For all practical purposes, I live in the kitchen.
I do make frequent visits to the computer desk just around the corner, but my kitchen is home base.
Because I spend so much time there, I covet kitchen tools the way some women prize fine jewelry. I drool over displays in the kitchen supply store. I'm not into perfume, but I am slightly obsessed with good vanilla extract.
Years ago, Hallmark ran a commercial that showed a husband coming home from work on Valentine's Day, gift in tow. A table for two was set by the fire, and a card with his name on it was learning against a wine glass. After his wife called from the other room that she'd be out in a minute, he opened the card--which read, "Love me sweet, love me tender, give me roses, not a blender." Cut to close-up of the obviously blender-shaped package under his arm. Then, "Honey? I'll be right back."
The thing is that when I saw that commercial, I thought, "Love me sweet, love me tender, I don't want roses, give me the blender." In fact, I need a new blender right this very minute. I hope I don't have to wait until Valentine's Day to get one.
In the meantime, I've been thinking about my other favorite kitchen tools, thanks to a prompt from my friend Lisa the Syncopated Mama and her 5 After 5 party that's all about favorite kitchen gadgets this week. While I certainly could figure out how to live without these five kitchen mainstays, I'd really rather not have to.
1. Kitchen scale. The kind that sits on my kitchen counter and weighs things like dark chocolate. As opposed to the kind that sits on my bathroom floor and weighs things like me. My kitchen scale is a digital model with a flat weighing platform, and I use it almost every day. I weigh the aforementioned dark chocolate and flour for pizza dough and and cream cheese and pretty much any other ingredient I can portion out by weight. Baking, which I far prefer over cooking, is a pretty exact science, and half an ounce of flour more or less can make a big difference in the finished product. No matter how precisely you "dip-and-sweep" or spoon flour "lightly" into a measuring cup, no two cups measured in either of these ways will ever be exactly the same. Whereas an ounce is an ounce, period. I know this makes me sound like the world's biggest baking snob, but really, it's just laziness. Weighing is easier and gets me to lickable beaters sooner. Which, frankly, is why I bake in the first place.
2. Offset spatula. Unlike, say, a knife, where the handle and the blade are all on the same "plane," the handle of an offset spatula is (appropriately enough) set off from the blade. This means your hand stays out of the way when you're icing a cake, for instance. But I also use my offset spatula to pry muffins out of baking tins and to smooth out cake batter in pans and...wow, I do spend a lot of time baking around here, don't I? Oh well; I don't hear anyone in this house complaining. Mostly, they're just asking if we have any cookies.
3. Parchment paper. My favorite use for this heat-tolerant, wondrously nonstick baking paper is actually homemade pizza. I heat my pizza stone in the oven to a scorching 500 degrees while I build our pizzas on the nice, not-500-degrees kitchen counter on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. When the stone is hot, I slide the whole assembly, parchment and all, off the baking sheet and onto the smoking stone, and five minutes later, everyone in my family is getting along. And don't even talk to me about baking cookies (Classic Chocolate Chip or otherwise) without parchment paper.
4. Eight-cup glass batter bowl. Things I use this for: oh, EVERYTHING. A few examples:
- Molten Chocolate Peanut-Butter Pudding
- White Chocolate Pretzel Cookies
- Special Company Meatballs
- Emergency Hot Fudge Sauce
- Blueberry Thing
- Apple Cinnamon Pancakes
5. Kitchen blow torch. So, yes, this item is hardly essential to anyone's existence. But it's the toy of my culinary world. I suppose professional chefs use "real" blow torches, which they can, if necessary, also use to solder some crucial piece of cookware. But my little kitchen version--the Easy Bake Oven of blow torches--works just fine for my use: caramelizing meringue without having to put whatever is wearing that meringue in the oven. I make, for example, a three-layer lemon meringue cake with marshmallow meringue frosting. I am not hefting that beauty under the broiler to brown the meringue, honey. Nope: I fire up the blow torch and have at it. This tool is also great to use on baked Alaska ice cream pie: fill an Oreo crust with ice cream, top it with meringue, and blow torch it. No worries you'll melt the ice cream, plus using this tool is just the most fun you can have in the kitchen, hands-down.
So, these are my kitchen must-haves. Or at least my kitchen really-really-want-to-haves. What's on your list? Also, what kind of blender should
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