This week’s obsession: Tools of the Trade
Do you ever have a day so bad that you’re actively looking for your dealer on the streets as you drive home from work? That was me this past week.
I was searching and searching, but I couldn’t find a Girl Scout selling cookies anywhere.
What, did you think I was talking about something else? 😈
Since Girl Scouts are nowhere to be seen these days, I decided to make my own Tagalongs (the one that's a shortbread cookie with peanut butter filling coated in chocolate. Shout out to the Thin Mint fans, because y’all are fanatics [and you’re everywhere!], but those just aren’t my jam. IF I’m doing girl scout cookies, it’s Tagalongs 100%), because I NEED that chocolate and peanut butter fix ASAP!
Which is how I found myself rolling out shortbread dough on top of a very warm countertop this weekend. It was a struggle. My countertop has been giving me lots of grief recently, and it’s purely because I have terrible timing.
Here’s the thing - my dishwasher is directly beneath the countertop that I prefer to work on. My dishwasher takes TWO HOURS to finish doing whatever it’s doing in there, regardless of whichever washing cycle I selected. And my dishwasher - no matter if I select extra dry, no dry, or short cycle - will always blast my dishes with pointless heat (I say pointless because they’re still wet - yet very hot - when I take them out) even if I ask it nicely not to do so.
Several times recently this dishwasher has melted my creations. Remember these heart cookies?
It happened to my heart cake, too, but I didn’t realize what was happening, so I didn’t take a photo of it. I’ve tried to start timing my dishwasher usage better, but sometimes, it just can’t be helped. Hence the shortbread on a warm countertop battle.
But that is neither here nor there. This week, I want to share a little about the tools I use most frequently. I feel like my personal lifesavers don’t really get enough love on this blog. Most of them were used while making this particular treat, but are also used in just about everything I make. I feel that they need to be mentioned because you don’t often see them.
First things first - my life would absolutely not be the same if it weren’t for parchment paper. I recently jokingly remarked in one of my classes that I might take out stock in parchment paper - which actually isn’t a bad idea. Chefs everywhere use rolls and rolls of this stuff because it cuts down on cookies and crusts getting burnt and stuck on pans, which in turn reduces cleaning/scrubbing time. Plus, parchment paper is reusable for cookies, so if I’m baking multiple batches I can reuse the same two sheets of parchment paper for the whole baking excursion (usually 8 to 10 trays of cookies), and that makes my “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” ingrained soul very happy :) #90sKid
A word to the wise - parchment paper, albeit coated, is still flammable. So please, don’t ever torch something that is resting on parchment paper. I learned this the hard way 😳
A staple in every pastry chef's kitchen is a scale. (Apparently this is also a staple in drug addicts' kitchens, which I did not know until people started eyeing me suspiciously when I pulled out my scale and would ask me why I owned one. I guess addicts like to be precise, too 🤷🏻♀️) If you're going to bake, precision and consistency are key to making the chemistry work, so invest in a scale if you don't have one yet. It will make you better at this!
Also, I would be lost without my bench scraper. This little baby makes cleaning up my countertops a breeze, plus it helps me manage the contents of my piping bags. No back-of-the-bag spillage for me.
*not my photo
My bench scraper was part of a swag bag that big name advertisers contributed to for the students at my pastry school. Shout out to King Arthur flour for supplying me with one of my favorite utensils for free! They honestly don't cost much - you can get them for less than a dollar in most online stores.
Another essential of mine is something I use whether I’m baking cookies, a tart, cake layers, etc. I have collapsible cooling racks that make an appearance just about any time I’m baking. I highly recommend investing in some if you’re baking anything.
And where would I be without my spatulas? I have a nice collection going already, and always say that you can never have enough. Having multiple spatulas in the kitchen comes in handy if you’re making something that has several ingredients, like a layered cake. Or if you’re like me and have to wait forever for your dishwasher to finish up - those additional spatulas let the show go on no matter what! Also, if you’re ever trying to think of a gift for me - you cannot go wrong with a spatula 💜
If you’re ever dipping things into chocolate, I highly recommend using a chocolate fork.
I used to have one but I have no idea where it lives these days. Plus dipping things in chocolate doesn’t make me nearly as happy as I thought it would (I had a feeling that when I went off to pastry school, chocolates would be my favorite class. Boy was I wrong!), so I just don’t do it often enough to warrant buying a new trident.
All of these tools came into play with my pseudo-Girl Scout cookies (except, of course, the chocolate dipping fork, which I do not have in my possession currently.)
Even though I’m not really awarding my tools today, I feel compelled to award an honorable mention to... my dishwasher. Although it’s been melting my cake frosting and cookie decorations, it still makes life so much easier for me.
Something no one really talks about is how tiring baking can be. After their first class with me, most people comment on how worn out they are. And it’s true, baking takes a lot out of you.
You have to be focused to keep up with your recipe (especially if you're doubling or tripling it),
you’re constantly moving around and lifting things (if you're doing it professionally, it isn't uncommon to haul 50lb. bags of ingredients on a several-times-daily basis),
oftentimes you spend a ridiculous amount of time in relentless steam and heat (my apologies to your hair. And good luck if you wear glasses!),
and then there’s the stress that what you’re making might not go according to plan and you have to come up with solutions on the fly.
It’s mentally and physically taxing, so it’s no wonder I don’t want to hand scrub alllllllll of those dishes after I’m finally done. So shout out to my quirky dishwasher for taking away (most) of the clean up.
After admiring all of these tools, I don't want to forget about the cookies I created! They consist of buttery shortbread with creamy peanut butter and a semisweet chocolate coating (I know Tagalongs typically are coated in milk chocolate, but my palette needed some semisweet chocolate for this craving!).
Of course, I had to top these cookies off with some sprinkles because I’m on a real sprinkles kick lately, and well… what baby wants, baby gets. (It’s me. I’m baby. Don’t put me in a corner.)
And there you have it folks - some of the handiest tools in the business. I hope this helps with some of your baking needs!
Happy eating, y’all.
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