10+1 Essential Kitchen Gadgets to Get You Started With Baking

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If you are building your first kitchen or have decided to get more serious about your baking (Farewell, pre-made cookie doughs and muffin mixes!), thumbs up and welcome to the community! I made you a shopping list of the things you should own to make the most of your baking, all based on experience.

I am a self-taught baker and a sucker for all things kitchen. Sometimes I honestly feel I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near an Ikea, let alone online shopping (can anyone relate?), but at least some good comes of my culinary hoarding problem – I can tell you what get’s used a lot and what stays idle collecting dust.

It’s funny because I’m actually a very conscious shopper but somehow could not yet master up that kind of moderation over kitchen-related purchases. Working on it though!

For a more minimalistic approach on your kitchen collection (or anything else, really), the first step is to get rid of the things that have accumulated in your space over time. I’m after the latest kitchen cull, where I was brutally honest with myself about the gear I really use, and the stuff that’s just taking up precious cupboard space.

I found a local charity that accepts kitchen goods as well, and donated my barely ever used items. If you are a bit of a kitchen hoarder like me, I strongly encourage you to take the time and clean out your cabinets. It’s liberating!

That said, the things you will actually make good use of are the following (you’ll find them at various price points so you can make it work whatever the budget):

#1 Baking spatula. You’d want to find the best combination of size, flexibility and strength: small enough to fit in jars, flexible enough to scrape the sides of bowls and strong enough to press down doughs. Also, look for a slightly angled tip and ’heatproof’ written on the label. (GIR Ultimate High Heat Silicone Spatula)

GIR Silicone Spatula

# 2 Balloon whisk for breaking up liquids, dispersing solids, and incorporating air. Get a medium and a small one with a comfortable, grippy handle and flexible wires. Choose the one with the more loops. Non-stick, no-scrape silicone coating on the wires is a plus. (OXO Good Grips Balloon Whisk)

OXO Good Grips Balloon Whisk

#3 Bench scraper. This rectangular piece of metal with a grip is used for cutting, scraping, lifting and folding pastry, bread and other doughs. The blade needs to be stiff enough for cutting, with a sharper blade rather than a dull one. Look for a model with a ruler on the edge for easy measurements. (Ateco Stainless Steel Bench Scraper)

ateco stainless steel bench scraper

#4 Measuring tools. More precisely, a sturdy Pyrex jug for liquid measures, and a set of measuring cups and spoons for dry goods. Stainless steel over plastic. (Pyrex Measuring Jug and Hudson Essentials Stainless Steel Measuring Cups Set)

pyrex measuring jug

hudson measuring cup set

#5 Mixing bowls. You’ll need a bigger and a smaller one, preferably microwave and dishwasher-safe. Opt for a design featuring a spout and a handle for easy, spill-free pouring. (Ikea VISPAD)

ikea mixing bowl set

#6 Pastry blender. This gadget is created to work solid fats quickly into flour without melting, but is equally good at mashing anything. Ok it’s not a necessity, but you still would be glad to have it around, trust me. Look for a solid stainless steel construction and sturdy handle. (Cake Boss Stainless Steel Pastry Blender)

Cake Boss Pastry Blender

#7 Pastry brush. To brush eggwash onto pastry or oil a baking tin. Pastry brush bristles come in plastic, silicone or natural fibres. Silicone brush strands are less likely to fall out or splinter, plus they wash easily. However, liquid tends to drip off silicone rather than grip. Natural brushes give a more even coat, but the bristles tend to flake. Whichever material you choose, go for a brush that’s flexible, soft-haired, wide and flat. (Matfer Pastry Brush)

matfer patry brush

#8 Scale. If you’re still wondering why you need one: for more accurate measures and more consistent results. You’d be surprised how wildly inaccurate volumetric measurements can be! A small, reliable digital scale that can do conversions is a must-have kitchen tool and could be the difference between a perfect or a collapsed cake. (AWS Digital Scale)

AWS digital kitchen scale

#9 Sieves. Bowl-shaped metal sieves are among a kitchen’s most versatile tools. The metal mesh has to be able to handle some pressure without pulling loose from its frame. They come with medium (used for sifting, draining and straining), fine (for separating particles and refining textures), and superfine mesh for dusting. (Premium Fine Mesh Strainers)

premium fine mesh strainers

#10 Thermometer. In recipes calling for specific internal cooking temperatures, a thermometer can make all the difference between a perfectly done dish and one that’s under or overcooked. An instant-read digital thermometer is generally more accurate, consistent and convenient to use than an analog. (Habor Instant-Read Digital Thermometer)

Habor Instant-Read Food Thermometer

+1 Stand mixer. If you can only afford one splurge, a stand mixer should be it. Totally pays off! I don’t happen to own the you-know-which-one generic trademark, but I’m perfectly happy with my more affordable piece as well. These workhorses are more efficient at evenly combining ingredients than a human could ever be, and help cut down on prep times tremendously. (KitchenAid Classic Plus Series)

KitchenAid Classic Plus white

So that’s my list. Curious to see how yours look like!

Love,

Fruzsi

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Culinary Basics: Intoducing a New Blog Series

culinary basics title

Let me start with an acknowledgement: I am thankful to have a family as a source of unvarnished truth when it comes to my blogging. If it weren’t for them, I may have not recognized that in several of my previous posts I used culinary terms without realizing there might be some of you who are probably not familiar with the vocabulary. Major bummer!

And it’s not because you guys missed the smart train or something… I totally wasn’t born with the knowledge either, nor were my first words in French culinary lingo. So to take appropriate measures righting my wrong, I’ve decided to start a new blog series that will acquaint you with the vernacular. Not the fine-dining-everyday douchebag expletives, but just enough to find your way around common kitchen jargon. How about that!

Disclaimer: I am not a professional cook by any means. Making and serving a good meal is a crucial part of my love language though. Culinary art is my passion, something I enjoy a great deal. I am an information sponge when it comes to cooking and baking, these things interest me largely. I don’t want to impart wisdom, just would like to infect you all with my enthusiasm and love for food.

That said, here’s the deal. Every now and again I will post about Kitchen 101 exploring the fundamentals of cooking and baking, entries with information covering everything you need to know on a non-professional level. Think cooking methods, principles, techniques and terms, explained with plain and simple descriptions you can refer to whenever in need.

Learning to cook (and/or getting better at it) is a life long process that is both rewarding and challenging. Let’s broaden our knowledge, sharpen our skills and become serious home cooks together. And most importantly: enjoy time spent in the kitchen, be confident, create and eat good!

It’s gonna be so much fun!

Fruzsi

Illustration featured in title image © Freepik

How to Make a Rosemary Topiary

How to Make a Rosemary Topiary title image

Did you know even the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were pruning plants into decorative shapes? It is said that topiary is an art form that takes dedication and time as you will be shaping your plants for years and the upkeep is continual. But don’t be scared off just yet, I’ll show you it’s a lot less complicated and time-consuming than you thought.

There is something chic about adding life to a space with topiaries. They can elevate a basic, traditional interior into something special, and work really good in modern spaces as well by reinforcing symmetry and creating balance. One or two will do wonders to your function-focused kitchen too!

How to Make a Rosemary Topiary tablescape
Modern-rustic tablescape with greenery

Traditionally, topiaries are made from plants like ivy, boxwood and myrtle, but they can be created from just about any woody perennial. Rosemary has a tendency to drape and grow into a shrub and is also ideal to be trimmed into a topiary sphere or an elongated pyramid. While training rosemary could take some time, it looks so elegant and provides herbs for your kitchen. Looks like we have a real win-win situation here!

Believe me, you want topiaries in your life. 🙂 Here’s how:

How to Make a Rosemary Topiary collage

Plant a rooted rosemary cutting (instructions on propagating here and on potting them here), prune the side shoots to encourage vertical growth. Stake the plant snugly with ties, and let it grow in a sunny spot, giving it plenty of water. Turn the plant weekly so it receives even sunlight. When it has reached the desired height, trim off its main vertical shoot. This will stop its upward growth and encourage branching. Then, strip the bottom two-thirds of the plant of all its shoots, leaving the top one-third and its branches for shaping. Don’t forget to loosen ties as the trunk grows in diameter. Pinch off growing tips to maintain a full, dense top and encourage further branching.

How to Make a Rosemary Topiary mini trees

My first mini rosemary trees turned one year old, and I planted new ones this year again. I prefer giving live flowers to go along gifts, and everyone absolutely adored these.

Another plant I’m planning on training is lavender, I’ll let you know how it goes. Also, feel free to ask me in the comments if you have any more questions!

Love,

Fruzsi

Tablescape by Alchemy Fine Events

Images featured in collage from Better Homes and Gardens

Rosemary “trees” image found on City Farmhouse

Start Your Herb Garden

start your herb garden title image

Although it’s still grey and moist outside, spring is around the corner. Temperatures started slowly crawling up and it’s not pitch dark anymore when I make my morning coffee. Birds feel it too, they just can’t stop singing even on the rainiest, ugliest of days.

Don’t know about you, but this aprés Valentine’s end of February is usually the time when I get really fed up with the whole winter thing. Seriously, not even a steaming cup of mulled wine, my absolute cold-season favorite will cure spring fever.

I am desperate for the new and fresh, something green for a change and I’ve found a way to get a bit ahead of nature: it’s the perfect time to start your very own countertop herb garden. Better yet, it is fit for small spaces, a spot indoors with enough natural light will do just fine.

Don’t quite have a green-thumb? No worries! I’ve selected a few culinary herbs I have experience with, and I can say that they are as easy to handle as it gets. My essentials are mint, rosemary, sage, oregano, marjoram, tarragon and thyme. Very versatile, they can be used either fresh or dried, for seasoning food, making teas or coctails alike.

start your herb garden culinary herbs collage
Selection of culinary herbs to start your herb garden

Starting your herbarium (collection of herbs) in your windowsill or on your sunny kitchen counter is easier than you think. Select the speciments you want. All the above mentioned herbs are perennial, meaning they don’t die after one season.

You can buy seeds and follow the planting instructions on the packaging. You can also cheat and buy the grown plants, but then you’ll miss out on the fun… Be careful though with herbs sold in the supermarket, because my experience is they tend to give up soon due to the poor conditions they are kept in. Better go to your local garden center, where you’ll get expert advice too.

Another rather inexpensive way to start your own herb garden is propagating by rooting from cuttings. Go ahead and ask someone who already has these plants, all of them multiply nicely. What you need to do is cut off young, healthy shoots of about 5-8 cm, strip off lower leaves and plant them in moist soil. I put my cuttings in a small cup of water first, and plant the shoots when they’ve produced tiny roots. Remember to keep them in a light place and water regularly.

Sage plant
Cuttings from sage for propagating

Now we sit back, relax and wait 3-4 weeks for signs that our herbs are alive and well. Until then I will bring you cute ways to decorate the pots and containers you’re going to transfer the plants into.

I’d love to know how it’s going for you, so tell me about it in the comments below!

Yours,

Fruzsi

 

Watercolor featured in title image by Yael Berger

Herb watercolors in collage by Cheryl Oz