Tuesday, September 07, 2010

New Apartment!

I am now successfully moved into my new apartment in Ann Arbor!  Hurray!  There are still a few things to sort out, such as having my carpets cleaned because the hot water tank flooded my place the day I moved in, but all in all, I'm close to being settled.

On top of that, I managed to finish a project I had set for myself this summer.  My mother keeps her recipes on index cards in a box, sorted by type, and I've was trying to create a recipe box for myself, copying over all of the ones she has that I'm interested in.

There were two minor problems with this.  First of all, my mother has a lot of recipes, so my hand kept cramping up from copying them over.  Second, copying a recipe isn't much good if you can't follow it.  While I know most cooking terms, one area I do get confused about occasionally is mixing.  There are a lot of different ways to mix ingredients together, usually dependent on what the ingredient is or what effect you want to get.  And mixing incorrectly can really ruin a recipe.  When I was watching "Good Eats" the other day, the host, Alton Brown (one of my favorites, since he's the geek of the Food Network), said that something as simple as stirring muffin batter for too long can ruin its consistency, making the muffins tough and leaving "wormholes" in them when they bake up.

Because of this, I decided to refresh my knowledge of all these different terms, directing myself to my mother's second most important cooking tool- the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook.

So, courtesy of the lovely fictitious Betty Crocker, here are all the different ways you can mix ingredients.

"Beat- to mix with a vigorous over-and-over motion, with a spoon, wire whip, or rotary beater. To enclose air in the food.
Blend- to mix very thoroughly two or more ingredients.
Combine- to mix unlike ingredients.
Cream- to soften fat by rubbing it against the bowl with a spoon, or beating with an electric mixer until it is light and creamy.
Cream together- to blend two ingredients together, such as creaming fat with sugar, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Cut in- to combine fat with dry ingredients using two knives, a fork, or pastry blender.
Fold in- to mix by a gentle motion: cutting down through and bringing up close to bowl, then folding over before cutting down through again.  Proper folding in prevents loss of air.
Mix- to combine two or more ingredients, usually by stirring.
Stir- to mix, usually with a spoon, by rotary motion."

In my mind, a lot of these are really just synonyms, but I suppose that could be because I don't pay too much attention to when the things I'm mixing are like or unlike ingredients.  I usually just throw them into the mix in whatever order the recipe says, although if asked I could tell you which are dry and which are wet.  Perhaps in a future post, we can go over that.

For now, I will sign off with this-- I love Betty Crocker cookbooks.  They are among the most useful I've ever seen, and I firmly believe everyone should have one.  However, one of the books my mom owns is a reprint of the original 1950 picture cookbook and some of the advice I find a little dated and therefore rather funny.  For instance, the two major types of food service described are English, or a regular sit-down dinner with food served at the table, and Russian, which the book says is "not adaptable to servantless household."  Come on, Betty, not even a mention of buffet style?

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