Sunday, August 29, 2010

how to use a kitchen scale

measuring stuff

[And ditch your measuring cups forever!] Count me among those who rejoice whenever a recipe is presented in weights. Why? Because nothing is more accurate. A cup of flour, packed different ways, can weigh anything from 4 to 7 ounces! But a 4.5 ounce cup will always be a 4.5 ounce cup. Plus, nothing uses fewer dishes. A one-bowl cake is truly a one-bowl (and one spoon) recipe, messes are minimized and cooking becomes a flow that it is not when you’re rifling around in your drawer-o-kitchen-crap for the bleeping quarter teaspoon measure. A few people have asked me lately how exactly one uses a scale to measure ingredients, and this post is for them:

It all comes down to taring or zeroing out the existing weight of what you’ve got. Place you empty bowl on your scale and “tare” or “zero out” you weight. (On most digital scales, which I think are the easiest for kitchen use, you simply hit the “On/Clear” button again. On a mechanical scale, you can turn a knob back to the zero mark; on a balance scale, you would set the pointer to the center mark, but somehow I doubt you’re using a balance scale in your kitchen, right?) Add your first ingredient, slowly, until the scale reaches the weight you need. Zero it out again. Add the next ingredient. Zero it out again. If the recipe calls for you to whisk, whip, or blow gentle kisses across the surface of your ingredients, go do that too, but when it calls for the next ingredients, re-zero out the weight of the bowl so that you can continue.

You’ll have this method down in no time. You’ll wonder why you hadn’t tried it sooner. And when the rest of the world (coughUSAcough) gets on this weighed ingredients bandwagon, you’ll wonder what you’ll do with all of the extra drawer space you once devoted to a tangle of dash-pinch-teaspoon-cup measuring implements. I’m voting for stashing chocolate.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

not all salts are created equally

salting

Have you ever used Kosher salt in a recipe and found the end result to be like a salt lick and you couldn’t imagine how on earth a recipe tester could have not noticed how horribly, horribly oversalted the dish would end up? Let me guess: you were using Morton Kosher Salt. Guess what the recipe tester was probably using? Diamond Kosher Salt. And I know what you’re thinking: Now you tell me!

Believe it or not, I only learned about this disparity weeks ago but I had suspected something was wonky for a while. I use Diamond Kosher Salt so I hadn’t run into the issue but I’ve often received comments that people found even a lightly-salted dish way over the top. In short, Morton and Diamond are made differently; Morton salt presses salt granules into large flakes with rollers; Diamond, through a patented process, stacks salt pyramids to form a large crystal — one is dense, the other is like a snowflake. One is intensely salty for its volume, the other has an expected level of saltiness.

Continued after the jump »

Sunday, April 4, 2010

make your own crème fraîche

Crème fraîche, the ultra-rich, slightly tangy and impossibly dreamy cream I like to stir into pastas and soups and drizzle over baked fruit desserts is not carried in every grocery store, and even where it is, it’s not exactly the most budget-minded ingredient. Here’s how you can make your own at home: Mix one cup of room temperature heavy or whipping cream with two tablespoons of butter milk in a glass jar and cover. Let it stand at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours, or until it thickens. Stir well and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

how to make an overly obsessive spice rack

new, improved

Five years ago, I moved into an apartment with a skylight over the kitchen and built-in spice shelves along a wall and decided to overhaul my mess of spice bottles and bags to make them fitting for such a pretty display. I looked for containers that would be uniform, have a wide mouth (to easily dip measuring spoons or fingers for a “pinch” in), were opaque (so that the sunlight wouldn’t damage the spices over time) and wouldn’t cost a fortune to buy in the quantity I needed.

Continued after the jump »

Sunday, January 10, 2010

too many egg whites?

Don’t you hate it when a recipe calls for egg yolks by the half-dozen but doesn’t help you find a home for all of those extra egg whites? One thing you can do with them is to freeze them until you find yourself making an egg white-demanding recipe, but if you’re more impatient than that, here are some Smitten Kitchen recipes that call for whites, not yolks: Spingy Fluffy Marshmallows, Mom’s Chocolate Chip Meringues, Mixed Berry Pavlova, 7-Minute Frosting, Chewy Amaretti Cookies, Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts, Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake, Pink Lady Cake, Almond Raspberry Layer Cake and, of course, in droves, Swiss Meringue Buttercream. [I’ll update this post as we produce more egg white focused recipes.]

Need even more inspiration? Check out David Lebovitz’s suggested uses for extra egg whites. Now get whisking!