Thursday, April 21, 2011

Donuts for Easter

Besides a basket of candy, the one thing I used to look forward to on Easter Sunday morning when I was a kid was donuts. My family would gather at my grandmother’s house after church and my uncle Joe would bring over a couple of boxes of Munchkins (donut holes) and donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts. The Munchkins were for the kids, the donuts for the adults; when my cousins and I grew up (we’re talking 8, 9, 10), we graduated to full-size donuts.

I hated the powdered, lemon-filled ones, but loved Boston kreme. I used to stuff chocolate Munchkins in a mug full of hot milk and eat with a spoon. The standard vanilla glazed donuts were my favorite, and I can still feel the dryness of the plain old-fashioned variety.

So, when I was checking out Brandi Henderson’s blog (she’s the pastry chef at Delancey, an excellent Seattle pizza place), I Made That, all those Easter donut memories came rushing back. Except, her donuts look a lot fresher and more delicious than the fast food ones I used to eat.

I’ve made donuts at home before, but, unlike her, never used yeast in the batter, which is probably why they turned out more like a fried cookie than a cakey donut. I really like how she lets the donuts rise on a baking sheet – think of all the delicious little caverns created by taking that one little (totally genius) step. Her recipe seems so simple, so delicious – I might even spring for a sprig of vanilla bean.

I’m going to attempt Brandi’s recipe this Easter. I’ll probably have to make a dozen, at least, because I’m going to a friend’s house for lunch. It’s very important to have a hole in the donut large enough so that you can hold the thing while dunking in coffee. So, I’ll be using this Ateco doughnut cutter for speed and consistency. And, of course, a big, sturdy wire strainer to move the donuts in and out of the oil, like this one from Helen Chen.

Now, if I could just get Dunkin’ Donuts to ship me a couple of liters of fresh coffee, I’d be able to re-live my childhood Easters.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Cheftools/Lucks/Twilight connection

So, this is somewhat funny: is located in Seattle; we sell a variety of products from the excellent Lucks, which makes interesting, creative and tasty food decorations; Lucks is located in Tacoma, which is just a couple of miles south of Seattle near the bottom of Puget Sound. Lucks makes three different edible pictures for cakes from the Twilight movies. The kicker? Twilight is set in Forks, WA, which is on the Pacific Ocean side of the Olympic Peninsula (the land between Seattle/Tacoma and the ocean).

It’s biting irony. It’s a spooky coincidence. It’s three degrees of cake decoration. It’s a cake decorating love triangle (get it? Because of the love triangle in the Twilight saga?).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Celebrate mom with Chef Tools' Mother's Day sale

We all know the evolution of Mother’s Day gift giving: When you’re 4 or 5, you make homemade coupons for “free” back rubs, or a week’s worth of dishwashing. Later, with a few bucks from your birthday (or from dad), you buy something random from the local drugstore: hot pink nail polish, a single tea candle or Skittles. A sweet gesture, but probably not what Woodrow Wilson had in mind when he made Mother’s Day an official holiday in 1914.

Fast forward 30 years and Mother’s Day might be off your radar. Another year where you Google “when is Mother’s Day this year?” only to find that it has passed. Mom probably doesn’t care; she’s mom and the memory of 6-year-old you presenting her with a homemade card and a tiny picture frame (in it a stock photo of a smiling couple on a beach) still makes her smile. Chances are mom still has that frame – and the card.

So why not make this the year you return to treating mom to a thoughtful gift? (And we’re not saying that everyone stopped celebrating Mother’s Day, in which case you’re a better kid than me – and keep up the good work!) Here at Chef Tools, we’re having a Mother’s Day sale to help you find the perfect gift for mom. We have three specially-priced gift sets (using a combo of items you asked about on Twitter and Facebook) plus a huge array of stylish MU aprons, oven mitts, potholders and dishtowels.

I have to tout these MU products. These aprons are so cool you could wear them out of the house. Check out this onyx long chef apron – it’s beautifully designed, plus durable with 100 percent pre-washed cotton herringbone, deep pockets and an adjustable neck. It would look great with this orange MU handleslip pot handle sleeve. It’s thick – of course – so you can handle anything, and it’s lined with comfortable terrycloth. And, it’s orange, so no one will notice if a little marinara gets splattered on there, which brings me to my next topic …

My favorite gift set is the no-scuff lasagna baking kit. This set includes an HIC Porcelain Lasagna Baking Dish – reviewed by Cook’s Illustrated – a Bakeware Buddy serrated plastic knife and a CIA Master’s Collection Non-stick Slotted Turner. The Bakeware Buddy knife and the CIA (that’s Culinary Institute of America) non-stick turner won’t scuff the baking dish like metal. Plus, acidic tomato sauce won’t corrode them. The HIC baking dish is 13” x 9” and 2-1/2” deep, big enough for lasagna to feed the whole family. You can also use the Bakeware Buddy knife on baked goods and vegetables. It would be pretty cool to show up at mom’s house with this gift set and make lasagna – of course, you’d have to leave it behind at the end of the night.

What about a nice salad with that lasagna? We’ve put together two fine Jill Butler-designed items in one set. The Parisian plate gift set is a set of four salad plates and four placemats. Both items are inspired by French bistros. The placemats are 100 percent cotton with alternating red and white stripes. The porcelain Chez Pastis plates are elegant enough for a brunch get-together and durable enough to take on a picnic. Jill Butler inlayed the plates with the message “Bar rendez-vous des amis” – a place for friends to meet. The plates are white with either a red, black, green or blue design.

And don’t forget the wine. If mom is a wine lover, she’ll love this set. It’s a Luminarc Small Square Carafe and a Screwpull GS-200 table-top corkscrew. The Screwpull GS-200 comes with a foil cutter, and has Activ-ball technology, which guarantees no more jammed corks. Luminarc has been making glassware since 1825, and is famous for quality. Have a relaxing evening with mom over a couple of glasses of wine, reminiscing about those coupons you used to make. If she still has them, hopefully you were smart enough to include an expiration date.

Happy Mother’s Day and a big “thank you” to all the moms out there!