The right way to cook potatoes
If you simply boil them (not steam them), or bake them in the oven, at some point you will have to ask yourself the question "are they well cooked?".Your mum or dad may have taught you this when you were a child: You take a small sharp knife and try [...] Read more...
The right weight of pastry for a pie
Let's try to solve a thorny problem: How much dough will I need when I make my next pie?
You're planning to make a pie, you're going to use your favourite mould or circle, but how much pastry will you need to fill it completely with a well spread [...] Read more...
The skin of the almonds
If you like almonds, in their dried fruit version, you must use them quite often in cooking or baking, whether powdered or whole. It is not obvious, but in fact there is 2 kinds of almonds in the market, wholesale with or without the skin. For whole [...] Read more...
Stand mixer tools
Whether we call it a stand mixer, food processor, or simply refer to it by brand (Kenwood, KitchenAid, etc.), this machine is a valuable tool for amateur cooks, bakers or pastry chefs like ourselves.
All these machines come supplied with 3 [...] Read more...
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...
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...
Fats for cooking
If you need to fry or sear anything a frying pan or saucepan, the temperature is likely to be high.
In particular, I have cooking red meat in mind. In this case, what should fat should we use? And at what temperature?
For our red meat, let's [...] Read more...
A few tips for effective kneading at home
When you have to knead dough for bread or some other recipe, you may well use a food processor or the type of machine known as a stand mixer. The best-known brands are Kenwood and KitchenAid. They are useful tools, but here are a few tips to help [...] Read more...
Candied fruits: don't get ripped off
Do you like candied fruit? You might like to nibble a handful or add it to a recipe, like a classic fruit cake or delicious Italian specialities like panettone or sicilian epiphany pie.
So, if you enjoy them and you want to make a recipe that [...] Read more...
The right way to use a blender
You may well have a blender in your own kitchen. You know, that useful gadget that allows you to liquidize stuff at high speed into a smooth liquid. Of course, the most obvious use that comes to mind is for soups: if you have boiled some vegetables [...] Read more...
What can I use for blind baking a pastry case?
When it comes to home-made desserts, tarts are always popular. They can be divided into two basic types: those cooked with their filling, such as an apricot and almond cream tart, and those where the filling is added after baking the pastry case, [...] Read more...
Children and vegetables
This is an attempt to address the question that all parents and grandparents, maybe you included, face so often: how can we get children to like vegetables? And at the same time, we might get away from the familiar, day-in, day-out round of pasta, [...] Read more...
What is the difference between bakery and patisserie?
This is a question that you may well have asked yourself and which I will attempt to answer. In France the two trades of "boulangerie" (bakery) and "pâtisserie" (patisserie and confectionery) have always been quite distinct, but where exactly do [...] Read more...
It's something you have probably have done yourself: cooked or pre-cooked vegetables before adding them to a recipe. This is almost always done the same way: peel the chosen vegetables (carrots, for example), cut them up, boil them in salted water [...] Read more...
When preparing artichokes for cooking, you may well already know that we often need to remove the first round of leaves, if they are tatty or dirty, as well as the inedible stalk. The operative word here is “remove” , rather than “cut off” . [...] Read more...
5 really useful cooking tips
Cooking is about recipes, of course, but it is also an impressive collection of small gestures, ways of doing things, knowing what to do and what not to do.
All these little tips and tricks can be very important: they can affect the way a recipe [...] Read more...
Steam for baking bread
What does steam have to do with bread-making?This is not only a bakers' secret, it is something you might not think of at all: if you make bread and bake it like a cake, you will end up with this: It is certainly bread, but pale and with a thick, [...] Read more...
One should cover a pan while heating?
Cooking abounds with old sayings and proverbs, which are sometimes useful tips and sometimes myths. We learn or hear them somewhere, and often trust them completely, even when they're wrong.
I propose simply to verify them, to see whether they are [...] Read more...
Making the most of seeds: dry roasting
In cooking, and particularly in baking, there are a lot of seeds we can use, such as linseed, sesame, poppy, etc. Usually, recipes simply say to add them just as they are to the mixture or dough.
To make a seeded loaf, for example, prepare a [...] Read more...
Foie gras without force-feeding: it can be done
I adore foie gras...
I willingly admit it, I adore foie gras: the texture, the taste, the festive aspect – I enjoy all of it. I really love eating it, preparing it and, most of all, sharing what I have made with my family over Christmas and [...] Read more...
The window-pane test in bread-making
The home bread-makers often ask themselves “Have I kneaded my dough long enough?” . A good question, as dough that is insufficiently kneaded will not rise properly or will fall flat when the top is slashed, which is very frustrating.
To know [...] Read more...
Raising (or leavening) agents
When we want to make a dough or batter rise when baking, either in patisserie or bread-making, we need to use a raising agent or leavening agent, one of which is called leaven.
In the context of baking, a raising agent is simply what "makes [...] Read more...
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 [...] Read more...
The 3 kinds of meringue
Meringue – what could be simpler? Just beaten egg whites with sugar added. This makes a fairly stiff mixture which can then be cooked in a cool oven to create those lovely, light confections.
But in the world of professional patisserie, meringue [...] Read more...
20 measures to protect your privacy
As we use more and more new technology, we leave ourselves increasingly vulnerable to companies who make money out of collecting our personal data.
For instance, when we use the internet, we need to be wary of what is collected about what we do, [...] Read more...
How to choose a good password
These days more and more websites ask you to create a user account, so that you can be identified before being allowed to access some service or other.
To create an account you need to choose a user identity. This is simple, as your email address [...] Read more...
Fruits which can ruin your jelly
There are many ways of making a fruit mousse, but one of the simplest is to prepare a fruit jelly (basically a fresh fruit coulis with gelatine) and then mix this jelly before it sets completely with whipped cream.
The result is perfect for [...] Read more...
The art of the charlotte
In cooking, a charlotte is a delicious moulded dessert, with biscuits around the outside that have been soaked in a flavoured syrup, filled with a light cream or mousse. The charlotte is left to set in the fridge before being turned out and served in [...] Read more...
The secret of cooking until "done"
This is a real chef's skill: being able to look at a fish fillet cooking and say, "Stop – that's enough, it's cooked". I always admire this ability to see at a glance if something is done. It is what sets the professionals apart from us mere [...] Read more...
Different kinds of pastry and dough
First, take some flour…
When cooking in general, and particularly in baking, we can make and use many different kinds of pastry and dough. All built on the same "base": flour - a powder to which we add fat, liquid or both to produce the dough [...] Read more...
The painter, the restaurant owners and the opera singer
You might well have noticed that there are recipes involving names that have been so overused (often for any old thing) that they have almost become common nouns.
Here are three examples that are commonly found on restaurant [...] Read more...
Choosing a chopping board
It's a no-brainer, surely? If you want a chopping board, just find a piece of wood, and Bob's your uncle! You can happily chop away with a knife and not damage the table or worktop. But in reality, it's a bit more complicated than that. You need to [...] Read more...
Butter doesn't make you fat, unless you eat too much of it.
Whenever I'm discussing cooking and recipes, there is one idea which comes up frequently, like this: "Oh no! But that's got butter in it" (I should add, for the sake of accuracy, that this is something I hear more frequently from women, who are [...] Read more...
Aeroplane or take off the shirt
Ah - football! As one who knows little and understands even less about it (I've had the offside rule explained to me 5 times and I still don't get it…), and so only sees goals and highlights of matches while channel hopping, I'm totally fascinated [...] Read more...
Too much sweet and savoury
There is a food trend which is creeping in everywhere in France right now: mixing sweet with savoury. In some restaurants, it is becoming difficult to order a classic dish, like “roast veal” for instance, without being served fruits in the [...] Read more...
Should I believe my oven?
Can you really trust your oven? This is an important question as we are always tempted to take the temperature indicated as gospel truth and, unfortunately, this is rarely very precise. When I set my oven to 200°C, is it really at that temperature? [...] Read more...
Have you ever noticed that if you like your meat well done, it invites strange looks? For instance, in a restaurant, when asked “How would you like that cooked?” If you reply, “Well done,” it is almost as if you are swearing…Yes, it's [...] Read more...
Good fridge management
We all have a fridge at home – it's an indispensible part of the kitchen and so much a part of the furniture that we tend not to pay it much attention. But often, out of habit, we don't use it properly. Here are a few tips to help you get more from [...] Read more...
A memo of utensil weights
You will no doubt have come across this problem while cooking: after starting a recipe, when you already have some ingredients in a pan and have maybe cooked them, you need to know the weight of the pan's contents so that you can take half out, or [...] Read more...
How to choose a centrifugal juicer
A centrifugal juicer is an appliance designed to extract juice from all kinds of fruit and vegetables. It will produce juice from tomatoes, carrots, apples, pineapple, blackcurrants, etc.
The idea is simple: the chosen fruit are fed into the top of [...] Read more...
The ideal restaurant
Like all passionate cooks (I suppose), from time to time I dream of opening my own restaurant.
I imagine loads of things: it will be like this or like that, we'll do this, I'll cook that, the room will have this or that – in short, I [...] Read more...
Cream and sauces
Have you ever wondered why making beautiful tasty sauces is so easy when you use cream?
First of all, we need to be aware that some flavours only dissolve in water, while others only dissolve in fats.
This phenomenon leads to this kind of [...] Read more...
Devising a recipe
A question I'm often asked is: how do you come up with your recipes? How do you perfect them? This is something I've already mentioned on this page, but I'll take this opportunity to go into a bit more detail.So, how do I devise my recipes? Just like [...] Read more...
In praise of slow cooking
You will no doubt have noticed that in cookery, it's often the actual cooking process that gets neglected. This is understandable; it comes at the end of the recipe and getting the dish in the oven is something of a relief (ah, that's done!), which [...] Read more...
This subject cropped up recently in a discussion with my three charming nieces; do you know what Maillard reactions are?
With a name like that, they could well be some principle in mechanics, but in fact the term applies to something much closer [...] Read more...
Properly cooked! (the taste)
Going out to a restaurant is getting harder at the moment. In France, at least, you have to try and find one that has agreed to pass on the new lower rate of VAT at anything other than a symbolic level, and there aren't many.
And then, most [...] Read more...
Fried potatoes or fried mash?
In cooking there are a lot of dishes that appear to be extremely simple but which can actually prove to be very tricky. Amongst those that I'm aware of having this reputation are omelette and fried potatoes.
Take fried potatoes; it's very simple [...] Read more...
The power of sayings and beliefs in the kitchen
One day, in the comments on the recipe for beaten egg whites, a young woman asked if you could beat egg whites stiff while having a period, as a friend had told her it wasn't possible.
Sometime later another person commented that for mayonnaise it [...] Read more...
From website to blog
Today I'm inaugurating the cooking-ez.com "blog". The idea is to have a space for discussion open to everone, but not necessarily linked to a particular recipe or page.
I hope the posts will be sufficiently interesting that [...] Read more...
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