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Stuff I've Learned

Soak pecans (chopped or not) in the melted butter called for in the recipe before putting them into pecan pie.

If you don't keep buttermilk in the house but love to use it in baking, buy the dry Buttermilk—it's wonderful and keeps nearly forever in the fridge.

Make an efficient warmer to keep your bread warm in its basket. Just put a cup or two of plain raw rice into a piece of cotton fabric—an old dish towel or old table napkin. Secure it with a piece of string, or sew it closed, if you're talented that way. Then microwave it for a minute or two on high just before serving, hide it in the bottom of the basket under the napkin that holds the bread and just like magic, your bread will stay warm.

Never ever throw out stale or leftover bread—especially your homemade. Cut into chunks and give it a whirl in the food processor. Label and toss it in the freezer and you'll always have homemade bread crumbs—so so much healthier and better tasting than the bought kind. Sometimes I add yummies to one or two bags...keeping them separate. Fresh or dried herbs...whatever flavors you like...make an instant flavorvul addition to whatever needs a few crumbs. Thrifty too!

When you make a pie, make a double or triple batch of dough (it's the same amount of work) and freeze it in portions to thaw and roll for a quick dessert. Simplest is to roll it into a big flat circle, cut it into strips or shapes, and bake it like that. Then arrange the crisp crusts over individual bowls of berries or cooked fruit and ice cream.

For a beautiful and delicious compound butter, mix minced shallots and chives into butter, then shape into a log in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, then roll the log in a mixture of coarsely chopped edible flower petals and herbs of your choice. (Try rose, pansy, chive blossoms, dill, and Italian parsley in different combinations.) Rewrap the log in plastic and refrigerate (or freeze). To serve, slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.