Sunday, November 29, 2009

Kitchen Gadgets #1

Introducing - Pampered Chef's medium scoop! Basically a stainless steel mini ice-cream scoop.

Pampered Chef actually carried three scoop sizes, but the medium one is destined to be my favorite. The reason? It's the exact size you need for drop cookies. And they don't make ordinary drop cookies; they make PERFECT drop cookies. Each the same size, each beautifully rounded. The peanut butter cookies I made today satisfy my baker's soul entirely.

I got the three piece set for my birthday ( may I take a moment to say I have awesome friends? I have awesome friends!!!) and they are quickly making their way up on my list of favorite gadgets, right next to the pastry blender.

Another perk to this marvelous invention is that drop-cookies are now a one handed task! I was able to talk to a dear friend on the phone with one hand and drop domes of dough with the other.

Okay, so this one is my favorite, but what of the other two? Well, the large scoop is perfect for muffins, making filling tins very quick with minimum mess. And the small... I haven't used it yet, but I understand that you can make melon balls and fill mini muffin tins with it. There are probably many more uses for these, I just haven't discovered them all yet.

Cranberry-Orange Nut Bread

I love cooking with fresh cranberries, and last week I had a slice of cranberry nut bread at a social gathering. I hadn't had it in a couple of years probably, and I'd forgotten just how good this stuff is! It took me some doing to dig up a recipe that was what I wanted, and in the end it was a locally produced book that I found it in. I whipped up a batch and baked it in mini-loaf pans for our Thanksgiving meal. I hope you enjoy it, it's one of my favorite batter breads.

Fresh Cranberry Nut Bread
In Memory of Ethel Barnett

2C flour
1C sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4C shortening
3/4C orange juice
1 egg beaten
1 tsp grated orange rind (finer than regular zest)
1 C chopped fresh cranberries
1/2C chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.
Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl and cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. In a separate bowl, combine orange juice, zest and beaten egg. Make a well in dry ingredients and pour in orange mixture. Mix just enough to dampen dry ingredients. Carefully fold in cranberries and nuts; do not over-mix. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for about an hour, until a knife comes out clean.

I baked this recipe in four mini pans for 40 minutes.

Try making this bread a day ahead, and wrap the loaves in plastic wrap overnight. The moisture on the cranberries will disburse throughout the bread, making it easier to slice without crumbling.