Find ways to use leftover Easter eggs

 strawberry shortcakes

If you're among the millions of people who dyed a bunch of eggs to use as decoration for the Easter holiday, you are probably facing a conundrum of what to do with all of them now that Easter is behind us. Egg salad sandwiches and deviled eggs might work for some, but there a dozens of more interesting options. To get you started, the LA Times has 38 recipes to use leftover hardboiled eggs, including egg salad but also some novel concepts like Latkes a la huancaina (Latkes with Peruvian pepper and fresh cheese sauce). 

One area where you might not expect to find a use for hardboiled eggs is in desserts, but there are a surprising number of pastry and cookie recipes where the yolks contribute to a tender, melting texture. Bon Appetit explains how you can harness the power of hardboiled egg yolks to make delicate shortcakes, sables, and moreCooked egg yolks prevent excess gluten development without weighing down the batter or dough.

The EYB Library contains over 1,300 recipe that incorporate hardboiled eggs, either whole or just the yolks. You'll find everything including empanadas, Sabih from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sam Tamimi, Son-in-law eggs: Thai fried hard-boiled eggs in tamarind sauce from Serious Eats, Remoulade sauce, and, yes, shortcake. With all of these options, you might find yourself boiling more eggs when you run out of the leftovers. 

Photo of BA's best strawberry shortcake from Bon Appétit Magazine

Tips on choosing the right flour

flour

If you aren't already a dedicated baker, you may only have one or two types of flour in your pantry. When you do decide to dip your toe into the waters of breads, cakes, and pastries, the numbers of different flours can be overwhelming, and using the wrong flour can lead to lackluster results. To help you avoid baking disaster, Becky Krystal at The Washington Post provides a handy guide on how to choose the right flour for your baking needs

Her guide is a very basic one, focusing on the differences between all-purpose flour (aka plain flour) and other varieties such as bread flour (aka strong flour), whole wheat (wholemeal) flour, cake flour and pastry flour. The main differences between the white flours are the amounts of protein found in each type. The strength of the protein is related to the amount of gluten produced when the flour is mixed with a liquid. More gluten leads to more chew, so you'll want to save the higher-protein flours for things like rustic breads and use the lower-protein flours for delicate items like cakes and pastries. 

Of course there are many other types of non-wheat flours (which have less or no gluten, depending on the type), and specialty flours like Italian 00 flour. Nigella Lawson provides a good explanation of the latter. The 00 flour "has a fairly high gluten (protein) level but the gluten in durum is not the same as that found in regular wheat in most western countries. So the gluten in durum does not strengthen as much when liquid is added or when the dough is kneaded and the resulting dough is not as tough." That's why Italian 00 flour makes good pasta, says Nigella. 

There are websites dedicated to non-traditional flours used in gluten-free baking, such as the indexed blog Gluten-Free Girl by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern. Other sites explore the interesting flavors, textures, and purported health benefits of flours made from ancient grains and other plants. For example, author Nadia Lim has a guide to using non-wheat flours on her blog.

For an in-depth analysis of the many alternative flours, you might want to try one of several cookbooks that dive into the details. Some of our favorites are Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich, The Homemade Flour Cookbook by Erin Alderson, and The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam. We're also eyeing the upcoming Flour: From Grains and Pulses to Nuts and Seeds by Christine McFadden, which will be released in May.

How to use the other side of your chef's knife

 knife

We're all familiar with how to use the business-end of our chef's knives. But did you know that the back of the blade, also known as the spine, is also very useful? Joe Sevier at Epicurious does, and he tells us six ways to use the other side of a chef's knife.

The blunt side of your knife is perfect for tasks like bruising lemongrass to get rid of its tough outer fibers. It's easier to just flip your knife over instead of digging through the drawer to find a separate tool like a meat tenderizer (which also means one more thing to clean). 

You can also use the dull edge to scale a fish or to "milk" an ear of corn. Any task that requires this sort of dragging or pulling is better suited to the dull edge, which is sturdier than the thin cutting side. Keeping this thought in mind, let's turn to the most common scraping task - sweeping the foods you just cut off of the cutting board and into your pan or bowl. Most people just use the blade to do this, but that is hard on the cutting edge. You can keep the knife sharper longer just by flipping it over before scraping the foods into the skillet. 

Tips for cleaning silicone baking mats

 silpat

Silicone baking mats and other silicone tools are indispensable to chefs and home cooks alike. They allow you to roll out dough using less flour and to bake gooey items without fear of sticking. The downside to these wonderful tools - besides a fairly steep price tag - is that they tend to absorb odors. Indexed blog Food52 provided several ideas on how to clean silicone mats, and I decided to put a couple of them to the test. 

Before we get into the testing, let's start with the information that Food52 provided about why the mats collect odors in the first place. The answer is simple enough - silicone expands when heated, allowing oils and their accompanying odors to seep into the mat. This can lead to an unattractive oily sheen as well as a funky smell. 

The first tip involves everyone's favorite deodorizer: baking soda. The instructions are to make a paste with warm water and baking soda, rub it into the mat, and let it sit for ten minutes. I proceeded to scrub my several-year-old Silpat with the baking soda paste. I let the mat sit for twenty minutes because I was busy doing other tasks. After a thorough warm water rinse, I gave the Silpat a sniff. While the odor was not entirely eliminated, it was significantly reduced. 

A second tip involved heating the mat in an oven to let the silicone expand (although it doesn't specify at what temperature or for how long), then plunging it into a bath of warm water mixed with vinegar or lemon juice (again with  no instruction as to how much to use). I heated my generic silicone mat in a low oven for a few minutes until it was warm but not too hot to touch. I soaked the mat in a water and vinegar bath - approximately 1/4 cup vinegar in a gallon of water) for about ten minutes. The result?  After rinsing, the mat's odor was reduced, but not as much as the Silpat's was. 

I decided to try a combo of the two methods, returning both mats to the oven for a couple of minutes to warm up, then scrubbing both with the baking soda paste. After sitting for 10 minutes, the mats received a warm water rinse. Once they were dry and cool, both mats had almost no residual odor. I applied this treatment to the silicone ring of my travel mug and its lingering stale coffee odor was virtually eliminated as well. This tip proved to be a winner. What's your favorite method for cleaning silicone kitchen items? 

Tips for your improving your holiday cookie tray

 Punition sandwiches

It's the home stretch for bakers intent on making holiday cookies. The recipes are printed or bookmarked, the ingredients are at hand, and now the fun can begin. Sometimes the fun turns to frustration, however, when doughs stick unexpectedly, gorgeous designs go cattywampus, and things that are supposed to be soft get crunchy and vice-versa. 

We've lined up a few resources for you to avoid these pitfalls, starting with great tips from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. She has perfected a technique for making perfect cut-out cookies that not only makes for a better finished product but saves time in the process. Skipping the step of softening the butter makes for a firmer dough that doesn't need to be chilled, and rolling between parchment sheets allows for the scraps to be used without the cookies getting tough. 

Over at The Washington Post, Bonnie Berwick has a bevy of tips concerning cookie ingredients and more. There are several helpful reminders, ranging from the best way to separate eggs, the differences between baking powder and baking soda, and wax paper and parchment. Berwick also shares David Lebovitz's admonition to not overbeat your cookie dough, which can lead to excess spreading.  

Indexed magazine Fine Cooking also provides advice from professionals, featured the hard-earned wisdom of several pastry chefs. I found the advice from Scott Green of Travelle Kitchen + Bar in Chicago to be useful. Green advises to add flavorings like salt, vanilla, extracts and citrus zest to the butter when creaming it at the start of the dough-making process. Says Green, "Fat absorbs flavor better than other ingredients, so you'll get more bang for your buck." 

Taste of Home brings us the keys to making soft, chewy sugar cookies. If you've ever been disappointed that a cookie turned out crisp instead of invitingly soft, these tips will help your baking immensely. Many factors go into determining how crisp any cookie will be, including baking temperature, the type of flour you use, how much egg is in the dough, and what type of sugar is included. Tweaking one or more of these items can turn your cookies from being shattering chunks into pillowy bundles of goodness. 

Photo of Punition sandwiches from Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman

What's the best kind of rolling pin?

 rolling pins

Chances are good that the type of rolling pin you use depends on what your mother or other cooking mentor had, whether it is the best option or not. There are several different styles of rolling pins on the market, and each one has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. So how can you determine what is the right choicefor you? We scoured the internet to find the answer.

While the number of rolling pin options can be overwhelming, there are only a few basic varieties. The first variable you need to consider is whether or not you want handles. Most professional bakers choose rolling pins without handles (often referred to as French pins) because they have a larger surface area, are more maneuverable, and allow for better 'feedback' from the dough. They're also lighter, and as Dorie Greenspan sayswhile heavier, handled pins are suitable for coaxing puffy yeast doughs into the desired shape, they can be too heavy for cookies and pastry.  The argument to be made for rolling pins with handles is that they can be easier on the wrists, especially those with ball bearings. 

Choosing whether you want a tapered pin or one that is straight across, like a dowel, is the next decision to make. Tapered rolling pins can allow you to more easily make round shapes because they concentrate the pressure on the center of the dough. The taper does make it more likely to roll unevenly, however, so that is a consideration. Straight pins allow you to use spacers to more accurately achieve the proper dough thickness. Serious Eats calls the spacers "training wheels" for your rolling pin.

In addition to the shape, the type of material differentiates the rolling pins. Each material comes with its own set of properties, and which you choose can depend in part on what type of doughs you are working with. Pins can be made of wood, marble, stainless steel, glass, or silicone.

Wood is the most traditional material, is inexpensive, and can be gorgeous as well as practical - I purchased the beautiful sapele pin above from a local woodworker for a very reasonable price. Some varieties of wood can stick to the dough a bit more than others, but generally speaking all hardwood pins, such as maple, beech, or ash, will perform well in this regard. Hard maple is the most common wood species, and one that many bakers swear by.

Marble pins are, according to Joy the Baker, "for the aesthetically aware and the laminated dough enthusiasts." They can be chilled, which is helpful when handling buttery pastry that needs to stay cool. They are also beautiful, expensive, and heavy (remember Dorie's advice above). In my experience, marble pins have a tendency to stick to the dough more than wooden ones. 

Stainless steel is a newer option that possesses many of the positive attributes of marble with few drawbacks. You can chill the pins, they are silky smooth, lightweight, and they aren't very expensive. They may not be as attractive as marble, but they do have a certain modern aesthetic that some people might appreciate. You may want to wear gloves if you use a chilled metal pin as they can become uncomfortably cold and do not usually have handles (most marble pins do). 

Silicone pins are touted as being completely nonstick, but as with all silicone tools they have a tendency to pick up and hold on to odors. Most silicone pins are the type with handles, so they are not as maneuverable as the straight or tapered French rolling pins. Glass rolling pins may look cool, but they are impractical for reasons you can probably guess. Some glass pins allow you to put ice in the center to chill, but condensation usually renders this a poor choice. No one wants soggy dough.

As with many baking tools, there is no one-size-fits-all, perfect option. The choice that is right for you will depend on what you feel comfortable using, how much money you are willing to spend, and what types of doughs you will be rolling. Since rolling pins are relatively inexpensive and don't take up much room, having more than one is often a practical solution, so that you can switch depending on the task at hand. If it helps, tell your significant other I said it's okay to buy another rolling pin.  

Tips for making better fruit ice cream

 Raspberry ice cream

Ice cream is one of the easiest and most satisfying make-at-home desserts. Adding fruit flavors makes a good thing even better, but there are some rules you should follow, says Max Falkowitz of indexed magazine Saveur. He provides several handy tips for churning out (groan) smooth, creamy fruit ice cream. 

By following these rules, you will avoid the biggest pitfall when using fruit is the potential for icy ice cream. Since fruit contains a lot of water, it is also full of potential ice crystals. You can avoid this by understanding proper ratios, and by selecting the right fruit. The basic rule of thumb is that if it makes good jams or preserves, it will make good ice cream - think berries, stone fruits, and figs. Separate rules apply to more watery fruits and citrus.

One choice you will have to make is whether to use the fruit raw or cook it first. Falkowitz says his main guide is that "If you can pinch the fruit to mush easily in your fingers, leave it raw. Otherwise, cook it under  low heat-low to keep sugars from taking on a caramelized edge-until you can." He also prefers to whizz the fruit in a food processor or blender and strain through a fine mesh strainer. It's more uniform, has less potential for ice crystals, and is easier to measure. 

About those measurements - while Falkowitz provides some ratios for fruit and dairy, he says they are more templates than hard and fast rules. "Compared to pastry and other forms of baking, ice cream is a forgiving dessert," he says. You can play around with the proportion of fruit to dairy and also the kinds of dairy. 

Photo of Raspberry ice cream from Saveur Magazine

Cooking Help from Rick Rodgers is Now Open

Thanksgiving is one week away and our friend, Rick Rodgers, who is an expert when it comes to holiday meals, will answer any questions left in comments on this post until November 23rd. After 3 p.m on the 23rd, Rick will be busy making his own Thanksgiving dinner - so get your questions in early! 

Rick Rodgers has written some great books which I shared on my earlier post and will share them here again for those who missed that post.

Thanksgiving 101: Foolproof Recipes for Turkey, Stuffings and Dressings, Cranberry Sauce, Pumpkin Pie, and More! 

In this book you will find step-by-step instructions for classic dishes, as well as new twists on old favorites. Whether you're looking for new ways to cook turkey; traditional trimmings, chutneys, or chowders; a vegetarian entrée; or fresh ideas for regional classics, including Cajun or Italian inspired tastes, this title serves up a delicious education for the novice or experienced cook. Foolproof recipes, detailed menu timetables, and down-to-earth advice - keep this book handy for all your Thanksgiving day needs. 

The Big Book of Sides: More Than 450 Recipes for the Best Vegetables, Grains, Salads, Breads, Sauces, and More 

For me, Thanksgiving is all about the sides and this tome is the ultimate side dish lovers dream. Rick has carefully compiled a variety of wonderful options, from traditional to inspired, Americana to ethnic, Southern fare to California cuisine and everything in between. Sections include "Eat Your Vegetables," "From the Root Cellar," "A Hill of Beans," "Righteous Rice and Great Grains," and "Pasta and Friends." This book is not only a perfect resource for holiday menu planning - it is also a lifesaver throughout the year. Tired of the same old side dishes during the weekly rotation? Switch it up with one of the many variations in this encyclopedia of side dishes!   

Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague

Kaffeehaus is truly one of my favorite baking books - it is simply beautiful. I have gifted this title to many friends. I've added it to this holiday arsenal to level up your dessert planning. I understand the need for tradition - but along side that pumpkin pie I like to offer something show stopping and this title delivers. 150 impeccable recipes for recreating legendary cakes and pastries in the home kitchen from some of the dessert capitals of the world. The Vanilla Crescents are to die for - if your dessert menu is set - this book can offer options for breakfast or brunch as well. 

The Model Bakery Cookbook: 75 Favorite Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery

I can never pass up a bakery cookbook and when I bought this title, I didn't even realize that Rick had help to write it (even through his name is clearly on the cover). Model Bakery is known for their sensational artisan baked goods that build lines of guests out the door! Featuring 75 recipes and 60 photos, it shares their most-requested breads, classic desserts, and fresh pastries. Pain au Levain, Sticky Buns, Peach Streusel Pie, Ginger Molasses Cookies are examples of the recipes contained in this baking book. Breakfast, brunch or dessert can be a surefire hit with the addition of a recipe from this title. 

Christmas 101: Celebrate the Holiday Season-From Christmas to New Year's

It's never too early to start thinking about Christmas. Christmas 101 offers carefree ways to entertain with proven recipes including old favorites, menus, timetables, make-ahead tips, and more. How to throw a fabulous cocktail party, traditional buffet, cook a perfect roast, and spice up your favorite recipes with a contemporary twist. Breads, candies, and desserts that are the tokens of this special time of year are also included. 

Check out Rick's library of work - there are many books besides the titles listed here - if you use the Buy Book button on the library listing you support Eat Your Books and Rick Rodgers. 

Start your comments and please share with your friends. 

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving will be upon us in no time and our friend, Rick Rodgers, is riding in on his white horse (or donning his apron carrying a perfect turkey) to save the day. He won't actually arrive at your house with a turkey, but he will be here at Eat Your Books to help our members with any cooking or baking questions. Even the most experienced cook can benefit from Rick's knowledge.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I will post a Thanksgiving Day help article. For one week, November 16th through the 23rd at 3 p.m. - Rick will answer any questions left on that post throughout each day, several times a day. After 3 p.m on the 23rd, Rick will be busy making his own Thanksgiving dinner - so get your questions in early! Be sure to look for that post on the 17th to leave your comments.

Why are we posting this news so far in advance? We want everyone to have plenty of time to plan their menus, check out the books Rick personally recommends to help you through the Thanksgiving Day meal and for Eat Your Book members to share this post (and the post on the 16th) so that we can take full advantage of Rick's generous offer.

Rick Rodgers has written some great books and I will highlight a few for you today that are guaranteed to guide you through a tasty holiday.

Thanksgiving 101: Foolproof Recipes for Turkey, Stuffings and Dressings, Cranberry Sauce, Pumpkin Pie, and More! 

In this book you will find step-by-step instructions for classic dishes, as well as new twists on old favorites. Whether you're looking for new ways to cook turkey; traditional trimmings, chutneys, or chowders; a vegetarian entrée; or fresh ideas for regional classics, including Cajun or Italian inspired tastes, this title serves up a delicious education for the novice or experienced cook. Foolproof recipes, detailed menu timetables, and down-to-earth advice - keep this book handy for all your Thanksgiving day needs. 

The Big Book of Sides: More Than 450 Recipes for the Best Vegetables, Grains, Salads, Breads, Sauces, and More 

For me, Thanksgiving is all about the sides and this tome is the ultimate side dish lovers dream. Rick has carefully compiled a variety of wonderful options, from traditional to inspired, Americana to ethnic, Southern fare to California cuisine and everything in between. Sections include "Eat Your Vegetables," "From the Root Cellar," "A Hill of Beans," "Righteous Rice and Great Grains," and "Pasta and Friends." This book is not only a perfect resource for holiday menu planning - it is also a lifesaver throughout the year. Tired of the same old side dishes during the weekly rotation? Switch it up with one of the many variations in this encyclopedia of side dishes!   

Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague

Kaffeehaus is truly one of my favorite baking books - it is simply beautiful. I have gifted this title to many friends. I've added it to this holiday arsenal to level up your dessert planning. I understand the need for tradition - but along side that pumpkin pie I like to offer something show stopping and this title delivers. 150 impeccable recipes for recreating legendary cakes and pastries in the home kitchen from some of the dessert capitals of the world. The Vanilla Crescents are to die for - if your dessert menu is set - this book can offer options for breakfast or brunch as well. 

The Model Bakery Cookbook: 75 Favorite Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery

I can never pass up a bakery cookbook and when I bought this title, I didn't even realize that Rick had help to write it (even through his name is clearly on the cover). Model Bakery is known for their sensational artisan baked goods that build lines of guests out the door! Featuring 75 recipes and 60 photos, it shares their most-requested breads, classic desserts, and fresh pastries. Pain au Levain, Sticky Buns, Peach Streusel Pie, Ginger Molasses Cookies are examples of the recipes contained in this baking book. Breakfast, brunch or dessert can be a surefire hit with the addition of a recipe from this title. 

Christmas 101: Celebrate the Holiday Season-From Christmas to New Year's

It's never too early to start thinking about Christmas. Christmas 101 offers carefree ways to entertain with proven recipes including old favorites, menus, timetables, make-ahead tips, and more. How to throw a fabulous cocktail party, traditional buffet, cook a perfect roast, and spice up your favorite recipes with a contemporary twist. Breads, candies, and desserts that are the tokens of this special time of year are also included. 

Check out Rick's library of work - there are many books besides the titles listed here - use the Buy Book button on the library listing to support Eat Your Books and Rick Rodgers. Check back on the 16th to submit your comments to Rick and take some pressure off yourself. Happy planning! 

 

Keep your cool by going slow

Slow cooker apple butter

Who wants to use the oven during the sweltering dog days of summer? If you are among those saying "not me," then head over to indexed blog The Kitchn, who gives us eleven ways to beat the heat by using a slow cooker. Clocking in at number 11 is the classic method of cooking beans in the slow cooker. But some of the other uses in the list are more creative.

Did you know that you can make cheesecake in a slow cooker? Baked potatoes are also easily made by harnessing the low-and-slow capabilities of this under-utilized appliance. Make the most of the bumper crop of fruits or vegetables by using the slow cooker to make preserves or relishes.

Other interesting uses explored in the post are baking bread and roasting beets. More traditional soups and meats in the slow cooker are also discussed. Do you make use of your slow cooker during the summer months? What is your favorite summer slow cooker recipe?

In addition to the great ideas from The Kitchn, look to these highly rated recipes from the EYB Library:

Slow cooker Mexican pulled pork from Simply Recipes by Elise Bauer
Slow cooker black beans from Café Johnsonia
Slow cooker blueberry butter
from Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan
Carrot cake from Slow Cooker Revolution by America's Test Kitchen Editors
Spiced cauliflower and potatoes (Aloo gobi)
from The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singl

Photo of Slow cooker apple butter from My Baking Addiction by Jamie Lothridge

 

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!

Archives