Welcome to the Lake House! In this edition of Favourite Things, we’re discussing some of the most loved tools we used in the Lake House Cooking Classes!
Ever wonder why your roasted vegetables didn’t brown, or your cookies burned, even though you carefully followed the temperature and cooking times in a recipe? Your oven could be to blame. The actual temperature in the oven may be wildly different than what you set it for. Improve your cooking and baking results with an inexpensive oven thermometer that will give you an accurate read of the temperature inside your oven, allowing you to make adjustments accordingly.
DIAMOND CRYSTAL KOSHER SALT
Not all salts are created equally. Many recipes, including mine, call for kosher salt which is made without additives, resulting in a clean taste. That being said, not all kosher salt crystals are created in the same way, resulting in some brands being much denser, and thus much saltier by volume, than other brands. According to the manufacturer’s website (where you can learn all about how their unique manufacturing process), Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt contains 53% less sodium by volume than table salt. It also contains less sodium by volume compared to other well known kosher salts.
STAINLESS STEEL WIDE MOUTH CANNING FUNNEL
This product is designed for filling canning jars with hot preserves, but is useful for so much more. I use mine regularly for filling canisters, ladling soups into jars and making less of a mess in the kitchen in general! The fact that it is stainless steel means it can withstand hot liquids and won’t warp in the dishwasher.
FINE MESH STRAINER/SIEVE
Just as useful for straining ricotta as they are for sifting clumpy cocoa powder or rinsing rice or draining small pasta shapes, fine mesh strainers are kitchen workhorses. I also like the small strainers for removing the clumps in the baking soda (which is a real issue in areas of high humidity like at the Lake House!) or adding a decorative dusting of powdered sugar over top of a cake.
Speaking of kitchen workhorses, sheet pans are a kitchen must-have. Available in different sizes, you’ll use them over and over again for baking cookies, roasting veggies, and prepping and carrying meat or fish to the outdoor grill. I find the 2/3 sheet pan to be the right size for my home ovens. They’re large enough for most tasks, but leave enough room for proper air flow in the oven. For medium-size tasks, I use half sheet pans. Smaller quarter sheet pans are the perfect size for toasting nuts, or making dinner for 1 or 2 people.
SMALL STAINLESS STEEL SCOOPS
In our class we discussed the importance of spooning flour into a measuring cup and levelling off the top, instead of digging the measuring cup into the bag of flour. We experimented with both methods and found that the 2 cups of spooned and measured flour that we needed for our recipe weighed 2oz less than the 2 cups we scooped directly from the bag! Using the right method can make the difference between tender, moist baked goods and dry, tough ones. I keep small stainless steel scoops like these ones with my flour so they’re always within reach.
BUTCHER BLOCK OIL
Using the right type of cutting board is essential for the care of your knives. BPA-Free plastic and wood fibre composite boards are good choices, as are traditional wood chopping boards. I love my big butcher block board that I’ve had for years, and care for it by hand washing, scrubbing with salt and lemon to disinfect, and oiling it with Butcher Block Oil.
GLOBAL HOLLOW GROUND VEGETABLE KNIFE
Good quality knives are worth the investment, and tend to cost less in the long run than replacing inexpensive knives every few years, I love the single-piece construction of Global Knives, and particularly love the versatility of this knife. It’s called a vegetable knife, but works wonders on fruit and raw meats, and other wet ingredients that tend to stick to knife blades.
BROWN SUGAR KEEPER
There’s nothing worse than reaching for the bag of brown sugar, only to find it rock hard. How did that happen so fast? Brown sugar dries out quickly when exposed to even small amounts of air, as the natural moisture from the molasses evaporates. Keep your brown sugar fresh and soft in a container designed for the task. With an air tight seal and a terra cotta disk, brown sugar stays fresher for much longer. I was recently asked how frequently I soak the terra cotta disk in water. The answer was that I re-soak it when I refill the container, which for me is about every 2 months or so, since I bake fairly frequently.
SMALL TAPE MEASURES
These little tape measures are the handiest thing! They’re not cooking tools per se, but are the best thing for quick measurements in and out of the kitchen. Sold in a pack of 3, I keep them in my purse when I’m out shopping, in the kitchen for quickly measuring food and pans, (Is that skillet 9″ or 10″?), and in the office drawer for taking body measurements when online shopping!