December 15, 2020

A Parmigiana Without Tomatoes? It’s Not Just Possible, It’s Fantastic

We've partnered with the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium to share delicious ways to use this savory powerhouse in your cooking—and prove that it’s so much more than just a topping. Known for its unmistakable taste and perfectly crumbly texture, this cheese is made with only three ingredients, but the real magic comes after it's been aged for more than a year (in Italy, according to old-school methods). Parmigiana is a true Italian classic, with quite possibly as many variations as there are cooks. While the most well-known version, parmigiana di melanzane, involves slices of eggplant (grilled or deep-fried, depending on which camp you're in) baked with tomato sauce and melting cheese, it’s a dish that lends itself well to adaptations—and has for centuries. Take my fennel parmigiana: a comforting, wintry version where egg, milk, and cheese combine to make a custardy filling that replaces the tomato sauce. On top, there’s a crisp, golden crust of Parmigiano Reggiano and breadcrumbs so good that you'll want to bake it in your widest casserole dish, to maximize the crunchy surface area. From Our Shop Sale! Staub Matte Ceramic Rectangular Baking Dish $34–$84 $34–$69 More Options Microplane Elite Box Grater $40 Many people think parmigiana is a dish that originated in Parma in northern Italy (when it’s actually from the south), so it has become almost a requirement for this dish to involve Parmigiano Reggiano, the region's best-loved cheese. In fact, what really makes a parmigiana a parmigiana is the dish's layers—it takes its name from Sicilian window shutters, with the layers referencing the look of the overlapping wooden slats. But using Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is an excellent and delicious idea here. (And if you want to be certain yours is the real deal, make sure to check for Parmigiano Reggiano on the label—that certification process is taken very seriously in Europe.) Parmigiano Reggiano is ideal in baked dishes and it adds deep flavor to otherwise sweet, mild-tasting vegetables. It’s a must in both the filling and the crisp top in any parmigiana. Fennel parmigiana can be as simple as layers of boiled and sliced fennel, baked simply with breadcrumbs and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, made golden with olive oil. Or it can be made even richer with the addition of bechamel, making it not unlike a gratin. Personally, I absolutely can’t resist a parmigiana bianca (a “white,” aka tomato-less, version) made by pouring eggs beaten with a little milk and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over the vegetables; that sauce then turns into creamy, custardy curds between the layers. My fennel parmigiana makes a wonderful vegetarian main but can also be served as a side dish for the holidays. Either way, it’s a snap to make ahead (in really any part of the recipe), meaning your holiday meal-planning will be that much simpler. Parmigiana di Finocchio (Fennel Parmigiana) View Recipe Ingredients 2 large fennel bulbs (about 1 pound) 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste 2 eggs 1/2 cup milk (125 milliliters) 4 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (about 120 grams), divided Freshly ground black pepper 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs 2 balls fresh mozzarella (about 250 grams or 9 ounces) 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for greasing 2 large fennel bulbs (about 1 pound) 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste 2 eggs 1/2 cup milk (125 milliliters) 4 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (about 120 grams), divided Freshly ground black pepper 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs 2 balls fresh mozzarella (about 250 grams or 9 ounces) 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for greasing What’s your favorite Italian dish? Tell us in the comments! In partnership with the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, we’re sharing delicious ways to use this fridge staple in all types of cooking—not just as a topping for pasta. It's incredibly versatile in the kitchen, infusing broths and sauces with extra umami and making cheese boards even tastier. With Parmigiano Reggiano in your corner, ho-hum flavor is a thing of the past.
December 12, 2020

Our Resident Baking BFF's Go-To Tools for Better Pies, Cakes, Cookies—You Name It

In Bake it Up a Notch, or Resident Baking BFF, Erin McDowell—and her trusty sidekick, Brimley, our Resident Pie Pup—shows us everything we'll ever need to know to make our baking faster, easier, and better than ever. From equipment recommendations to in-depth technique tutorials to fixes for every mishap imaginable, Erin's here to save the day (and save our cakes). If you know someone who loves to bake, they are likely spending more time in the kitchen than ever before. This list is made up of tools I turn to time and time again, that have withstood the test of time and beyond frequent use in my home kitchen—plus a few sources of inspiration for year-round baking. Any baker would be thrilled to unwrap one of these goodies! Wishing everyone happy holidays and happy baking! Read More > >
December 9, 2020

9 Cream of Tartar Substitutes You Probably Have in the Kitchen

Where would we be without grapes? Think of all the culinary marvels the fruit yields: Jelly, balsamic and red wine vinegars, and of course wine. But lofty cakes, ethereal meringues, and chewy snickerdoodles also owe their existence to another child of the grape: cream of tartar. The white powder is most often found in baked goods, where it serves as a stabilizer, a leavening agent, or a crystallization inhibitor (more on this later). If you’ve just embarked on some baking endeavor only to find your jar of cream of tartar empty, there’s no cause for alarm. There are plenty of substitutions for cream of tartar, you just have to decide which purpose that sub needs to serve. But first, what is cream of tartar? Cream of tartar forms as crystals (rather glamorously known as “wine diamonds”) on the walls of wine barrels during fermentation, before it’s refined and crushed to the white powder probably sitting in a jar in your pantry. Chemically speaking, this powder is potassium bitartrate, a salt of mild tartaric acid, with a whole range of useful kitchen applications, from stabilizing beaten egg whites to keeping caramels smooth and chewy. Should you run out, replacing cream of tartar seems daunting at first, but there are actually a number of cream of tartar substitutes—many of which are probably already in the kitchen. Short of harvesting your own wine diamonds, here are 9 cream of tartar substitutes, divided up by use. From Our Shop de Buyer French Copper Egg White Beating Bowl $150–$182 More Sizes Silicone Grip Whisk (Set of 2) $25 More Colors Sale! Organic Ceramic Cake Stand $70–$100 $56–$80 More Options Stabilizers When egg whites are whipped to form peaks, their proteins gradually denature, stretching and linking to form an open lattice that transforms liquid whites into airy foam. But once proteins start linking, they can get carried away, turning the foam into a weepy mess. Cream of tartar is often added to whipped egg whites in recipes like meringues or angel food cake to keep whipped egg whites stable. But there are plenty of other ways to achieve the same fluffy result. Lemon Juice Like cream of tartar, lemon juice helps achieve lofty beaten egg whites. The general rule is 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice per egg white, so if a recipe calls for a teaspoon of cream of tartar, just multiply by four. Of course, unlike cream of tartar, lemons come with a distinctive, but bright and zingy, flavor. Vinegar Other acids, like vinegars, help egg whites hold their peak in exactly the same way, but their harsh flavor can spoil a delicate confection. Try distilled white vinegar for the least overbearing flavor; substitute four times the amount of vinegar, by volume, for cream of tartar. A Copper Bowl Though it sounds like Dadaist word art, you can actually replace cream of tartar with a copper bowl. The French have used copper bowls to beat egg whites for centuries, but it wasn’t until author of On Food and Cooking Harold McGee became curious about this odd habit, that anyone understood the science. Molecular copper, McGee discovered, forms strong bonds with sulfur groups, which, like with acids, prevents them from bonding with each other and squeezing out air and water. As you beat eggs in a bowl, minute amounts of copper are freed from the surface of the vessel and mixed into the eggs. I haven’t tested this, because copper bowls are expensive, but apparently whites whipped in copper take on a faint pink hue. A Silver Bowl Silver works similarly to copper, but with a more ruinous effect on your wallet. Don’t debase a silver bowl by whisking eggs in it unless your meringue is very, very important. The 9 Best Egg Substitutes in Cooking & Baking 11 Handy Sugar Substitutes to Keep in the Pantry (& the Fridge!) Leavening Agents When cream of tartar is mixed with baking soda, it creates a fantastic raising agent. So fantastic, in fact, the combination is a typical pantry ingredient: baking powder. Baking soda reacts with cream of tartar, releasing clouds of carbon dioxide, making a cake rise. If you’re out of cream of tartar, here are a few other ways to get a rise out of your baked goods. Baking Powder As noted above, technically if you have baking powder, you do have cream of tartar. It’s just mixed with baking soda, in a ratio of one part baking soda to two parts cream of tartar. That means that for a recipe that calls for cream of tartar and baking soda, you can leave out the baking soda and substitute 1 teaspoon of baking powder for every 2/3 teaspoon cream of tartar. Lemon and Vinegar If you’re out of baking powder too, consider acidic ingredients like lemon or vinegar to create a rise in your bakes. Try double the volume of cream of tartar called for in the recipe, but note the added liquid might alter the texture a bit. Buttermilk Fluffy buttermilk biscuits and pancakes rely on the sour dairy product’s acidity for leavening. But because buttermilk is much less acidic than vinegar or lemon, you’ll need to use a lot of it to replace even a small amount of cream of tartar. Unless you have the leeway to do some recipe testing, your best bet is to find a recipe that already uses buttermilk for leavening. Crystallization Inhibitors When you sink your teeth into a rich caramel or a chewy cookie like a snickerdoodle, you’re enjoying the absence of crunchy sugar crystals. As sweets cool, the dissolved sugar tends to return to crystal form, ruining the smooth texture. Cream of tartar’s acidity disrupts this process by hydrolyzing some of the sugar into its component parts, glucose and fructose, keeping your sweets satisfyingly smooth. You can achieve this same effect in a few other ways. Corn Syrup Corn syrup is almost pure glucose, and it does an excellent job disrupting sugar crystal formation. Just replace some of the sugar in your recipe with corn syrup and skip the cream of tartar for the desired effect. Butter Everything's better with butter—often chewier, too. Like glucose and fructose, fat molecules help disrupt the formation of sucrose crystals, preventing unwanted sandy cookies and crunchy caramels. This is obviously not a one-for-one substitution with cream of tartar, and there may be some trial and error involved before you find the right balance. But generally, when it comes to butter, the more the merrier. And next time you’re grocery shopping, buy an extra jar of cream of tartar to have on hand for your next baking project. You don’t have to worry about them going bad. As they say, wine diamonds are forever. Have you had any luck using one of these cream of tartar substitutes? Let us know in the comments.
December 8, 2020

10 Out-of-the-Box Pie Crusts for When You Don't Have Time for Dough

In partnership with Lodge Cast Iron, we’re sharing ideas for exceptional and unconventional pie crusts to mix things up during the holidays and beyond. With Lodge's Seasoned Cast Iron Pie Pan (it's from their bakeware line!), you can achieve a golden, award-worthy crust every time—no matter what recipe you’re baking up this season. Making a great pie doesn't necessarily have to be a tedious task. Instead of spending hours chilling, kneading, and rolling dough, you can make a bunch of easy (and delicious!) crusts with ingredients like crushed cheese crackers, crispy hash browns, or even your favorite cereal. You can bake ‘em just like you would in your favorite pie pan—I personally like to rely on one made from cast iron. Because cast iron distributes heat more evenly and consistently than other baking materials, you get a perfect crust every time—aka you can kiss sad, soggy pie crusts goodbye forever. Here are 10 creative takes on classic pie crusts—they’re way speedier to make than traditional dough (and equally satisfying). From Our Shop our line! Five Two Stoneware Mixing Bowls $99 PieBox $28–$55 More Options 1. Cheddar Cheese Crust Repurpose one of your favorite childhood snacks—cheddar cheese crackers—into a crumbly, cheesy pie crust that adds a savory-sharp balance to fruity pie fillings, like apple, berry, pear, and more. To make a quick and easy cheese crust, simply crush store-bought cheddar cheese crackers until they are a fine-grit consistency. Then, combine the crushed crackers with a binding ingredient (unsalted butter works well) until you can firmly pack the crust without it crumbling upon touch. For every 1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese crackers, use about 5 to 6 tablespoons of melted, unsalted butter. Bake the crust until aromatic for 8 to 10 minutes at 350°F, and let it cool completely before filling. Brown Butter and Cheddar Apple Pie Gingered Cranberry-Pear Pie 2. Hash Brown Crust If you’re in the mood for something breakfast-y, try making a hash brown crust using shredded potatoes (like Idaho or Russet) or sweet potatoes for an extra-crispy base layer. If you’re in a pinch for time, use store-bought shredded hash browns to spare yourself the step of grating potatoes. Quiche Lorraine With Hash Brown Crust View Recipe Ingredients For the crust: 3 1/2 cups peeled, shredded russet potatoes (or frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed) 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese 1/4 cup shredded white cheddar or Gruyère cheese 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 1/2 cups peeled, shredded russet potatoes (or frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed) 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese 1/4 cup shredded white cheddar or Gruyère cheese 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1 tablespoon olive oil For the filling: 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 teaspoon olive oil 4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons 2 shallots, thinly sliced 1 garlic clove, minced 4 eggs, whisked 2 cups heavy cream 1 cup shredded white cheddar or Gruyère cheese 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced 1 tablespoon fresh chives, thinly sliced (plus more for garnishing) 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper Sour cream or crème fraîche, for garnish (optional) 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 teaspoon olive oil 4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons 2 shallots, thinly sliced 1 garlic clove, minced 4 eggs, whisked 2 cups heavy cream 1 cup shredded white cheddar or Gruyère cheese 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced 1 tablespoon fresh chives, thinly sliced (plus more for garnishing) 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper Sour cream or crème fraîche, for garnish (optional) 3. Graham Cracker Crust There’s so much more to graham cracker crusts than just Key lime pie. Use honey- and cinnamon-flavored crackers to create a thick, crispy crust for just about any pie filling. To make the graham cracker crumbs, pulse the crackers in a food processor until finely ground. For every 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs, add about 6 tablespoons of melted, unsalted butter to bind the ingredients. Bake the shell for 5 to 7 minutes at 350°F, and cool before adding any filling. Festive ideas for using this crispy-crunchy crust: pumpkin cream pie, luscious vegan chocolate pie, and an irresistible peanut butter cream pie. 4. Pretzel Crust If you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, this slightly savory crust can help balance out a sugary filling for a dessert that’s perfectly balanced. To make the pretzel crumb, grind the pretzels into a coarse sand-like texture, and add unsalted butter; for every 2 cups of pretzels, add 1 stick of melted, unsalted butter. For a sweet and salty variation, add 1/3 cup of sugar to the mixture. If you want to get creative, add nuts or spices (like almonds and cinnamon) to your crust for an extra-tasty pie shell. No-Bake Cheesecake With a Pretzel Crust Mocha Whiskey Mousse Tart with Pretzel Crust 5. Sugar Cookie Crust Two desserts in one—what more could you possibly need? Make your next pie creation that much sweeter by using sugar cookie dough to create a perfectly chewy crust. Use store-bought dough or quickly whip up a batch of your favorite recipe to use as your pie's foundation. To make it, roll the cookie dough into a flat layer, about 1/4-inch thick. Bake at 350°F for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly golden and aromatic; let it cool before adding any filling. Chewy Sugar Cookies #2 Brown Sugar Cookies 6. Cinnamon Roll Crust This cinnamon roll crust alternative is the definition of working smarter, not harder. Add swirls of cinnamon goodness to your pies by brushing a store-bought pie crust with a coat of melted butter (about 1 to 2 tablespoons), sprinkling with a tablespoon of brown sugar, and topping it with cinnamon (about 1 tablespoon). Then, roll the dough into a log and cut half-inch disks to make mini cinnamon rolls for your crust. Lay the cinnamon roll disks flat in between two layers of parchment paper, so that they are touching one another. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness to form a uniform layer large enough to cover the entire surface of the pan. Then, add your filling of choice, and bake until fully cooked and golden brown. 7. Cereal Crust Turn your favorite cereals—from Rice Krispies and Cheerios to Fruity Pebbles and Cornflakes—into a crunchy pie crust with the help of a little butter to hold together the crispy bits. (Psst: You can use a similar method as the graham cracker crust.) Our 79 Best Pie Recipes of All Time 8. Saltine Cracker Crust Can’t find flour at the store? All you have is a package of almost-expiring saltine crackers in the forgotten depths of your pantry? Here’s a solution: Turn them into a pie crust! Transform this typically overlooked ingredient into a slightly salted crumb crust to balance out citrusy, tangy, and sweet pie fillings. Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie Banana Cream Pie 9. Oatmeal Crust An oatmeal crust easily comes together in a matter of seconds (seriously). Combine 1 cup of rolled oats, 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and 6 tablespoons of melted, unsalted butter. Bake it at 375°F for 15 minutes and let cool. Fill the pie up with a gooey, buttery filling, or take a more traditional approach with a tart blueberry or spiced pumpkin mixture for a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie Chai Masala Pumpkin Pie 10. Brownie Crust Create a crust any chocolate-lover would love using brownie batter. It’s simple: Omit the oil and reduce the amount of wet ingredients (use 1 egg and about 4 to 5 tablespoons of melted, unsalted butter) than what you would use in your typical brownie batter. This creates a denser, more decadent batter that you can easily press into the sides of your pie pan. Bake it for 15 minutes at 350°F, then let it cool before filling. Peanut Butter Cream Pie Butterscotch-Pecan Pie What's your go-to pie recipe during the holidays? Tell us in the comments below! Make sure your holiday treats (and savory dishes, too!) turn out just-right this season with help from our partner Lodge Cast Iron. Their line of seasoned cast iron bakeware—which includes pie pans, skillets, loaf pans, and more—has top-notch heat retention for the most even, consistent results.