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Let's just think about the fact that we are two days into August. How did this happen? Slow down 2013! I can't believe how quickly pumpkin spice season is gaining on us. Enjoy the fresh corn and heirloom tomatoes while you can!
This week's post stemmed from a Facebook conversation started by a friend that just bought a new home. What's your preference?
Which do you prefer gas or electric? And how about conventional vs convection?
The Heated Debater
Dear Heated Debater,
This is an excellent topic and I am sure there are varying opinions depending on which foods are cooked by a person most often.
This first question is a no brainer for me. Gas stovetop, hands down. The heat is faster, more even and can be regulated more easily.
Conventional ovens versus convection is a bit more complicated. I don't want to be too wishy washy, but it depends on what I am cooking/baking. First, convection is nice because the heat is blown by a fan from the back of the oven. It is hot and fast. The heat is evenly distributed throughout the oven and is terrific for roasting vegetables and meats. You need to get the hang of your convection oven though. This typically means needing to reduce your temperature by around 25 degrees in addition to reducing cooking times.
I prefer conventional ovens for the majority of my baking though. This especially applies to cakes, muffins or anything with a wet batter. Using a convection oven for these types of foods typically results in an uneven/slanted cake and filthy oven (that convection fan blows the heat around like nobody's business). I also prefer my conventional oven for things like casseroles which tend to dry out in a convection oven. Slow and steady wins the race in these sorts of instances.
If you are in the market for a new oven, I would find a well reviewed conventional oven with a convection switch. We have one of these and it is the best of both worlds. I can turn it on to roast potatoes for dinner and then turn it off to bake some gooey brownies for dessert.
Happy Baking and Happy Friday!
Happy Friday! Hope you have something great planned for the weekend. What's on the docket? Farmer's Markets? BBQs? Outdoor festival?
We hope to get out on a hike and enjoy some great weather.
This week's Ask Alice Fridays is just a fun one. I hope you enjoy!
What's the best dessert you have ever had?
Dear Seeking Seconds,
This is a very difficult question for me to answer. It also brings to mind something I think about from time to time. Does the event or situation surrounding the food item add value or more weight into one’s “best ever” declaration? For example, would a dessert I enjoyed on an epic vacation seem better than one I ate by myself while out running my weekly errands. Or does the apple pie from the grocery store seem as good as the one your grandmother made from scratch every year for your birthday? For me, I do think those events/situations can influence how the item is remembered and of course, add nostalgia and weight.
I have a few desserts/bakery items that fall into my "best ever" category.
*Chocolate croissant from L’Academie de Cuisine (Gaithersburg, Maryland). This was my pastry school and we made them while working through our curriculum. These were enjoyed while still warm - paper thin layer upon layer of buttery, flaky dough perfectly complemented by the rich, melted dark chocolate in the middle. To me, this is pastry perfection. I have never had another quite as good. I have a feeling it was in part due to having a hand in making them. Not to mention the out of the oven warmth and scent filling the room.
*Coconut cream pie from Heinemann’s Restaurant (Milwaukee area). I worked as a hostess throughout high school at one of the Heinemann’s and this was hands down my favorite thing they had. Heinemann’s has since closed (argh) and amongst the grilled coffee cake, pumpkin bread, energy breakfast and health shake; the coconut cream pie is what I miss the most. Perfect flaky, buttery crust filled with the creamiest, coconut laden custard filling. What I wouldn’t give for that recipe.
*Pistachio gelato from the Bellagio (Las Vegas, Nevada). Maybe some day I will make it to Italy and have some better, but the Bellagio is doing it up right. Yum.
Do you have a "best ever" dessert? Or any food for that matter? Where did you have it?
Happy Baking and Happy Friday!
And...we are back! Sorry for our absence. I have a lot of excuses - none of which I think you want to hear. Did you miss Ask Alice Fridays? I did. I am happy to return to this space.
Let’s get right to it...
I am interested in making a summer fruit tart, but don’t completely understand the recipe. Can you please explain blind baking and pie weights?
Weighted Down in Confusion
Dear Weighted Down in Confusion,
Yum! Fruit tarts are one of my favorite desserts to make, especially in the summer when the markets are bursting with beautiful produce.
Blind baking is a technique used to pre-bake or partially pre-bake a pie or tart crust for those crusts in which the filling need not be baked (ie: fresh fruit tart) or for those crusts where the filling will not need to be baked as long as the crust (ie: pumpkin pies and quiches).
Pie weights are ceramic beads that will act as a temporary “filling” while you blind bake your crust. They hold the dough in place while baking so that the steam created doesn’t cause your crust to bake unevenly or to bubble. I use dried beans instead of ceramic beads. They are much cheaper and can be used over and over again. I typically use kidney beans but lentils, uncooked rice, garbanzo or pinto beans work well too. You will want enough beans/weights to fill to the top edge of your pan.
Following are a few easy steps that should help you along:
1. Prepare your crust as per the recipe. Tip: Be sure to chill the dough for at least one hour before rolling it out. Working with a room temperature dough can be frustrating and often times results in torn dough.
2. Roll the dough a few inches wider than the sides of the pan. Gently place dough into the pan. Very gently, press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of your pan. Trim off any excess dough. With a fork, gently “dock” or pierce the dough. Don't overdo it or you may be left with a leaky tart later. Chill the dough until completely firm. This will help to reduce shrinkage while baking. Preheat your oven.
3. While your dough is chilling, gather a piece of parchment or aluminum foil (wider than your tart/pie pan by a few inches) and your pie weights or baking beans.
4. Once the dough is completely chilled, place the parchment paper or aluminum foil over the dough and pour your pie weights or baking beans onto paper/foil. Gently press and distribute the beans to ensure there are no air pockets, paying special attention to around the inner edges of your pan.
5. Place pan into preheated oven and bake per recipe. To check on your progress, carefully pull up on a corner of your parchment/foil - your dough should look dry and be light golden brown when partially blind baked. If only partially blind baking; remove from oven, carefully remove beans/paper and proceed with recipe as directed. If completely blind baking; once your edges are light golden brown and the bottom dough appears dry, carefully remove the beans and paper, place back into oven and continue baking until evenly golden brown.* Remove from the oven and allow to completely cool before filling.
*If the edges of your crust are taking on a darker color than desired before the bottom has completely baked, carefully place aluminum foil over only the crust's edges while leaving the rest of the tart exposed to continue baking.
Happy Baking and Happy Friday!
Thanks to all that participated in the Represent Mix-Up Challenge!!! Unfortunately, no one got all five state/countries correct and I have to apologize because it is probably my fault. I didn't intentionally try to make it extremely difficult or impossible to win, but after reading the responses for No. 5 I realized it may have been more than challenging to identify the last country. I was in the midst of putting together a shirt for my mom as a gift and decided to throw her country of origin in the contest. Again, many apologies. If we decide to do another contest, we will go easier on all of you.
Out of those who guessed 4 correctly, Monica from Portland was drawn at random. Congrats, Monica! We hope you enjoy your magnet!
3. West Virginia
5. Latvia (maybe it is only recognizable if your Mom was born there) (so sorry)
Hope you all enjoyed the contest!
We have had a blast seeing the states and countries go out in the different fabrics. I will post one of my favorites we've made so far on Thursday!
Have a great week!