Tips Archive

Monday, December 21, 2009

how to host brunch (and still sleep in)

how to host brunch (and still sleep in)

I take brunch very, very seriously, so seriously that I don’t go out for it very often because, you see, few places do it right. The scones are chalky, the fruit cups are nothing but soggy raspberries and unloved green melon, the yogurt is too sweet; the baked eggs are either hard-cooked or have clear, unsettling whites and the toast, it never comes. Am I a brat with nothing but First World Problems? Indeed I am, but I make a mean brunch.

cream biscuits

I’m going to hazard a guess that in a week and season filled with house guests and sleeping in, you’ll spend a least one of these mornings forgoing your usual coffee and granola bar on-the-go for something social and substantial. And thank goodness, right? Here are the cornerstores I like a gather a brunch menu around: Something fresh, like a fruit salad, even better if you throw in a rich yogurt to spoon over them; something rich and eggy; something sweet, like a coffee cake, muffin, bread pudding or baked french toast; something bready like a biscuit or scone; something boozy, like mimosas, bloody marys or both and something unholy, like bacon or sausage. Or both, because it’s not January 1st yet.

winter fruit salad

Continued after the jump »

Saturday, March 14, 2009

layer cake tips + the biggest birthday cake yet

lit cake

My father-in-law, youthful guy that he is, turned 60 this past weekend and if you think I was going to allow my in-laws to purchase him a cake from a bakery, oh, you don’t know how even typing those words caused the shudder to rise up in my chest. A bakery cake! Promise me if I make it to 60, I get a homemade cake too. I hope to have leveraged enough cake-baking karma by then to not even have to ask.

two pounds of chocolate

But this isn’t about my father-in-law’s birthday cake, or not entirely. (But you’ll see the recipe later, you know, just in case you ever want to make your own 12-inch square insanely chocolaty cake.) I am long overdue to share with you many of my favorite layer cake tips. I get a lot of email about them, people asking about the logistics of putting them together and I realize I’ve absorbed a lot of advice over the last fifteen or so, and I’m overdue to sum it up in one neat place. So here we go!

ridiculous amount of ganache

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

pie crust 103: rolling and crimping

pie crust 103: rolling and crimping your dough

[Previous episodes: Pie Crust 101 & Pie Crust 102]

As you wish, my friends.

So, when we left off, you had all realized how much fun and easy it was to make pie dough at home, in no time flat while dirtying less than ten dishes. I suspect that each and every one of you ran to your fridge to pull out the ingredients and ten minutes later had your doughs neatly chilling back inside them. And now, all that it is left is getting those babies rolled out and filled with pumpkin or apple or cherries or lemon or … gah, I just hope you share with me.

There are only three things to remember when rolling out dough, and one you already know: cold. Work quickly so the dough stays cold (and also firm and easier to work with) and if it takes a few extra minutes and starts to soften, slide it onto the back of a tray and chill it in the freezer for two or three minutes. Second is flour; a whole lot of you said that your doughs stick to the counter and the rolling pin and your fingers and it’s really simple: be generous with flour. You can always brush extra off. It’s hard to add more to glued-on dough (but I’ll show you how to do that too). The third is to not freak out–even if it gets warm, even if it sticks, it’s gonna be a’ight. So here we go!

pie crust 103: 1pie crust 103: 3pie crust 103: 4pie crust 103: 5

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Monday, November 24, 2008

pie crust 102: all butter, really flaky pie dough

pie pie pie

I don’t believe in perfection, in life or in the kitchen. At best, everything we do is a work in progress that gets a tad closer each time we nudge and tweak it. Case in point, last year’s Pie Crust 101 tutorial: My goal was to convince dough-phobes that they needn’t fear the crust by showing how I made mine in five minutes flat, or seriously, way less time than one would spend buying one. My goodness, especially with the lines in the grocery stores this week, right?

Of course in the 12 months since, I’ve probably made about 12 additional doughs and I swear, every single time I think of something that wasn’t in that post and am certain you’ve been robbed. So, without further ado, here is Pie Crust 102: A few extra tips and adjustments. If you’re a pie dough noob, Pie Crust 101 is still all you will need to get the job done, but if you’re looking to take it a step or two further, here you go:

2006's apple pie

1. I’m over shortening. There, I said it. For most of my life, I didn’t believe in shortening in crusts. It had no flavor, it is rather icky and mysterious if you give it too much thought, and who cares about flakiness in a one-crust pie anyway? But then I weakened my resolve. All the Cook’s Illustrateds and Ina Gartens claimed that the only! best! way to make the flakiest! pie dough was to use shortening in part, and I do value their opinions so. I did this for about two years, and now I’m back to all butter, baby. Do you know why? Well, for all of the original reasons–flavor rules and ickiness is not worth it–but because I have also realized that when you really know how to make pie dough, it won’t matter which fat you use. So butter it is baby! I’ll never doubt it again.

2007's apple pie

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Friday, August 8, 2008

how to poach an egg, smitten kitchen-style

how to poach an egg

I am tortured by two opposing forces in my life: the fact that I love poached eggs–on anything and everything, from asparagus to slow-roasted slices of tomato, crisped cups of Canadian bacon, black bread, I could keep going… — and the fact that I’m terrible at making them.

And this is why it is so ridiculous amusing that I am giving you–or at least the eleven of you that said you were afraid of poaching eggs–a poached egg tutorial today. And by “today” I mean two days because it took me two tries to even get one worth photographing (though in my defense, holding the camera in your right hand while lowering an egg into a pot with your left does have a certain inevitability of disaster).

Obviously, this makes me some sort of expert, so let’s get started!

How to Poach an Egg

There are about as many methods to poaching eggs as there are eggs on this earth, from plastic wrap (sorry, ew) to poaching cups to cupcake liners seriously, I’ve lost track but I am sure that people will be eager to share their own in the comments. This is simply the one that works for me. When I’m not holding a camera in my other hand.

First, heat a pot with a few inches of water in it.

1: heat up some water

Put a splash of vinegar in the water. This helps tighten up the egg. I know there are strong pro- and anti-vinegar in egg-poaching waters out there, but like I said: this is just what works for me!

2: add a splash of vinegar

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