Tips & Tricks

Blind Baking

Why is it necessary to blind bake pie crust? Can’t you just pour whatever filling you’re using into the crust, and bake everything all at once? Not always, and here’s why. Some pies are filled with delicate fillings, ones that need a quick simmer on the stove-top at most. Baking this type of pie for the hour or so required to fully bake the crust would over-bake the filling.

So here is an easy simple way to blind bake a pie crust:

Blind Baking

  1. Place your crust in the pan, and crimp the edge. Line the crust with a parchment round (9″, for a 9″ pie), or paper coffee filter.
  1. Add pie weights, dry rice, dried beans or (as I’ve done here) dry wheat berries, enough to fill the pan ⅔ full. Chill the crust for 30 minutes; this will solidify the fat, which helps prevent shrinkage.
  1. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 20 minutes.
  1. Remove the pie from the oven, and lift out the paper and weights. Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork, to prevent bubbles. Return the crust to the oven and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is golden all over. You now have a baked crust, ready to fill.

Finished Shell


Buttermilk Substitutions

In Sauces and Non-Exact Measurement Recipes:

If you are making a sauce or marinade where a little bit of extra liquid would not go amiss, then you make your substitution based on the following equation: If you need 1 cup of buttermilk you would need 1 cup milk (cow, soy, almond, etc.) with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Let it sit for 10 minutes before using.

In Baking and Exact Measurement Recipes:

If you a baking or creating a recipe that requires exact ratios between wet and dry ingredients, then you would make your substitution based on the following equation: If you need 1 cup of buttermilk you would need to add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a 1 cup measuring cup. Then top the acid of choice with milk (cow, soy, almond, etc.) until the measuring cup is full. Let sit for 10 minutes before using.


Cabbage – Freezing or Boiling for Cabbage Rolls

Freezing Method

  • Remove the tough outer leaves, and rinse the cabbage, drying well. It is optional at this point if you wish to core the cabbage as well, but it is not mandatory.
  • Double wrap the cabbage in plastic wrap or zip-top bags and freeze.
  • 24 hours before you wish to make the rolls, remove the cabbage from the freezer and take it out of its wrapping.
  • Place the cabbage in a colander in the sink or over a bowl, and let defrost until needed.
  • When you are ready to make the rolls, the leaves will peel off easily, leaving you with soft, pliable leaves for stuffing.

Boiling Method

  • Bring a large stockpot of water to boil. Fill a large pot roughly halfway with water and bring it to a boil on the stove over high heat. The stockpot should contain enough water to completely cover the head of cabbage. Do not overfill the pot, however, since doing so can cause the water to boil over the side. You do not need to add any salt or oil to the water.
  • Trim the cabbage. Cut away as much of the core as you can and remove any torn or ragged outer leaves. Cut around the core at the bottom of the cabbage head using a small paring knife. Dig as much of the core out as possible. Doing this makes it easier to remove the leaves after the cabbage boils.
  • Cook the cabbage until soft. Place the cabbage in the boiling water and cook for roughly 2 minutes. Carefully dunk the cabbage in and out of the boiling water using tongs or a heat-resistant serving spoon. Keep the cabbage core-end-up as it boils. The leaves should soften and start to break free once the cabbage has boiled for a sufficient amount of time.
  • Pull away the large leaves. Once the cabbage is cool enough to handle with your hands, remove the leaves from the outside of the cabbage, keeping them intact as much as possible. As long as you cut away a portion of the core before boiling the cabbage, the leaves should practically fall off on their own. If this does not happen, though, you can use a fork or tongs to gently loosen the leaves. As you pull away the leaves, do so gently so that you do not accidentally rip them.

Chiffonade – How to De-Stem and Thinly Slice Hearty Greens

  1. Fold the leaf in half along the spine of the the stem.
  2. Place your knife at the top of the stem, where it connects with the leaf, and slice down, removing the stem in one piece.
  3. Continue removing the stems from the remaining leaves.
  4. Unfold the leaves, and stack on top of each other, no more than 4-5 leaves at a time.
  5. Roll the stack of leaves up, like a jelly roll or cigar, so that you have one thick roll.
  6. Taking your knife, slice through the cigar cross-wise, in what ever width you desire. For greens such as kale, mustard greens, etc., I would suggest no wider than ½ inch for raw preparations, and no wider than 1 inch for cooked. For herbs, you can slice as thin as you like.
  7. Shake out the rings that you have sliced, and you will now have ribbons of sliced greens.
  8. Repeat with remaining greens.

Coffee Grinder – How to Clean

So you’ve been using your coffee grinder to grind spices, and now you want to switch back, without your morning brew tasting like fennel? Or vice versa? Simply add a small handful of uncooked rice (about ¼ cup) to the grinder and grind away. The rice will break up and the oils left by the spices, or coffee beans, will cling to the neutral flavoured rice. Just dust out the grinder afterwards (make sure to unplug it first!).


Corn – Removing Kernels from the Cob

Want a quick, safe way to remove fresh corn kernels from the cob? Grab your Bundt pan from the cupboard! Place the pan on the counter, as if you were going to fill it with batter. Then take your cob of corn, cleaned of any husks or corn silk, and stand it upright in the hole in the centre of the pan. Really wedge it in there so that it can almost stand on it’s own. Then take a sharp knife (always use a sharp knife! You are more likely to cut yourself with a dull one than a sharp one! True Fact!), and start sliding the knife down parallel to the cob, slicing the kernels off. Do not go too deep, or you will get the woody cob. The beauty of using the pan is that it helps hold the cob in place as you slice and it collects all the kernels as you remove them, so you’re not chasing them around the counter!


Double Boiler – How to Make Your Own

When you put a pot on the stove-top, it gets hot – especially the parts of the pot that make physical contact with the heating element, be it flame or electric coil, of the stove. This isn’t a problem for most foods, but it is a big problem for some things, such as chocolate and delicate sauces, that burn very easily. The solution is to use a double boiler.

A double boiler consists of a bowl placed on top of a pan of simmering water. The bowl does not touch the water, but creates a seal with the bottom pan to trap the steam produced by the simmering water. The trapped steam keeps the top bowl going at just about 212°F (100°C), the temperature at which water turns to steam and a far lower temperature than could be achieved by putting the bowl directly on that burner. Inside the top bowl, you can melt chocolate without worrying that it will stick and burn.

You can buy a double boiler, but it’s easy to make one at home. All you need to make a double boiler is a mixing bowl (preferably glass/Pyrex or metal) and a saucepan that the bowl will fit on top of. The two should fit tightly together; you don’t want a gap between the bowl and the saucepan, nor do you want a bowl that sits precariously on a tiny saucepan. To use the double boiler, add water to the pan and bring it to a simmer, then place the bowl on top and fill it with whatever you intend to cook or melt.


Ginger – How to peel

When it comes to using ginger, fresh is best! But with all the twists and turns that the knobby root has, it can be difficult to peel with a traditional vegetable peeler. Using a paring knife is no better, as you wind up losing have the root cutting the skin away. The easiest and most efficient manner? Use a spoon! By raking the edge of a spoon down the root, the thin peel comes right off the ginger, leaving the root intact and ready for your next recipe!


Hard-Boiled Eggs – The perfect boil!

Here’s an easy way to make hard boiled eggs, without overcooking them and making them go that funny grey/green colour! Simply add your eggs to a pot of cold water, with enough water to cover all of the eggs that you are making. Bring the water to a boil over a high heat. Once the water starts to really bubble, cover the pot and turn off the heat. By the time the water cools down to be tolerable to touch, your eggs will be perfectly cooked!

Another tip, when first adding the water to the pot, add a dash of baking soda, maybe ½ a teaspoon, to the water. The baking soda will make shells peel right off when it comes to peeling them later!


Liaison – A Sauce Thickener

In the culinary arts, a liaison is a mixture of egg yolks and heavy cream that is used to thicken a sauce. The steps for incorporating a liaison into a sauce are:

  1. In a bowl, beat together the cream and egg yolks until smooth. This egg-cream mixture is your liaison.
  2. Slowly add about a cup of the hot sauce you are trying to thicken into the liaison, whisking constantly so that the egg yolks don’t curdle from the heat.
  3. Now gradually whisk the warm liaison back into the sauce.
  4. Bring the sauce back to a gentle simmer for just a moment, but don’t let it boil.

Mirepoix/Holy Trinity – Your Base for Everything

Mirepoix (pronounced “meer-pwah”) is a combination of chopped carrots, celery and onions used to add flavour and aroma to stocks, sauces, soups and other foods. The proportions (by weight) for making mirepoix are 50% onions, 25% carrots and 25% celery. The “Holy Trinity” is the Cajun counterpart of a mirepoix, and is made using equal parts bell peppers, celery, and onion.

When you’re making stock, the mirepoix is ultimately strained out, so it’s not important to use great precision when chopping the vegetables. The sizes should be more or less uniform, however, to allow for uniform cooking times.

The more finely mirepoix is chopped, the more quickly its flavour and aroma is released into a stock. Since brown stock is simmered longer than white stock, it’s perfectly acceptable to cut the mirepoix into pieces an inch or two in size. For white stock, a ½-inch dice is probably best.

Mirepoix Variations:

  • Leeks can be used in place of some or all of the onions.
  • If you want a colourless stock, you can make a “white mirepoix” by substituting parsnips, mushroom trimmings, or both, for the carrots, or just omitting the carrots altogether.

Olives – How to pit for slicing:

Note about commercially available pre-sliced olives – While olives sit in a jar of brine, they continue to become flavoured by the brine. When you have a whole, unpitted olive in a jar, only the outside surface of the olive will come in contact with the brine, leaving it with the traditional olive taste that we know and love. Once the olive is sliced or pitted, the interior of the olive is now exposed to the brine in the jar, and it may make the olives taste saltier or brinier because more of the olive flesh has absorbed the brine liquid.

To avoid this, or if you just don’t have any pre-sliced olives around, you can slice them yourself at home. This job is made easier if you have a cherry or olive pitter, that can easily eject the stone from the olive, but if not, here’s a quick tip. Lay a few olives on their sides on a cutting board. Lay the flat side of your cutting knife on top of the olive, and press down. This will slightly break the olive, and allow the pit to be easily fished out. Once the pit is removed, lay the flattened olive on your cutting board and slice it as needed for your recipe.

This tip is best used for when you are slicing up the olives afterwards, or do not particularly care if the olives are a little bruised. If you are looking for a clean pitted whole olive, either purchase them that way, or invest in a pitter.


Parchment Paper – How to Line a Loaf Pan

  • Step 1: Grease your pan with a little butter or non-stick cooking spray, then trim your parchment paper to fit your pan (use the pan as a guide) leaving enough of a border to come up all four sides, leaving at least 1 inch of overhang. Cut in at all four corners, diagonally, toward the corners of your pan.

Step 1

  • Step 2: Carefully fit your parchment into your pan — the cuts will allow the corner flaps to overlap and the paper to sit neatly inside.

Step 2

  • Step 3: Trim the top, if necessary, so you don’t have too much of an overhang, and use a little butter or non-stick spray to stick down any paper that has come away from the tin.

Step 3

  • Step 4: Ta-dah! You have a beautifully lined loaf pan!

Step 4


Pomegranate – How to Seed

      • Cut the crown end of the pomegranate and discard. The crown can be recognized by small crown-like top.
      • Score the rind of the pomegranate in several places, but be sure not to cut all the way through.
      • Soak the pomegranate in cold water, upside down for 5-10 minutes.
      • Break apart the rind of the pomegranate and remove seeds from membrane. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
      • With a sieve, remove rind and membranes from bowl.
      • Drain seeds with a colander. Pat dry with cloth or paper towel. Eat immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Roux – How to Make

Roux (pronounced “roo”) is one of the basic thickening agents in the culinary arts. Used primarily for thickening sauces and soups, roux is made from equal parts fat and flour, and the “equal parts” are measured by weight, not volume. Traditionally, a roux is made with clarified butter, but you can certainly make a roux using unclarified butter or any other fat you like.

      • Start by melting a couple tablespoons of clarified butter in a pan.
      • When the butter melts and turns frothy, stir in a little bit of all-purpose flour. You can use either a wooden spoon or a whisk. Remember, an ounce of butter will absorb an equal weight of flour. You will want to stir in an equal amount of flour as you did fat.
      • As you continue to stir flour into the butter, you’ll see that a thick paste is forming.
      • Keep cooking the roux until it’s the colour you want.

How long you cook the roux depends on what you’re using it for:

A béchamel sauce calls for a white roux, so you’ll only want to cook it for a few minutes, until the raw flour taste is gone but the roux is still a pale yellow.

A blond roux, used in white velouté sauces, needs to be a bit darker, so it’s cooked a minute or two longer.

A brown roux, used in brown sauces or Gumbo, is the darkest roux, and it’s cooked for the longest amount of time. For that reason, you should cook it over a lower heat so that you don’t burn it. You can even brown the flour in the oven before adding it to the butter.


How to Truss Poultry (Chickens, Turkeys, Cornish Hens, etc.)

Trussing a chicken (or any other bird) ensures that the legs and wings are firmly fastened against the body. This helps the chicken maintain its shape and cook evenly, without drying out any of the extremities.

Step 1: Gather your tools and ingredients

Step 1 - Gather Materials

You will need:

  • One Chicken (or other bird)
  • A clean (and cleanable) surface to work on.
  • A piece of clean string/twine, long enough to loosely wrap around the entire chicken without touching* (at least 30 inches for a full sized chicken). The string should be made out of cotton, hemp, etc. – nothing that will melt, discolour or otherwise isn’t fit to come in contact with food or heat.
  • Soap and water to wash up afterwards.
  • Cleaner with bleach to wash up the work surface once you’re done.

*The first few times you do this, start with a longer piece than you think you need; you can always cut off the extra.

Step 2: Loop Around the Front

Step 2 - Loop Around Front

Place the chicken breast side up, and run the centre of the string under the neck in the front of the bird. Consider the neck more of a guideline – you don’t have to actually loop it under it (it may have been cut off too short anyway), but just be sure to get your string in that vicinity so that it’s far enough down. Bring the string towards the wings and legs.

Step 3: Tuck the Wings

Step 3 - Tuck Wings

Use your thumbs to tuck the wings in as you bring the string towards the legs. Keep the string tight to force the wings firmly against the body. The string should roughly follow the contours of the chicken breast.

Step 4: Tie

Step 4 - Tie

 

Bring the string around between the leg and the breast, then give it one overhand knot and pull tight. The wings will be solidly pinned to the body, and the chicken breast will pop up. Note that this is NOT a solid knot, we just want to be able to to tighten up on the string.

Step 5: Tie the Legs

Step 5 - Tie the Legs

This is actually quite simple, just hard to describe in words. Check out the pictures and it will be clearer.

Bring the ends of the string down between the chicken’s legs (picture 1), then cross the legs at the “ankles” above/behind the point of the chicken breast (picture 2). Make sure your previous knot is still pulled tight (you could turn it into a square knot if you need to). Separate the strings (picture 3), and loop them around the outside of the chicken ankles, then tie a square knot to finish it off (picture 4). The legs should now be cinched in closed to the body.

Step 6: Trim and Finish

Step 6 - Trim & Finish

Snip the extra ends of string and throw them out. You now have a lovely trussed chicken – Wasn’t that easy? Now go ahead and cook that bird!


Can Worcestershire Sauce be used to flavour meat and chicken?

Whether or not Worcestershire sauce can be used as a flavouring for meat or poultry depends upon the percentage of anchovies used in the ingredients. The halacha does not permit the mixing of meat and fish because of sakana (halachic health concerns). However, if the amount of anchovies are less than 1/60, i.e., less than 1.66% of the Worcestershire ingredients, the fish would be batul b’shishim, (nullified in the sauce), and would not be considered a health concern.

Therefore, sauces marked with a kosher symbol that states “Fish” contains more than 1.66% fish, whereas a sauce with anchovies marked with only an kosher symbol and no “Fish” addition uses less.


Zesting and Juicing – Lemons, Limes and Other Citrus

    • When zesting, you only want the coloured part of the fruit, i.e.: the yellow of the lemon or the green of the lime. You do not want the pith, which is the white layer under the zest, before hitting the fruit. Pith tends to be very bitter.
    • Always zest the fruit first, then slice in half and juice it. It is much more difficult to zest the fruit, once it has been squeezed.
    • If you want to get just a little more juice out of your fruit, try microwaving it first for about 5 seconds at a time (you don’t want to cook it, make it too hot, or accidentally explode it!). The slightly warmer temperature makes the fruit yield more juice.
    • Having a tough time juicing? Try rolling the fruit first with your hand along your kitchen counter, putting a slight amount of pressure with the palm of your hand while you do so. This will help make the fruit softer, and therefore easier to squeeze and juice.
    • Don’t have a proper zester? Use a grater instead. I personally love using a micro-plane grater to zest with. If you do not have either of these, use a vegetable peeler instead, and then mince the peels of rind.