Tag 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 Lesson 1: Casting Sugar

 
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Sugar Work:  Cast Sugar Bowl

Once you start working with sugar, all the rules change. Take today’s project, for example. In the normal practice of food photography, the components of the composition fall into two categories: food and food props. If this photo were a normal food photo, the apples would be the stars, and the bowl would be the prop, albeit a colorful and flashy one. But once I point out that I made the bowl by hand, and not out of glass, but sugar, suddenly the world goes topsy turvy. The dish is the star, and the apples demoted to mere props.

It goes beyond that, though. The hours in which you play with sugar belong to another world, a sunnier, warmer place, a place where magic walks the earth and comes to cook at your side. Colors are brighter. Pots bubble and boil with a constant snap and pop, like thick, syrupy soda on some serious steroids. Things come into real, three-dimensional being, springing as much from an inner wellspring of imagination as from the hot, malleable sugar in your hands.

My goal is to make this brand of magic a little more accessible to the common foodie. To that end, I’m starting off with the easiest techniques that take the least amount of specialized, expensive equipment. The other main advantage of this approach is that I need to relearn how to do it all, so it’s probably best if we don’t all jump in the deep end together just yet. Stick with me and we’ll get to pulled sugar and blown sugar, but don’t worry: just because we’re starting with basics doesn’t mean things are going to be boring.

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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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