Category Archives: Tools

Gadget: The Aeropress

 
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Aeropress Coffee Gadget For those of you who don’t already know, I’m a total computer geek.  Like most geeks, I’m obsessed with gadgets, and that is as true in the kitchen as it is in the rest of my life.  I wanted to start out this series of “Tools and Gadgets” posts by picking the single tool that I consider to be the most important thing in my kitchen, but I couldn’t choose between my cast iron frying pan and favorite knife (plus, they’re both rather boring topics to start off with).  However, when I woke up this morning, I knew exactly what I should do.

Apparently, word has gotten out that Jessica and I live in Seattle, a city obsessed with coffee.  I was never much of a coffee fan until Jessica introduced me to Turkish coffee a few years ago, which soon had me curious about espresso and other high-strength brewing methods (I still can’t drink “normal coffee” because it tastes watered down).  A coworker recently caught my attention with an unusual device he kept on his desk.  It’s made of industrial grade plastic, and doesn’t really look like anything to do with food, but he assured me that it produces some of the best coffee that anyone has ever tasted.  It’s called an Aeropress, and it’s made by Aerobie, a company better known for frisbees than for cooking.  I’ve been obsessed with this device ever since I got my first taste, and have been recommending it to friends and family alike for the last couple of months.  When I woke up this morning in need of some coffee, I knew that it would be the perfect thing to use for my first “Tools and Gadgets” post. Continue reading

Sugar Work Equipment

 
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Before I start showing any sugar work techniques, I want to give you an idea of what equipment I use and how I set it up. I don’t have every toy and gadget I’d like to, but what I do have is enough to play around with most of the techniques I’ve learned in the past.

Keep in mind that you don’t need all of this stuff to get started in the wonderful world of sugar! I’m planning on showing as many things as I can think of that require little or no specialized equipment besides a candy thermometer. Most of this equipment is only necessary for pulled and blown sugar. While those are sort of the main attractions of sugar work for many people, they aren’t the only thing you can do with it.


Sugar Work Equipment

Here is more or less how I’ve been setting my equipment up in this kitchen. Fortunately, I have a nice tall space in the center of our long counter where the side-by-side “vintage” oven and range used to be. (I don’t miss them at all!) Center stage is my sugar warming box. Mine is homemade by the chef I learned to do sugar from. Compare it to a commercially-produced version. Professional sugar equipment is expensive. For the most part, I recommend you make or improvise any of it that you can. Part of the fun of doing sugar or chocolate work is taking creative trips to the hardware store! I managed to find a blog post written by someone who made his own sugar warming box.

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Cuisinart Dough Blade

 
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We’ve had a Cuisinart food processor for years, and I’ve been using the standard blade for making pie dough for quite awhile with fairly decent results (I usually make an all-butter, 50% whole wheat dough, so it just can’t compete for texture with lard/shortening all-white-flour crusts). For some reason, we never really paid much attention to the “Dough” button on the device, and had all but forgotten about the dull “dough blade” that came with the food processor.

I wanted to bake a couple of pies last week for a party, so I decided to give it a try. Never again. The dough didn’t mix properly, and I ended up with large patches of too-moist mixed with large patches of completely dry dough. It was bad enough that I reverted to the standard blade for my second batch, despite some small hope that things might improve after setting up in the fridge for a few hours. As you can see from the bowl on the left in the photo, it didn’t help — the dough fell apart into too-wet and too-dry chunks as soon as I tried to break off a chunk to roll out. Because I needed both batches of dough for two covered pies, I ended up “rescuing” the bad batch by adding a little water and re-processing it in the food processor, mixing it into the good batch. Needless to say the additional processing resulted in crusts were not the best I’ve made (still pretty tasty, though), and I will be hiding the dough blade somewhere so I can’t find it and make the same mistake again. Continue reading