How to zest a fruit
You will have no doubt noticed that many recipes call for the zest of citrus fruit. The zest is that outer layer of the skin which adds so much flavour to a dish.
There are many different ways to peel off the zest and various tools are available. Here is a summary of the “dos and don'ts” of zesting.
The right fruit
Above all, removing the zest means using the fruit's outer skin. This is the part that accumulates the residues from any chemical treatments the fruit may have received.
So, beware: it is essential to wash the fruit thoroughly before zesting. Better still, use organic fruit that is guaranteed untreated.
The right part of the fruit
The zest layer is generally very thin, 1 mm or less, so it is important to remove only the coloured part of the skin, as this is the zest. Avoid at all costs cutting into the white layer underneath, as this is the pith, which is very bitter!
The photo shows zest on the right and ordinary peel on the left, including the awful white pith.
The right tools
There are various tools available for zesting; some work better than others,
1) Vegetable peeler or very sharp knife: You will need to "peel" the fruit very carefully and will end up with ribbons of zest (coloured, don't forget: no white bits). Then these will need to be cut into thinner strips or smaller shreds. A time-consuming process, not very efficient, but it works.
2) Zester: this is a special, rather odd-shaped knife which allows the zest to be peeled off in thin strips. The zester is designed to prevent cutting into the pith, which is helpful. The disadvantage is that the zest tends to get crushed in the process and ends up losing some of its volatile juices, so it's far from perfect.
3) Zest grater: like a cheese grater, but finer, over which the fruit is rubbed. The fruit needs to be turned frequently (the fruit should move, not the grater). This is by far the most efficient method. Try it once and you'll adopt it.
Back to top of page
The 3 essential knives
You must have heard a chef or cook say: "There’s no good cooking without good ingredients". This is very true, of course, but for any amateur or beginner it is equipment that really counts to start with. What I mean is that you should not skimp on [Read more...]
Using stretch food film effectively
Maybe you use food film in your own kitchen. You know, the very thin, clear plastic stuff that you can stretch, often used to cover food and protect it from the air. It’s become so widely used that it’s now an essential item for pros. They even [Read more...]
The mock CAP baker's certificate exam
The next instalment in my life as an apprentice baker at the French INBP professional school. I’m now halfway through training and it’s still as exciting as ever, and exhausting – but maybe I’m just getting old, or both… Anyway, a few days [Read more...]
Rosemary in recipes
Rosemary, as I’m sure you know, is a culinary herb:
It is one of the famous French "herbes de Provence", and is very effective in bringing a real taste of the Mediterranean to any dish.
The classic way to use it in a recipe is to add a [Read more...]
The Holy Grail of French bakers
While browsing through the recipes on this site, you may have noticed that while I adore cooking (everything, in fact, to do with eating and drinking), I am particularly drawn to bakery: bread, viennoiseries and all that goes with them – it’s a [Read more...]
Is it really necessary to cream egg yolks?
Let’s try and answer a question that crops up in cookery and patisserie, even if it verges on the existential: do the egg yolks in a custard recipe really need to be beaten until pale, or not?
You might already have noticed in many recipes [Read more...]
Egg yolks and caster sugar
We often come across recipes where we need to mix egg yolks with caster sugar. This would appear to be a very ordinary and simple thing to do but, be warned, these two ingredients can behave oddly together.
Let’s take confectioner's custard [Read more...]
The golden-brown finish on puff pastry
Let's take a look at the tricky matter of producing puff pastry with an attractive, golden-brown finish. French pastry chefs call this "dorure" (literally, "gilding").
Behind this quirky term there lurks a real problem (and the solution): when [Read more...]