Category: Baking equipment on test

Which whisk?

Great group of whisks
I’ve got a bit of a thing about whisks. You see I’m obsessed with eggs. I’m sure I eat way too many. I have them for lunch practically every day so, I’m always using whisks to cook with, let alone bake with.
I have quite a few now and I’m sure I could do all my whisking tasks with just one, but where’s the fun in that?
So, in no order particular order here are my whisks…

The modern designer one

Normann Copenhagen.Normann Copenhagen

I was recently sent a press release for this really cool whisk designed by Normann Copenhagen from the Caroline McGrath website (it’s a treasure trove, well worth checking out!) I had to have it! The thing is although it’s a really good whisk I just can’t help having it out on display. You can close it up and hang it from the really clever hook that appears from the end, but I like to leave it open and sit it on it’s prongs. At the moment it lives on my kitchen window sill next to my radio but I’m sure Tim will make me put it away properly soon.

The one I use every day

Nigella Lawson

I was given this whisk at the very first press launch for Nigella Lawson’s beautiful kitchen products. It has stood the test of time as that was about 12 years ago. It still looks like new. I have to say it’s my favourite one. It really beats air into eggs effortlessly, it’s small and very ergonomic and it comes out of the dishwasher clean as a new. Unfortunately it’s no longer available but you can get a similar one on Amazon for next to nothing!
By the way I did meet her at the launch and I can tell you she is one of the most beautiful women I have ever met. Her skin is perfect!

The electric one

Lakeland whisk

This is one that I tested for a kitchen gadgets feature for Woman and Home magazine a few years back. I was looking for an electric whisk with attachments which was inexpensive but really did the job. And It does!
The biggest selling point with this Lakeland stick blender whisk for me is that it comes apart for cleaning, has a blade and whisk attachment and that is has a tall cup for using to whisk anything in. The cup has an anti slip rubber base and a lid incase you need to store the food afterwards. There is also a chopping attachment with cup.  All that for just £29.99  Usually when you get extras with a gadget they end up at the back of the cupboard somewhere, but I use every piece of this set.
Lakeland whisk set
The only criticism I have about this whisk is that you have to hold the button down the whole time you are using it. That can be a long time when you are making meringues, but I assume it’s a safety thing and it’s not really that big a problem.

The built to last one

OXO Good grips

I reviewed this OXO whisk a few months back now and I still use it to this day. I have to admit that it’s a good one for the kids to mix up batters with. I just love the ‘old school-ness’ of it.

The one I haven’t got, but really want!

I used to have an electric hand held whisk but since it died I haven’t replaced it. My mum has a Moulinex one that is over 30 years old and it just keeps on going. She makes everything with it. I want one like that. Built to last!

Kenwood kMix HM792 Hand Mixer, Almond Cream

When I was at Woman and Home magazine the food team were always complaining that hand held whisks just aren’t man enough for the job anymore. They tried all sorts but they all seemed to fizzle out in the end.
I’ve got my heart set on this Kenwood one (above). It is heavier than standard hand helds and really packs a punch. Failing that it would have to be the Dualit design (below). How good does that look in black?
Dualit 88425 Hand Mixer in Black
Oh well, I better start saving those pennies!

EmmaMT

My 5 top tips on how NOT to melt chocolate with kids!

Making Easter gifts.

Chocolate bunny lollies

Now, I know that Easter Eggs and chocolate bunnies aren’t a cake, a bake or a cookie, but when I saw these cute moulds (below) from Lakeland I just knew my girls would love to make Nanny a special Easter gift. So off we went.

The equipmentEquipment

This is what we started out with.

  • Chocolate bunny lolly mould (top left)
  • Duck chocolate mould (green)
  • Easter Egg Acrylic Moulds – 2 large 24 mini (top right)
  • Chocolate melting pot- (little red thing)
  • Silkomart silicon bunny, duck, egg mould (the brown shiny one)
  • 30 lollypop sticks
  • Pack of 8 spotty treat boxes- So cute
  • A ton of chocolate

In hindsight it would have been better to have only shown the girls one or two moulds. When they saw them all on the kitchen table they wanted to coat them all in melted, drippy chocolate right away! So I let them! It is the Easter holidays after all.

The melting pot

Melting pot

How cute is this little silicon melting pot? My 4-year-old nephew was with us when we first did some of this ‘making’ so I gave him the melting pot to fill his duck moulds with. I was worried that it would become too hot to hold, so I melted chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water and poured it into the container. I needn’t have worried. The melting pot can hold very hot chocolate and the outside stays as cool as anything.

Pour into melting pot

The best thing about the pot is that when you want to melt chocolate in it (which I did with the white chocolate later on) it was really easy to squidge around and mix up the contents with your hands in between bursts in the microwave .

Pour into decopen

I also filled the deco pen from this post as it was really easy for little hands to get the chocolate into the small mould shapes.

With all this great, specific, perfect equipment in mind, Beau decided that the silicon pastry brush (which I had got out to fill the larger egg moulds with) was the best way to spread the chocolate.  And here started the messy bit.

Beau makes a mess

With three kids and only two dispensers, I put some melted chocolate into an icing bag. Darcey had full control of it in this pic. Well she did for about two minutes,  then it all went over the edge. I used an icing scraper to remove the excess from the mould  so that the top of each egg would be nice and flat. And then she had a go at doing the same. Ooops! That was a mistake. It went everywhere!

Darcey makes a mess

I read somewhere that kids learn a lot from being able to make a mess without their parents telling them to keep everything clean and tidy all the time, so I bit my OCD lip and left them to it!!!! Boy, chocolate makes a sticky mess! Just look. And that’s not even the floor!

The Mess

But the eggs looked cute. Well, kind of. Once they came out of the fridge we removed any excess chocolate, which as the moulds are silicon or plastic was effortless.

Our mini egg halves

They were then stuck together with a little more melted chocolate.

Chocolate glue

The mini eggs

The big egg

I decided that I would make the bigger eggs when the kids were outside. Really I just wanted to have a play. The kids wouldn’t let me near the chocolate while they were doing it.

I kept it pretty simple. The instructions on the packaging said that it was better to have 4 thin layers than one or two thick ones. That is very true. If you put too much chocolate in the middle of the egg mould and drag it up the sides of the mould it just drips back down again giving you a thick middle and thin on top, and no one wants that!

I applied the first coats of dark chocolate using the silicon pastry brush then popped them in the fridge. Once hardened I gave them another coat of dark chocolate.

Paint the egg mould

When it was time to apply the third coat, this time white chocolate, the dark chocolate was melting underneath as I brushed, so I used the back of a tea spoon to make sure that it reached the top edge and stayed there.

Add the white chocolate

Once they had been in the fridge and were hard I carefully prized them out of the moulds. I used a small amount of the white chocolate on the inside edge to stick two halves together. I also kept some as just half an egg so I could fill them with the duck, mini eggs or bunny chocolate shapes.

When things look as home made as these do it’s a good idea to get the gift wrapping right. I use these cellophane bags all the time. Add a little Easter gingham ribbon and your eggs will look top notch.

The big eggs

I love the little spot boxes. They are really sweet (get it? sweet!) and held about 6-8 bunnies, eggs or ducks. We lined them with baking paper to make them look a little extra special. Now we have enough for aunties and uncles too! Gifts boxed up

 The tips

So, my top tips for working with chocolate and kids. They may seem obvious but the reality is…..

Tip 1

There’s going to be mess so just let it happen. Fill your sink up with hot soapy water and have your rubber gloves at the ready. As you finish with something pop it into the soapy water until everyone is finished. The soak will speed the big clean up.

On that note, if you have to use anything straight from the draining board ensure it is completely dry. Water and chocolate just don’t go!

Tip 2

Buy more chocolate than you think you’ll need. We used six 100g bars to make two large eggs and 24 solid mini eggs. If you want to buy lots of inexpensive chocolate check out the supermarket’s value ranges. Tesco has 100g bars of dark, milk and white chocolate for 30p each (or 2 for 40p at the moment!) We went back for more as it tastes good! There’s something about the mixture of these cheaper dark and white chocolates that works. We used them for the Nishnobblers too!

Tip 3

If you’re making lollies, dip the ends of the sticks in chocolate and let them set before sticking them into the melted chocolate and mould. They’ll stay in place and be stronger once they harden up.

Tip 4

Feed your kids with as much fruit and veg as possible before the finger licking starts. Once it starts it doesn’t stop.

Tip 5

Don’t make anything with kids and melted chocolate just after you’ve cleaned the kitchen floor. I mean really, Emma what were you thinking!!!

*****

So, that’s the end of the chocolate making for us for now. I’m sure there’s tons more hints and tips about how to get the best from melted chocolate, tempering and the like! I’ll have to review a book I received at Christmas that I haven’t had a chance to read properly yet, called Couture Chocolate. It looked a bit too professional at the time but after this session I’m feeling like a pro. Well I can dream can’t I?

happy easter!

Easy as 1 to 5

Eazistore 5 in one baking set

My favorite pieces of baking equipment have to be the ones that work hard for their money. Some are just plain essential like my cookie lifter (I use that all the time for baking, icing you name it!) so when I saw this ‘Eazistore’ baking set I knew it was going to be a winner!

I’ve been a fan of Stellar products ever since my lovely cousin Adam gave us a set of their stainless steel saucepans when we got married. I only stopped using them last year (that’s 13 years later!) because we now have a new induction hob that they won’t work on. I can’t bring myself to throw them out. They’re in perfect condition!

The set

Anyway, I digress. This five piece set is brilliant because not only is it non-stick (so essential with my baking!) but it has everything that you need – whether you’re a new home owner or an established cook/baker, all in one neat package. It all fits into one large roaster tin so there’s no need to find a ton of storage space or if you’re me, make loads of noise digging out the piece you need whilst clattering around in your baking cupboard!

So what’s in it?

The top tier is a roasting rack and a cooling tray

Tier two is a baking tray

Tier three is a baking sheet – cookies at the ready!

Tier four is a really great and very deep muffin tin. So what I needed. 12 all in one go! Yay

The fith and final tier is the roaster tray which I have already made chocolate brownies in. (yep it was a big one!)All the tins

The set is good for up to 240°C, Gas mark 9, can be popped in the dishwasher and has a lifetime guarantee to “be free from defects in material and workmanship under normal household use. The non stick coatings are guaranteed for 5 years”

Eazistore nesting bakeware set, £49.95, Amazon.com

EmmaMT

Best for baking… digital scales

Zassenhaus digital kitchen scales 

Pink scales

How cute are these kitchen scales? I received a press release about them last week and knew I had to get my hands on them to test, so I could share them with you. Retro designs are big in home wares right now and baking gadgets are no different.

The design

The scales are high accuracy which is great. If you’ve ever used digital scales before then you’ll know that when you’re weighing your ingredients they tend to jump up in big increments and oddly enough they jump in even numbers. It can be hard to add just one more gram, but not with these. They are so precise.

Accuracy is the name of the game.

The scales are made from glass and have four accuracy sensors underneath, which means they can measure from 1g up to 5kg effortlessly.

Digital reader

The digital reader is retractable which is great for storage. It also means that the scales would look great out on display on a kitchen shelf. I found the digital reader a little bit fiddly to get the hang of when I wanted it to go back to zero, but once I’d mastered the knack, it was a doddle. You simply press the ‘on’ button and it resets to zero after you’ve added each ingredient. You can also switch between metric and imperial units.Zassenhaus digital kitchen scales

Why I love it

The best thing about these scales (apart from the great old-fashioned dial design on the front and the cute colour) is that they’re really effortless to clean. My old ones have so many nooks and crannies in them that it’s hard to get every bit of icing sugar or flour off. But with this design you literally run a damp cloth over it and it’s like new!

Zassenhaus digital kitchen scales

Did I mention that they are available in 6 great shades? You can get yours by clicking on the image of the green  Zassenhaus digital kitchen scale on the right from Amazon for around £30.     

Best for baking- Oxo Good grips Hand held mixer

Whiskful thinking.

The Oxo Hand held Whisk

When it comes to whisking food up what do you use? I usually use my Kitchenaid, my tiny whisk from the Nigella Lawson range or my hand held stick blender. Depending on what it is I am making, of course.  I don’t have a traditional whisk (the kind with a pair of removable beaters. I really should do something about that!)

Last week I was sent a press release for one of OXO Good Grips latest products.  A hand held mixer.  Now, I love to test anything baking related so I asked if I could have one to play with. It’s funny how a new toy gets you making things you haven’t made in ages! This week so far we’ve had pancakes, omelette and I have just whipped up a chocolate butter cream for a chocolate cake, just so I can have a go on this whisk. Thank goodness there’s no cream in the house or the healthy eating really would have gone out the window! (The cake wasn’t for us!)

Mixing chocolate

OXO

I have known about OXO Good grips for ages. I studied them (or at least their ethos) when I was at Uni doing Product Design. They’re very clever at designing comfortable to use items with great style. Everything has to be ergonomical and effortless.

So what’s so special about this whisk?

There are a lot of reasons for liking this whisk. Firstly it has a really soft non-slip handle which makes it  very comfortable to use. That’s obviously essential when you are likely to be whisking for a long while, like with meringues.

It's so easy to clean. Just press the button.
It's so easy to clean. Just press the button.

The whisking part of the mixer is removed at the push of a button.

Easy assembly
Just give the whisks a gentle tug to remove.

  The steel beaters are also removable and can be cleaned in the dishwasher after use. Just a gentle pull to the sides makes them pop out.

The elevating bar
See how the extra bar at the bottom prevents the whisks touching the bottom of the bowl? So clever!

It’s the ingenious bar which raises the beaters off the base of the bowl during the whisking that I think really makes this gadget a winner! 

Oxo Good Grips mixer

I’m not one for having a gadget just for the sake of it. Who has the space in their kitchen drawers apart from anything else? But I would definitely add this to my ‘must have’ list. Just because it’s so much fun!

enjoy!

Best for baking #1

Baking equipment on test

When it comes to baking equipment you can easily spend a fortune getting the right stuff. I’ve been decorating cakes for a few years now and my baking armoire (yes I bought a huge French cupboard just to house my baking stuff in!) is packed to the brim with cutters, rolling pins, baking papers and the all important tins and trays. If you’re into baking you’ll know what I’m talking about. You can never have enough!

Pink Heart Roaster, £8,Available in Sainsburys at Easter 2012

Well, yesterday I went to the Sainsburys Spring / Summer 2012 press launch – we work far ahead in the magazine world! I was talking to the Head homewares  about bakeware. They’ve got a gorgeous new range of baking products coming out which I will be sharing with you when they hit the shelves next year. Here’s a sneak preview to whet your appetite!

We were discussing what keen bakers look for in their baking equipment and what Sainsburys should be stocking for us decorators of cupcakes, biscuits and cakes alike and it got me thinking about how you can easily buy tons of stuff that you will hardly ever use or that you don’t really need. Also, is it always worth buying the expensive stuff or will a less expensive version do?

So, I am going to share with all you readers what I rate and what I use in my ‘Best for baking’ posts. I get to test out new gadgets and equipment all the time as well as new foods for features when I write for magazines so watch this space for up and coming products. But for now……

Mermaid bakeware – On Test!

Ten years ago, when asked by my mother-in-law what I would like for my birthday,  I said some  Mermaid baking tins. M-I-L wasn’t keen as  this wasn’t the glamorous gift she had in mind. But I had it on good authority (albeit from a PR who was slightly biased) that these were the tins to have. It was said that the tins out last many marriages! Once I saw them I had to have them. Those original tins are still going strong today. And I still use them all the time. I was recently  sent a set of their new range to test for a feature I was writing and I can’t tell you how excited I was when the box  arrived.

The baking sheet

I blame ‘The Great British Bake Off’ for my latest obsession with using a baking sheet over a baking tray!  I had never had one before and now I can’t do without it. All the Mermaid tins are hard anodized . This means that the heat is distributed really evenly, so whether you are using a tin for a cake or sheet for biscuits there are no hotspots and everything is baked to perfection, AND you can get loads more cookies on a sheet than on a tray!

Square tins  or round tins?

I was really impressed with not only how well the loose bottomed cake tins performed but how easy they are to clean. I’m a bit of a clean freak with my tins. I like them to always look like new – and these do. There’s something very satisfying about a really cold, hard baking tin that you can scrub clean easily.  There are lots of sizes to choose from in the loose bottom collection-in both the square and round shapes. I’ve nearly got all the sizes now. They’re an investment but I know I’ll never have to replace them!

It’s also worth mentioning the pudding basin, perfect for your Christmas pudding.  I haven’t baked any puddings in mine yet but it’s a great shape for so many decorative cakes. It’s a really handy shape to have in your stores.

Mermaid don’t just do baking sheets and tins, they do Roasting tins too (although I have been using their mini roaster to bake cakes in for ages as it is such a great rectangular size for a football shirt cake!)

So, If you are looking to buy some new bakeware I can definitely recommend Mermaid Cookware. Check out the range at www.mermaidcookware.com or call them for your nearest stockist on 0121 569 7906. They are also available at John Lewis and Lakeland.

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