Tarte Tatin

The Tarte Tatin was created accidentally at the Hôtel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, Loir-et-Cher, 169 km (105 mi) south of Paris, in the 1880s. The hotel was run by two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin. There are conflicting stories concerning the tart’s origin, but the most common is that Stéphanie Tatin, who did most of the cooking, was overworked one day. She started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. Smelling the burning, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. After turning out the upside down tart, she was surprised to find how much the hotel guests appreciated the dessert. In an alternative version of the tart’s origin, Stéphanie baked a caramelized apple tart upside-down by mistake, regardless she served her guests the unusual dish. Whatever the veracity of either story, the concept of the upside down tart was not a new one.

The tarte became a signature dish of the Hôtel Tatin. Historians and gourmets have argued whether it is a genuine creation of the Demoiselles (Misses) Tatin, or the branding of an improved version of the “tarte solognote”, a traditional dish named after the Sologne region which surrounds Lamotte-Beuvron. Research suggests that, while the tarte became a specialty of the Hôtel Tatin, the sisters did not set out to create a “signature dish”; they never wrote a cookbook or published their recipe; they never even called it tarte Tatin. That recognition was bestowed upon them  after the sisters’ deaths.

Originally, the tarte Tatin was made with two regional apple varieties: Reine des Reinete Pippins), and Calville. Over the years, other varieties have tended to displace them. When choosing apples for a tarte Tatin, it is important to pick some that will hold their shape while cooking, and not melt into apple sauce.

So here is my story: Years ago (42) when I was pregnant with my oldest son, Chadwyck Montford Bennett Wirtz, who is now 41, I went to a cooking school in San Diego. I went once a week for a couple of years. I was working on my MA in Interior Design back in the time when everything was done on an actual drafting table, not CADD. I could no longer fit behind my drafting table to do my homework, so a I took a leave from school and needed something to do, so I went to cooking school and cooked and ate. I started my pregnancy at 110 pounds and gave birth at 185 pounds. Yes, I liked to eat what I cooked. No, I no longer weigh 185, but I still love to cook.

My middle son Kyle Michael Bennett Wirtz never loved chocolate, which seems totally foreign to me. He loved this Tarte Tatin and I would make it holidays for him, when everyone else wanted chocolate. It is still one of my favorites and Kyle is now 37, so when I made this today it made smile and think of him.

And yes it is much better with bourbon whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The cooking school was in San Diego and called “The Gibson Girl”. It was a great concept as two people shared a cooking station, we all cooked part of the meal and we all shared it at the end of the evening. I have great memories of that time.

At about eight months the class was featured on TV and they loved that a “very” pregnant woman was taking the class. I continued the class well after Chadwyck, my first of three sons was born. We had a dinner where all the spouses were invited and Chadwyck’s father was thrilled to attend as he loved to eat and loved showing off his six month old son.

I will never forget, Chadwyck was sitting on Fred’s (Chadwyck’s Dad) shoulders and I looked over to see my quite cholicky son start to leave a deposit on my husband’s head. I looked over in horror to see it run off his head over his face and ears and down the sides of his custom-made suit, Fred being totally unaware. I started laughing and everyone, much to his dismay looked his way and broke out laughing. Luckily Fred was always a great spirit, so he started laughing as someone handed him a nearby towel.

This recipe was from The Cordon Bleu of Paris and to this day is one of my favorites. It is an easy recipe if you remember to cover the handle and can flip the tarte.

I use Italian Joe’s Pie Crust Recipe, which I will add at the end. I change the recipe a bit and will add the changes I make to the original recipe:

TARTE TATIN

The amazing thing about Tarte Tatin is how the caramelized apples are somehow transformed into something entirely new while still retaining their distinct apple taste. It’s one of the easiest desserts I’ve attempted it make, but a little challenging. It’s easy because it’s baked upside down, which means there is no need for special decorations or even beautiful rolling of the dough. The real challenge is finding the right balance when caramelizing the apples. Julia Child captures the essence of the dessert in this quote.

“To be sure, a Tarte Tatin should be brown and sweet, but it needs to be more. The apples need to be cooked in sugar and butter long enough that they are not only coated in buttery caramel but also permeated with sweetness. Like what happens in jam-making, where some of the water in the fruit is replaced by sugar.”

The following recipe is courtesy of Julia Child’s book The Way to Cook, published in 1994.

Tarte Tatin Recipe

Ingredients for Pastry Dough
3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons chilled butter, diced
2 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening
1/4 cup ice water, or as needed

Ingredients for Tart Tatin
6 Golden Delicious apples, cored, peeled and halved ( I use 9 to 10)
1 lemon, zested and juiced ( I just add lemon juice to apples as I peel and slice them)
1 1/2 cups sugar. ( I used 3/4 cup )
6 tablespoons unsalted butter. ( I use 8 tablespoons)
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, as accompaniment ( I like a bit of Gran Marnier in my whipped cream.

Directions
Preparing the dough. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place the flours, sugar and butter. Pulse 5 or 6 times in 1/2-second bursts to break up the butter. Add the shortening, turn on the machine and immediately add the ice water, pulsing 2 or 3 times. The dough should look like a mass of smallish lumps and should just hold together in a mass when a handful is pressed together. If the mixture is too dry, pulse in more water by droplets. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and with the heel of your hand, rapidly and roughly push egg-size blobs into a 6-inch smear. Gather the dough into a relatively smooth cake, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days).

Preparing the apples. Quarter, core, and peel the apples; cut the quarters in half lengthwise. Toss in a bowl with the lemon and 1/2 cup of sugar, and let steep 20 minutes so they will exude their juices. Drain them.

The caramel. Set the frying pan over moderately high heat with the butter, and when melted blend in the remaining 1 cup sugar. Stir about with a wooden spoon for several minutes, until the syrup turns a bubbly caramel brown – it will smooth out later, when the apples juices dissolve the sugar. (I let the butter and sugar blend and then add in the apples)

Arranging the apples in the pan. Remove from heat and arrange a layer of apple slices nicely in the bottom of the pan to make an attractive design. Arrange the rest of the apples on top, close packed and only reasonably neat. Add enough so that they heap up 1 inch higher than the rim of the pan – they sink down as they cook. ( As you can see from my photo I do them in a circle, then add some extra in between, so it is tight.)

Preliminary stove-top cooking. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F for the next step, placing the rack in the lower middle level. Set the pan again over moderately high heat, pressing the apples down as they soften, and drawing the accumulated juices up over them with the bulb baster – basting gives the apples a deliciously buttery caramel flavor. In several minutes, when the apples begin to soften, cover the pan and continue cooking 10 to 15 minutes, checking and basting frequently until the juices are thick and syrupy. ( I do not press on the apples or put a lid, as the apples are up and over the rim of the pan). Remove from heat, and let cool slightly while you roll out the dough. ( I do not let cool and have the dough ready to go)

The dough cover. Roll the chilled dough into a circle 3/16 inch thick and 1 inch larger than the top of your pan. Cut 4 steam holes, 1/4-inch size, 1 1/2 inches from around the center of the dough. Working rapidly, fold the dough in half, then in quarters; center the point over the apples. Unfold the dough over the apples. Press the edges of the dough down between the apples and the inside of the pan. ( I roll the dough around my rolling pen and gently unroll on the top of the apples)

Bake and serve. Bake about 20 minutes at 425 degrees F. Bake until the pastry has browned and crisped. Being careful of the red-hot pan handle, remove from the oven. Still remembering that the pan is red-hot, turn the serving dish upside down over the apples and reverse the two to unmold the tart. ( I was taught to start at 475 degrees and bake for about 10 minutes or until it starts to look done and the liquid is sizzling, then turn to 425 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the crust is a lovely medium brown)

Serve hot, warm, or cold, with the optional whipped cream or ice cream.

Now the fun part!
After you take your tart out of the oven, you can test to see whether it’s ready be unmolded. Simply tilt the pan, and if the juices are runny rather than a thick syrup, boil down rapidly on top on the stove. However, be sure not to evaporate them completely or the apples will stick to the pan. If a few apples stick to the pan, rearrange the slices as necessary.

(I run a knife around the pan, put a protective cover on the handle, as once I sort of forgot it was really, really hot and had a lovely burn for quite a while. Make sure you have a nice flat beautiful plate to flip the tarte on). Eat and enjoy!

Italian Joe’s Pie Crust

Ingredients:

3 cups (375g) Plain Flour (unbleached and unfortified)
2 tbsp Sugar

1 tsp Salt

2 sticks (220g) of Butter 
(small cold cubed)
1 beaten Egg mixed with
3/4 cup Milk (cold)

  1. Mix flour, sugar & salt to evenly distribute the dry ingredients
  2. Place mixture into a food processor
  3. Add cold butter cubes with the flour mix and give it a few pulses until it transforms into small pea-sized crumbs
    (Use cold utensils if not using a food processor to not melt butter)
    3) Add egg and milk mixture to the processor while pulsing a few more times until the mixture comes together or take the mixture out to the work surface
  4. Make a well with the flour crumbs mixture adding the egg and milk mixture in the well and lightly handling the mixture
    (do not knead)
  5. Incorporate all ingredients together to form a dryish dough
  6. Wrap it well with cling film & refrigerate for 1 hour
  7. Roll out the dough split it in half for two pie crust and roll it out bigger than the pie dish
  8. Fit the rolled out pie dough in the greased and floured pie dish making sure pie dough is press all around the crevices of the dish so it doesn’t sink in or collapse when cooking.
  9. Cut around the edge of the pie dish and refrigerate again for 20 before egg washing it and filling it with pie filling and cooking in the oven.
    Enjoy!
Tarte Tatin

HOW TO BUILD A BEAUTIFUL CHARCUTERIE BOARD

I found this article on food.com and really enjoyed it, as I love a great Charcuterie Board and this article gave something to think about.  Although my boards usually look pretty good, they are not as beautiful as the one shown below.

Entertaining 101

 

Do you ever scroll through picture-perfect cheese boards and think, “I could never do that”? The good news is, it’s a lot easier than it looks! Just follow this easy, step-by-step tutorial to build an epic charcuterie board for any occasion.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: CHEESE!

FIRST THINGS FIRST: CHEESE!

Choose 3-4 types and a mix of soft and hard cheeses, all served at room temperature: Goat, Gruyere, Gorgonzola, Manchego, Burrata, Brie, Sharp Cheddar, White Cheddar, Havarti, Boursin

Think of  creative ways to display your cheese:
* Cubed and piled up to add height and dimension
* Cut into thin, square slices and fanned out along the edge of the board
* Cut into thin, triangular slices and placed in a circle, with points facing in
* Served in large wedges for guests to cut themselves

 

MEET ME AT THE MEAT AISLE

MEET ME AT THE MEAT AISLE

Choose 2-3 types, preferably pre-sliced: Salami, Prosciutto, Sopressata, Pepperoni, Bresaola, Pâté, Smoked Salmon

Think of creative ways to display your meats:
* Fold round, thin slices of meat in half, then fold again.
* Arrange to form a salami rose bouquet!
* Roll up slices of prosciutto and stack them on top of each other.
* Sopressata is usually cut into thick rounds, so fan these across the board.

 

ADD CONDIMENTS + SIDEKICKS

ADD CONDIMENTS + SIDEKICKS

You can’t have condiments without bowls! Invest in a few ramekins for displaying sauces, dips and salty, briny snacks that complement your meats and cheeses. Think about which of these options you might add:   Honey, Whole Grain Mustard, Jam/Preserves, Infused Oil, Pickled Vegetables, Olives, Artichoke Hearts, Roasted Peppers, Cornichons and I personally like the idea of Sweet Chili Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, and Spicy Jams or Jellies

 

BRING THE COLOR WITH FRESH FRUIT

BRING THE COLOR WITH FRESH FRUIT

Try a mix of fresh fruits that are flavorful and abundant all year long (like Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Cantaloupe, Grapes) and dried fruit for options that are only available seasonally (like Mango, Apricots, Figs, Cranberries).

Creative ways to display fruit:
* Cut long, thin wedges of cantaloupe and fan them out or wrap thin slices of prosciutto around the middle.
* Choose whole dried figs and halve them to display their pretty seeds and centers.  If fresh figs are in season, that is even better.

LET’S. GET. CRUNCHY.

LET’S GET CRUNCHY.

Nuts and crackers or crisps are easy additions that require no extra prep work! Choose a few to round out your board: Pistachios, Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Cashews, Mini Toasts, Seeded Crackers, Cheese Twists, Water Crackers, Crispy Breadsticks, Pita Chips

* Use nuts to fill in any gaps in your board by stacking them in piles around other ingredients.
* Add extra height and interest by placing breadsticks or cheese twists upright and fanning crackers across the board in swirls.

FINISH WITH A LITTLE RAZZLE DAZZLE

FINISH WITH A LITTLE RAZZLE DAZZLE

When it comes to finishing touches, garnishes go a long way to add a hint of color and freshness. Try: Rosemary Sprigs, Basil Leaves, Mint Sprigs, Fresh or Dried Lavender

 

NO BOARD, NO PROBLEM

NO BOARD, NOT A PROBLEM

Don’t have a wooden board handy and prefer not to buy one? Feel free to use everyday kitchen tools like a pizza paddle, cast iron skillet or a sheet pan of any size to display the fruits of your labor (pun intended)!

 

 

HOW TO BUILD A BEAUTIFUL CHARCUTERIE BOARD

What’s the Difference?

Yellow, White, and Red Onions

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Today, I decided to make Gyros for dinner and was looking up recipes for the sauce and what to add in the Gyro itself. Most recipes called for onions, not specifying which to use.  I got curious about why you use certain onions for certain things and can they be interchangeable.  I found the following information useful.

Wonder why some recipes call for a particular kind of onion and whether another can be substituted in its place?

 

All these onions vary slightly in flavor, texture, and color, but can usually be substituted for one another. In terms of cooking, they will all behave the same in the pan.

When buying onions, go for ones that feel heavy in your hand and firm. Avoid soft onions or ones that have a sharp oniony odor before peeling. These are indications that the onion is old. Except for sweet onions, all these onions can be stored for several weeks in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard.

 

Yellow Onions  This is the all-purpose onion, and it’s the one we use most often. Yellow onions have a nice balance of astringency and sweet in their flavor, becoming sweeter the longer they cook. They are usually fist-sized and have a fairly tough outer skin and meaty layers. Spanish onions are a particular kind of yellow onion and we find them to be slightly sweeter and more delicate in flavor.

 

White Onions – These onions tend to have a sharper and more pungent flavor than yellow onions. They tend to be more tender and have a thinner, more papery skin. They can be cooked just like yellow onions, but we like them minced and added to raw salsas and chutneys.

 

Sweet Onions – Walla Walla and Vidalia are the most common kinds of sweet onions. These onions lack the sharp, astringent taste of other onions and really do taste sweet. They are fantastic thinly sliced and served in salads or on top of sandwiches. They can range in color from white to yellow and often have a flattened or squashed appearance. Sweet onions tend to be more perishable and should be stored in the refrigerator.

 

Red Onions – With their deep purple outer skin and reddish flesh, these are really the odd guys out in the onion family. They are fairly similar to yellow onions in flavor, though their layers are slightly less tender and meaty. Red onions are most often used in salads, salsas, and other raw preparations for their color and relatively mild flavor. The lovely red color becomes washed out during cooking. If you find their flavor to astringent for eating raw, try soaking them in water before serving.

Onions are a garden favorite and can be eaten raw, in salsas and salads, and cooked into your favorite recipes. Home gardeners can choose from onion varieties that are mildly sweet to pungent. Because onions are affected by the amount of light they receive, some grow better in the North, while others perform better in the South. Short-day onions begin forming bulbs when daylight lasts 10-12 hours and are often the sweetest and best for eating raw. They’re most often grown in the South. Long-day onions begin forming bulbs when daylight lasts 14-16 hours. They are usually pungent, often store well for many months, and are usually grown in the North. Day-neutral onions are a cross of the two types. Onions can be started from seeds, sets, and plants.

Shallots

Shallots have a subtle flavor that is much milder than onions or garlic and are a favorite of gourmet cooks. Their flavor really shines when sautéed in butter or olive oil. Like green onions, their green shoots and bulbs are edible and the green shoots can be used as a green onion or scallion substitute. While shallots can be grown from seed, growing them from sets is often easiest. After harvest, cured bulbs can be stored for up to six months.

Leeks

Leeks look like overgrown green onions but have a milder, more delicate flavor than onions. The white base and green stalk are used for cooking in creamy soups, fresh, stocks and more. Leeks can be direct seeded outdoors or started indoors and transplanted into the garden. Thinning during the growing allows the plant to grow much larger. After harvest, leeks can keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks—or they can be dried for storage.

Remember…

Onions, shallots, and leeks are not considered interchangeable when it comes to cooking, even though some blogs and websites might say they are interchangable. Make sure you use whichever your recipe calls for, as the distinct flavor of each may alter the taste of your dish.

 

Do you have a favorite kind of onion?

 

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These kitchens would be great for someone who doesn’t cook. Those of us who do need places to store things.
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Definitely, regular use of the range hood fan and cleaning of the filters is a good way to remove the odors and nasty fumes created by cooking.One thing I’d like to point out about reducing the oily residue that adheres to the exhaust fan is that certain cooking techniques create more sticky, aerosolized nastiness than others, and some grease and oil films are more resistant to cleanup than others, too, esp if allowed to sit and harden.Stir frying is the worst for creating aerosolized oily fumes that cling to surfaces around the stove and kitchen, with or without a range hood fan. The heat, the open pan, the constant motion continually kicks up oily fumes that settle on surfaces much farther than most cooks realize.Cooking low and slow takes more time, but also reduces the amount of oil and grease splattering into the air and around the stove, often producing better food in the process. Simmering, braising, and slow cooking generally create less oily mess to clean up overall. Cooking in a pressure cooker saves time and keeps open pot cooking time to a minimum, therefore reduces splatter and aerosolized fumes.Furthermore, oil sprays, such as PAM and knockoffs, create a LOT of sticky, persistent aerosolized oil drift that is VERY difficult to wash away once it hardens and dries – newer formulas claim to create less residue on cookware, but less isn’t none. Spray cookware over the sink for easier cleanup of overspray, or spray outside the house (or better yet, don’t spray at all and avoid filling lungs with oily spray, too).Cooking in open pans with polyunsaturated oils from seeds (vegetable oil, canola, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil sunflower oil, etc., tends to promote oily fume creation. Fumes from polyunsaturated oils settle on surfaces and then become rancid, hardened, and quite plasticized. These films are very resistant to scrubbing and cleansers.I have found that cooking with traditional and more stable fats like butter, ghee, tallow, bacon drippings, duck fat, and coconut or palm oil tends creates less oily fumes (esp if food is cooked low and slow instead of stir-frying and high heat sautéing). Splatters will still occur round the pan perhaps, but they tend not to aerosolize and form thin sticky fumes that create resistant films to the same extent as polyunsaturated oils when they settle on kitchen surfaces.I became aware of the the change in the rate of oily film buildup in my range hood and surfaces adjacent to my stove when my cooking changed over the past few years – I had stopped using and buying seed oils and making quick sauté recipes. Instead I made more traditional braising and simmering recipes using traditional fats instead of oils. The lack of oily film buildup after several years of cooking differently was particularly noticeable when we were away for four months last year and had house sitters in our house during our absence; they stir fried most of their meals on high heat with a liquid oil. While the stove and kitchen was generally clean at first glance when we returned home, an oily residue had settled inside and outside the range hood and on the cabinets around the stove , and was far worse than I’d ever experienced with my own cooking, even when the range fan hadn’t been working.
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What’s the Difference?

Simple Kitchen Habits

It doesn’t have to be fancy to be a little more efficient.

Whether you learned to cook from your parents, taught yourself on YouTube, or graduated from a culinary program, we all have certain ways about moving about the space of a kitchen. Some of those are deeply ingrained, and you might not even realize that you’re doing them. Some of them might be thanks to the space that you’re working in, or the particular mechanics of the food you prepare at home.  A culinary techniques program might help you to step back and reassess the way that you use your kitchen and make cooking easier.

Having proper equipment is important. A good sturdy bowl and cutting board will make your life easier. How you organize your space and move through it might be one of the first things to change in your kitchen. Here are a few good kitchen habits that will help.

Read the Recipe All the Way Through First

This might seem like really obvious advice to you, sort of like “measure twice, cut once.” But it’s easy to glance through the list of ingredients and the basic preparation without looking through the whole recipe, only to realize that it requires more time or different equipment than you have on hand. It’s equally easy to miss what turns out to be a crucial step when you’re working quickly and haven’t seen it before. Take time and read it, and get into the habit of always doing that before you even set off to the grocery store, and it will save you a lot of hassle.

Invest in Kitchen Towels

At the beginning of every class for my culinary program, I would set up my station, which meant cleaning and sanitizing my workspace, setting up my knives and tools, grabbing a giant cutting board from a rack, and folding a stack of side towels into quarters so I could easily grab them. I went through probably five towels a class, and we used them for everything. They act as potholders and as an easy way to stabilize a bowl you’re whipping cream or to put under your cutting board to keep it in place.  At the end of class, we put them in a giant laundry bag.

At home, it’s easy to be precious about your kitchen towels, which are often printed with something decorative. If you don’t have kitchen towels that you don’t mind staining, grab some cheap ones at Home Goods or TJX Maxx. Keep a stack of them easily available to you while you work. Use a towel or two each time you’re doing serious cooking, and then throw it in the wash. It’ll cut down a lot on your paper towels, and you’ll always have something handy to insulate your hand from a hot pan or wipe up a small spatter.

Hone Your Knife Often

A dull knife is an enemy of even knife cuts, and of your fingers. But people tend to concentrate far more on sharpening their knives than honing them, and honing can maintain your knife’s sharpness a lot more easily. When you sharpen a knife, you’re actually taking a small amount of the material off the blade of the knife to return it to its edge. Unless you’re using your knife very heavily every day you probably don’t need to sharpen your knife more than once or twice a year. Instead, you can realign the blade using a honing rod, and help extend the sharpness of your knives. It helps to hone it fairly often when you’re cooking, whenever you feel the blade begin to drag a bit. And it’s much cheaper than buying a new knife.

Now I personally found this advice off, as I re-sharpen mine every time I use it.

Have a Trash Bowl

When you’re prepping vegetables or meat, designate a bowl nearby that you can put scraps from your cutting board into. That way you don’t have to interrupt your workflow by running to dump things into the trash every few minutes, and you can more clearly see what kind of scraps you’re working with and whether they’d be useful for something like a chicken stock later on.

In my kitchen the trash is right below where I cut and chop, so I finish I just scrap it into the trash, but I was lucky enough to design my own kitchen.

Keep Two Olive Oils on Hand

Olive oil is one of the things you tend to go through a lot of in the kitchen if you cook a lot, and though it would be nice use extremely nice olive oil for everything, it doesn’t make sense, or even for the flavors of lots of things. For that reason have one more affordable but still good olive oil on hand for everyday tasks like cooking eggs or vegetables, and one higher-end one in a smaller bottle for drizzling over salad or good bread, when the flavor is really pronounced. For every day, California Olive Ranch’s Every Day Extra Virgin Olive Oil makes a great oil that’s available and affordable, and for when I want something peppery and a little nicer,  reaching Gaea’s DOP Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Use what tastes good to you and what you can afford. Just make sure that you’re storing it well and use it within a few months. Otherwise, no matter how nice your oil is, it’ll go rancid.

Keep Your Salt Easily Accessible and Use It Liberally

 

The single easiest thing you can do to make yourself a better cook is to put the salt you use for seasoning in a bowl, rather than keeping it in a shaker or a container with a pour spout. It’s a really good habit to get into because you can more easily add pinches or palmfuls of salt into what you’re making and get a feel for how much you need for it to taste right. It’s also easy to be afraid of adding salt for fear of making a dish too salty. When you’re seasoning a dish, using salt is what makes the ingredients taste more like themselves.

Weigh, Don’t Measure

This is another adage that you’ve probably heard, but it is shocking how much a kitchen scale can make a difference in your whole cooking and baking game. But the measuring spoons and cups are probably right there, and well, it’s easier to reach for them. Make it easy to reach for the scale and a bowl, and you’ll get in the habit of doing that for ingredients that really need to be precise, like flour or sugar when baking.

Prep Before You Start Cooking

No one has unlimited times in their lives. It’s a normal thing to want to start the dish and the cut up the carrots or celery or whatever to go into it. And it’s a strategy that can work, or it can leave you frantically hacking at the tomatoes while the onions go from brown to burned in the pan. If you have your ingredients measured and prepped before you start, it’s going to make the cooking process that much smoother. There’s often room in recipes for you to cut and prep things while something else is simmering, a thing you’ll discover when you read the recipe all the way through. But at least prepare the things you know you’re going to need immediately, or during a time-sensitive step in the process. Leave the garnish for later.

Pay Attention to Ingredient Temperature

Can you use the egg straight from the refrigerator or does it need to come to room temperature? In baking, you’ve probably run into butter that needs to be softened or melted and cooled before incorporating it into a batter. Other cooking is the same way, particularly when it comes to proteins. Letting your meat come to room temperature will help it cook more evenly, and having your water hot or cold before you add it can alter the outcome of what you’re making. Making a mental note to keep tabs on how warm things are while your working is a good habit to get into.

Simple Kitchen Habits

What Is a Convection Oven—and What Should You Cook In It?

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An oven is an oven, right? Wrong. Many professional chefs swear by a convection oven for evenly cooked, perfectly browned foods. So should you invest in one for your own kitchen?

My oven has a convection mode, so I found this information interesting and hope to incorporate it in my cooking in the future.

Understanding why, when, and how to use a convection oven (or a convection setting) can make a world of difference in how your food turns out. Here’s what you need to know about convection oven cooking:

Convection Oven Vs. Conventional Oven

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A conventional (or traditional) oven cooks food by heating the air inside of it. The air inside the oven remains stagnant. A convection oven, meanwhile, has built-in fans that circulate the air during the cooking process. Many ovens have both convection and conventional settings, allowing you to choose between the two.

Convection Oven Pros

The convection setting on your oven can benefit your food in a number of ways, like:

It cooks food evenly.

Conventional ovens can have hot spots or areas in the oven that heat faster and higher than in other areas. This can result in unevenly cooked food, where one side cooks faster than the other. The circulating air of a convection oven keeps the temperature even throughout cooking, which is especially helpful when roasting a whole turkey or toasting nuts.

mr- classic roast turkey

It cooks food faster. Food cooks about 25 percent faster in a convection oven because the hot air blowing directly onto the food speeds up chemical reactions within the oven.

It’s better at browning. If you’re after a crispy or crunchy texture, reach for the convection setting. Conventional ovens are prone to humidity because of a lack of ventilation. Convection ovens, however, produce dry air that caramelizes sugars during roasting.

It’s more energy efficient. Faster cooking times mean you’re using less energy. Theoretically, using the convection setting can save you money and help the environment.

Convection Oven Cons

Though it can often improve your food, a convection oven isn’t always appropriate. In fact, you should probably steer clear of it when you’re making delicate foods like cakes, souffles, bread, and custard. The air circulation can inhibit the setting process, causing batter not to rise properly.

Some people claim that you should never use the convection setting for cooking American baked goods like biscuits, cakes, and cookies.

Many American recipes were developed using a conventional oven and actually benefit from the moisture that comes from humidity. Dry air will speed up crust formation, which may affect how (and if) your recipe rises during the cooking process.

Using the convection setting during baking could result in flat, fluff-less cookies, cakes, and biscuits, and no one wants that.

What Can You Use If You Don’t Have a Convection Oven?

If your oven doesn’t have a convection setting, you don’t have to buy a new oven to reap the rewards of convection cooking. Believe it or not, you can often substitute an air fryer for the convection setting. Both appliances work by circulating hot air around the food being cooked, providing quick, crispy, and evenly cooked results. While they’re not exactly the same thing, the hot air in an air fryer circulates much faster and is not blown directly onto the food. You should definitely consider trying it out before splurging on a new oven. One caveat: Air fryers are much smaller than convection ovens so plan your meal accordingly.

How to Use a Convection Oven

Sheet Pan Chicken with Roasted Baby Potatoes

Though using the convection setting on your oven is as simple as pushing a button, there are a few things you should know:

You might need to adjust recipes. Most recipes you find in cookbooks and online were developed using a traditional oven, so you’ll have to tweak them a bit. Lowering the recommended temperature by 25 degrees should do the trick. Since food cooks faster in a convection oven, you’ll need to check it’s progress frequently to make sure it’s not burning.

Give your food room to breathe. You may have heard warnings against overcrowding the pan during roasting (we’re looking at you, Julia Child fans), but it’s especially important to make sure your food is spaced properly when you’re using a convection oven. Convection relies on air being able to circulate, and packing too much onto one pan can hinder that process. You should avoid crowding the oven with too many pans at one time, as you could block a fan.

Use low-sided or rimless baking sheets and pans. If you want to take full advantage of the convection setting, you should make sure that nothing is keeping the moving air from blowing onto the food, and that includes the sides of your pans. It’s all about circulation!

What Is a Convection Oven—and What Should You Cook In It?

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