This is one of the kitchen tools that I really can’t live without…the OXO Good Grips Food Scale. It has large, backlit, easy to read numbers and, with one click, switches from metric to U.S. (avoirdupois) weight. When adding each ingredient to a recipe, just press the zero button (tare weight) to set the scale back to zero, add your next each ingredient, repeat for each additional ingredient, and all your mixing and measuring is done in one bowl, making for much easier cleanup. One of the best features is that the display can be separated from the base (it’s attached by a long, sturdy wire) so even if you’re weighing your ingredients in huge bowl that would normally hide the readout on a lesser scale, on this one, just slide it out and you can easily see the weight. If you bake, you know how important weights and proportions are to achieve a great result. I never bake without it, and I guarantee once you try it, you won’t either…this is the real deal!
It’s always a good idea to have some dried starter on hand as backup if, for some reason, your “live” starter suffers an untimely death…it’s sad, but it happens. It’s also a great way to share your starter with someone. The drying process is very simple. Thinly spread some of your live starter on a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap…a pastry brush or spatula works well here…then just let it dry. When completely dry (it can take from a few hours to a full day, depending on temperature), just peel it off the paper and crush it up…a coffee or spice grinder works well or you can just put it in a zip lock bag and whack it a few times with a rolling pin (that’s the post-whacked state in the picture on the left). Store it in an air-tight zip lock bag at room temperature or in the refrigerator or freezer…it’s all good.
Now, if your ready to get started, you’re going to need some dried starter to start your starter, so check out my Sourdough Whole Wheat Pumpkin Seed No Knead Bread post where you’ll find the link to send for some Carl Griffith’s Sourdough Starter…it’s been around since 1847! I’ve been using it for 20+ years, it’s excellent, and you can’t beat the price…literally…’cause you can get it here for FREE!
Reviving your dried starter is a relatively simple process also. This great video clip is from Breadtopia, one of my favorite sites, and it shows you exactly how to do it. If you’re into bread and baking, you should definitely check out Breadtopia for amazing recipes and videos.
If you bake your own bread and love to eat it straight out of the oven, you know how hard it is to get a good, even slice from fresh-out-of-the-oven, warm bread. This Oregon Bread and Bagel Slicer (another non-essential but really cool kitchen tool) bow knife, made of Red Alder, a sustainable hardwood, has a beveled, scalloped edge (it never needs sharpening) that works like a super-sharp saw to cut a neat, uniform width slice of that crusty, aromatic freshly baked no-knead sourdough whole wheat pumpkin seed encrusted loaf that you can then slather in butter and watch as it melts into the nooks and crannies…ok, I’m getting a little carried away here, but there really is nothing better then homemade bread.
This knife is also perfect for cutting bagels, ripe tomatoes and just about anything else that you may have trouble slicing with a conventional knife…and, with the beautiful Red Alder handle, it looks really great just sitting there on the kitchen counter.
This also makes a great gift for the cook who has everything…that’s how I got it (thanks Ned and Debi)!
I’ve been getting a lot of pizza questions recently, so I just wanted to re-post a pizza story I did a while back. This was, of course, made from scratch (here’s the recipe) and it really tasted just as good as it looks. One of the most important tricks to making a great pizza is using a pizza stone…you just can’t bake a great crust without it. A pizza stone has a greater thermal mass then either a glass or metal pan and therefore holds and distributes heat better. It’s also porous, so it absorbs moisture from the dough as it cooks, all of which contributes to an amazing, crisp, uniformly browned crust. Also, definitely get yourself a pizza peel…they’re inexpensive and make putting the pizza into the oven a breeze.
Pizza stones are available just about everywhere, and come in a variety of sizes and shapes (and prices). They should be put in a cold oven, then preheated for at least 30 minutes before using. Because they are porous and absorb liquid, the stone should never be washed with soap…just a dry brush or some plain, warm water if needed. They are also ideal for baking bread.