Irene's Cooking Philosophy, Hints & General Instructions
Cooking should be fun! Well OK, not all the time, especially if you are tired, but
it should generally be fun. Don't be a perfectionist, as long as it is edible and tastes
good you have succeeded. (Heck, even if it is pretty bad, you have learned something.)
Don't read too much Martha Stewart; it just encourages perfectionism.
Disclaimer: What follows is what works for me. I am not saying its the best way,
these are just things I have learned or opinions that I have formed over many years of cooking.
Only use the best ingredients. Don't substitute for cheaper ingredients or even
more healthy ingredients,
unless it really works. I understand this was also the philosophy of my great grandmother
Pearson, who Mom referred to as "Grandma Barhyte". That being said,
feel free to experiment. You will develop different recipes of your own. For example I tried
whole wheat flour instead of white flour to my rye bread and developed a "hearty rye" recipe
that is more healthy and very good. It is not the same as the original though; it is a new recipe.
- Stove top/savory cooking: Use fresh ingredients where possible or fresh dried
For fats, I use either olive oil or a little butter if needed for flavoring.
When cooking in wine use one that is not too expesive but at least drinkable
(Gallo Hearty Burgundy for red, Gallo Chenin or Sauvignon Blanc for white.)
Hints: When you have leftover celery, chop it in the food processor, good leaves
and all and freeze it in ziplock bags to use in soups, stews and meatloaf. You can also
chop up and freeze leftover bell pepper. It saves time when you are cooking because you
usually don't need very much. Also, the chopped garlic in jars is a real time saver.
Ed buys real Parmesan cheese wedges and pre-grates about a cup or so for me to have on hand
in the refrigerator when I need it.
- Baking I try to use fresh ingredients where possible, for example real fresh lemon
juice and grated lemon zest.
For shortening in baking
I usually use butter or canola oil (although for a few recipes you need the more stable
trans-fats for texture so I do rarely use part margarine or shortening.)
Also, use real (not artificial), good quality flavorings. Adams extrancts and Penzy Spices flavorings are
good. I generally am not pleased with the McCormick flavorings.
Use good quality tools. (Heck don't I sound like Ed?)
- Pots and pans that heat evently. (Usually cast iron or aluminum core works best.)
By the way, I only use non stick for some fry pans. The regular surface holds up
better and works well for most things.
- For baking, generally "Air-Bake" type pans and sheets work best for cookies and cakes. It
allows them to cook evenly without overbrowning the bottoms and edges. They don't work for crisp items
though like crisp cookies or cream puffs.
- Sturdy mixing spoons, spatulas in assorted sized and a good wire whip.
- Appliances: Cuisinart Food Processor (parts can go in the dishwasher),
Kitchen Aid Hand Held Mixer, Good blender,
Crock Pot with removable liner (so it is easy to clean).
General Yeast Bread Instructions
Most yeast breads are made similarly. If you want a soft dough
use all purpose flour. If you want a chewier bread, use bread flour. (I prefer all purpose
and Ed usually uses bread flour.)
This is what I usually do:
Warm liquid (no need to scald milk) to baby bath temperature (luke warm).
Add all ingredients except
the bulk of the flours, but do mix in 1 of the cups of flour. Mix gently and let sit a few
minutes. (This lets the yeast get started. It isn't strictly necessary but seems to make
things work better.)
Now add most of the rest of the flour. Stir with a manual dough hook until its pretty well mixed.
Turn onto floured surface and knead until smooth (or until you are tired.) You can add flour
if you need to if the dough is too sticky.
Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth/towel
and let rise until doubled. (This can be as little as an
hour with some doughs, and 2 1/2 hours for others.)
Some recipes have you let rise and punch down again (like Challah) but most don't.
Shape the dough into desired shape.
If desired brush on coating (like egg yolk and poppy seeds.)
Bake as directed.
General Cooky Instructions
Unless specific directions tell you to do otherwise, this is the sequence I usually mix
Mix shortening and sugars (butter should be soft.)(You can melt butter for bar type cookies
or brownies. If you do it for regular cookies, you will need to chill the dough longer.)
Mix in eggs, flavorings and any liquid ingredients
Put in flour and all dry ingredients (except chunky things) on top of the flour.
Be sure to crush any lumps in the baking soda or baking powder in the palm of your
hand prior to adding. Now stir in dry ingredients starting at the top.
Stir in any lumpy ingredients (like chocolate chips or raisins.)
If the dough requires shaping, chill a bit. If there is butter in it, stir the dough every
10 minutes or so, so you can tell if it is starting to get too hard to work with.
Normally I spray Pam on an "Air Bake" type cooky sheet before putting the cookies on.
For crisper cookies, use less flour, or don't chill before baking. For a thick, chewy
cooky, add a little more flour or make sure it is well chilled prior to baking and don't overbake.
General Muffin Instructions
Mix all dry ingredients together.
Mix liquid ingredients together in a measruing cup.
Now pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Make sure it is mixed it but don't overmix.
Add any lumpy ingredients (like fruit).
General Biscuit Instructions
Mix all dry ingredients together.
Cut in any shortening with a fork or pastry cutter.
Now mix in any liquid ingredients. Make sure it is mixed it but don't overmix.
Pie & Pastry Hints
This one is a quick one. Roll out the pastry between wax paper (on the bottom) and
saran wrap (on the top). You may have to rearrange the saran wrap as you are rolling. Then
when you are ready to transfer the pastry, turn it over and carefully removed the wax paper.
Turn in into the pie pan with saran side up and gently remove the saran wrap. If you need to roll
again, use the other side of the wax paper and saran wrap. (They start to stick if you use
each side more than once.)
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