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!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

why did my cookies spread?

This is the most frequent cry of despair I get from the comment sections of cookie recipes on Smitten Kitchen and the truth is that there are many, many factors that can cause a cookie to spread. But the biggest one? Temperature. Dough that is too warm or soft will spread more than dough that is cooler, so if you’re working in a very warm kitchen, putting your dough in the fridge for 15 minutes or longer before using it will help prevent spread. Butter that is too warm or soft is also a major culprit. When a recipe calls for “softened” or “at room temperature” butter, you’re looking for butter that you can make an impression in by poking it with your finger, but that impression shouldn’t stay. (Source). A baking sheet that is still warm from the last batch will encourage cookies to spread before they even begin to bake.

There are factors beyond temperature too. A greased cookie sheet promotes spreading; one tip is to flour it after you grease it to hinder spread, or to use silicone paper or a Silpat mat instead. Because sugar liquefies as it is heated, a more sugary cookie (with less flour and/or fat in it) is more likely to spread than one with a lower proportion of sugar. When a recipe says to “cream” your butter and sugar together, just beat it long enough to combine the ingredients — about 30 seconds on an electric or stand mixer, says David Lebovitz — so you do not whip too much air into your cookies, causing too much expansion as the air bubbles steam in the oven. (With cakes, there’s no such limit on airiness.) Finally, at higher altitudes, cookies with baking soda in them tend to spread more.

Lastly, it is worth noting that butter, which melts at your body’s temperature and is nearly one-fifth water, spreads more than margarine, and both spread more than shortening. Now, all cookie recipes on Smitten Kitchen are all-butter (because I like butter’s melt-in-your-mouth feel and flavor above all else), so making sure that your butter, dough and baking sheets aren’t too warm is especially key.


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