Learning As I Chop

An Update

Posted in Tips by R @ Learning As I Chop on August 22, 2011

Remember last week when I had some baking issues? I thought I had failed to grease the pan properly so I tried again. Unfortunately, another fail.  Then H stepped-in and suggested using double the butter and a different method. However we were left with the same result. Half on the plate and half in the pan.

It has since been decided that cheap pans were at fault. As a punishment, they met their destinies in the garbage can.  My best friend and I therefore drove to the nearest store and bought a replacement cake. (We also saw a bear cross the road, which for two native NYers was quite scary and shocking. But that’s another story for another time.) In the meantime, I’ve learned my lesson. No more low-quality pans. Only the best for this kitchen. Or, at least a step above from Walmart-purchased worst. Enjoy!

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Technical Difficulties

Posted in Tips by R @ Learning As I Chop on July 30, 2011

Yesterday I had almost finished a lovely post about summer chili (sounds oxy-moronical, I know) but when I turned on my camera, none of the pictures could be found. No idea what happened, but by then the chili was well within our tummies and images couldn’t be reproduced. In case you’re wondering, here’s the recipe I used. It wound-up being quite easy and delicious. You can also play around with ingredients (which I did), using what you have around the house to put together a simple dinner for your family. Plus, since you don’t need the oven, it works well for summer and doesn’t overly heat the house.

Nevertheless, as I sat around bummed about my post-that-was, I got to thinking about technical difficulties. All was lost due to a camera that had let me down. So what happens in the kitchen when other gadgets stop working, or stop working well? I decided to search around for a few places in NYC where you can get things fixed and move right along.

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For example, nothing in the kitchen is worse than a dull knife. It can be completely frustrating to use and creates the sloppiest of cuts. However it’s really not a good idea to sharpen your own knives if you don’t know what you’re doing. Leave it to the professionals:

Broadway Panhandler
65 East 8th Street between Broadway and University
Manhattan/East Village

Henry Westpfal & Co.
115 West 25th Street at 6th Avenue
Manhattan/Garment District

Ambrosi Cutlery
4 Lupi Court
Mahopac, NY

Sur La Table
75 Spring Street at Crosby
Manhattan/SoHo

Bowery Kitchen Supplies Chelsea Market
460 West 16th Street
Manhattan/Chelsea

ABC Knife Grinding Corp.
2954 Fulton Street
Brooklyn/Broadway Junction

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I definitely plan to visit one of these establishments soon, as a few too many curse words have escaped my mouth while chopping vegetables. In the meantime, I’m off to DC to celebrate a friend’s impending baby daughter and won’t be back in the kitchen for a few days. While gone, I hope to fix my weird camera and devour some pink-frosted cake. Enjoy!

Did You Know: Brown Sugar

Posted in Did You Know by R @ Learning As I Chop on June 21, 2011

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In my last post about cookies, I spoke about de-clumping brown sugar. This was always a problem for me,  so I finally decided to spend a few more dollars and buy a certain type of brown sugar that avoids this issues. However this tip lead to wonder “why does brown sugar clump? Thanks to a quick google, I found this answer:

“Brown sugar is refined white sugar with anywhere from 3.5 to 6.5 percent molasses syrup, which is a sweet, viscous byproduct of sugarcane or beet sugar. This means brown sugar contains more moisture than conventional sugar. When a package is opened and exposed to air over time, its moisture will evaporate, and the sugar will harden, forming dense clusters.”

If you want to avoid this problem, here’s a solution:

One of the best and most common ways to store brown sugar is to place it in an airtight container (like Tupperware® or another similar product) and put it into the refrigerator or freezer. If it’s in the freezer, of course, it will feel hard, but you’ll find that it will thaw in about an hour and return to its desired powdery form. If it’s in the refrigerator, allow it to sit for about 15 minutes and return to room temperature. It can also be stored in its original plastic bag, as long as it is sealed very tightly, or in a glass jar or canister with a gasket that seals the lid.

Another favored method of keeping sugar soft is to store a piece of bread with the brown sugar. Others use half an apple or an orange slice to keep the brown sugar at its correct consistency.

Kitchen specialty stores also sell small disks (or other shapes) of clay that you insert in the bag of brown sugar (with the sugar covering the disk). The disk is soaked in cold water before placing it into the bag. Once it’s in place, the sugar can be kept at room temperature.

However if you find yourself with hard sugar and a need to bake, you can:

Place about a ½ pound of the hardened sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover the sugar with two wet paper towels (not dripping) and then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Nuke for about 2 to 2 ½ minutes, depending on the wattage of your microwave. Divide the warmed sugar with a fork, stir, and use immediately. (Sugar will be very hot, so be careful!)

You can also place the open bag of sugar in the microwave with a cup of water beside it. Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, turning the bag after each minute.

If you have the luxury of time, place the sugar in a bowl and place foil or plastic wrap directly onto the sugar. Put a crumpled, dampened paper towel on top of the wrap. The brown sugar will absorb the moisture. Remove once the paper towel has dried out.

I have some muffins on my mind and hope to bake them soon. In the meantime, enjoy!