December 4, 2011

TOP 10 GIFTS FOR THE HOME CHEF OR BAKER


Holiday gift buying can be a challenge.  But if you know someone who loves to cook or has a passion for baking, it doesn't have to be.  There are so many affordable choices when it comes to picking out a gift for the culinary enthusiast.  To make picking out the right tools even easier, I've asked some of my most favorite food bloggers for their recommendations for "must-have" kitchen tools.


Recommended by:
Dorothy Reinhold

A kitchen timer for a gift might seem prosaic, but this, my friends, isn’t just any old kitchen timer. This is a digital Polder Clock, Timer & Stopwatch, and it will change your life! Sure, we all have a timer built into our ovens, but if you’re like me, you need something more portable. I swear by this…in fact, I so often have it swinging around my neck that it might as well be my necklace!

I usually have two or three things going at once in the kitchen. A single timer simply won’t do for multi-task cooking. In that case, for sanity, I use the oven timer for the contents of the oven, and this baby for the stove. When developing recipes, I have often used the stopwatch to time how long something cooks – for example, I hit “go” when I begin the sauté, and “stop” when it looks done, which allows me to more accurately determine cooking times. I am forever putting something in the oven or on the stove and leaving the room to check e-mail for “just a minute.” You know how that goes. You start spelunking in your in-box and hours can elapse until you come up for air. I burned too many things until I got the Polder, which beeps at me whatever room I am in because I am wearing it.  

Want something to time? 


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Recommended by:
Julie Mastbrook


My recommendation for a “must have” stocking stuffer for the chef in your family: A KitchenAid Hand Blender. This handy little tool is by far one of the most wielded gadgets in my cooking artillery. I use it to enhance everything from silky homemade soups to fresh whipped cream (using one of several available attachments) with the simple push of a button. No muss no fuss. It’s an absolute must have for anyone with a passion for cooking.



The KitchenAid Stick Blender works like a dream
on Julie's creamy Simply Bean Soup.
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Christy Larsen
My "must-have" recommendation for the home chef...a small notebook.  I carry one in my purse, one in my car, one in my kitchen, one by my bedside. I use them to jot down anything food related. great meals I have had, ingredients I want to track down, restaurants i want to try, and recipe ideas.  I have a large  bound book I use when I actually start to cook...but the little ones are great to tracking my food obsessed life! the ones HERE are nice because they have page numbers. when the books are full, they get labeled and any recipes get logged in my large book. for example...a book I filled in April 2010 would be labled 04/2010. if I have a recipe for bolognese in it, I would log that as bolognese 4/2010 p. 27. As you can see, little notebooks are a must have for me.

You can get the recipe for Ragu Bolognese
that Christy brought back from her trip to Italy HERE
 


Something that is greatly under appreciated is salt. I keep an array of specialty salts on hand for my baking.  Just as in savory, I like to use Maldon sea salt for a finish. One of the most obvious uses is in caramels. If I were to choose a sea salt for a baker, I would go with Maldon or  Fleur de Sel. Use it as a finisher on chocolates or caramel nut tart, and in recipes like salted caramel ice cream, butterscotch pudding,and flourless chocolate cake.


Christy's Salted Caramel Ice Cream
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Recommended by:
Heather Schmitt-González 

How do you measure your flour?  Do you dig your measuring cup in and then wipe off the excess...or do you whisk it around to aerate it, and then gingerly scoop it into your measuring cup and level off the top with a flat edge?  And while you're thinking about it, how did the person who tested the recipe you're following measure their flour?  One method yields an absolutely different weight/amount of flour than the other.  And since baking relies heavily on the science of all the components of a recipe interacting in just the right way, I am a firm believer in the benefits of owning a digital kitchen scale.  Forget the measuring cups, just break out the scale, a bowl, and a scoop...and get baking!


Use a Ozeri scale with Heather's




I'd pretty much given up on vegetable peelers.  I could never seem to find one that didn't dull.  Quickly.  One day while working in the kitchen (restaurant kitchen...needed to do a lot of peeling), I realized that I couldn't find my peeler, so I borrowed one.  As I ran ran the blade across the potatoes, I was in awe of the way the peeler just seemed to glide so effortlessly without any "catching".  Potato after potato, I marveled at this simple device in my hand.  After the mountain of potatoes were cubed and throw into the steamer, I went in search of more things to peel.  All of a sudden, I went from peeling as little as I could get away with to volunteering to peel anything that needed peeling.  And a few things that didn't.  The ceramic blade never seems to get dull.  I immediately bought myself a ceramic vegetable peeler and to this day, 3 years later, that blade still works like a charm.  It's also great for getting thin slips of Parmesan cheese from a wedge.


The Shenzen peeler comes in handy for Heather's

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Recommended by:

My favorite kitchen tools? Aside from the obvious, which is a great knife and a good cutting board, it's a mandoline. Though my favorite kitchen tool was a late addition to my kitchen (as a gift), and not one that comes out everyday, it is a tool that I am so grateful for owning when it does come out to play. I love this tool because it not only makes a wiz out of slicing onions for French Onion Soup (perfect for large quantities of vegetables), but also recipes such as scalloped potatoes or Pomme Anna, which to be honest, I would never make without one. And the list does not stop there as the mandoline is great for home made chips such as sweet potato chips or beet chips and dozens of other recipes that requiring slicing.

If you're creating your Christmas wish list, consider adding a mandoline as this tool can make your life so much easier. They come in many different designs, with some at $10 (slender simple designs which I love), perfect for a stocking stuffer or a hostess gift, or really fancy ones with all types of blades and attachments for $75 or more. You decide! You'll thank me later :)


 
is a dream to put together with the Mandoline.  
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Recommended by:
Camilla Mann
Here's my recommendation for a must-have that fits comfortably in a stocking for that special baker in your life...a NORPRO Deluxe Pastry Blender. Not just any pastry blender. This one, specifically!
First I will admit that for years I didn't even have a pastry blender. I made due with the tines of a fork and my crusts definitely reflected that. Second, I have had a parade of inferior pastry blenders that fail me one of two ways. Either the tines bend or I rip the handle off. I am, admittedly, not easy on my cookware. My pots - that my husband gave me for our first Christmas together. Yes, it was self-serving, but much appreciated! - weigh a ton. My knives are more than hefty. I needed a pastry blender that matched my whirlwind cooking style and I finally found it. Eureka! This one has sealed end caps so the screws don't spontaneously unthread and jam your garbage disposal. Can you tell that I speak from experience? After doing the dance of joy, when I located this, I actually bought two. One I use all the time. The other is tucked away, wrapped in tissue paper, ready to go in case I need it.

So, that's it. A pastry blender will do wonders for the crusts of your favorite baker. And this pastry blender is a dream come true. Durable, hefty, and comfortable in your hand...and perfect in a stocking. Happy holidays and happy baking.


The NORPRO Pastry Blender makes pie crusts
easy as...well... PIE!  Use it to make Camilla's
Ridiculously Easy Tart Crust
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Recommended by:  Me
Jenn Erickson


Most weekends my husband can be found out back in the wee hours of the morning tending to the smoke and fire of his BBQ, making magic with little more than some coals, a few wood chunks and a hunk of meat.  So when it came time to buy him a birthday present, I did my research to find the perfect slicing knife and came across the Victorinox Granton Edge 12" Slicing Knife -- an America's Test Kitchen "Best Buy".  

This affordable knife slices through meat like it's butter, bread like it's air, and slices tomatoes paper thin.  It's light, comfortable, and when friends and family have the opportunity to use it in our home, they always want to take it home.

The Victorinox knife makes perfect slices of brisket for my

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Simply put, when it comes to grating ginger, zesting citrus, and shaving nutmeg, a Microplane can't be beat. One of my favorite hostess gifts to give is a big wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano wrapped in cellophane and tied off with baker's twine and adorned with a Microplane. 
 
I used my microplane to grate fresh nutmeg for my

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Many of the items mentioned above are already in my kitchen, and those that aren't are going on my  holiday wish list.

How about you?




What's your "must-have" kitchen tool?
 

5 comments:

  1. This is such a handy list to have...and I really agree that every item on it is a must-have for the home chef/baker! I loved reading why everybody recommended what they did...and thank you so much for including my recommendations, Jenn ☺.

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  2. I always buy cooking tools for my husband for Xmas. I want them, but he's more of the cook, so it works out well : ) This year, I got him new cutting boards. Shh!

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  3. this is a fantastic list...as i read down it i found myself nodding in that way you do when you are silently agreeing with someone. i'm hoping to find the timer in my stocking this year!

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  4. How much fun. I'm going to go fill out my Christmas wish list with a few things I don't have!

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  5. Thanks for the opportunity to share my recommendation. I am definitely going to put some of these things on my wish list. ~Camilla

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