Nov 24, 2012

Holiday Baking Pantry Essentials

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Psst. Over here! Hi! Peeking out from behind the curtain of Thanksgiving weekend! Is it time yet? Can we all start baking like deranged, totally inspired people? 

I seriously hope so. We’ve been holding out too long, my fellow kitchen elves. I have so many recipes clipped and bookmarked, it’s ’bout to get crazy up in here. Let’s do this!

To kick things off, I thought I’d pull out a video from the archives that has me rattling off my baking pantry essentials. It’s basically a top 10 list of a bare bones bakers’ arsenal that will allow you to make pretty much whatever, whenever with craveworthy results (minus leaveners like baking powder and soda–now’s a good time to buy fresh boxes of both). Here’s the rundown:

1. All-purpose flour. Obvi.

2. Granulated sugar. The cornerstone of many a great baking recipe.

3. Cornstarch. The baker’s magic ingredient. See video for evidence.

4. Eggs. Large, please.

5. Unsalted butter. So you can control the salt in recipes. Also, because salt is a preservative, unsalted butter is most often fresher than its salted counterpart.

6. Salt. Table salt is just fine, fine sea salt is great. Flaky, coarse salt (like Maldon) is divine for finishing and adding crunch.

7. Dark brown sugar. Same price as light brown, major flavor points.

8. Vietnamese cinnamon. You’ll never go back to plain old ground cinnamon. Trust.

9. Pure vanilla extract. I keep two varieties: one basic, all-purpose supermarket vanilla, one fancy for vanilla-forward recipes.

10. Instant espresso powder. Bumps up chocolate flavor, big time.

Nov 21, 2012

Shirley Corriher’s Touch of Grace Biscuits

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Okay, so there are biscuits, and then there are BISCUITS. Namely, these biscuits. Let’s call it a biscuit recipe that changed my mind about a few things. That major, these biscuits. And I’m managing to tell you all about them just in time for Thanksgiving side dishing. Glorious!

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Nov 19, 2012

Dahlia Bakery’s Pumpkin Crème Pie

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To be real, does the Internet really NEED another pumpkin pie recipe right about now? Hhrrmm. But that’s how good this particular pumpkin pie is, friends. I think it’s got tons of fun twists on the regular and is totally worth sharing. It’s my favorite kind of recipe, really–something that, quite literally, on the surface looks like every other pumpkin pie you’ve had in your life (I mean, just look at that picture up there–golden crust, burnt orange sea of spiced pumpkin custard, kitschy dollops of cream and all), but the process and ingredients are just different enough that it takes the final result to some level of pumpkin pie that makes it all brand new and has everyone asking how you made it. Instant baking cred! Now there’s something to be thankful for.

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Nov 18, 2012

Stabilized Whipped Cream

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Say what? Yeah! Stabilized whipped cream. Kind of a weird-sounding thing, and yet a very good thing that I think might be part of my political platform, should I ever run for public office. That’s how much I believe in stabilized whipped cream. With prime pumpkin pie season and mile-long culinary to-do lists within our reach, there’s no better time to talk about it–a whipped cream that can actually be made days ahead of serving, and not only used in dollop form, but for piping and frosting over cakes as well. Glorious!

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Nov 14, 2012

Homemade Marshmallow Troubleshooting

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Know what’s super fun? The influx of emails, tweets, comments, and Facebook messages I’ve received from folks working through the recipes in Marshmallow Madness! in recent weeks–lots of sweet stories and photos of fluffy, puffy successes that warm the cockles of my heart. ‘Tis the season for homemade mallow making and gifting!

But I’ve also gotten some requests for a few marshmallow-making tips and troubleshooting help for the recipes, which I also happen to love. Happy to help. For those new to mallowing, it is most certainly wacky, leaving plenty of room for self-doubt and simple mistakes. But don’t freak out! It’s just sugar! Everything will be okay. Keep in mind that the following tips refer specifically to recipes and techniques in MM, but some will cross over into any homemade marshmallow recipe you might try.

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Nov 5, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Sugar and More

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How is it November already? HOW? This is all just bananas to me. Because in my feeble mind, it seems that just a couple months ago we were ringing in 2012, and then a few weeks after that my first cookbook was unleashed onto the world. Hours later, I discovered that we would be thrown into the newborn abyss once again. Somewhere in there my first baby turned four (four!!) and then a few blinks later I had a second cookbook come out. I’m sure it didn’t go exactly that way, but it sure feels like it. Turns out that time moving at warp speed isn’t exactly conducive to a massive case of pregnancy brain. Plus I’m, like, 23 weeks sober. Someone remind me what day it is. Eesh.

So! Here we are, inexplicably teetering on the edge of the holiday season. Do you know what you’re doing for gifts this year? Clearly, given the above paragraph, I do not. But even though we’re barreling towards a whole lotta fa-la-la-la-la!, now is the perfect time to crank out awesomely inexpensive, handmade holiday presents that seem all highfalutin, and are perfect for blowing minds and taking names. Seriously, you can crank out a dozen gifts or more in a matter of hours, suitable for giving to everyone from your mother to the mailman. And, like so many things in my life these days, it all starts with the genius of vanilla. Obvi.

To start, you’ll need to get yourself a bunch of vanilla beans, which I know can be pricey. But! I am kind of an expert at sourcing the best beans at the best prices by now, so can I just recommend Vanilla Saffron Imports (don’t let the sparse website and packaging dissuade you–this place is the real deal) and Beanilla? Some folks find good vanilla deals on Amazon as well. But the bottom line is that ordering online will save you tons of cash. No way around that. Buying vanilla beans at retail will make your wallet cry.

So now that you know how to get a bundle of well-priced, good-quality, fragrant vanilla beans in your hot little hands, let me pass on a few DIY gifty ideas from Pure Vanilla, as a little present from me to you:

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Nov 2, 2012

‘Pure Vanilla’ hits Macy’s Union Square!

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So here’s what’s happening right now: Today I am buzzing about the kitchen with the Reality Bites soundtrack on repeat, prepping a whole lotta mini versions of Twinkie Bundt Cake, in preparation for a most excellent event celebrating Pure Vanilla here in San Francisco tomorrow. If you’re in the Bay Area, I hope you’ll come by to say hi, watch me attempt to bake and talk at the same time, and pick up some mad vanilla knowledge. I’ll also be signing books immediately afterwards! I may end up dressing like Lisa Loeb. Or Winona Ryder. Who knows? You’ll just have to come by and find out. Here’s the details:

Macy’s Union Square
Cellar Demo Kitchen, Lower Level
170 O’Farrell Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
2:00 p.m.

Hope to see you there!!

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