Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tips & Tricks: A Bitch in the Kitchen Extra

After my last post, one of my friends (waves to the nice park ranger in Virginia) said he liked the tip about dipping the glass in sugar before flattening the cookies.  That got me thinking.  There are a bunch of nifty little kitchen tips and tricks that, when put all together, would not only make a fabulous blog post, but also simplify life in the kitchen.  So here we are.  Let’s see…
·         A melon baller is a great tool for coring apples and pears.
·         Plastic wrap is waaaaay easier to handle if you store it in the refrigerator.
·         You know how a lot of cake recipes call for you to grease & flour the pan?  That can be a bit of a pain in the butt, no doubt, not to mention messy.  But…if you mix 2 parts shortening with 1 part flour, you can lightly brush the mixture onto your pans with a pastry brush.  Store the mixture at room temperature in a resealable plastic container and you’ll have it when you need it.
·         The holidays are coming and that means refrigerator space will be at a premium.  If you’re planning on having a party, you may already be wondering – perhaps even dreading the thought of - where the hell to put all those cans & bottles of soda & beer.  Fill the basket of your washing machine with ice cubes and nestle the cans and bottles in there.  When your party is over and the ice has melted, drain the water by running the spin cycle.
·         If your bread recipe makes 2 loaves but you only have one loaf pan, put it in the center of a 9” X 13” baking dish and put your shaped loaves on either side of it to bake.  And if your recipe makes 3 loaves, just put the third in the loaf pan.
·         Brown sugar that has hardened is not only impossible to mix into a batter but measuring it properly can’t be done either.  If you want to bring it back to its original texture, put about a cup of it in a glass bowl, cover it with a small piece of wax paper and put a slice of bread on top of that.  Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and nuke it for about 30 seconds or so.
·         You know that nice, silky look the frosting has on a professionally decorated cake?  If you blow-dry your cake after frosting it, it will melt just enough to get that smooth appearance.
·         When the need arises for transporting a frosted cake (without a cake carrier) most people will just stick toothpicks into the cake and put the plastic wrap on top of that.  And that’s great…except for when the points of the toothpicks poke through the plastic wrap and then the plastic wrap slides down and sticks to the frosting.  All of that mess can be avoided if you put a mini marshmallow on point of each toothpick.
·         Fresh mozzarella is too soft to slice neatly with a knife.  Your egg slicer will do the job faster & neater.  (Slice mushrooms & strawberries this way too!)
·         When decorating cookies, use a muffin tin to keep the decorations separate and organized.
·         Put your bowl and the whisk in the freezer for an hour or so before you’re ready to whip cream.  It whips up quickly and beautifully.
·         Speaking of whipped cream – soft peaks will bow over to the side when you lift the whisk or beaters.  Stiff peaks will cling to the beaters and hold their shape.  (The same applies to meringue.)
·         A damp sheet of paper towel under your cutting board will keep the cutting board in place.
·         The cap of your vanilla extract bottle is about a teaspoon.
·         Keep a bay leaf in your flour canister and you won’t need to worry about those icky meal worms.
·         If you put all the ingredients in your food processor bowl and put a sheet of plastic wrap on the work bowl before putting the lid on, you won’t need to wash the lid.
·         If you don’t have a gauge to tell you how much propane is left in the tank for your grill, pour a cup or so of boiling water down the side of the tank, then feel the metal.  The water will warm the empty part of the tank, leaving the part with propane cool to the touch.
·         Use thin pretzel sticks instead of toothpicks to skewer hors d’oeuvres for a party.  Tasty & environmentally friendly!
·         Travelling and need to bring your chef’s knife?  Slip it into a roll of paper towels.  The cardboard tube is wide enough to hold an 8” or 10” knife.
·         Want lasagna but don’t need enough for a small army?  Make single servings in mini-loaf pans.  Wrap, freeze & bake as needed. 
·         Alcohol hinders the formation of gluten, so next time you make a pie crust, instead of using ice water, add a couple of tablespoons of ice cold vodka (or rum or gin…).  Tender, flaky crust, every time!
·         Considering the price of vanilla beans, don’t throw the pods away after you scrape the seeds out.  Put the pod(s) in a container with a cup or 2 of sugar and let it sit for a couple of weeks.  The end result is your very own vanilla sugar that will enhance the flavor of anything you decide to bake with it!

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