Tips and Tools

Baking Tips:
  • Weighing ingredients. When weight measurements are available, use a scale instead of measuring cups. 
  • Flour. If a certain type of flour is specified, use it for best results. Bread, cake, all-purpose, and whole wheat flours all have different consistencies and will produce different results. Always make sure to use fresh flour and to store it in a cool location. 
  • Cake flour. As a cake flour substitute, you can spoon 2 to 4 tablespoons of cornstarch into a one cup measuring cup. Add in all-purpose flour until it is full, and then scrape off the excess with a butter knife. Blend this mixture in a mixing bowl. Repeat until you have enough cake flour for your recipe. (Thanks, King Arthur Flour!) 
  • Yeast. There are three types of yeast: (1) active dry yeast; (2) instant yeast; and (3) fresh yeast (also known as compressed or cake yeast). Active dry yeast is the most common yeast and is sold in packets or jars. Before active dry yeast can be used, it must be “proofed.” To proof yeast, you sprinkle the yeast over warm water (110 degrees F) and let it stand for about 10 minutes until creamy and bubble. Instant yeast comes in smaller granules than active dry yeast, so it absorbs liquid rapidly and does not need to be proofed before being mixed into flour. While I have used both yeasts, I prefer using instant yeast to save the step of proofing. Fresh yeast is sold in the refrigerated section of the store and only lasts about two weeks.
  • Cocoa powder. Many baking recipes often call for Dutch-process cocoa. Dutch-process cocoa results in a deeper flavor and darker color, and standard cocoa powder is lighter in color and has more of a sweeter, almost fruitier, taste. Dutch-process cocoa is made from cacao beans tat have been washed with potassium, which neutralizes the acidity. Standard cocoa powder is made from roasted cocoa beans that are then pulverized. Dutch-process cocoa produces a darker color and “mellows” the flavor of the cacao. Because standard cocoa powder has not had its acidity altered, it generally appears in recipes with baking soda; Dutch-process is then used in recipes with baking powder. 
  • Freezing cookies. Cookie dough freezes well. And, by freezing cookie dough, you can rest assured knowing that you can have a fresh chocolate chip cookie straight from the oven at any time. Freezing dessert bars (brownies, blondies) seems to make them dryer. 
  • Water baths for cheesecakes. My friends would often joke that my cheesecake was the “marry me cheesecake.” A water bath makes for an awesome cheesecake and helps keep it moist. 
  • Espresso powder. Espresso powder is not the same as ground espresso. Most groceries stores don’t carry it, but you can find it at more specialty stores like Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, and King Arthur Flour. 
  • Chocolate. High-quality chocolate takes chocolate desserts to a whole new level. I recommend E. Guittard chocolate, Callebaut, and Ghiradelli. For powdered cocoa, I recommend King Arthur Flour. 
Equipment and Tools:
  • Stand mixer. The day I purchased my stand mixer was a very exciting day. Having a stand mixer completely changed the way I bake and cook! Most recipes that call for a stand mixer can be made with a hand mixer (or even by hand). However, a stand mixer really comes in handy for royal icing, bread dough, meringues, and creaming butter. 
  • Food processor. Before I had a food processor, recipes requiring a food processor still turned out delicious. My first food processor was a Cuisinart, which only lasted about two years, but it was quite the workhouse! My pizza dough has improved since I’ve made it in the food processor, and it is so much easier to chop in the food processor. I now have a Magimix by Robot Coupe, the French company that created the food processor.  
  • Cookware. My cookware from college is very different from the cookware that I have now. Since cooking has become such a passion, I’ve invested in more quality cookware, and it makes all the difference: food cooks differently--and better--in high quality cookware.  I am a huge fan of Le Creuset’s products, especially their enameled cast iron cookware. The pieces are just happy colors, and I’ve been gradually collecting them in all different colors (culinary rainbow, so fun!). Enameled cast iron is great for anything that has to go from stovetop to oven. It works well in contact with an open flame, and the metal handles are oven-friendly. Additionally, the enameled surface ensures acidic foods will not react with it. A cast-iron skillet is a must have, and a cast-iron skillet only improves the more you use it. According to Cook’s Illustrated, the essential cookware for a kitchen includes: 
    1. Stainless steel frying pan (12”) 
    2. Non-stick frying pan (12”) 
    3. Saucepan (4 quarts) 
    4. Sauce pan (2 quarts) 
    5. Stainless steel stock pot (12 quarts) 
    6. Dutch oven (7 quarts) 
    7. Cast iron skillet (12 inches) 
    8. Saute pan (10 inches) 
Food and Ingredients:

Savory Spice Shop
Savory Spice Shop started in Denver.  (Go Colorado!) It started as a mom-and-pop spice shop, and they have been expanding to other states.  They had a Food Network show, too!  Quality spices, herbs, and seasonings make such a difference in flavor, and Savory Spice Shop always has whatever spice I need.

King Arthur Flour -
King Arthur Flour products are amazing. When I started using King Arthur flour, my baked goods tasted even better. The company is employee-owned, and visiting their web site is akin to a kid in the candy store.  King Arthur Flour also has outstanding, friendly customer service.

Amora Mustard -
Forget Trader Joe's dijon mustard or Grey Poupon...go for the legit French stuff!

Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes -
These tomatoes are much better than San Marzano tomatoes and have much more flavor than other tomatoes.  They have a much sweeter, less acidic taste, and they make great sauces for pizzas, pastas, etc.  You can find them at specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods.

Some Favorite Denver Restaurants:
* Note: All of the opinions above are my own.  I have not received endorsements to mention, describe, or review any of the above products, services, or restaurants.  
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