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  • Writer's pictureSusie Csorsz Brown

Tips from my kitchen to yours

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

Cooking and baking can be fun and relaxing; even more so, I dare say, if the results of your efforts are tasty and appreciated by your intended audience. I love to putter around the kitchen, especially when one or the other of the boys are in there with me. There are a few tips I include in various recipes that up the oomph, taking your regular recipe from 'Hmm, that is pretty tasty.' to 'Wow! Can I have the recipe?'

It was my birthday over the weekend, so I thought I would gift these tips to you.

1. Toast your nuts. Whenever you are adding nuts to a recipe, toast them to up the flavor. Toast them before chopping.

2. Get a cooking scale. Please get one. It will make your baking life simpler, reduce the dishes you use for measuring, and up the accuracy of your measurements. I have a digital model (use all of the time), and a regular mechanical model (use less frequently but for heavier items). The digital option is great for most projects, especially if I am going to be switching measuring units, or measuring anything sticky or goopy (like honey or peanut butter). By weighing your ingredients like flour or nuts, you eliminate the possible errors that may result from method or by odd sizes because the weight of the ingredient will always be the same, regardless of humidity or measuring practices (the dip-and-sweep flour method can range up to even as much as ¼ cup!).

You definitely don’t need anything fancy, as long as the digital model offers the option of switching units and gives you the ability to tare (or recreate your ‘zero’).

3. When you are adding any citrus zest to a recipe, take the time to rub the zest together with any sugar you are also adding to the recipe to get the biggest bang out of your citrus oils. Simply add the zest to the bowl with the sugar(s), and rub it between your fingers tips for a few minutes or until you start seeing some coloring seeping out into your sugar granules. Your nose will definitely pick up on the aroma of the oils releasing into the air.

4. When making any sort of cookie (but especially chocolate chip, with the butter-sugar-flour combination), let your cookie dough sit in the fridge for at least two hours before baking. This allows the flour to fully hydrate, improving the taste and texture of your dough. If you are patient (and don’t have cookie dough thieves around, like I do), then save the dough for baking the next day. I like to scoop and then put the dough balls on a baking sheet (as close together as you can), and then cover with an upside-down baking sheet (again, to try to fight off those darn dough thieves). This way you have the dough balls all set, ready for the oven but don’t have to wrestle with the chilled dough.

5. I like to sub in one to two ounces of cream cheese for the same amount of butter in my baking recipes. Why? Well, for one, the tangy flavor of cream cheese mimics the natural cultures one gets from high-quality fresh butter. And two, the butter we find overseas often has a much higher butter fat content when compared to ‘regular’ butter found in the U.S. I have greater success using recipes I had made with American-style butter when I sub in the cream cheese. Cream cheese has a lower fat content and a higher moisture level. Try it and see if it works out for you, too.

A few other non-kitchen-item related suggestions from my other blog, HealthyExpatParent :

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