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How to table chocolate for truffles - The Messy Baker
How to Table Chocolate Ganache for Truffles

Last week I had the pleasure of taking a truffle and bon bon making course in Toronto with Marissa Scibetta at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts. For two glorious evenings I was the proverbial kid in the candy shop, weighing, heating, mixing, spooning and...

Decorative chocolate drizzles - The Messy Baker
How to make decorative chocolate drizzle

During the chocolate demonstration, Derrick made this decorative chocolate drizzle for Emily. As in Emily Richards. I'm not jealous. Really. After all, my name's too long. And too hard to spell. So demonstrating chocolate script with "Emily" makes sense. I guess. After Derrick showed off demonstrated, he...

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How to Temper Chocolate in a Microwave & a Give Away
Shocked to learn you can put metal in a microwave to temper chocolate - The Messy Baker   This is me at chocolate class. While Elizabeth Baird looks mildly curious, I look like I'm about to have the "full bore lateral panic" my mother so often threatened. From my expression you'd think the macarons had started to dance about like extras in a scene from Fantasia. Or perhaps Master Chocolatier Derrick Tu Tan Pho was juggling knives blindfolded. But no. He's just showing us how to temper chocolate. This is me reacting as I see Derrick put a metal bowl in the microwave. Ever since my mom bought her first microwave in 1972  "Don't put metal in the microwave!" has been drilled into me. Of course, that hasn't stopped me from starting a small fire with a foil wrapper or showering the interior of the appliance with sparks from a gold-rimmed tea cup. But in all my years of melting butter and reheating cold beverages, I have never once zapped a piece of metal flatware or nuked a shiny silver mixing bowl. And there, in front of  half a dozen seasoned food writers, Derrik, who is also the Technical Consultant & Director of the Barry Callebaut Canada Chocolate Academy, put a big metal bowl of chocolate pistoles in the microwave and hit "Start." As you can see, it took all my self-control not to launch across the table and stop him.
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How to prevent cheesecake cracking

[caption id="attachment_4376" align="alignnone" width="500"] This is what happens when you bake cheesecakes without a hot water bath.[/caption] Growing up, cheesecake was a graham crust pressed into a 9 X 9  pan, slathered in a mixture of cream cheese and Dream Whip, and crowned with a can...

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What to do with leftover pastry dough
  Mini Apple Pie - Using up leftover pastry - The Messy Baker I just can't bear to throw out leftover pastry scraps. As a child, when my mother made pie, she salvaged every shred of dough and produced a treat I found more tantalizing than the star dessert itself -- the Rolly-Polly. She gathered the leftover dough, rolled it into a long strip, slathered butter down the middle, sprinkling it with cinnamon, brown sugar and -- if we were very lucky -- chopped walnuts. She then rolled the pastry strip into a log, bent it into a circle and pinched the ends together, forming an uneven, edible wreath. Inevitably, the over-handled dough cracked, but while it baked, the buttery brown sugar oozed out and caramelized into crunchy burnt nirvana. As soon as it was cool enough to handle, she cut the Rolly-Polly into bite-sized portions, which we gobbled boldly in the face of our fast approaching dinner. Last week, with fresh apples from the market watching my every move, I forewent the Rolly-Polly. But I didn't waste the scrippets of pate sucree cut from the rim of my Pear, Chocolate & Frangipane Pie. I gently patted the dough into a large ramekin. In went half an apple, chopped and tossed in cinnamon and brown sugar. I folded the edges over the top, which didn't quite meet, and baked it along with the pie. Voila! Apple Something. Served with a drizzle of creme fraiche, it was a lovely, unpretentious treat I ate as I cleaned the kitchen. A reward for all my hard work.
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How to pick, peel and use peaches
3  Peach Recipes - The Messy Baker I'm on Kitchener CTV's News at Noon talking about peaches. While they're generously allotting me 5 minutes, the entire news hour isn't enough time to tell you how much I love peaches. And just how much do I love peaches? Last year, I bought an upright freezer to accommodate my lust for Blazing Stars. To keep Andrew happy, I allow the odd batch of homemade Italian meatballs and bag of oven-dried tomatoes to take up precious freezer space, but peaches are the real reason a honking big white box sits in our basement sucking up energy at a horrific rate. Last year I looked at buying and storing peaches. But based on emails and discussions, a few unanswered questions.
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How to Temper Steak
I knew I was missing a step. Despite  learning how to heat a pan to perfection and fire up the grill without burning off my eyebrows, I struggle with producing a medium-rare steak. Oh, technically, I know how to use the palm method to determine doneness, but my results are hit and miss. Turns out the reason behind my inconsistent results is, as always, impatience. I'm too disorganized busy to temper steak. Confession time. I usually grab the steak from the fridge and slap it on the heat. I've even been known to thread ice-cold beef kebabs onto skewers thinking it wouldn't matter because they're small. Wrong. Especially since I don't like well-done steak. Fortunately, Joe at Rouxbe Online Cooking School has shown me of the error of my ways. And just in time for both Canada Day (or Dominion Day for Andrew) and the Fourth of July.
Homemade salad dressing - The Messy Baker
5 Basic Elements of Homemade Salad Dressing

People roll their eyes when they hear I make my own salad dressing. From their reaction you'd think I was weaving my own linen or milling my own wheat. But homemade salad dressing is one of those ludicrously simple items that provides a suspiciously high...

How to cook dried beans - The Messy Baker
How to Cook Dried Beans
How to cook dried beans - The Messy Baker Last month, I looked at how to debone a chicken as a faster-than-you'd-think way to save money and reduce salt in your diet. This month, the money-saving, salt-smashing culinary technique deals with how to cook dried beans and legumes. And no, the kitchen reno hasn't made me lose all sense of proportion. The biggest objection I hear about cooking your own beans is, "But it takes soooo long!"  Well, yes and no. Sure soaking and boiling takes time, but you don't have to stand there and keep watch. Your active time -- picking out stones, pouring water, draining -- is only a few minutes. The beans can soak while you sleep and cook while you do other things. Like laundry. Hmmm. Not sure that scenario helped my case. Anyway, if you look at the amount of labour involved, cooking your own beans -- even chick peas -- isn't all that time consuming. Just think of them as a stock item you always have on hand and not a single ingredient for a specific meal. I've been cooking and freezing big batches of beans for more than a year now and not only notice they taste better than their canned counterparts, the texture is far less mushy. This won't matter in a pureed bean soup, but a bean salad? Why it'll turn you into a food snob. The videos below, courtesy of Rouxbe Online Cooking School, run for less than 7 minutes combined and provide all the information you need about soaking, cooking and testing beans.  The only trick I can add is to freeze them in 2-cup batches, since this is approximately the amount in a can of beans.
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How to Butcher or Debone Chicken
See those pretty crystals? They're salt. Yes, we need this essential element to live, but the average Canadian consumes three times the daily recommended dose. Spend a few minutes Googling "high-sodium diet" and you'll likely consider tossing your fleur de sel out the window. Fortunately, this isn't necessary. I was talking with Dawn Thomas, the voice of Rouxbe Online Cooking School.  She says their site doesn't label recipes low-sodium (or low-fat for that matter) and doesn't plan to. Why not? It's unnecessary. Once you learn proper cooking techniques you control these factors. So over the next few weeks I'll be devoting the occasional post to simple ways to reduce the salt in your diet. And as a special bonus, you'll find you're saving money. We'll start with deboning chicken. An easy place to start shaving that salt lick from your diet is at the butcher counter with plain old fresh chicken. If you learn to debone chicken yourself, you'll avoid sodium-laced seasoned meats and have plenty of bones for homemade stock -- low-sodium, tasty, rich stock. Deboning chicken stars with a sharp knife. I buy bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. As soon as I get home, I debone them and freeze the bones for stock. Now, I know a lot of you are thinking this is time consuming. Initially, I thought so too, but I got out my timer. Deboning a whole chicken breast (that's left and right side, so two pieces) took me exactly 4 minutes 8 seconds. And I don't even have a proper boning knife. Cubing the chicken breast took and additional 1 minute 15 seconds each breast. In just over 6 minutes I had enough boneless, skinless chicken cubes for two mains. Money saved? At least 10% of the cost of the boneless version. I went to my butcher (Valeriote's Market on Yorkshire for those who wonder where I get gigantic, local chicken), and he kindly indulged me in a true comparison. He weighed a 3.3 pound whole skin-on, bone-in chicken breast and calculated the price. It cost $11.55. He then skinned, deboned and weighed the same chicken breast again. This time the cost was $12.82.  By buying bone-in chicken, I saved 10% on my meat bill AND had bones for stock. Plus, I had the option of keeping the skin on, which is essential for some recipes like Roasted Lemon and Cilantro Chicken, which I often make it with chicken breasts alone. Want to save more? Buy a whole chicken and butcher it yourself. Seriously. It's not that hard. With a bit of practice "Easy as deboning a chicken" will become part of your lingo. To help you on your deboning journey, once again, I turn to the good people at Rouxbe Online Cooking School. They've kindly provided videos that will reduce the intimidation factor.

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