My Handy Tips On How To Make Pastries

apple-cherry-pastries

If your friend knows how to make soft and tasty pastries, you may be wondering about all the secrets that go into preparation of flakey and tasty. Well, here are my handy guidelines and hints that will help you make some of the most delightful puff pastries you have never imagined.

Use the right flour

The choice of flour is paramount and must be considered. It is one thing that can make a whole difference on the type of pastry you will make. On any given day, if I want those crumby finish and tender crust, using softer flour and lesser protein, I make sure I inhibit the development of gluten as much a possible.

Fat matters a lot

Many at times, I normally add fat not only to give me that great flavor, but also to stop the development of gluten.

Use the right amount water

Although using less water is always advisable, I always tell people to at least add water so that the dough can be worked with so much ease. In ensuring I get the best pastries, I always add water in any of my recipe little at a time until I achieve those lumpy pastries. However, should you add too much water and you find your pastry very sticky, add a little more flour.

Always use cold ingredients

When teaching people how make pastries, I always insist; use cold ingredients in your recipe. It is something I do every single day when I making my pastries and it works like magic. Those cold ingredients will ensure you get those flakey crusts. Try this and you will get the best pastries ever.

Rest your pastries

For me, the option of chilling my pastry dough in my fridge for some time is always a good idea, and you should follow the same. Not will those cold temperatures allow the gluten to relax, but a very relaxed pastry is far more likely to hold its shape when you are cooking it.

Sharp knives with an edge with the right knife sharpener

A few weeks ago, my husband and I organized an outdoor luncheon for the entire family to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary. My siblings were gracious enough to volunteer to help prepare the meal in our kitchen. As we were busy prepping up the food, I can’t help stop listening to their rantings about how blunt my knives were. Each slice of the cucumber will be accompanied with one sigh. But nonetheless, we persevered and managed to cook up a deal for everyone present.

The day after, I decided to do something about my knives and that is when I looked up the Internet for solution. I came across various knife sharpeners that is so relevant for my use and decided to share this here to help ladies out there preventing them for experiencing the same ordeal as I did with my luncheon preparations.

There are a few types of knife sharpener in the market that you can purchase such as the usual manual knife sharpener stones, pocket knife sharpener and now even an electric knife sharpener. For those wanting to save cost, a manual knife sharpener such as the Woodstock SteeleX D1130 Grit and 6000 Grit Japanese Waterstone is well recommended. It has the combination of two grit size which can cater for all kitchen knives you have. Only water is needed to lubricate the cutting edge for better effect.

If you are an avid outdoor camper, you can also consider the pocket knife sharpener, Lansky PS-MED01 BladeMedic which is made of tungsten carbide that can sharpen your knife with just three to four strokes. It is light weight and even have a serrated designed to cater for the smallest serrations possible on your knife.

For those with a bigger budget, then the simplest and most convenient way to sharpen your kitchen knives is by using the Wusthof PETEC Electric Sharpener 2933 which has 3 stages of sharpening. One is for the usual sharpening motion using a 100% diamond abrasive wheel, next is to go through a finer grit diamond wheel and lastly a stropping material to polish your blades. Your knives would be strikingly sharp and sleek.

After sharpening

After sharpening

The above are just a few recommendations from me from my own personal experience. Feel free to research further on the net for more options. Happy Sharpening!

Find Your Home Espresso Maker

If you love dropping by cafes to pick up a coffee every day, but cringe at the build up cost, then you certainly need to have your own home espresso machine. One way to help find your ideal best espresso machine would be by going through some best espresso machine reviews.

Some of the best rated espresso machines are from Delonghi, Breville and Gaggia. My personal favorite is:

Breville 800ESXL
I studied and studied and studied all the expresso makers and I knew I did not want to spend over $500 for a good pot. My goal was to find a great pot for under that amount. I read every review there is on the internet concerning the Breville 800 ESXL. People love it or hate it but if you read carefully, you may find as I did, that many of those who hate it, did not follow the directions as prescribed by Breville. They treated it like their old pot, however, the Breville 800 is a wonderful pot if used according to the instructions put out by Breville. And dare I say, that some of the others who did not like the pot sounded like coffee snobs who want perfection and had no right buying this machine and judging by standards that only a much more expensive machine could match.

If you want a truly outstanding espresso or cappuccino, the Breville 800 will do it for you, as long as you live up to your part of the bargain. The first thing you need are really good beans and fresh filtered water. Next is to really learn how to make espresso. You need to find the right grind and then stick with it. I have a Capresso Burr Grinder that works great for only $85. You need to learn the right amount of pressure to tamp the coffee (also, it does not hurt purchase a good metal tamp- the one they give you is only okay). You should get a thermometer to make sure your frothed milk is between 140 – 160 degrees and then learn how to froth milk. The cups should be warm and you will have some great coffee. – Edward Fiscella

By having a machine at home, you can conveniently have the greatest coffee that will fit your taste at a more affordable cost. Besides the amazing benefits that coffee would likely bring to the body, coffee lovers believe that it would surely supply them with energy every day. Depending on how many times you would choose to drink it every day, coffee helps maximize energy in order to actively complete your day-to-day activities. We all know that caffeine stimulates the brain. Getting your own home espresso machine will make this all the more simpler, and you won’t want to drink at the cafe anymore.

Picking a Good Espresso Machine

espresso machine

My husband was thinking of getting the best automatic espresso machine soon for our home and of course, the first thing I said to his remark over breakfast this morning was “I will read some reviews on that and check out the espresso machine reviews too”. He turned to me and grinned and said that he somehow expected me to say that! Well, I don’t blame him. I had always love reading espresso machine reviews especially those with ratings.

I find it fun to compare each product or model and see which one scores better than the other. Of course, I read the main review too but the ratings are the ones that give me an idea which is a better model. I usually zoomed into the one with the highest ratings first before coming back to the others. This way, I know what I am comparing with. So, yes, I do love reading reviews. In fact, it has been a hobby of mine for many years now.

So I did go through loads of espresso maker reviews in Amazon. These are really helpful and I narrowed down to the best espresso makers in 2016:

Nespresso Pixie Automatic Espresso Maker
Review:
PROS:
– Small footprint makes this machine well suited for smaller kitchens that don’t have a lot of counter space.
– Heats up very quickly, i.e. making coffee is quite fast
– Cute design
– Coffee is very good and hot, with excellent crema, just like it is with the Citiz.

CONS:
– Smaller water reservoir means frequent refilling.
– Reservoir is more difficult to remove than on the Citiz. It clicks into the machine at the top via two plastic ‘hooks’ which only retract when one opens the reservoir’s hinged lid. With the lid open, one then lifts the reservoir up and out. We found this a bit tedious, coming from the more straight-forward design of the Citiz where no opening of the lid is required, one lifts it out and is done.
– The cup tray folds up for taller cups such as latte macchiato glasses but it does not stay folded up on its own, i.e. one has to hold the tray with one hand and place the cup down with the other. As soon as the cup is removed, the tray falls back into its original position
– We found that there is noticeable coffee spray during operation. We had to place the machine on a towel and move it away from anything that could be permanently soiled by that spraying, such as walls.

Nespresso Inissia Automatic Espresso Maker
Review:
Pros:
The espresso tastes great
It makes espresso in under a minute
The water tank lasts a while
You don’t have to dispose of the capsules immediately

Cons:
Capsules are sort of pricey
Not many other companies make capsules

The Inissia is cheaper but the Pixie seems to be more solid. When my husband gets back from work I’ll show him what I’ve found!

Nonstick Pans vs Stainless Steel Pans

I’m discovering that a lot of people have a stash of beat-up nonstick pans in their cupboards that they use all … the … time. And they have maybe one shiny, pristine stainless-steel pan they’re afraid to use. Does that scenario sound familiar?

Let me simplify your life and give you some guideline about using your best cookware set.

When to Use Nonstick and Regular Pans

First of all, nonstick pans and regular pans are like apples and oranges. The uses of each are almost mutually exclusive. If you wanted to fry an egg or sear a delicate fish, you’d use a nonstick pan. If you want to saute vegetables or whip up a quick stir-fry, you’d use stainless. Why? Because nonstick pans are all about preventing any sort of stick at all. Stainless-steel pans–used properly–are all about getting a flavorful crust on the food and just enough to stick to the bottom (that stuff is called fond) to create a base for easy pan sauces and such.
nonstick vs regular
When to Use Nonstick

  • Egg dishes
  • Delicate fish (firmer fish like tuna and salmon are fine in a stainless-steel pan)
  • Oozy, cheesy things like quesadillas
  • Stir-fried Asian rice noodles

When to Use Stainless Steel

  • Stir-fries
  • Sauteed vegetables
  • Seared meat, chicken and seafood
  • Sauces

You always want a thin coating of fat in a nonstick pan if you’re preheating it, so that the heat doesn’t go to work directly on the chemicals in the nonstick coating. They also shouldn’t be heated too much above medium.

Unlike nonstick pans, you actually want to pre-heat stainless-steel pans. Heating the pan over medium heat before adding fat or food causes the cells to expand and create a slicker surface. Then swirl in your oil and wait until it, too, is heated through. That essentially gives you two natural layers of “nonstick” coating that works wonders for most foods.

Once the pan and the oil are heated, add whatever you’re cooking. If you’re searing something like pork chops, be sure to leave plenty of room between them for air to circulate so that each piece can brown. Otherwise, they’ll just steam and will never get that lovely bronze crust. Same goes for sauteing … don’t crowd the pan.

If it seems like food is sticking, leave it alone for a bit … it will unstick itself once it’s good and ready. In fact, once you put your food in and give it an initial toss (if sauteing or stir-frying), just walk away from the pan. If you futz with it too often, you’ll keep it from forming that awesome crust. Plus, life is just easier that way.

One last thing … while I wouldn’t necessarily call nonstick pans disposable, they certainly aren’t going to (and shouldn’t) become heirlooms either. I tend to replace my nonstick pans every 12-18 months and I spend accordingly–usually between $15 and $30 per pan (P.S. — I only have 2 nonstick pans at any given time … a big one and a medium one). My stainless-steel pans, on the other hand, cost a small fortune … but I’ve had them for over a decade and know they’ll still be going strong for several more.

Read more here.

Guide to Your Chef Knife

chef knifeOne of the most important things to master in the kitchen is the humble knife. A good, sharp best kitchen knife and even modest knife skills will save you time and keep you safe while cooking. If you can’t tell the difference between a carving knife and a best chef knife, or you’re not sure to mince or chiffonade, this guide can help.

The entire guide starts off with the anatomy of a knife (as you can see above), and then goes into the different types of knives so you pick the right one for the right job. Then you’ll learn how to perfect those knife skills by using the “cat’s paw” grip on the item you’re cutting, the “pinch” on the knife itself, and then moving your arm in a circular motion to keep the momentum going and keep the blade on the surface of the cutting board. If you do it right, you’ll spend less effort and time chopping, and since the blade shouldn’t move around a ton, it’ll be safer too.

The entire infographic is way too large to embed here, but you can see the whole thing at the link below. The graphic even goes into the differences between types of chopped items, from dices and minces to brunoise and juliennes.

Choosing a chef’s knife: Your chef’s knife is your ally in the kitchen. You’ll use it every day, every time you cook, so make sure you buy one that feels comfortable in your hand: not too heavy or too light, not too long or too short, just right. If you can, go to a store that has several different kinds and brands of chef’s knives and give them all a try. But remember: you only need one solid knife. And a good kitchen knife doesn’t have to be expensive (we love this inexpensive Victorinox knife).

Your knife should be sharp! Next up, make sure your knife is sharp and honed. It should be able to cut through ingredients cleanly and easily without needing to use a lot of force. If it doesn’t, take it to a professional knife sharpener to get it fixed up. If you had your knife sharpened recently, it may just need to be honed on a honing steel to straighten out the edge.

How to hold the knife. Good knife skills start with holding the knife properly. Pinch the blade of the knife where it meets the handle between your thumb and first finger, then wrap the rest of your fingers around the handle. (Do not lay your first finger across the top of the blade.) This position will give you the most leverage and control as you cut and dice. It might feel a little awkward at first, but if you keep practicing holding your knife this way, it will quickly start to feel natural. Watch the video above to really see how this is done.

Use “The Claw” to protect your other hand. Be sure to protect your other hand as you cut: use “The Claw” position. Curl the fingers of your opposite hand into a “claw” and rest just the tips of your fingers on top of the ingredient you’re about to cut. Tuck your thumb in; your wrist should be parallel to the cutting board. As you slice, move your fingers back, still keeping this claw formation. If your knife slips as you cut, it will hit against your knuckles or fingernails, protecting you from a serious slice. More tips here.

Perfectly Steamed Rice with My Rice Cooker

Zojirushi-Micom-Rice-Cooker

Zojirushi rice cookers are just one of the best rice cookers in the market today that can help you enjoy perfectly steamed rice without ever guessing. The work is just as simple as pressing a button while you wait for sometime for the rice to cook. A Zojirushi rice cooker comes with a one-year warranty, has a measuring cup, a nonstick rice spatula together with the spatula holder something which simplifies your task of cooking rice.

A Zojirushi rice cooker allows you to cook any type of rice. It has different settings for every type of rice you want to cook plus the correct measurements markings for the different rice. It is therefore easy for you to cook long grain rice brown rice, sushi, medium grain crown, white basmati, jasmine and even a mixture of both brown and white basmati. Another reason why you might need to shop for the best rated rice cooker is because of its micro-computerized fuzzy logic technology which constantly adjusts the temperature so that rice cooks perfectly every time.

Zojirushi rice cooker has a keep warm function with a LCD display timer and nonstick inner cooking pan. The timer is just convenient as you can set the rice at a specific time, the point at which the rice is already warm. The LCD control panel is easy-to-read and the clock and timer just work perfectly. Moreover, the bowl of the cooker perfectly distributes heat and you cannot find any scorched rice or a crust attached to the bowl. Generally, the best rice cookers from Zojirushi are attractive, have a reasonable footprint which saves on countertop space in the kitchen and are highly efficient in making you perfect rice at home.

The only setback the cooker has is unclear directions which seem to have been poorly translated from Japanese. But all the same, the cooker is very easy to operate once you have an idea on what to do.

The exact cookware set I was looking for!

I enjoy cooking like a gourmet and surprising my family with exotic dishes which I prepare during dinnertime every evening. Whether that be braised meat, Indian curry, Chinese soup, shepherd’s pies, or anything else, I simply download the recipes from the net, start cooking from early evening and have my table laid out much before dinnertime. I had a nonstick coated aluminum cookware set before, but had always wanted an all copper clad stainless steel set since friends had told me they provided uniform heat throughout making food would turn out better! I knew what I wanted to buy, but was rather stumped on the model from the vast available choices. That’s when I started looking at best cookware reviews online to find a suitable set that would meet all my requirements.

I was looking for skillets, saucepans, saute pans, and stockpots in my set. That would be all that would be required to bring out the genius in me as far as cooking was concerned! I was also looking for a stainless steel cookware set that would clean easy and was dishwasher friendly. It needed to sustain heat up to 500 degrees F in the oven, and would not have food remnant stuck to pan bottoms despite not having nonstick coating and cooking in very little oil. My preference for stainless steel cookware also was because of the fact that I had read multiple articles warning on the toxic effects of nonstick coated cookwares.

After extensive research, I was finally able to locate a set that had 5 plies of stainless steel at the bottom, with copper cladding all around to provide efficient distribution of heat uniformly. It was also quite funky in that the handles and grips were of a different color. I was sure it would add sunshine to my kitchen and make cooking more exciting and a fun job! I purchased the cookware set without any further dilly dallies, though I had to pay a bit more because of the in-built features in the set, and took delivery a couple of days later.

It’s now more than a month since the cookware set has come to my kitchen. Food tastes much better every time I cook in it, so my family says! It’s easy to clean, has a red spot at the center to let me know when it has been adequately pre-heated, and does a great job every time, unfailingly! Thanks to the best cookware reviews, I could locate the exact set that I was looking for!

Additional info:
How to choose a stainless steel pan

How I found the Perfect Chef Knife

best chef knife

Last week, I found myself in an unfortunate predicament. That is, I was cutting vegetables and realized that my chef knife was ineffective to the point where I was putting more effort into my cutting motions than I did when I went to the gym earlier that day. This just could not do. I am a chef after all; I should have the proper tools to complete my job. I looked at the chef knife I was using and realized the flaws that it had. The handle was rigid, not ergonomic, and did not quite fit my hand properly. The blade was dull, somewhat short for my taste, and was obviously ineffective. So, I decided to look for best knife reviews on the best chef knife as I needed a chef knife that was well suited to my own personal style- something that felt good to use, and more importantly cut through meats and veggies like they were a stick of butter. While I was shopping, I decided I wanted to go for a shorter knife. (More: Buying guide for best chef knife). I decided on an eight inch blade. Also, to accommodate the fact that I want it to feel nice in my hand, I sprung for a thinner blade. This meant the blade would be lighter, and so, easier to use. I was stuck between what brand of chef knife I wanted; I was struck by a beautiful piece of stainless steel.

Wow! This chef knife was a piece of art, and I felt like I was pulling a sword from stone as the guy got it out from the display case. This blade was made just for me, and as I felt the weight in my hand I knew this. That’s really the trick when finding the best chef knives. The knives that feel good to you are the ones that allow you to focus on the great part of your job: making awesome food! At least, this was the case for me.

More reading:
Wusthof – knife review

Gorgeous Gray Indoors

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Bought An Intex Air Mattress for Only $60

Purchasing an air mattress doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. Many companies have entered the air mattress markets and have reduced the average price. The two main air mattresses that I’m going to discuss are extreme bargains for their price: The Intex Downy Double Queen sized air mattress and the Intex Camp Air Bed. By the time that you are through reading this article, you’ll be fully aware of why both of these air mattresses are such a bargain and why they should be able to satisfy your needs. I personally think that the Intex Downy is the best air mattress of 2015.

camping

 

The Intex Downy Double Queen sized air mattress is a highly dependable and modestly priced. Featuring a built-in air pump that’s capable of inflating your mattress in under five minutes, it’s no wonder that it comes highly recommended. Intex is definitely a company that knows how to make a high quality air mattress, so it’s no wonder that this best air mattress is the subject of some of the best Intex air mattress reviews.

Next up is the Intex Camp Air Bed. One of the most affordable camping air mattress currently available, it’s definitely worth it’s under $60 price tag. Featuring a battery operated air pump and a highly functional 3 in 1 air valve, this camping air mattress comes highly recommended. With a maximum weight of 600 pounds for a queen size and 300 for its twin sized counterpart, you could definitely make good use of this mattress on your next camping trip.

Regardless of if you need an air mattress for your home or camping, there is definitely an air mattress in your price range. With a little bit of research and a bit of time invested, you can find the air mattress that’s right for you.

More: Buying Guide

Tight on budget? My Experience with Espresso machines under $200

Most espresso and coffee fanatics claim that price dictates the quality of the shot brewed. I, on the other hand, strongly disagree with them. Price doesn’t always dictate the value. Instead, price dictates the features of the best espresso machine. For instance, the high end machines are mostly super automatic meaning that you don’t have to do anything rather than pushing a button. Some of them also come with pre-programmed one-touch espresso and TFT features.

What I came to understand is that, most of the best espresso machine under 200 are semi-automatic and here the quality of the shot will depend on your skills. A wide majority of the best semi-automatic espresso machines available on the shelves are very easy to use. The first espresso cup I made was from a semi-auto espresso machine from Breville. The machine itself was quite stunning for a price tag below $200. While I used semi-auto machines I loved the fact that they give you the freedom to adjust your drink to suit your what your lips desire. Therefore, whichever flavor I desired, I got.

A vast majority of espresso machines that I tried out in the past usually came with a 15bar pressure pump which was suitable for the force required to crush the coffee beans. There will also be a stainless steel water boiler or thermos-coil heating system. Such a heating system is very durable as most of them brewed coffee for me for at least 5 years. Actually, I never changed my machines because of breakdowns. I just wanted to try out the new features on the new machines. Some machines under 200 will have an aluminum boiler which is susceptible to corrosion. In such a case, you should use bottled water rather than tap water.

There are also fully automatic espresso machines under $200 which are ideal for people who are always on-the-go’. A good example is the Philips Saeco Vienna Plus Automatic Espresso Machine. This machine enabled me to brew a cup by simply pushing a button. It also had a steam wand suitable for milk frothing.

In conclusion, I loved espresso machines under 200 but I was really tempted by the new machines and their unique features. Once in a while, I find myself brewing a cup of espresso from the semi-auto machines…

More:
The Top Espresso Makers of 2016
Hyperion espresso

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