Knives

I have been asked a lot of questions that involve “well which one do you use?” So I thought I would start a series of posts that address kitchen equipment. I scrutinize most recipes and try to make them as simple as possible. I really encourage you to cook with what you have and I personally try to avoid super specialized kitchen equipment. My kitchen manager, however, will claim that there is nothing simple about my cooking when he is doing the cleaning up at the end of the night. Definitely clean as you go. Thomas Keller talks about working clean in his book Bouchon Bakery and I have truly tried to practice this. When you look at food you made and think “this looks like a mess” its probably because you aren’t working clean. I cook in a small apartment kitchen but I find it most important to work on one clean countertop that is free of clutter. Its never good to jam up your kitchen with a bunch of equipment when the best tools you have are actually at the end of your arms (and in your knife block). So lets get started with the basics here and then we will move on to more advanced kitchen tools. We will begin by discussing knives.

You really just need one super sharp Chef’s knife. This one is amazing, Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef’s Knife. There are plenty of super expensive knives out there but this one will perform above and beyond your expectations. If you really have no knives and need a whole set, then get something like this J.A. Henckels Knife Block Set. But I still recommend the Victorinox Chef’s Knife in addition to any knife set.

You should store your knives in a block or in sheaths. If they are bumping around in a kitchen drawer uncovered, they will get dull. It is best not to put knives in the dishwasher. Dishwasher detergent and the jets are abrasive and will damage the fine edge of the knife. Wash them in the sink with soap and water. Sharpen knives every couple of weeks depending on how often you use them. And please absolutely do not scrape your cutting board with the sharp edge of your knife, just turn it to the other edge! These kitchen knives are actually sort of serrated at the microscopic level, this edge is called the grind, and these microscopic serrations will get dull if they are not cared for properly.

Reader Q & A: Salt

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In most of the Bubbly Kitchen recipes you will see two particular ingredients: unsalted butter and kosher salt. It is best to use unsalted butter in most recipes so that you can control how much salt is in your food. When recipes call for table salt versus kosher salt, it is important to use the correct one. If a recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, that is approximately 1 tablespoon of table salt, very different amounts. For Kosher salt I prefer David’s Kosher Salt. Kosher salt dissolves the fastest and thus it distributes into foods the best. Really the best thing about kosher salt is that it is easy to pinch precise amounts between your fingers to season your food. The name is derived from the use of the flaky salt for curing meats in the kosher process. Fleur de sel is another flaky salt found in the coastal salt ponds in France. It is the most delicate (the fanciest) and is harvested by hand. I have Le Saunier Fleur de Sel de Camargue in my pantry. I use fleur de sel when I want to add delicate salty flavor to baked goods such as salted caramel frosting (recipe coming soon!).

There is a lot of information all over the internet that also claims that salt is bad for you. Obviously if your doctor has restricted the sodium in your diet, you should follow this guideline strictly! But it is extremely important to season your food. And by season, I mean add salt and pepper. Salt brings out the natural flavors of your food and enhances them. If you are in the kitchen creating something new, you taste it and it is just boring, you probably didn’t add enough salt. The goal in seasoning your food is to enhance the flavors, not to make it taste salty. If you are interested in limiting your salt intake (because you are just that hipster), 3000 mg is a good number. The Institute of Medicine released some studies in the spring that showed limiting sodium intake to less than 1500 mg can actually be harmful to your health.

Cream cheese research

There will be many recipes from Bubbly Kitchen that involve cream cheese, specifically cream cheese frosting, and other things like cheesecake brownies (recipe coming soon). I have spent a lot of time reading about the ambient temperature stability of cream cheese frosting. The most logical theory is that if you mix enough confectioners’ sugar with the cream cheese for your frosting, it should be resistant to the growth of bacteria. As are many proposed studies in medicine and baking alike, it seems unethical to test the theories on cream cheese frosting. The only practical way I can think of testing this today is to prepare some frosting, let it sit out, and have my husband eat some of it every 6 hours until he gets sick.

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I have, however, found this website which claims you can test your food for safety based upon pH and water activity. They also provide a recipe for cream cheese frosting that has been tested and is deemed safe in Texas. It is apparently too soft for piping so I don’t know what it could really be used for. If this blog ever makes me 35$ I will commit the time to a universal perfect cream cheese frosting recipe, and I will have this tested. To be on the safe side, I must suggest that all recipes with cream cheese be stored in the fridge. Take your cupcakes out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving to bring them room temperature.