Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dear Santa: Christmas gifts for the kitchen

There are still a few shopping + shipping days until Christmas, so I thought I'd share with you a few products that make my time in the kitchen a lot more enjoyable. I've acquired most of these since I began this blog (and actually started drafting this post more than a year ago!)

The single best piece of equipment in my kitchen is a digital kitchen scale from Will Knott Scales, the Salter 6055 . Although my scale has a handy storage spot, it rarely leaves the countertop. I use it dozens of times every day. With a little bit of practice, and recipes that are written with weights as well as volume measurements, you can nearly eliminate the use of measuring cups.

Although there are times when only a wooden spoon will do the task at hand, for most tasks that require a rigid spoon, a Tovolo silicone spoons is a an even better tool because it is heat resistant and non-stick. The spoon's handle is perfectly rigid, and that stiffness extends beneath the silicone layer of the bowl as well.

It's hard to beat the pungent spiciness of freshly ground pepper, and this 4" clear acrylic pepper grinder by William Bounds is a favorite. With a twist of the top, you can choose from three levels of grind. The whimsical fine print along the top ring reads, "made on the third planet from the sun."

Next to the digital scale, my digital thermometer has made perhaps the biggest difference in my cooking and baking. I use mine to test the temperature of ingredients, the gauge the internal crumb of bread, and check the done-ness of meat or poultry. The high-end thermapen is probably wonderful, but for a fraction of the price, I've loved this one: CDN Q2-450.

The Silpat baking mat is designed to line a baking sheet so that baked goods brown evenly and release easily. But the mats are also useful for lining a counter when you have to roll out dough or form loaves of bread.

My knife skills are mediocre at best, but with this Henckels 4 Star Santoku knife, I feel like an old hand at the cutting board. It's reasonably priced, well balanced, and a versatile size for most cutting and chopping jobs. I love the way it dices garlic and chops herbs.
Silicone muffin cups are wonderfully handy to have in the kitchen. You can fill them with batter and set them on a cookie sheet to bake. They make un-molding even the trickiest muffin or cupcake a fairly easy task. Because they are flexible, you can just push the muffin from the bottom. The cups are useful when a recipe makes a generous amount of batter and you need a couple of extra of cups beyond the 6 or 12 in your muffin pan. Additionally, when I'm baking a cake, I've often reserved some of the batter and baked a single cupcake for tasting purposes.

My Microplane brand grater/zester is a tool I use nearly every day, especially to zest citrus, grind nutmeg, and grate Parmesan cheese. The hundreds of tiny blades are razor-sharp, making quick work of grating tasks.

When I ordered an electric coffee grinder to use for grinding spices, it seemed like such a guilty indulgence. But I've ended up using it quite a bit, and love the time that it saves and the wonderful taste of freshly ground spices in the recipes I prepare. I use it most often for ground cloves and allspice, but it also grinds up dried vanilla pods (which I use in making vanilla ice cream - it really saves money over using just the seeds.)

Once you begin baking from recipes that list ingredients by weight rather than volume (those in many bread books, for example, or European recipes) you will eventually wish that you could measure in smaller amounts than your everyday scale can reliably deliver. That's when an Escali pocket scale is useful. When I reduced a bread recipe recently, this scale helped me measure the correct amount of yeast and salt.

I'd love to hear about your favorite kitchen tools - let me know in the comments.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the kitchen gadgets.Wish you a joyful Christmas ahead.

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Jessica said...

That's a fabulous list of kitchen essentials. I think that the 2 that I most want now are the silicone spoon (I don't think I've ever seen one!) and the pocket scale. I have a kitchen scale, but I'm perpetually annoyed because it doesn't go to 2 decimal places.

Mary Ann said...

I have never seen a silicone spoon like that! I definitely want one.
My fave thing is definitely my microplane grater/zester. It is also the thing that I give the most, since it is fairly inexpensive.
I wish Santa would bring me a few of the things on this list!

compare gold buyers said...

a really good pressie for the kitchen is a usb fridge. i got given one last year - brilliant!

Maria said...

Great gift ideas! We have the same taste:)

Unknown said...

Fun post! I put that thermometer on my wish list after asking you about it so hopefully I'll be the proud owner of one soon :) I'm also asking for a digital scale this Christmas as I'm still baking without one over here.

margot said...

Fun post! We have a lot of the same favorites and a scale is at the top of my xmas list. I love that knife, it's the perfect size. I also just bought a second silicone spoon 'cos I use mine so much. Do you have any mini rubber spatulas? Those are another one of my small, but constantly used kitchen tools.

Megan said...

Sounds like we have similar taste in kitchen gadgets. I think my mixer is my favorite kitchen appliance, though - either that or my ovens!

Di said...

Ooh, I want a pocket scale! And the silicone spoon looks pretty cool, too. Don't know if either will make in onto my Christmas list at this late date, but my birthday isn't too far off, either. =)

mike said...

Great stuff.... also on my list is one of those "chocolate" thermometers, to temper chocolate. Can't live without the Silpat or the scale! And there's a few things that I don't have from your list!

Kayte said...

Fun post...think I am well stocked except I don't have that kind of knife, so you think I should get one? I also don't have the spice grinder, woefully lacking here in sophisticated spices and their tag alongs. I don't think I can live without that scale these days, you were so right, it is so addicting. I leave it out, too, as I am constantly using it (still have weighed yogurt with it...LOL).