One of the best ways to ensure that baked goods will come out of a pan, especially sweet treats that tend to have sticky edges, it to line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Bar cookies and brownies are very good candidates for baking in foil-lined pans. I recommend using the heaviest aluminum foil you can find as the flimsy stuff tears easily. Here’s how I do it:
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In some copies of the first printing of My Paris Kitchen, it’s not clear when to add ingredients in two of the recipes in the dessert chapter. They’ve been corrected and added but in some editions, this information isn’t in there. A few metric conversions were omitted, and they’re just below too:
– The metric conversion for the tahini in the Beet Hummus (page 58), is 90g, and for the Hummus (page 60), is 120g. For reference: 1 tablespoon tahini = 15g.
– In the Sardine Spread recipe (page 79), the metric conversion for the 1/4 cup of cream cheese is 55g.
– Bay leaf pound cake with orange glaze (page 296): The bay leaf-infused melted butter gets added with the other wet ingredients (the egg mixture) in step #6.
– Bûche de Noël (page 319): The orange syrup is brushed on the cake after it’s unrolled, in step #8, just before spreading on the chocolate/orange/ricotta filling.
And for two other recipes, here are a couple of helpful tips:
– For the Chicken Pot Parmentier (page 166-167), if you don’t have a food mill or potato ricer, you can use a stand mixer to make the potato topping (steps #5 and #6). After drying out the potatoes, beat them in the stand mixer with the paddle attachment along with the 6 tablespoons (85g) butter, until smooth and the potatoes are cooled down a bit. Then beat in the cream and egg yolks.
– The Chocolate-dulce de leche tart (page 289): If the dough needs help coming together, feel free to add a tablespoon or two of water to it, in step 2.
Is almond flour the same as almond meal or ground almonds?
Yes. If you are unsure, check the ingredients on the package; the only ingredient listed should be almonds. If there are other ingredients, it’s not the same thing and should not be used in a recipe that calls for almond flour. Other names for almond flour are powdered almonds, almond meal, and almond powder.
(Some say that only blanched almonds are used for what is called almond flour, but I’ve seen unblanched almond “flour” listed as such, so that’s not always the case.)
What is the difference between natural and blanched almond flour?
Blanched almonds have had theirs skins removed. This is done by dropping them in boiling water for about a minute. Draining them in cold water, and slipping the skins off. Unblanched almonds have their skins on. Both kinds of almonds are then ground up for almond flour. A majority of almond flour you’ll come across is made from blanched almonds since most people prefer the lighter crumb and appearance in cakes and other baked goods. Some bakers say that unblanched almond flour can make baked goods heavier, but I’ve not found it to make a tremendous difference. So you can use either, unless one is specifically called for in a recipe.
I’ve cracked more than my fair share of fresh coconuts, and tried a number of ways to open them, including doing as the monkeys do and lifting them high above my head and crashing them to the ground. Which I don’t recommend, unless you aren’t wearing pants (like monkeys do) because your pants will get all wet. (Like mine did.) In baking, I tend to use dried coconut (also called desiccated coconut) for cookies and infusing in custards and so forth, as it tends to have a more concentrated flavor than the fresh and less moisture, which can alter a recipe.
I primarily use fresh coconut meat (the kind extracted here) for garnishing, ice creams, sorbets, and even cocktails. There are a number of devices, including wooden boards with jagged teeth and rotary devices that might be worth it if you are doing a lot of coconut. But since I only crack one coconut open every few months or so, I don’t know if I want to give valuable cabinet space to something I would only use occasionally.
I’m thrilled when folks want to make recipes from this site and my books, including those who are gluten-intolerant or have celiac. However I’m the first to admit that gluten-free baking is not my area of expertise. So I can’t usually say how and what to substitute in recipes that call for wheat flour.
Wheat flour acts as a binder in recipes and gives cakes and cookies, the gluten gives doughs and batters structure. Broadly speaking, if a recipe has just a small amount of wheat flour, such as 2 to 4 tablespoons (20-40 g), you can often just swap out another flour. I like flours such as buckwheat, chestnut, quinoa, corn, and oat flours, because they are “natural” tasting and go well with most other flavors and ingredients used in baking. Note that some of those flours may be processed in a facility that processes wheat flour, so always check and make sure that the flours you are purchasing are gluten-free, especially oat. Other substitutions include nut flours (also called nut “meal”) as well as corn and potato starch. If the recipe calls for more flour than that, I recommend using one of the work-arounds, listed below.
I generally assume that people who are gluten-free, and bake frequently, know better than I do how certain ingredients and substitutions will behave in recipes. So I often defer to gluten-free bakers since most have work-arounds that they have success baking with. Here is a round-up of tips, suggestions, and recipe that should help gluten-free bakers find an appropriate swap-out for wheat flour.
A while back, a friend made the Apple-Red Wine Tart (in Ready for Dessert), which calls for the fruit to be cooked in red wine in a nonreactive pan. I didn’t realize it at the time, but many people don’t know what nonreactive cookware is and he called to tell me the dessert was great, but his pan was stained. (And this was someone who cooks a lot.) Which is why I specify in some recipes, most notably those that use citrus juice, certain fruits and vegetables, some brown sugars, or wine, to use “nonreactive” cookware. But I’m often asked – What does “nonreactive” mean?
It means to use cookware made of a material that will not react with acidic ingredients. The most common nonreactive cookware is made with a stainless-steel finish and will not discolor or pit when used with acidic ingredients. You can see from the two saucepans above, the finish on the one on the left (nonreactive stainless-steel) has remained intact and has not pitted, whereas the lining and finish (reactive) in the copper pan has become worn off.
I was recently at Metro, a members-only store that sells things for professionals in large quantities with lots of food items. However unlike “members-only” stores elsewhere, you need to have some professional affiliation to join. Excitedly, I stocked up on lots of the things that I use a lot of, including cassonade sugar sold in bags close to 5-pounds, hazelnuts, tin containers for giving away treats from recipe-testing, and I picked up a few cases of wine, just because there happened to be a little extra room in the trunk of the car that needed filling.
(I like to think my wine consumption is somehow tied to my professional activities, too. But maybe it’s just because of them?)
I wasn’t planning on writing about my kitchen timer. But I was in the middle of a couple of baking projects yesterday, and realized that I was gazing at it lovingly. Like, a little too much, perhaps. And as the tears welled up in my eyes, I decided that I’d share my affection for my new buddy in the kitchen.
One of the hardest transitions for me – from being a professional baker, to writing recipes for folks at home baking in their jammies – was figuring out precise baking times. In the restaurant, you just kept checking in the oven, or used that special sense that bakers develop when things are ready to come out. Sure we used timers, but they were more back-up reminders; a majority of pro bakers just know when things are done, or simply keep checking and pull things out when they’re ready.