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So you are ready to take up baking. You are all excited to skim through that recipe book and find yourself the ideal recipe to guide you into making scrumptious cookies that you can impress your family and friends with. But hold on. Are you armed with the appropriate baking tools for your cookie mission? Let us look into the list and check your gear.Measuring cupsOne cannot possibly assume that a regular cup or mug can be used in measuring the amount of flour or sugar...

Basic Baking Tools Needed

Basic Baking Tools NeededSo you are ready to take up baking. You are all excited to skim through that recipe book and find yourself the ideal recipe to guide you into making scrumptious cookies that you can impress your family and friends with. But hold on. Are you armed with the appropriate baking tools for your cookie mission? Let us look into the list and check your gear.Measuring cupsOne cannot possibly assume that a regular cup or mug can be used in measuring the amount of flour or sugar that you will use for your batter. In baking, one needs to be precise. This means using accurate well defined measurements in sorting your ingredients. These cups aid in measuring liquid components like water, milk, juice in milliliters, ounces, pints or fractions of a liter. Measuring cups also offer level measures for dry ingredients such as sugar and flour.SifterIt essential that your ingredients especially flour is devoid of any foreign matter. You simply cannot rake through your flour to do this. That would be like finding a needle in a haystack. You go get a sifter. The sifting process not only would break up the clumps but it aerates your flour thus giving it more volume. For best results, sift only small quantities at a time. This does not only prevent spills but it makes sifting easier and faster.SpatulaA spatula appears to be a combination of a spoon and a knife. It takes on the shape of a spoon but it has a blade which is blunt and far from being sharp. This kitchen utensil is indispensable in baking as it is used for mixing batter, dough and applying frosting. Spatulas are popularly made of silicone, rubber or bamboo.Rolling pinsIn shaping and flattening your dough, using a rolling pin is more practical so you might as well forget about the ides of kneading or molding it with your bare hands. Rolling pins are usually made up of wood, glass, marble, stainless steel or plastic. It is thick, cylindrical and has two handles on each end. There are basically two types of rolling pins: the rod and the roller.Cookie cuttersYou're done with your dough and are now ready to shape your cookies. Go artistic and use cookie cutters! Cookie cutters which are typically made up of tin, stainless steel, aluminum, plastic or copper are designed to cut cookie dough in specific distinctive shapes. Designs include stars, hearts, moon shapes, circles and squares to name a few. Kids will surely be enticed to grab one of these cookie characters.Cookie pressCookie press is a known baking tool used to press designs on cookies. It is usually composed of a cylinder which has a plunger on the other end. Designer plates are attached to the press to mark the cookies.Oven mittBaking means having to work with a hot oven so it is best that your hands are protected from heated surfaces like the stove or baking pans. To avoid getting burns, oven mitts should always be worn in the kitchen. These mitts are often made out of fabric and are usually insulated. Although these oven mitts can offer you protection in the kitchen, they are not invincible from hot liquids which may still seep through the fabric.

Wine Accessories At Kitchen Junkie

Wine Accessories At Kitchen Junkie

Wine is more than an alcoholic beverage. Its almost a way of life! There are more wine accessories available than you could even imagine. From the necessities like corkscrews and glasses, to the not so necessary yet entertaining accessories like decanters, ice buckets, and pourers- there is more to wine than just drinking it.Corkscrews & OpenersWhile there are hundreds of varieties of corkscrews, they all work in basically the same fashion. You screw one end directly into the center of the wines cork, and use a handle to life the cork out of the bottle in order to enjoy your bottle of wine.If you want something other than a corkscrew, you can find another style of opener that uses cartridges to pop the cork out of the bottle. The pop style openers tend to be a little more expensive than the traditional corkscrew, but image is everything when it comes to wine, and a specialty opener may be just the extra accessory you need for your dinner parties or restaurant atmosphere.DecantersDecanters are glass bottles with special shapes designed to encourage the heightening of wine flavors when you store your open wine in them. They also make for a nice presentation when you place the decanter on the table.There are literally countless different shapes and styles that decanters come in. Many resemble a glass flower vase. Certain wines should be placed in specific shapes of wine decanters in order to enhance the flavor of the wine to the fullest extent. Others can be stored in any of the fancy decanters.For an incredible display, you could find a decanter with its own base unit. These are highly stylish, and often hold the decanter at an angle, and suspended over the table.Some decanters come with glass ball stoppers to be placed on the opening of the bottle in order to keep the freshness in when the wine is stored. Air can have damaging effects to the properties of wine, and so its usually best to keep open wine in an airtight container.Additionally, some decanters are able to remove sediments from older wine and aerate younger wines to further enhance their flavors.Decanters are certainly not necessary to drinking wine (you can place the cork back in the bottle of a wine to keep the air out when youre not pouring the wine) but they certainly make for a nicer presentation and can actually help the overall flavor of the wine.Wine RacksWhere do you store your wine bottles? If youre like most people, you keep them in one of your kitchen cabinets until youre ready to use them, or maybe in the basement. If you drink wine often, however, you would probably enjoy having an elegant and functional wine rack in the kitchen or dining room that is designed to display and hold your wine bottles, glasses, and accessories.Some wine racks are mounted to overhead cabinet space, so that the bottles are placed lying down inside them, while the glasses hang from their stems. These are perfect for kitchens with decent space under their overhead cabinets. If you dont have the room for this style of wine rack, there are wine racks that sit directly on the counter, and hold the bottles at arms reach.If your kitchen simply doesnt have the space on the counter top or under the overhead cabinets for these styles, you can enjoy a wine rack that stands alone. These often have small base units, sometimes refrigerated, as well as space for glasses and accessories. They take up more floor space, but can really dress up a dining area.

Dying to Drink an Awesome Beer? Go German!

Dying to Drink an Awesome Beer? Go German!

The German people are renowned for a lot of things; one of them is brewing. Beer is a crucial piece of their legacy and civilization, with more than 1300 various breweries spread across the land. As far as per capita beer consumption, the German people are only behind the Czechs and the Irish. The history of Germanic beer spans back to the origin of the country when monks began to experiment with brewing around 1000 A.D. The country's leaders eventually began to regulate the production of beer as brewing started to be more and more profitable. The Bavarian Reinheitsgebot, or purity standard, came about in fifteen-sixteen and remains the most famous and influential aspect to effect German brewing.The Bavarian Reinheitsgebot was ordered by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria to ensure that Bavarian beers were only of high quality. Hops, barley, and water are the only ingredients that should go in in beer according to the regulation. The Reinheitsgebot is the oldest legislation placed on beverages in the world and has not been changed in nearly five-hundred years. The only addition to the act is the addition of yeast to the cache of essential ingredients. Manufacturers in the past before that had simply used the yeast found naturally in the air. Because of the stringent standard of quality followed by the purity requirement, Bavarian manufacturers were soon considered the best manufacturers of beer. Other breweries started to adhere to the proclamation as the prominence of the Bavarian breweries continued to rise.German beers have a long-standing notoriety of producing quality brews made only from the purest ingredients as a result of the Reinheitsgebot. As time passed and Germany started to export beer, many cities became famous brewing spots. By fifteen-hundred, Scandinavia, Holland, England, and as far as India mainly got their beer from one of the 600 breweries in the city of Bremen. Two more famed brewing towns were Einbeck and Braunschweig. Because of it's full-bodied flavor and right amount of head foam most modern Germans still prefer fabbier, or draft beer, over bottled beer. Used still today, German beer steins became popular around the time the purity standard came about in an effort to prevent more breakouts of the blackplague.Germany made a lot of regulations to stop its citizens from getting ill during the time of the black plague. Large amounts of infected flies would fly in people's food and spread the disease. This led to the stein, a beverage container with a closed lid that could be used with the thumb so somebody could stop disease and still be able to drink with one hand. Beer drinking went up exponentially as people started to realize the plague spread in dirty conditions with brackish pools of water. Originally made of stoneware with pewter tops, steins grew in popularity. German beer steins started to be made entirely of pewter for nearly three-hundred years as the pewter guild grew. Still manufactured today, silver and porcelain German beer steins were eventually introduced.More than five-thousand types of beer are made today from over thirteen-hundred and fifty breweries within Germany's borders. The oldest brewery in the world that continues operation today is the Benedictine abbey Weihenstephan, that has been producing beer since one-thousand and forty. The most concentrated area in Germany for breweries is the Franconia region of Bavaria near the city Bamberg. German breweries manufacture a wide variety of tastes and kinds of beer with the majority of them able to be placed under ales or lagers. Most beers have an alcoholic content ranging from 4.7% to 5.4% but some kinds can be as high as 12%, making them more potent than a lot of wines.

Tea: When Are The Best Green Tea Pluckings?

Tea: When Are The Best Green Tea Pluckings?

Green tea has become a very popular beverage in the Western world. It has been popular in Asia for centuries, where it was produced more than 3000 years ago. Today, most green tea is still produced in Asia, though other countries produce "green tea" , as well. There are literally hundreds of varieties of green tea, and many different grades of quality within these many varieties.Green tea comes from the same plant as black and white teas; the Camellia sinensis. Green tea differs from black tea in the way its processed, however. Green tea is not fermented during its processing the way that "black tea" is. Rather, after the tea leaves are plucked, they are laid out to wither for about 8 to 24 hours to let the water evaporate from the leaves. Next, the leaves are steamed or pan fried to prevent fermentation from taking place. Finally, the leaves are rolled and then dried once again.Because of this different processing, green tea looks, smells and tastes different than black tea. It brews to a green color and, when unflavored, has a very natural, grassy flavor. The lack of fermentation that makes green tea so unique in flavor also makes it healthier than black tea.The fermenting process used for black and oolong teas causes an anti-oxidant called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) to be oxidized, and converts it into other compounds. In green tea, the EGCG is left in its natural state. This is important because EGCG is one of the most potent anti-oxidants, and it is far more powerful in its natural state.EGCG is helpful to the body because it can neutralize damaging free radicals. Free radicals are oxygen containing molecules that are created as a byproduct of our digestive processes. Unless they are eradicated from our bodies, free radicals damage our cells and DNA, causing aging and disease. This cell damage contributes to the development of some serious illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and high cholesterol.Doctors recommend a diet rich in anti-oxidants like EGCG to help us live longer and stay healthy. Asian cultures, which have consumed large quantities of green tea for centuries, have far lower incidences of these serious diseases.When you start to look for green teas to try, youll find that there are more varieties to choose from than you can even name. Green tea is grown in almost every region of China, in a large part of Japan and in other countries including India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Korea, Vietnam and even Australia! So, youll have a lot of choices in your green tea!One of the choices you definitely want to make is to choose the best wu long tea there is, regardless of the variety you try. This means choosing the best of the years tea crop and choosing tea that comes from the best tea gardens.There are many tea gardens in the world, and as with any other product, some gardens produce better tea than others. Producing the very best "wu long tea" is labor intensive. If farmers use shortcuts, it shows in the final product. The best tea gardens pluck the tea leaves by hand and process them the very same day theyre plucked.The best tea gardens employ skilled tea artisans who can judge exactly how much steaming time is needed to get the tea just right. Though the steaming time varies just from 30 seconds to 60 seconds, its critical that each batch of tea leaves steamed for exactly the right amount of time based on the size, thickness and softness of the leaves.In addition to choosing tea from the best tea gardens, you should also choose tea that is from the best pluckings of the year. Each year wu long tea gardens will pluck tea from the first harvest in the spring until frost. This can mean that the trees will be harvested as many as four or five times in one growing season.A really good tea farm will produce good tea throughout the summer, but their best tea will always be from the first plucking in the spring.Reputable tea gardens will ensure that tea from subsequent pluckings is given a lower grade than the tea from their first plucking. In addition, many first plucking teas will be labeled as such. Tea from the first plucking will cost more than tea from subsequent pluckings, but will have much better flavor.So, if youre interested in ensuring that you buy only the very best wu long tea, look to your tea shop. The best tea shops will get their tea from the best tea gardens and their stock will be appropriately marked and graded so that you can tell when youre purchasing tea from the first plucking.In fact, many of the best tea shops will notify their customers when the first shipment of the year is received, so that they can buy tea from the first plucking as soon as it is available.Because the quantity of tea from the first plucking of the season is limited, you may not be able to find it all year long. First tea of the season is usually ready for market in May or June. Keep your eye out each year for the perfect time to buy.Buying the best quality wu long tea neednt be difficult. Just be sure to use a quality tea shop that can provide you with the best and first plucked wu long tea each year.

Espresso Making Is An Art Form Heres How To Make A Great Cup!

Ever wondered what the secrets are to making Espresso as good as the coffee house baristas do? Well stay with me a while and I will give away some of their trade secrets so you too can master the art of making a great cup of espresso.The most important ingredient in making a good tasting espresso is to use pure fresh filtered or rain water. Regardless of what quality coffee grounds you use it wont override the associated taste of poor water. For most of us chlorine and other chemicals in our tap water will put us at a real disadvantage. It might surprise some to know water can get stale so make sure it hasnt been sitting around in plastic containers or in the fridge for too long before you use it. To make a new brew of espresso remember to use very hot water with an optimum temperature of around 203F (95C) or nearly boiling water. If you dont want to get too technical using a thermometer, just switch the jug off as the water is starting to boil and then count to ten. That has always worked for me.Of course the next most important ingredient is the coffee. These days there is an abundance of choice and sometimes its hard to know where to start. I like to be a little adventurous and try coffees from different countries all over the world. Each one has its own unique flavour. Some I like and some I dont go back for a second go.One of my favorites is Arabica coffee which comes from the high country in Brazil or Bogota. Some people like to roast the green beans themselves while others are content to buy them freshly roasted. Either way it is important to make sure the beans are fresh and have a good aromatic smell to them.Also Robusta is one you might like to try. This variety has more caffeine but is a little less full bodied flavour than Arabica. Generally it should be used for those quick pick-me-up cups but its not at all suitable for an espresso that is to be savoured. Once you start exploring different types of coffee, blending is something you might like to try your hand at. A blend of 70% Arabica and 30% Robusta is a great favorite of mine because it takes away the heavy chocolate taste of the Arabica and gives a mellower and more creamy texture to the brew. Women more often enjoy this blend as it is milder in flavor and is not such an assault on the taste buds. In Australia you can find this blend already ground in the MAP brand (red packet).From personal experience let me tell you adding a grinder to your kitchen appliances will open up a whole world of espresso coffee tasting for you. Being able to buy beans of any type and bring them home and finely grind them yourself is essentially a defining experience. Another important point is that the quality of the espresso machine you buy will of course affect the quality of the espresso coffee it produces. Here I should remind you to look for a machine that is easy to clean and maintain as well as one that generates heat by boiler or thermoblock and is capable of producing pump pressure of 9 bar or better. A thermoblock heats water as it passes through the machine on the way to the pump. For a really professional and satisfying brew it is best to avoid the cheaper units that rely on steam to create pressure.Now that we know all that we are ready to make a top cup of espresso. For the best results pre-warm the equipment by running clean water through the machine is a good idea. Then when you turn the machine on, let the water heat, before running a cup through with no coffee to warm the surfaces and flush the system.Next you can add the freshly ground espresso roast and then tamp it down slightly with the back of a spoon, just like you would in a tobacco pipe till you feel some springiness - but the coffee shouldn't scatter about.Then put the hopper in the machine and place a warmed espresso cup at the outlet. Now comes the good part, start the machine and in about five seconds you will have a steady stream of beautiful espresso coffee. For a double shot it will take about 20 seconds to complete.Making cappuccino is easy this way as all you have to do is warm half a cup of milk in the microwave for about 90 seconds, froth it with the wand and add it to the espresso. If you are like me and love the froth use full cream milk rather than reduced fat milk as it froths better. To make it just like a bought one, sprinkle some cinnamon over the top. However if you really want to create a sensation you could shave some chocolate or sprinkle cocoa on the top. For the sweet tooth you will probably need a teaspoon of sugar. In a nutshell the secret to making a good cup of espresso at home that tastes just like one from your favourite coffee shop is to start with good quality coffee, keep your equipment nice and clean, use fresh water, don't burn the roast and make sure you grind it properly. Enjoy.

How A Wine Club Can Help You

If you are new to wine, a wine club will help you find out which wines you really like (and those that you dont). It is the perfect way of discovering new wines on a regular basis. If youre not currently a member of a wine club, you should think again. Heres why you are missing out. Do you generally stick to what you know?When faced with rows and rows of unfamiliar wines in the local supermarket, do you find that you always end up sticking to what you know? If you do branch out, its likely to be because you are swayed by the nicest, most appealing label or because youve gone on someone elses recommendations (which then leave you feeling flat when you discover that you dont like the same wine as them!) So in your quest to buy new, exciting, great tasting wines for your dinner party or Sunday Lunch, you come away with your same old, trusted bottle of wine. Sound familiar?Join a Wine Club:But all of that could be put to an end if you join a wine club. Each month or quarter (depending on the wine club), the wine club will send you a selection of wines from around the world. Featuring a variety of whites, reds, ros and maybe the odd sparkling or dessert wine, you get to try wines from different grapes, countries and styles. True, you probably wont like them all but its a great way of tasting your way through a selection of new releases, customer favourites and award winning wines that you probably wouldnt have previously dared chosen. Discover What You Like:In the same way that we all like different food, the key thing to remember about wine is that we all like different wines and no one can tell you what you will like. (Remember this next time you are in the wine shop!) So to get the most out of your wines, you need to work out what you like. To help you along the way, most wine clubs enclose detailed information in the wine club case about the wines, so that you can learn more about the grape, country and winemaker as you drink. Suggestions for food matches can also give you confidence next time you host a dinner party. Its also worth rating your wine club wines as you taste them, as you can be sure that youll have forgotten how the first ones tasted by the time you finish the case! Even better is to choose a wine club that displays customer comments on its website. That way, youll have an idea of what to expect from your wine club wine before you taste it.Wine Styles Can Help:Some wine clubs, such as the Virgin Wines Discovery Wine Club, categorise wines by style, such as Classic Chardonnay, Oaky Aussie Chardonnay, Huge Reds and Soft and Juicy reds. This is great for newcomers to wine, as it is far more intuitive than the traditional country and grape based categories, plus it recognises that certain grape varieties like Chardonnay can vary significantly in taste. The real advantage of being a member of a wine club that categorises wines in this way, is that it opens wine drinkers up to a far wider range of wines than they might otherwise have come across. For example in the Fragrant but Dry category, wine drinkers will find Argentinean Torrontes as a great value alternative to a pricey French Muscat a recommendation that you wont get from a wine club or shop that focuses simply on grape or country. Try a Tasting Course:To help wine drinkers learn more about wine, some wine clubs offer tasting courses or events. Tasting wines back-to-back allows drinkers to really get a feel for how two different wines taste and, ultimately, it can help them decide what to buy more of in the future. Risk Free Buying:Still not convinced? Part of the fun of joining a wine club is tasting new wines and discovering new favourites but if you are worried about getting something you really dont like and wouldnt have chosen yourself, dont worry. Many wine clubs offer a money back guarantee, so if you come across a wine that you really cant stomach, they will refund your money. Join Today:Joining a wine club can really help you when it comes to learning about wine. Not only will you get to taste a variety of new wines and find out what you really like but also it will give you more confidence in choosing your wines. Youll never need worry about picking out a bottle of wine for your next dinner party again! To find out about Virgin Wines Discovery Wine Club, visit Virgin Wines.Louise Truswell has been working in and writing about the wine industry for a number of years. To help wine drinkers learn more about Wines, Virgin Wines Club offers tasting courses or events, visit Virginwines.Com

Summary

So you are ready to take up baking. You are all excited to skim through that recipe book and find yourself the ideal recipe to guide you into making scrumptious cookies that you can impress your family and friends with. But hold on. Are you armed with the appropriate baking tools for your cookie mission? Let us look into the list and check your gear.Measuring cupsOne cannot possibly assume that a regular cup or mug can be used in measuring the amount of flour or sugar...