Bits & Bobs
Bake slaves have to be crafty and thrifty in the kitchen, and there are ways to optimize what you have so that you still can make something spectacular.
Valrhona days don’t happen to everyone, everytime right?
Shop around for good deals, but essentially, knowing your produce will help you stretch things. Best of all, if it is made with love (as my Firstborn will say), that is the best way to begin.
- Look for butter with at least 82% fat content; this will give you that melt-in-your-mouth and hug-your-arteries oomph.
- Unsalted butter is usually the way to go because it is easier to later add the pinch of salt to balance the sweet, rather than go the whole hog and ruminate over it later. Mixed metaphors, sorry.
- Balking at the carton price of commercially available cultured buttermilk? Just make your own; it is really simple kitchen alchemy. This method of intentional fermentation is called acidified buttermilk.
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 cup of full cream milk
Let the two mingle in a cup and give them some privacy for 10 minutes or so. Stop peeking, it won’t hasten the curdling process. Oh, and try to do this in a cool-ish part of your kitchen (yes, you fellow KLites, you know what I’m talking about).
Once you see curdled bits, pat yourself on your back – congratulations, you have just made home-made buttermilk! I don’t strain the curds; I just give the mixture a whisk and use up the lot.
- Know your oven. I work with a Cornell oven, which has the capacity to roast one chook. So yes, it is small. But I have a close friend who works wonders on her oven toaster, so there you go. Lifehacks unite!
- Generally, ovens have that Hot Spot, that area where heat concentrates most inexplicably and unless you have a good thermometer to determine actual baking temps, well, you and I will have to rotate our baking pans, or be content with charred bits. Find that Hot Spot, and watch it. Watch it like a hawk.
- I usually place my baking pan on the rack in the middle – obviously this allows for the most even distribution of heat. Lining the baking pans is also another must: aluminium foil covers the outer base and sides, baking paper lines the inner pan.
- I can’t stress how important it is to get your oven pre-heated. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just chuck everything into a bowl and then hope for the best. Studying the entire recipe beforehand saves a lot of grief. Get your mise en place in order, heck, prepare a mise en place. When it is crunch time, you’ll astound the people around you with your condiments and confidence. (Also helps you to channel Nigella/Martha/Delia while you monologue to an imaginary camera. Guilty.)