A blender is an appliance that a lot of us have, but that a lot of us take for granted. Most of the time, it is used for making drinks and smoothies, although it can be used to puree just about anything and can actually take on many of the functions of a food processor. I know that I never used any of my blenders to their full potential and it was only when I started making Blender Waffle Batter on a regular basis that I started to see how great a blender could be. When my last blender bit the dust, I waited quite a while before replacing it because I wanted to make sure that I got a good one. The Blendtec Designer Series Blender was on my short list because I knew it was a powerful machine and I figured that it was time for an upgrade, even though my blending isn’t as intense as the hilarious and fun Will it Blend? video series that Blendtec puts out, but before I could make the final purchase, Blendtec actually offered me a blender to test out and review. And I have to say that it just might be the best blender I’ve ever had.
Archive for the ‘Gear and Gadgets’ Category
If you ever ate a push up pop as a kid (or as an adult, for that matter), then you would instantly know what to do if someone handed you a treat pop. Treat pops are a variation on a cupcake, where layers of cake and frosting are packed together in a small plastic container and you simply push up on the stick at the bottom to deliver the delicious layers straight into your mouth.
When I first saw the idea of push pop cupcakes a few years ago, it was very difficult to get your hands on a push pop container so that you could make them at home. Not many places sold them, and they were marketed for ice cream more than cake. Additionally, cake pops became more popular than this style of cupcake treat, so the demand might not have been there at the outside. Now, however, Wilton is launching their own line of Treat Pop Containers (available with a stand and without) that easily let you make your own push up treat pops at home without struggling to find the supplies.
The treat pop containers are 7.25 in. high and 1.75 in. diameter, which means that the hold a generous amount of cake. They’re sold in sets of six, and each one comes with a cap so you can easily cover and transport your creations without worrying about losing any layers. The caps also double as stands, so you can use them to display your pops when you get to your destination. Unlike the pop containers used for push up popsicles, these are completely reusable and can be washed in the dishwasher, so you can use them over and over on multiple occasions and don’t need to buy set after set to play with the idea.
Mini pies have been on a long, upward trend over the past year or so. While they haven’t quite overtaken cupcakes in terms of popularity, there are pie-only stores popping up in cities selling sweet and savory pies to people who want something other than a cupcake as a treat. As a result of the increased popularity of pies, we have started to see more great pie baking gadgets, such as my Breville Mini Pie Maker and mini pie pans.
The most unusual thing that I’ve seen so far is this Pie Bowl Pan, made by Chicago Metallic. The pan doesn’t look like your typical pie pan because it has a distinct dome on the base. You lay your dough in it as you would for a standard pie, but after baking you have a mini pie with a deep cavity in what should be the bottom of the pie. With this pan, you’re meant to flip that pie over and serve it bottom-side up. The concavity of the pie turns it into a bowl that you can fill up to take your mini pie over the top. For instance, you can fill the bowl of an peach pie with whipped cream and hot caramel sauce. If you baked a savory meat pie, you could fill the bowl with mashed potatoes and gravy. The pan has attractively fluted edges that give the upside down pie a finished look, and it is nonstick so you’ll be able to pop your pies out easily.
The pan might seem unnecessary if you don’t want to garnish your pies with toppings and sides, but cupcakes got more complex as they became more popular, and it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to see the same thing start to happen with pies in the future, so this pan might just be the way to help you prepare for that and put your pies at the front of the trend.
I love working with cherries to make cobblers and pies, but I find that I will often reach for frozen or jarred cherries for convenience, rather than choose to work with fresh cherries. I do work with fresh cherries some of the time, but pitting them is a very time consuming endeavor and you can get great quality frozen and jarred cherries all year long. That said, when cherries are coming in to season it is hard to beat a perfectly ripe, fresh cherry, so I arm myself with a cherry pitter and get to work to make them usable for baking. The Cherry-It Pitter from Progressive International recently caught my eye, because it offers a way to streamline the process of cherry pitting by allowing you to pit multiple cherries at once.
The pitter is easy to use. Once you position your cherries in the removable tray inside, you simply push down on the lid, where sharp sharp cutters come through and push the pits out of the cherries into cavity below the tray. The cherries don’t need to be positioned in a certain way, so the process makes for very quick loading and unloading. The tray that holds the cherries also has four smaller cavities, which can be used to remove the pits from olives (or very small cherries that aren’t quite stable in the large cavities). The tray that catches the pits also collects quite a bit of the juice from the pitting process, so you’ll have less cleanup and less risk of staining your clothes while you work.
The corner piece from a batch of brownies is a sought-after piece. The edges are firmer and chewier than the center of the brownies, so they not only have a good texture to them, but they present a welcome contrast to a very fudgy brownie. Not everyone likes the corner pieces, just as not everyone likes the center pieces, but those who do often lament that brownies do not have more edges. Wilton’s Bar Pan is a pan for everyone out there who likes the corner piece because it is designed to bake square bar cookies or brownies with a very high corner-to-center ratio. Each of the square cavities is about 1.5 inches deep and has slightly rounded corners, which gives anything you bake in it a nice look and also helps to ensure that nothing sticks in the pan. The heavy duty pan does have a nonstick finish, which helps make it easy to pop out brownies once they’re done baking.
Baking directly in the pan will give you the best, crispiest edges on your bars, but you can use square muffin wrappers in it if you prefer not to bake directly in the pan or just want ensure that it is as easy as possible to get your baked goods in and out of the pan.