Are you starting to stress about the up-coming holiday season? Are you concerned about what you are baking for the holidays? Well fear not! I have compiled a list of my favorite pie baking tools that make my baking “stress free”!
If you are like me and love to bake at the holidays (or any time of the year) you know how important having the right tools on hand to make your pie baking fun, easy and enjoyable. For instance, you are baking a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. You have chosen just the right recipe, shopped for the ingredients, made the pie crust, lovingly mixed the filling and put the pie in the oven. You are so proud of yourself. When the buzzer sounds and you open the oven door to check on the pie you realize that the crust is burned to a crisp! Oh no, what a waste! I think this has happened to so many of us at one time or another.
A pie shield would have prevented this from happening. Pie shields are worth their weight in gold, they replace the aluminum foil strips that never seem to stay in place. The two most popular shields are aluminum and silicone. With their one piece design they are so easily placed on the crust to ensure the perfect crust time and time again. And they are re-useable….think green!!! Pie shields are a staple in any modern day kitchen.
Since we’re on the subject of pie making, other important tools would include pie plates, pie weights, rolling pins, graters, measuring spoons and cups. You will find these items at below. Just click on their picture to find out more information. They also make wonderful gifts for the new bride or the new homeowner. If care is taken these valuable tools will last a very long time. Happy pie baking!
Click on our friends at Cooking.com…they have all you need to make pies like a pro!
Here are a few tools referenced in this article:
The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Mouthwatering, soft, chewy or crunchy melt in your mouth explosion of chocolate chips in every bite! Well, are your taste buds standing at attention? Mine always do when there’s a chocolate chip cookie involved! If this is what happens to you when you take a bite out of your homemade chocolate chip cookies, then you have made something very special.
It takes a great talent to master the skill of this favorite cookie, which is enjoyed by people young and old. One of the basic rules when making a batch of cookies is to always mix your wet ingredients first, then mix in the dry one’s with a wooden spoon. The chocolate that you choose to use in your recipe should be the last thing you add to your cookie dough.
Try adding different forms of fresh quality chocolate into your cookie recipe. Toll house makes an amazing assortment of chocolate chips in various shapes
and flavors that will make any batch of cookies delicious. Try a fresh block of chocolate and cut it into chunks for a different cookie texture. You could add
dark chocolate chips, mini or normal size, Hershey kisses or M&M’s. Also, try adding a bit of dark and milk chocolate in the same batch for and explosion in flavor.
Never use milk chocolate that is older than 6 months or Dark chocolate that is older than 12 months and in best stored in a cool dry place. You can freeze chocolate for up to a year if you are using it for baking.
When baking your cookies, always use unsalted butter, as it will give them a very smooth taste unless you like the taste of the salt. Sugar doesn’t just sweeten you cookies, it also makes them tender and it doesn’t matter if you use white or brown (I use a little of both). The type of sugar you use will merely change the taste and color of your cookie and both are delicious.
When you can, use fresh eggs as this will make them moist, tender and light and will allow you to add more air when you are mixing them and give you the most excellent and delicious results. If you don’t like a crisp cookie then add an extra egg yolk for a more cake like texture. When mixing your dry ingredients, make sure you
thoroughly mix in the baking soda and baking powder. There is nothing worse than biting into a big chunk of one of them.
Try to use a shiny cookie sheet because this will help prevent burning or cooking too quickly. There are wonderful aluminum, airbake, cookie sheets you can buy that will ensure that the air from your oven is consistent and produces a perfect cookie every time. Another way you can bake your cookies is on a silicone cookie sheet that bakes consistently and is easy to clean.
In the end if you need those yummy cookies in a hurry, because of a bad day at school, or just for a cozy treat, try the Tollhouse recipe that follows and hey…why not spread it on a pizza stone and make a dessert pizza out of it….yummmmmm! Oh, and don’t forget the milk!!!
Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe:
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 375°.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, sugars and vanilla in a large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well
after each addition. Beat in dry ingredients a little at a time. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoons (or small ice cream scoop!) onto
un-greased baking sheets.
Bake for 9 – 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool cookies on a wire rack to cool completely…if you can wait that long!
Makes about 5 dozen cookies!
Let’s Make the Perfect Tender, Flaky Pie Crust in a Snap!
You are sitting a restaurant eating a piece of apple pie when your taste buds begin to dance in your mouth. The pie is wonderfully delicious but the pie crust is outstanding. Flaky, golden brown and tender, what would that pie be without the crust? Is your mouth watering yet?
You have just entered the “Pie Crust Zone”, just kidding. But seriously, the crust is what makes the pie a hit. A basic pastry dough is very delicious and very simple, requiring only basic ingredients most of which you probably already have in your pantry.
Sometimes called the foundation of the pie, there are many different types of pie crusts such as the basic pastry crust, cookie crumb crust (great with chocolate cream pie) and graham cracker crust. I make a basic pastry crust for my apple pie, so lets begin there. Pie pastry should be light, tender and flaky. The ingredients for this pastry are all purpose flour, salt, shortening or butter and ice water.
Basic pie pastry:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup vegetable shortening or cold butter
- 5-6 tablespoons ice water
In a mixing bowl, sift flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut-in shortening or butter in to flour mixture until the shortening is the size of peas. With a fork, mix well after each tablespoon of water is added. After mixture is no longer crumbly but not too sticky, flour hands and work dough until all combined. Work it all together in your hands until a nice ball is formed. Divide in half, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
When ready to use, roll dough out onto a lightly floured surface, rolling from the center outward. Roll until the center is larger than the pie plate. If using the crust for a pudding based pie, or cream pie that will not be baked you must first bake the pie shell in a 450° oven for 8-10 minutes or until light brown. Cool completely.
Here’s a look at a few of the tools used in making a pie crust:
Different types of whisks
As we all know from our shopping trips into town, there seems to be a wide range of types and styles of whisks available to buy, but is there a real reason for this other than design?
Yes. While the required result is the same, in that it is used to blend various ingredients together or to beat air into a recipe, there are many reasons for different designs and styles of the common metal wired whisk.
Whisks now come in all shapes and sizes and are made of a variety of materials, depending on their use. For example, one might prefer to use a dough whisk with a wooden handle and an entirely different shaped end for blending together doughy ingredients. A standard metal whisk would no be usable for this type of baking as you can understand.
Other varieties of whisks include silicone whisks, which are gentler when using alongside non-stick pans so will not cause damage to the coating or to other items such as batter bowls. Their main feature which sets them apart from the rest is that they can be used at high temperature without risk of melting and damaging the rest of the ingredients. Again, silicone whisks have similar features, but are completely hygienic and the silicone whisk is strong enough not to be damaged when using in a hard metal bowl. Unlike some types of plastics, they will also not absorb colors and stain and the best part is that they are dishwasher safe. Another type of whisk has been made specifically for gravy with their metal wires placed very closely together as none of us like lumpy gravy with our Sunday dinners do we? Mini whisks have been created to give lighter, fluffier results when whisking eggs, cream and sauces. All of these can come with metal or rubber handles, but the latter is usually preferred for comfort when whisking for a long while.
Why is it important to select the correct type?
There are probably very few people in the world that enjoy baking and do not own at least one whisk. This is because it is a very valuable baking tool and holds great importance in every kitchen. Ensure that you think about the kind of baking you will be doing when you are trying to decide which type of whisk to choose. Whisks can be used for beating eggs, whisking cake ingredients together and aerating meringues to ensure that they rise just the right amount, those are just a few of the hundreds of examples. We will be saving ourselves a lot of time and pain if we equip ourselves with the best buy from our selection of whisks. They are inexpensive, have excellent portability and can even be given as a nice gift for someone who enjoys baking. It will be appreciated, after all they are useful for so many styles of baking, storage and cleaning is easily covered and it will last them for years to come. Gift certificates are available just by clicking the link to Cooking.com if you would prefer to give a certificate instead so they can choose their own.
Here are a few other types of whisks…each has their own special purpose! Click on the picture for more details.
How to use a Baking Stone.
Baking stones are not yet commonly used in our kitchens, but perhaps should be. If one were to not know the versatility of these items, then their advantages would be very quickly overlooked. The history of the baking stone goes right back to the early settlers and Indians who made their own versions. They were always heated first before placing their ingredients or meal on top.
Baking stones can be used to cook anything from breads – they are fantastic for Naans, meats and more common use is to bake pizza on them. This is where the terms “stone-baked pizza” comes from. They are usually made from clay, but are also popular made in marble, and most nowadays are glazed. The glazing is purely for ease of cleaning, as cleaning bare stone is difficult as it is porous and will absorb the water you are trying to clean it with. If you own a baking stone without the glazing, you can purchase a can of non stick spray to apply to the surface, which should assist greatly. Never use soap to clean the stone however, as the suds will be absorbed and then released back into the food later on.
Baking stones are a much safer alternative to using tiles in your oven as tiles often contain very high levels of lead and could cause illness and a foul smell. For cooking delights such as pizza we often find that using a baking stone rather than a normal pizza dish is much preferred. This is because with a baking stone the pizza will be light and crunchy underneath as the stone absorbs the extra moisture, which a traditional baking sheet will not do. The stone material also appears to spread the heat more evenly to give a better cooked crust. Also, I bake homemade biscuits and rolls on my stone,as it holds heat and once taken out of the oven, the bread stays warm for quite a while.
Pizza stones or baking stones are usually made of very thick stone so it will be long-lasting and durable. You need no worry about having to replace this utensil every few years, it is an investment and a fantastic one at that due to their heavy-duty qualities. To find the best selection check out the online stores below not only for their vast selection, but their ease of ordering and warranty. A baking stone is a wonderful gift for the new Bride and Groom or a new homeowner. Gift certificates are also available and would be a great idea as they can choose the style and the material themselves.
Give a baking stone a try today…I am sure you will be pleased for many years to come.
Here are a few items that you might enjoy!
Different styles of Blenders
Blenders are a must-have kitchen tool and most kitchens are home to one, whether it be a hand-held, a stand blender or even and electric blender. Blenders are attainable in a myriad of sizes, shapes and designs; each created for a different purpose. A blender can be utilized for anything from liquefying vegetables for soup, blending ice and ice-cream for smoothies and milkshakes and powdering spices for use in oriental cooking.
Commonplace components in every style of blender are that they all have a motor, blades and a protective housing, thus making them safe for use in a conventional kitchen. The most used kitchen appliance is the sleek and small hand held electric blender, for the more serious chefs there are varying designs of the counter top food processor available.
Blenders can take the pain out of some of the more laborious preparation tasks that we would normally avoid at most costs. They can provide us with beautifully chopped beef within seconds, and in turn it does not break out a sweat on the chefs skin. The same goes for mashing large vegetables and fruits such as potato’s and squash, and drastically reduce the preparation time by saving time manually chopping, dicing, mashing and mixing your ingredients together by hand.
The majority of blenders are supplied with numerous speed options for use with different types of food preparation. Some companies which supply ranges with a higher power range are Cuisinart, KitchenAid, Oster and Hamilton Beach, all brand name leaders in this style of quality kitchen appliance manufacturing. We will delve deeper into the specifics of each of these wonderful brands in articles to come.
The price-range of varying blenders ranges vastly from the lower end hand held blenders to the more powerful and versatile work top food processors. It is worth baring in mind that the more heavy duty blenders will also be able to mill grains and mix fresh bread dough so are an awful lot more versatile, but often overkill for the more common kitchen requirements. They do not, however, have the portability of the more compact versions of the same piece of equipment.
Many of the larger manufacturers of this kitchen workhorse also own ranges which look more attractive in the kitchen and blend in with your own style. For this reason, they often make an excellent gift and best prices for each model can invariably be found in our suggested online store, Cooking.com, which is below and just a click away. Cooking.com has a vast array of sizes, models and price ranges all at your fingertips. You can be assured your information is safe with Cooking.com and you will be saving not only money on the blender but in gasoline as well! Cooking.com also has gift certificates available. So whether you are shopping for yourself or for a gift, choosing the right blender for you is a snap. Follow us on our journey as we explore for the perfect blender for you!
The art of pie making sounds a little intimidating, but it need not be. With a little instruction, a wonderful recipe and some practice, you will be on your way to becoming an expert pie baker. My family loves pie. Our favorite is Coconut Cream Pie.
What makes these cream pies so popular you ask, well it could be all the wholesome ingredients such as milk or half & half, sugar, flour, eggs and cornstarch whipped up into a smooth filling and cradled by a wonderfully flaky pie crust….mmmmm….I’ll take a piece right now! There are several variations of the cream pie…coconut cream pie, chocolate cream pie and banana cream pie being the three most popular.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind before you begin making your filling:
- Always measure accurately! This step is so important in baking, because if you add too much of one ingredient and not enough of another, it will alter the outcome. Measuring cups and measuring spoons are a huge asset to any kitchen. Choose measuring cups and spoons that will last a long time, maybe made of stainless steel. They will last a long time and are dishwasher safe. Now back to the tip….when you measure say flour, make sure you fill up the measuring cup and then take a knife and remove the excess from the top of the cup.
- Cream pies should be refrigerated for at least 4 hours to allow it to set up properly. You don’t want to put forth the effort making the pie only to have them turn out droopy! The pie will keep in the refrigerator for several days (if it lasts that long!!)
- You have a few options for topping your pie…meringue, Cool Whip, or homemade whipping cream. My personal preference is homemade whipping cream which is so easy and once you make it…you may never go back!!!
Now that doesn’t sound too difficult does it? So give it a try…lets get started:
Coconut Cream Pie!
1/4 cup cornstarch 1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups half & half 4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons butter 1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla ext. 1- 9″ baked pie crust
1 cup whipping cream 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla toasted coconut (optional)
In a heavy saucepan mix together cornstarch and sugar. Whisk in half & half and egg yolks. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Boil 1 minute and remove from heat. Stir in butter, coconut and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Cover with plastic wrap right on top of filling to prevent “skin” from forming and let cool. Pour cooled filling into the baked pie crust and chill 3-4 hours or until completely set.
In the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid Mixer (my favorite kitchen tool!) or with a hand mixer, beat 1 cup whipping cream on high speed until it starts to thicken. Gradually add in powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, continuing to beat until soft peaks form. Spread over pie with a spatula. Garnish with toasted coconut.
Now wasn’t that a snap? Your family and friends will be so impressed and thankful that you made this for them. Nothing says “I love you like something you’ve made from your kitchen. Give this recipe a try and you will conquer the coconut cream pie!
A few tools used in this recipe:
Yummy, melt in your mouth biscuits. For as long as I can remember biscuits have played a large role in our family meals. My mom made them on Sunday mornings with gravy, during the week with fried chicken and at most holidays. Family events almost always include supper, and southern suppers (of course I’m a southern gal!) usually include biscuits! Tender, fluffy biscuits start with simple ingredients most home bakers have on hand such as self-rising flour, shortening or butter and buttermilk. ( Psst……I add a secret ingredient….shhhh…..but I will share with you!) I add a tablespoon of granulated sugar to the dry ingredients. It just gives it a little something extra. I use a soft light flour such as White Lily Self-Rising flour, Crisco shortening and buttermilk regular or low fat is your choice. A few tools you’ll need are measuring cups, measuring spoons, a pastry blender and a biscuit cutter. So…lets get started with the ingredients.
- In a large bowl combine flour and sugar mixing well with a fork.
- Add shortening and cut in with a pastry blender until its the size of small peas.
- Add the buttermilk and stir until well combined. Don’t over mix…dough should be a little sticky.
- Add a sprinkle of flour until dough is not sticky. Pour dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out until about 1″ thick.
- Cut out with a biscuit cutter as close together as you can. This will yield more biscuits and believe me…you’ll need ‘em
- Now, I bake my biscuits on a baking stone. I have used many different surfaces and the stone produces a soft, moist, golden brown biscuit with a firm(not hard) bottom and the stone holds heat and keeps the biscuits warm for a while…which is a good thing!
- I place my biscuits close together on the stone so they are touching….now some of you might want a crispier outer crust and that’s fine…just give them some room on the stone. Bake them at 425° for 13 to 15 minutes, depending on your oven’s true temperature.
- When they come out of the oven, brush the tops with melted butter and…..EAT! They are so good and our family will think you are a SUPERHERO!!!!!!!!!
A few tools used in this recipe:
Hope everyone is having a great day….maybe with a piece of lemon meringue pie! I am working on my site…Simply Baking where you can find information on the best bakeware on the market today. Don’t just settle for what your brick and mortar stores have to offer, because there’s much more to choose from on the internet. I have compiled information on the top brands and give you everything you need to make an informed decision when you invest in your new bakeware. I have also added my favorite “sweet” recipes for your pleasure, so sit back, pour you a cup of coffee and enjoy!