Tips Archive

Saturday, July 26, 2008

blueberry pancakes + pancake 101

blueberry pancakes

In the Great Deposit of Food Phobias post, a few of you said that you were afraid of making pancakes and my instant un-asked-for retort is that you all clearly didn’t grow up in my house, where I am pretty sure that knowing when to flip a pancake was one of the first cooking tricks I ever learned.

Mom made pancakes at least a couple weekends a month, and was loyal to the Joy of Cooking recipe, a page so batter-stained and grimy, I am pretty sure the book falls open to it even when the red ribbon isn’t at that page, which is never. And though I promise not to judge you, please, whatever you do, don’t say that Schmisquick word to my mother. It upsets her. I still remember sleeping over my friend’s house and coming over and saying that her mom made pancakes for breakfast, and that they were okay.

“Pfft,” my mother said. “She uses [that word that rhymes with Schmisquick].”

blueberry pancake love

Mom was ruthless, and apparently I wasn’t much better. In college, my friends and I took to driving out to the 24-hour IHOP in Arlington whenever it struck our fancy, but I never ordered pancakes. At IHOP. Because they tasted like they were from a mix. And my mother, rather than discouraging the “Pancake Snob” label my friends were giving me, beamed with pride.

But that’s enough about all the ways my mother poisoned me against anything but homemade things. I’d much rather take you on a tour of how easy pancakes can be.

blueberry pancakes

10 Pancake Tips
Continued after the jump »

Thursday, June 12, 2008

10 paths to painless pizza-making

10 paths to painless pizza-making

As you may have noticed, we’re kind of into pizza in the smitten kitchen. I mean, just a little. I can’t help it–in my mind, it combines the best things on earth: homemade bread, charred-edged ingredients, pairing well with a green salad and wine, and–the way I make it, at least–it never feels like a heavy meal.

Every time I post about pizza, I answer at least five or seven of the same ten questions in the comments, so I thought that it was time to create a FAQ on the topic that will hopefully answer all of your questions (feel free to ask additional ones in the comments) in one tidy URL. Consider this a primer for the new pizza recipe I will tell you about next.

Like the bread-making tips I shared way back in the newborn days of this site, my point of these are not to fill your head with reminders and cautionary tales that will cause you more worry when you get into the kitchen–there are enough sites that do that, I know that for many people, anything yeast-based is scary enough. Instead, I want to impart to you how easy it can be, and how strongly I feel that anyone on earth can succeed in making impressive pizza at home. I hope this helps.

Continued after the jump »

Saturday, November 17, 2007

pie crust 101

pastry blender

To begin, I want to make a note about the zillions of pie dough recipes out there: I barely buy it. Not the value of a recipe, mind you, but that new ones will ever come to pass. At their very base, they’re all just some type of solid fat (butter, shortening or lard) cut with powdery ingredients (flour, sometimes salt and sugar) bound with a liquid (usually water, but some folks get creative with milk, cream, buttermilk or vodka), and I’m amused that every year, so many cooking publications feel a need to pronounce that By Golly, They’ve Got It! They’ve found the perfect pie dough. In my mind, it was never lost.

That said, Cooks Illustrated is really onto something grand this year, so thank you to all who pointed me in this recipe’s direction. That thing is vodka, my friends. Yes, I think they’re brilliant too. But really, vodka, because it is 80-proof, will mostly evaporate in the oven, meaning that your crust gets the liquid it needs but much of it will not stay. Worried about a boozy vibe to your pie? Vodka is, by definition, colorless and odorless, so once it’s baked, you’ll forget it was ever in there. Of course (aheeeeem) if you are the sort that likes to pick up small scraps of raw dough and eat them because, mm, butter is awesome, let’s just say that things can get a little messy and leave it at that. Really, it’s not always a bad thing.

pie crust 101, step onepie crust 101, step twopie crust 101, step threepie crust 101, step four

So let’s get started shall we? As I noted yesterday, I am a fan of the humble pastry blender–it’s simple, lo-fi, and uses minimal dishes–so I’ll be using that today. However, these same steps could be taken with your food processor or Kitchen Aid, if you’re partial to them.

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, August 23, 2007

smoke-roasted stuffed bell peppers

smoke-roasted stuffed bell peppers

Whoops! I hadn’t meant to abandon you like that, we just didn’t have internet connectivity on our last two days of the trip. It was like 1999 or something. I got the shakes. So, where did we leave off?

After Day One at the wineries and Days Two and Three at the grill, we spent our last day on a barely too brief to mention swing into San Francisco where we wandered the Ferry Market Building and lunched at the Slanted Door with friends before heading up to Berkeley. We had dinner with a gorgeous group of food bloggers that evening at Oliveto in Oakland, and on recommendation from the lovely Shuna, breakfast at Mama’s Royal the next morning. In between these gullet-gutting excursions, we found some time on Monday to wander about the Berkeley campus where we wallowed in nostalgia for our unscheduled college days and once wrinkle-free foreheads (fine, that was just me) before jetting back to the land of late dinners, humidity and the daily grind.

dinerdinerthe gnomes r comingdiner

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, February 15, 2007

for beaming, bewitching breads

dill bread

For months now, my obsession with bread making has snowballed, leaving me eager buy a bread-specific cookbook to further fill our apartment, and my idle hours, with kneaded deliciousness. I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m extraordinarily conservative about the cookbooks I buy. On one hand, it’s a space issue — isn’t it always? — but considering that this hasn’t kept me from buying a pasta-cranker, too many baking pans and, most insanely, six varieties of flours, it’s hard argue that an stuffed apartment is truly a deterrent. More accurately, I find it impossible to make decisions. Berebaum’s Bread Bible? Silverton’s La Brea Bakery? Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice? I always thought I wanted this book, but how can one ever know for sure? Thus, I delay and delay, as if owning two bread cookbooks would be a crime against humanity. (Please, speak up if there is a bread book that makes you swoon.)

But it doesn’t mean I’m twiddling my thumbs until new inspiration brings itself home. In fact, I’ve been discovering gems of bread recipes tucked right inside cookbooks I already have. What a concept! Beer breads and cheese breads and oaty fruity rolls and… well, I can’t tell you everything, can I? What suspense is there in that?

dill bread

Continued after the jump »


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