4 Advantages of using a Stand Mixer As a Chocolatier

Planning to buy a stand mixer for yourself? Not sure if it is worth the cost? A lot of people use hand mixers for mixing dough or whisking eggs as it is cheap and easy to use.

However, a hand mixer requires a lot of effort on your part and can be quite messy sometimes. This is where a stand mixer rescues you, it performs the mixing without requiring additional effort from your side and provides you a mess-free mixture in just a few minutes.

Still not convinced about it? Then, read on to know about the 4 major advantages of using a Stand Mixer:

1. Hands-free experience

Everyone who has ever cooked a meal for their family knows that cooking is not simple and easy and doesn’t involve just one task to be accomplished. There are a series of tasks and methods one needs to perform before they can prepare something decent to eat for their friends and family. There are so many steps involved in cooking like dicing the vegetables, mixing the ingredients, preparing bread dough, and so on. If you were to focus on one task at a time, then you would end up spending half a day in preparing food itself.

This is where a stand mixer can help you. Since this mixer runs on electricity and is automated, you just need to pile your ingredients together in a bowl, use the appropriate attachment and switch on the mixer. It will do the rest of the work itself and you don’t have to slave for hours, mixing and whisking.

2. Versatility

Another advantage of using a Stand mixer is that you can perform a variety of tasks with this small piece of equipment. A lot of people think that a stand mixer is only good for preparing cakes, doughs, bread, etc. but in reality, one can perform a lot more tasks apart from these. With the proper attachments, you can prepare juice, dice vegetables, prepare pasta, prepare bread dough, whisk eggs and so on with your stand mixer.

Stand Mixer As a Chocolatier

3. Efficiency and Consistency

A stand mixer will efficiently perform all the task with appropriate power and performance and you don’t have to worry about the ingredients or mixtures of being inconsistent. You can prepare consistent batter and cake with the help of your stand mixer and not tire your arms in this process. Just combine your ingredients in a bowl and use the beater at an adequate speed to give you a consistent and voluminous mixture.

4. Powerful and Controllable

This is yet another advantage of a stand mixer, they are quite powerful for heavy mixes and can be easily controlled with the help of a few buttons. Since a stand mixer comes in all shapes and sizes, you can easily find a high-power motor stand mixer whose speed and settings you can adjust accordingly to ensure a complete and a consistent mix. You also would never have to worry about spilled or spattered batter ever again.

Chocolates 2

PASTA WITH GREENS IN WALNUT CREAM SAUCE

My daydreams can easily be broken down like this: 80% food, 19% wedding and 1% replacing the dead battery in our kitchen smoke alarm. Toward the end of last week the food portion of my daydreams was largely filled with thoughts of the ravioli with walnut cream sauce that my brother ordered for lunch on Christmas Eve, and it didn’t take too long for those daydreams to transition to recipe hunting. I’m not a huge fan of cream sauce, or at least I don’t allow myself to be for fear that I’d lose all self-control and treat myself far more often than I should, but sometimes you just have to satisfy your cravings, and I could not get that pasta sauce out of my mind.

I skimmed through several recipes for pasta with walnut cream sauce and ultimately settled on one that required buying the fewest number of ingredients and included some greens. Whether it’s with good reason or not, I tend to be skeptical of Food Network recipes, but this one is definitely a keeper: Penne with Swiss Chard and Leeks in a Walnut Cream Sauce. Imagine creamed spinach on pasta with a little crunch from toasted walnuts and the unexpected hint of tarragon. It was incredible, and if it weren’t for the cup of cream, I’d probably cook it once a week.

 

I made a few tweaks to the recipe to keep the grocery list short and to make use of things already in our pantry, and they all seemed to work just fine. We had frozen kale, so I picked up a bag of frozen spinach to supplement it, which both bumped up the amount of greens and eliminated the steps of washing and chopping the chard. There was no fresh tarragon at the store, so I used dried and added it with the greens. And finally, I used campanelle instead of penne. Dinner was ready in no time and devoured in no time. The simplicity of the recipe makes it great for a quick weeknight meal, but it’s indulgent enough that it would work well for a special occasion. Weeknight or weekend, you need to make this!

Croissants

I.

Made.

Croissants.

Holy merde, I made croissants.

Croissants are something that have long been on my list of things to make, but I’ve always held back for two main reasons. The first is that they’re fairly intimidating. Turning sticks of butter into a sheet of butter and subsequently working that sheet into a mass of dough with a series of folds and rolls seems a bit intense. I’m used to throwing a few ingredients into a bowl and letting yeast do most of the work, and precision has never really been my thing when it comes to anything in the kitchen.

The bigger factor in waiting so long is that every time I’d worked up the nerve to make croissants, I’d remember that we have a household of two and most recipes tend to make anywhere from 12 to 24 croissants. That’s a bit much for something that is best eaten the day it’s baked, and as much as I love eating buttery pieces of dough, even I have my limit. I could have had a bunch of friends over for croissants some weekend morning, but I’m always a bit reluctant to invite guests to eat something that I’ve never made before and that might be a huge flop. Also, I’m selfish and don’t want to put so much work into them only to give the majority away.* It didn’t dawn on me until recently that I could freeze unbaked croissants, and while the two recipes that I was considering didn’t mention it as an option, a quick internet search revealed that it was definitely possible. Done. I was going to make croissants.

Once the decision was made and I had the time to make them, I was torn between two recipes – one from Tartine and one from Tartine Bread. I decided on the latter because I could use my bread starter for the dough and because it only required one type of milk (whole milk vs. nonfat and whole milk). I’m sure that you can’t go wrong with either recipe, and I might try the other one the next time to see if I can tell a difference.

*I should note that I did in fact share some of the second batch with a few friends. I will definitely be more generous with future batches, now that I (kind of) know what I’m doing.

I started the process on a Thursday night, making the poolish (flour, water, active dry yeast) and the leaven (starter, flour, water). On Friday morning I mixed the poolish and leaven with more flour and yeast plus milk, salt and sugar. It rose at room temperature for an hour and a half before being transferred to a plastic bag and chilled in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

When the dough was almost done chilling, I started working on the butter.

You cut a few sticks of butter into cubes and, with the help of a half cup of flour to reduce stickiness, pound it into a rectangular mass with a rolling pin. This was probably the most difficult part of the process, and I think it was mostly due to my rolling pin. If I held it by the handle, the main part rolled around too much, and if I tried to grip the wider part, it was so big that it was difficult to hold on to. A French rolling pin would probably be much easier to use, and I might invest in one soon.

The one thing that was surprisingly useful for creating straight edges of both butter and dough was this tool that my mom gave to my brothers and me for Christmas a few years ago. I’m pretty sure that she was unaware of this video when she bought them and didn’t really understand why we thought they were so funny, but it has proven to be a worthy kitchen tool every now and then.

I eventually managed to form a relatively uniform mass of butter, which then chilled briefly while I rolled the dough into a large rectangle. The chilled butter gets placed on the middle third of the dough, which is then folded like a letter over the butter and then turned 90-degrees and rolled out again. This part was much easier than I’d imagined.

I folded and rolled once again before returning the dough to the refrigerator to chill for an hour, and then I repeated the process two more times. After that, the dough is wrapped and placed in the freezer for a couple of hours to chill.

Before going to bed on Friday night, I moved the dough from the freezer to the refrigerator, and first thing Saturday morning I rolled it out once again. The final block of dough was supposed to be 18 by 24 inches and half an inch thick, and after a lot of rolling interspersed with resting to allow the gluten to relax, I wasn’t able to stretch the dough to those dimensions. I was pretty close, though, and the thickness seemed right, so I decided it was good enough and moved on to the next step.

I used a pizza cutter to slice the dough into triangles, which worked really well.

I had no intention of making anything other than plain croissants on my first attempt until I remembered that I had some Gruyère left over from earlier in the week, and I couldn’t resist adding it to a few. After trying a cheese-filled one, I wished that they were all cheese-filled, so next time I’ll do more planning ahead and be sure to have cheese and some good ham on hand.

After rolling the triangles into their final shape, I transferred all but six of them (still on the sheet pan and wrapped in plastic) to the freezer. Croissants head south by day two, and I wanted to freeze the majority of them so we could bake them off as needed. Once they were frozen solid, I transferred them to a large ziploc bag. The night before I want to bake some, all I have to do is move them to the fridge to thaw overnight and then let them rise and bake as if they were fresh. I actually did this last weekend, and they tasted just as good as the ones that were never frozen.

The croissants rose at room temperature for about two hours before baking – plenty of time to go for a run and think about the buttery dough that I would soon be eating.

Just before baking, I made an egg wash with an egg yolk and a teaspoon of cream.

Each croissant was liberally coated.

Then they baked for about 30 minutes.

And this was the result. I did it! These things were massive. That’s a 13×18 baking sheet, and six of them barely fit on it.

They’re not quite as beautiful as some of the croissants I’ve had at good bakeries (I might have proofed them a bit too long before baking them), but I was very happy with them considering it was my first attempt. The taste and texture were fantastic. The outside shattered with each bite, and the inside was tender and buttery with layer upon layer of soft dough.

I wish I could capture the smell of these as they were baking. The second batch that I baked was the morning after we’d deep fried everything in sight, and we discovered that baking croissants was the perfect way to rid the kitchen of (or at least cover up) the pervasive smell of frying oil.

Ultimately, these weren’t all that difficult to make. They take a little time and a lot more muscle than most bread recipes require, but they are worth every second of effort. I actually loved the process and am looking forward to finding an excuse to make them again as soon as we finish the ones in the freezer.

Useful tools: a baking mat with measurements, a French rolling pin (this might be a good one)

CHOCOLATE CHIP PECAN COOKIES

I didn’t set out to find a fantastic chocolate chip cookie recipe when I decided to organize my cooking magazines a few days ago; I set out to group Bon Appetit’s with Bon Appetit’sFood and Wines with Food and Wines, and Cooks Illustrated’s with Cooks Illustrated’s.  In the mess of magazines, I found one lonely copy of Midwest Living, and a single copy of a magazine not entirely devoted to cooking has no place in my cooking magazine collection.  Before adding it to the recycle pile, though, I flipped through the pages to make sure that there was nothing contained within that I couldn’t live without.  As it turns out, I can’t live without an article on the Midwest’s best cookies.

Did I mention that the article contained six recipes for chocolate chip cookies?  Because it did, and I felt that it was my obligation as a food blogger to try one of those recipes to share with you.  I opted for the Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies from a bakery in Wisconsin and judging by the results, I find it hard to believe that any of the other five are better than this one.  However, in the interest of fairness, I should probably do further research.  In the meantime, you should make these cookies.

CHOCOLATE CHIP PECAN COOKIES

Krista’s Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

from Midwest Living, April 2010

(Amounts listed below are for 1/2 of the original recipe.  The halved recipe yielded about 20 3-inch cookies.)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cake flour*
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla
  • 12 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan pieces

*Cake flour substitute: 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch + enough all-purpose flour to reach 3/4 cup

Note: My two favorite things about these cookies were the large pieces of pecans and the high ratio of chocolate to cookie.  I’d recommend not chopping the pecans much (or just using a bag of pecan pieces and not chopping at all) and using Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips because the disc shape pretty much ensures a mouthful of chocolate in each bite.

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and baking soda.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 30 seconds.  Add the sugars, and beat until combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition.  Add the vanilla, and mix to combine.  Add the flour mixture, and beat on low until combined (you might need to stir in the last bit by hand). Add the chocolate chips and nuts, and stir by hand until they’re evenly distributed.
  3. Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, drop balls of dough onto ungreased or parchment-lined cookie sheets.  (I wanted larger cookies, so I used an ice cream scoop to form mounds slightly larger than golf balls.)  Bake for 11-14 minutes, or less for smaller cookies. The cookies are done when they’re slightly browned around the edges and the centers are set but still appear slightly under-baked. Cool on the cookie sheets for one minute before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Best served with a cold glass of milk.

Meatball Subs

I’m not a meatball sub person.

At least I thought I wasn’t for the first 27 years of my life when my only exposure to them was when my guy friends would order them at Subway and I would try not to gag.  It’s hard enough for me to look at any of the meat at Subway and not turn around and walk away, but the meatballs especially have always bothered me. I don’t know if it’s the actual meat or the sauce or watching the person dig around in the sauce with a big spoon in search of a meatball, but you couldn’t pay me to eat one of those sandwiches.

In addition to my fear of weird meat, I have a strong belief that sandwiches are better when they’re packed with veggies.  I recognize some exceptions to this rule, largely due to my profound love for Potbelly sandwiches and the blue cheese, roast beef, and bacon stuffed Blue Cow from Caffrey’s, but in general I prefer sandwiches with lots of veggies and little to no meat, and the meatball sub doesn’t really fit into that equation.

Even with my meat issues, I try to keep an open mind about most foods, which is why I didn’t immediately click away when I saw Deb’s Meatball Subs with Caramelized Onions on Smitten Kitchen.  Instead, I stared, and I ogled. I had to have one.  I bookmarked the page, and a few weeks later, when I found myself with a baguette to make use of, I made meatball subs.  Man, have I been missing out.  Not on the Subway version, I’m sure, but on the homemade version.  The meatballs were tender, the sauce was perfect, and the bread was sturdy enough to keep it mostly contained (although I still wouldn’t recommend trying to consume one in public).  I kept mine simple and topped it with some provolone and giardiniera, while my boyfriend added provolone, sautéed onions and banana peppers to his.  He claimed that this was one of the top five meals we’ve ever made, and I can’t really argue with that.

Meatball Subs

Meatball Subs

from Smitten Kitchen, with a few adjustments

Serves 4-6 or possibly even 8

  • 2 baguettes (plus a few slices of bread for making breadcrumbs if your baguettes are really airy)
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground meat (I used 1 lb. pork and 1/2 lb. bison)
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • generous 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 cups tomato sauce (I used the sauce from this post)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups provolone cheese, shredded

Slice the baguettes almost all the way through, and scrape some of the bread from the insides.  Use a food processor to make breadcrumbs with the scraped-out bread, or use a few slices of sandwich bread if you don’t have much excess in the baguettes.  You’ll need about 1 cup or 1 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, so scrape out a little more if necessary.

Transfer the breadcrumbs to a large bowl.  Add about 2/3 cup warm water and the rest of the meatball ingredients except for the tomato sauce and cheese.  Mix until everything is evenly distributed, but try to not overwork it.  Form the mixture into golf ball sized meatballs, and set aside on a plate.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan with a lid.  Brown the meatballs in batches, making sure you don’t overcrowd the pan.  They’re pretty fragile, so don’t mess with them more than you have to and add a little more oil if necessary to prevent sticking.  We found that a fish spatula was the best utensil for gently flipping and handling the meatballs.

Once browned, transfer the meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels, and cook the remaining batches.

When all of the meatballs are browned, drain any remaining oil from the pan, and add the tomato sauce.

Return the meatballs to the pan, cover, and simmer on the lowest possible heat for 25-30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

You might want to stir them occasionally to ensure that they’re cooking evenly.  While the meatballs are simmering, prepare the toppings.

My 3-meatball sandwich with provolone and giardiniera.

Boyfriend’s 6-meatball sandwich with provolone, sautéed onions, and banana peppers.

On the first night of meatball subs, we ate the better part of a baguette.  There were plenty of extra meatballs and I was already looking forward to the leftovers, so I decided during dinner that I needed to make more bread.  I literally ate the last bite of my sandwich, put my plate in the sink, and start making the dough. It was a smart move that resulted in the discovery of my new favorite baguette recipe and three nights in a row of meatball subs.

I guess I’m a meatball sub person after all.

Fingerling Potato + Bacon Pizza

I am happy to report that I’ve been keeping up with my New Year’s resolutions.  I am so dedicated to sticking with them (and so bored) that I created a spreadsheet to keep track of everything.  I was pretty proud of my spreadsheet until someone came along and decided to prematurely fill in the blanks for me.  No, Matt, the new ingredient to cook with in February will not be gummy bears.  And hasn’t anyone ever told you not to bite the hand that feeds you?

Anyway, not only have I kept up with my resolutions, but I have surpassed some of them.  I suppose it makes it easier that they’re fun goals to surpass.  Eating at two new restaurants in January instead of one?  Don’t mind if I do.  Using a few of my cookbooks for inspiration instead of just one?  Check!  Without my cookbook stash we wouldn’t have had lobster tails, seasoned sweet potato fries, or this pizza, and January would have been just a bit more bland.

 

Fingerling Potato + Bacon Pizza

Inspired by Savory Baking

  • Pizza dough
  • 6 oz. fingerling potatoes (or red new potatoes)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 slices bacon, crisped and crumbled
  • 1/4 (or slightly less) cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 (or slightly less) cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp minced red onion (optional)
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 450
  2. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, add water to cover and a large pinch of salt, and bring to a boil.  Cook until fork-tender, drain, and cool slightly.  Once you can handle them, slice the potatoes into 1/4″-inch-thick slices.
  3. Oil a rimmed baking sheet and spread the dough to the edges of the sheet.  Brush dough with melted butter.  Top with potato slices, bacon, cheeses, onion, and thyme.
  4. Bake until the crust is done to your liking.  Season with freshly cracked pepper, and serve.

SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM

I heard someone mention salted caramel ice cream the other day, and I immediately had to get my hands on some.  I’m sure you can buy it at the grocery store, but that thought didn’t cross my mind until now.  Instead my first thought was “David Lebovitz,” the source of all great things ice cream.  I checked his website, and, as expected, he had just what I was looking for: a recipe for salted butter caramel ice cream.  It’s phenomenal.  Even my super foodie friend, Santo, thinks so, which is good since I pawned most of the final product off on him.

Salted caramel can be tough to execute successfully, whether in candy form or in ice cream form.  There’s a fine line between being decadent and being overly rich, and it’s a line you don’t want to cross.  I had some salted caramel ice cream last fall at Molly Moon’s in Seattle that was edging toward the too rich category, and I could hardly finish half of the bowl before ditching it for the water fountain.  This version, on the other hand, is pretty much perfect – not too salty, not to sweet.

Click here for the recipe: Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

Chilling the custard.

Almost done churning.  It looks kind of like a Wendy’s frosty, but it puts the frosty to shame when it comes to flavor.  Plus, this ice cream contains eggs, milk and cream instead of corn syrup, calcium sulfate, and cellulose gum.  In your face, Dave Thomas.

Success in a bowl.  The recipe included a caramel praline that you stir in at the end of the churning, but I left that out because I wanted a perfectly smooth ice cream.  I figured this way I could top off each bowl with some chocolate sauce or candied peanuts or whatever else I feel like adding.

This ice cream really needs no adornment, although a tall glass of water or a shot of espresso would be nice on the side.

Eggs + Chard in Purgatory

efore my flight home from Atlanta on Sunday I stopped into a couple airport shops for some reading material.  After much deliberation (seriously, I walked through about six different shops) I settled on InStyle, Bon Appetit, and Food Network Magazine.  I used to love InStyle, but what a let down!  Cooking magazines, on the other hand, rarely disappoint.  I subscribed to Bon Appetit for a few years, and I dropped it about a year ago after my pile of things to make was too overwhelming and I figured I’d save a few trees and start actually making some of the recipes before I accumulated even more magazines.  I miss it, but luckily I get to catch up whenever I go to my parents’ and read my mom’s copies.  Whenever I pick up my own copy, it’s a special treat.

I spent most of the flight staring at food photos and getting hungry, and I knew I needed to cook something once I got home.  After splurging all weekend and eating next to no vegetables I was leaning toward something on the healthy side.  The recipe that really jumped out at me was Eggs in Purgatory with Artichoke Hearts, Potatoes, and Capers from Bon Appetit.  I made my own version by swapping out the artichoke hearts and capers for green chard and serving potatoes on the side.  Add a hunk of crusty bread, and you’ve got yourself a meal.

Eggs + Chard in Purgatory

4-5 leaves green chard

1 small-medium onion, diced

1 28-oz can tomato sauce

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp (or more) red pepper flakes

4 eggs

Grated parmesan (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Rinse and dry the chard.  Sorry for the terrible photos – this problem should go away once my birthday present arrives in the next few days!

Chop the chard into 1/2-in strips.  I discarded the thick stems, but only because the weren’t looking so great.  If yours are OK, throw ‘em in.

Heat a little oil in a (preferably oven-proof) skillet over medium heat, and add the onion.

After a few minutes add the garlic, chard and red pepper flakes.  Saute for a few minutes until the chard softens a bit.

Add the tomatoes.  I used a can of chunky tomato sauce that was in my cupboard, but diced tomatoes would work, too.  If you use diced tomatoes you might want to drain off a bit of the liquid.  Simmer for about 15 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add more pepper flakes if needed.

If you’re using an oven-proof skillet you can make four wells in the sauce and crack the eggs right in.  Otherwise, transfer the mixture to a baking dish, make wells, and crack the eggs in.

Bake for 12-16 minutes, until the whites are set.  I would pay more attention to the time than to the looks because, at least in my opinion, baked eggs never look quite as done as fried egg whites, even when they’re completely cooked.

Carefully spoon the tomato sauce into a bowl and top it with an egg or two.

A little sprinkle of parmesan is the perfect finishing touch.

RASPBERRY + NUTELLA PIZZA

First off, I have to apologize for the abysmal quality of the photos (and I don’t mean abysmal in the way that Joey used it in that episode of Friends).  This was the fourth pizza of the night, and the daylight was pretty much gone at that point.  On the bright side, this pizza was a-m-a-z-i-n-g!  I’m fairly certain you can spread Nutella and raspberries on anything and enjoy it.  Try to prove me wrong on that one.

Raspberry + Nutella Pizza

Pizza dough
Nutella
Raspberries

I’m not even going to make up measurements because it all depends on how big  your pizza will be, how much Nutella you have, and what kind of fruit you’re using.  I was scraping the bottom of the Nutella jar, which is probably a good thing in hindsight.  Knowing me, I would have slathered on a quarter-inch of Nutella if I could have gotten my hands on it, and then I would have to guiltily run an extra mile or two the following day.  I used raspberries because I had just picked some up at the farmers’ market, but strawberries or blackberries would also work.  Apples might work well if you’re making this in the fall, but I’m only basing that on my history of dipping apple slices into jars of Nutella.

Start by rolling out the dough like you normally would.  This might be a good time to roll it out on a floured surface instead of a cornmeal-covered surface, but that just dawned on me now.  You’ll probably be too distracted by the delicious chocolaty-hazelnutty flavor to even notice whether there’s cornmeal stuck to the bottom of the crust.

Here’s a fun fact: hazelnut in German is haselnuss.  My friend Kathryn and I learned that on a boozy flight to Ibiza in college.  In case you were wondering what the German word for cornflakes is, it’s knusperflakes.  It’s amazing what you can learn from a chocolate bar wrapper.

Bake at 450 on a sheet pan or pizza stone until it looks a little something like this.

Then try to refrain from eating the whole thing.

And finally, Happy Wedding Day, Kelsey!