides. Let it sink in, then brush on more glaze, continuing until all the glaze is used up.
  10. Allow the cake to cool completely before icing and serving.
  11. To ice the cake: Mix the sugar and salt, then mix in 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, adding just enough additional juice to create a thick glaze, one that’s just barely pourable. Drizzle it artfully over the completely cool cake.
  12. Store the cake, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

 

Lemon Bliss Cake

The Dimple in the Bottom of Wine Bottles? 

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Are they trying to shortchange you some milliliters of vino? Most likely no. But the real reason isn’t entirely clear.

Wine bottles are elegant. Their sloped necks come to a gentle peak. They’re supported by a stout but the understated trunk of a bottle. The color, typically rich sap green, absorbs color and emits a warm glow in the light of a kitchen or bar. The bottles themselves are sometimes as much a work of art as the wine that’s inside them.

But there’s one bit of the typical wine bottle that remains elusive: the bottom. The “dimple” or bulge at the bottom of many wine bottles is known as the “punt,” and it’s not entirely clear why it exists.

Wine bottles have had punts as long as the earth has had wine bottles, it seems, and until we have the capability to time travel, we’re left to wonder how the tradition of wine punts started and, perhaps more importantly, why we still do it today.

Do punts help winemakers cheat you of wine?

No, most punts are so small you’re not losing a single teaspoon. Some, yes, are more pronounced, but if this were really used as a cost-saving measure, you could bet most bottles would have exaggerated punts to make a good season’s wine supply stretch a bit more.

Are punts a sign of quality?

If you do a quick Google search on the theories behind wine bottle punts, you’ll quickly stumble across speculation that suggests higher quality wines have bigger punts because the bottle is more stout and sturdy. (More glass is needed for the longer punt, the theory goes, and wealthy winemakers can afford the more expensive bottles.) That’s just simply not true. A punt will tell you as much about the quality and taste of wine as the label will. That is to say, very little.

Do punts help wines cool faster?

This holds some merit. Punts increase surface area, so bottles in fridges or buckets of water might cool faster. But this theory is busted when you realize punts have been present on wine bottles long before anyone had heard of coolant for a refrigerator or even ice for that matter. So while it may help get your whites crisp and cool today, that’s not why punts exist.

Do punts collect sediment?

They actually do, but that’s not likely the reason they’re there. Sediment forms at the bottom of bottles as wine sits and ages. If you decant the wine, the sediment may remain in the valleys between the punt and bottle wall. That can help with flavor.

However, there’s no guarantee the sediment stays in place. It’s a happy byproduct of the punt’s existence, but it doesn’t seem that’s why punts were used in the first place.

So why do wine bottles have punts?

Truthfully, beats us. The best theory seems to be that wine bottle makers of yore needed a way to make sure their bottles stood flat on a table. The bottoms of hand-blown bottles may round out slightly as they cool. They may even have a sharp point because of the tools the glassblower uses. To keep this from happening (and bottles of wine from teeter-tottering off the table), glassblowers could have pushed up ever so slightly to create what we know today as the punt.

Now that most wine bottles are made by machine and are far sturdier than bottles made decades and centuries ago, the punt isn’t perhaps necessary. Instead, it seems to be a vestige of bygone days.

 

The Dimple in the Bottom of Wine Bottles? 

Things Your Dishwasher Could Do

Here, several household items you can wash in your dishwasher that you may not have considered before.

Sanitize Kid and Pet Toys

The two creatures may walk differently and eat different things, but their toys can be hotbeds for germs and dirt. Plastic toys can be washed easily in a normal dishwasher cycle. For small toys (think: building blocks), consider putting the toys in a mesh bag first. And don’t try to wash pet toys that have rope, hide, or fabric. They likely won’t sustain the wash well.

Steam Vegetables and Fish

I’m not saying this is an optimal way to cook dinner, but if you find yourself without an oven (or just feel up to a fun challenge), you can actually make dinner in your dishwasher. Tightly wrap quick-cooking vegetables like asparagus, squash, and carrots in aluminum foil with a bit of butter, salt, and pepper. Wash in a hot cycle without soap. The heat and steam will tenderize the food.

You can do the same for packets of fish like salmon or halibut, en papillote-style. Thinner cuts will cook more evenly than thick pieces like cod or grouper. The hot temperature and water help to steam the fish inside the packets.

Rinse Your Garden Haul

After a trip to your garden or local farmers market, you may come back with a bounty of fruit and vegetables that need to be washed before cooking or storing. You can stand over the sink and wash each piece by hand, or you can load up the trays of your dishwasher for a quick cold-water cycle.

Place delicate things like tomatoes or berries on the top shelf or away from spinning arms. Hardy foods like root vegetables and potatoes can sustain the pressure of the bottom shelf.

You don’t need to use any soap, though feel free to use food-safe produce washes. Even a touch of vinegar in the detergent cap is OK for the rinse.

Keep Food Warm

When you need to keep cooked food warm but find yourself short on oven space (or without those warming drawers I’ve heard so much about), consider putting food in your dishwasher to keep it warm. Your dishwasher is essentially a large hot box if you think about its construction. It’s meant to keep the heat of hot water and drying mechanisms contained inside the machine so you can use that thermal capacity to your benefit.

If you need extra heat, you can run a drying cycle (no water) to heat up the food and dishwasher. Just be sure a rinse cycle won’t run before the drying cycle begins. No one likes a water-logged casserole.

Make Household Items Like New

Sticky vent fans, dusty flowers, dingy light fixture bulbs—all of these items can be easily washed in your dishwasher. The thick layer of dust that often settles on these out-of-sight-out-of-mind items needs to be rinsed away, but hand washing can be time-consuming. Use your dishwasher’s cleaning powers for good.

Be careful to not put thin glass items, heirlooms, or antiques in the dishwasher. Those should still be washed by hand.

Anything else should make it through a typical dishwasher cycle with no problem. If you have a lot of glass, consider using the gentle cycle so the shaking and rattling don’t cause any of the fixtures to bump into one another and crack.

Sanitize Kitchen Sponges

The thing you use to clean your kitchen needs to be cleaned, too. Instead of microwaving your sponge (which you can do for 60 seconds on high), just place the sponge in your next load that will end in a sanitizing cycle. The hot water and temps will kill lingering bacteria and make the sponge safe to use again.

If the sponge is small or the openings in your dishwasher trays are large, consider putting it in the silverware basket for safe keeping.

Make Dirty Shoes Shine

Rubber shoes like flip-flops, rain boots, and water shoes can be easily washed in your dishwasher. Canvas-topped sneakers with rubber soles can be safely washed in there, too. For added odor-busting measure, sprinkle the inside with a bit of baking soda the night before you plan to wash. Turn the shoe upside down over the garbage before you wash to remove any remaining residue.

To prevent water pooling, place these shoes horizontal to the dishwasher’s spraying arms. Be sure to remove any liners or orthopedic inserts. Don’t run the drying cycle. Put the shoes in a warm place to dry. It may take several days, but they’ll be like new again—or at least almost.

Things Your Dishwasher Could Do