A chip off the ol’ block

Mmmm! Chocolate chips! Most people love them – but, only the good ones. In fact, ironically, most people I meet say, “I only like chocolate chip cookies with a few chocolate chips” or “I only like Milk Chocolate chips!” This puzzled me a long time – until I figured out the source! Bad ingredients produce bad products! I realized that when I made cookies for people with high-quality chocolate, they loved the cookies–entirely! They didn’t care if they were semi-sweet or milk, or if there were a ton of chips! They just loved the chocolate! So, upgrade your chocolate–even just a little–and you can see dramatic differences in your homebaked goods!

Mixed doubles?

If you’ve been meaning to supplement your kitchen with a full-size mixer (to supplement your KA Hand-Mixer) look no more! Really, this a bargain! The full-size KA 5-Quart Mixer is on sale for the Holidays for only $199. But, with the December deal, enter the code HOHOSAVE in the check-out, which will bring the price to $174.00. Also, KitchenAid is offering a $20 rebate on the machine, brining your grand total to only $154.00. So, if you’ve been hesitating to make this purchase, go for it now!! Oh, did I mention all of this is tax-free and free shipping? ;) Whatcha wait’n fer?

Press on!

When it comes to mincing garlic, many feel rather discouraged. It’s difficult to have those little suckers stay still while you chop them up. Then there’s the odor that never seems to leave your hands! Ugh! Might I introduce the ultimate in kitchen tools? The Zyliss Garlic Press. I really don’t think I could live without it! Again, I tried another off-brand, which turned out to be a total waste. The great thing about this new, updated model is that it can hold two or three cloves at once, which is usually how much you need, anyway!

When all else fails…

read the directions! Usually when people begin a sentence with, “I tried this new recipe – it was terrible!” The next few sentences invariably include, “I was out of ‘xxx’ ingredient, so I threw in ‘xxx’. I also hate ‘xxx’ so I left them out. Plus, I didn’t have the pan they called for, so I used ‘xxx’ instead.” Well, goodness! I’m not at all sure why that recipe didn’t work for you!

Though recipes can be “guidelines,” I truly don’t consider them as such. At least not the first time I make it. I consider them directions for the end goal. If you want what the picture looks like in the recipe book, follow the directions–exactly. No substitions or omissions. And please, don’t complain that the recipe was awful, when you didn’t follow the directions. Just call a spade a spade – “my” recipe was awful, not the one in the book.

Measure up!

More baking basics! When you are using a baking book, they will always introduce the book with a chapter of their basics. Be sure to read this chapter carefully abide by their rules. In some books, measuring flours require the dip and sweep method; others use the spoon and level method. If you use interchange the methods, it could be a large reason why you’re baked goods are failing.

A Gluten for Punishment

Most quick breads and cookie recipes will specify to not overstir the dough; ever wondered why? It’s actually a very simple explanation: flour + liquid = glue. So, when you over-beat your mix, you’re creating a glue (developing too much gluten), which causes your baked goods to be too tough! So, go gentle on the mixes and stir with caution!

If you can’t take the heat –

don’t get out of the kitchen! Just learn the rules. One of the “cooking common sense” failures that new chefs fail to abide by is having the pan hot enough. A pan should be set on the burner for at least five minutes before you add you food to it. The important part of cooking meat is creating the fond (crusty exterior) on the meat; if your pan is too cold, this won’t develop. In fact, if your pan is too cold, your meat will stick to it. The importance of heating that pan well isn’t just for the fond, but for a non-stick release, too.

Baked From Scratch