The holidays are just around the corner. So what to get your favorite cook (who just might be yourself)?
Well, we do a fair bit of cooking and baking. We make our own bread, crackers, ice cream, ginger ale. All from scratch.
So, with that in mind, here are a few items we picked up that we didn’t know we needed, but now wouldn’t think of doing without. They are all in the $20-or-under range. And they all fit nicely in a decent-sized stocking hanging on the mantle Christmas morning.
The staff of life
Bread making, for me anyway, was always a messy affair. Rolling out the dough on a cutting board invariably led to flour over half the counter and the floor.One day, while browsing in Sur La Table, I came across a little mat for kneading bread. This handy gadget rolls out nicely onto the counter. The silicone fabric adheres to most countertop surfaces, preventing your dough and flour from shifting and spilling.
Conversely, the top side is smooth and generally eliminates sticky dough from doing what it does best (sticking).
It has convenient measurements for different size diameter pies and pizzas (rolling out pizza dough is a weekly affair for us).
I don’t know if you can find a better price than at Amazon, where it sells for $19.95.
Just “plane” perfect
We like cheese. These days, of course, you can buy nearly any variety of sharp or block cheese grated. But we like ours finely grated. That’s where the Microplane grater comes in quite handy.
It’s small, yet effective. Not only can you grate cheese, but you can savor lemon, lime and orange zests for flavoring everything from cakes to Thai food.
You can find this little gadget for $11.99 on Amazon.
The garlic dilemma
Is there anything more enticing than the aroma of garlic sizzling in a little olive oil? Ever since I was a kid, this aroma has been the promise of a good meal to follow.
But getting the skin off the bulbs has always been a chore and a half.
A few years ago, I found what I call the “brute force” method, which has been promoted by Martha Stewart. This involves taking a whole garlic, putting it in a medium size pot, placing a lid on the pot and shaking it vigorously for a minute or so. Voila, all the garlic is peeled.
This technique does take a bit of stamina and muscle power.
But for those of us who prefer a gentler approach, silicone (again) comes to the rescue.
This handy material, which is being used more frequently in all sorts of household goods, comes in quite handy for peeling individual cloves.
There’s a number of contenders out there, but I would go with Zyliss.
It’s certainly a well-known brand in the kitchen, and anyway, you’ll be risking no more than $4.99 on this endeavor.
It’s turkey time again and that means (for many of us) basting a turkey. If you’re old (like me) you remember basting with a traditional nylon brush or maybe even boar’s hair.
The problem with these traditional tools is that they tend to shed little filaments on your food. Silicone solves that problem. It absorbs equally as well, but never falls apart on the things you want to consume.
Now, there are any number of these little brushes on the market. But for my money, I go with the Le Creuset for one simple reason: it has a wooden handle. This may be just my idiosyncratic way of cooking, but I tend to leave utensils on the stove, and often too close (for comfort) to the heating elements.
Consequently, any handle with plastic runs a risk of melting. The Le Creuset has a wooden handle, which, of course, could potentially burn but certainly not melt. It will run you $12 or so on Amazon and other sites.
With the holidays comes cookies. Some of us in our family are more fond of cookies than others. (Others have a preference for single malt scotch whisky, so it evens out.)
At least for the cookie-consuming crowd, you’re going to need to cut your dough. We’ve got lots of little gadgets in this department. But my personal favorite is the Messermeister Pro-Touch pastry wheel. It’s made of stainless steel and works quite nicely.
Now, one word of caution. If you are using the kneading mat referenced above, you’ll need to use a plastic cutter. These mats are great, but they are not impervious to metal knife-edges.
Well, that’s it: 5 great stocking stuffers for your favorite cook. And if that happens to be yourself, well then treat yourself to an early gift!