Sunday, December 18, 2011

On the Seventh day of Christmas... Seven Stocking Stuffers

My family never puts too much emphasis on stocking stuffers. "Santa" is usually fond of mini candy bars and things like replacement razor cartridges and packs of gum. Occasionally there will be fun gift certificates but rarely. I want to offer some ideas that would make really great stocking stuffers for the cooks and bakers in your life. Simple tools that can make a big difference in the kitchen. These are all things I've come to appreciate in my kitchen in the past year. 

Microplane. This rasp/grater is magically multi-functional. The perfect tool for zesting citrus, grating chocolate or coconut, grating parmesean or softer cheeses into a feathery pile. No cook should be without this tool. 

Tongs. There are more uses for tongs than anyone could ever imagine. Whenever I'm handing raw meat I always depend on my tongs to keep my hands clean while seasoning and cooking. Use them to toss and serve salads and pastas, for use them to test the doneness of cannelloni pasta and even to reach things up too high in the cabinets. Every cook will do well to have three or four pairs of tongs. 

Silicone/Rubber spatulas. After starting my macaron making madness, these flexible spatulas have become an extension of my own arm. They are a necessity for mixing any batters, folding meringues, and scraping the last bits of any flowing mixtures to ensure you get every last bit. Spatulas like this are also a must for making eggs. I use them to stir my scrambled eggs, flip my omelettes and turn my over-easy fried eggs. They come in a variety of colors and sometimes even with fun little pictures. I've had my eye on this pink Princess one for a bit.

Scale. Another result of my macaronning, the kitchen scale. Michael Ruhlman's high praises of them lead me to finally get one and it will change the way anyone works in the kitchen. I use it all the time to speed up making pizza dough and fresh pasta. Though this one won't fit in the stocking, its one of those perfect ones to perch above it on the mantle. 

Oven Thermometer. Having an oven thermometer has shown me how inconsistent my own oven heats up, but also lets me know what the dial should really be set to for the temperature I need. They are very inexpensive and will help improve the outcome of anything that gets cooked/baked in the oven. I just bought my sister one and it has helped to her to stop burning her chocolate chip cookies.

Candy/Probe Thermometer. After I started trying out Italian style macarons I decided I might as well invest in a candy thermometer. I went to my copy of America's Test Kitchen Cookbook 2001-2011 to find out what they recommend. What I found was this probe/candy kitchen thermometer and timer. So far I think it is totally great and combines 3 tools into one which is helpful in my slender kitchen. 

Ice Cream Scoop. A spring release ice cream scoop is good for getting ice cream into extra attractive sundaes, but also great for scooping cookie dough, meatballs and muffin batter. Consider this the cherry on top. 

Any or all of these would make great stocking stuffers or extra gifts for your kitchen-loving friends and family. 

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