Oh my goodness, it looks like the test kitchen has had a visit from Saint Nicholas. Or perhaps it was Père Noel. Maybe it was Black Peter, or even Kanakaloka. Whether you're saying Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Mele Kalikimaka, or Milad Saeed wa Sanaa Mubarakah, this is the season of giving from the heart.
Here in the test kitchen we often get asked about our favorite baking tools, or items we just can't live without. After a lively lunchtime discussion, we've gathered several suggestions for you and your holiday shopping list. Whether you're giving or getting, we hope these special favorites of ours will help you with your list.
As you can see, this one's from PJ. It's her personal Thermapen. This thermometer is super fast and accurate. Being bright red, it's easy to find in a busy kitchen too.
Right behind it is our sourdough crock. I've talked to many customers who have lost their starters to well-meaning spouses and partners who've cleaned the fridge and discarded “that stuff” in the jar. With its striped lid and King Arthur logo, this crock is a spiffy way to store your starter and keep it safe and sound.
Sure, the snow is falling outside but we never say no to ice cream. This Cuisinart ice cream maker got a unanimous vote. It makes rich, creamy ice cream in 20 minutes and cleanup is a breeze. Eggnog ice cream, anyone?
At last count, we had 8 of these big digit timers in the test kitchen and we still beg for more. The readout is large and clear even with flour on your glasses, and the beep is loud enough to hear from the hallway.
One of the best features of this timer is that it keeps ringing, and begins to count up as it rings, so that if you aren't there right when it goes off, you can tell at a glance just how long it's been since the beeping began. And with only three buttons, it's easy as pie to use.
The bench knife behind it is also a hot item in the kitchen. Scraper, cutter, smoother, dicer, forklift, and all-around indispensable third hand, it's a must.
What's the scoop? This red melamine scoop is one of 3 in a set. You get red, white, and blue and you'll find that you use them for everything. A big helping of mac and cheese served with the red scoop just floats my boat.
Got cookies to bake? We wouldn't think of starting a batch of cookie dough without these scoops on hand. Scoop, drop, bake. It really is as easy as that.
And the stockings were hung by the chimney with care. As were the mini spatulas, offset spatulas, and my favorite timer.
Susan loves the spatulas for getting the last little bits of chocolate from the bowl. Then you can use your offset spatula to smooth the chocolate to a fine finish. Spreading icing on cupcakes just isn't the same without the offset spatula.
What more can we say about the timer on a rope? It's super simple to set, and goes where you go. Wear it around your neck, loop it over your wrist, even tie it to your bikini so you can sunbathe while you await your goodies.
No, we haven't started selling wreaths. This pie crust shield works beautifully to keep your tender crusts from scorching and is much more attractive than tin foil. Seeing how nice this one looks on our fireplace, we just may take to hanging ours on the wall!
Need a lift? We'll make you grate-ful, because that's how we roll.
A microplane grater is one of the best multitaskers we've ever found. Grate cheese, chocolate, zest, ginger, nutmeg, and just about anything else you can think of. How about freshly grated lemon zest in your pie dough?
Roll it out effortlessly with our silicone rolling pin and use the giant spatula to move it seamlessly to your pie pan. It's a good thing we have several of each, rolling pin scuffles could get painful!
Under the "OH honey, you shouldn't have but I'm so glad you did" category is the Zojirushi CEC-20 bread machine.
Yes, we really do have 7 bread machines in the test kitchen, and yes there are days that they are nearly all in motion at the same time. Fresh hot bread, pizza dough, risotto, meatloaf, cinnamon bun dough, even jam and cake can be made in the ZO, all while you do other things!
Gasp! We nearly forgot one! Thanks for the reminder, Beyonce. Clear plastic SHOWER CAPS! They can't be beat as covers for rising dough.
Last but not least, festive and functional, these sturdy containers hold flour, sugar, chocolate, and just about anything you can think of in your pantry.
I bet they would even make terrific storage containers for holiday decorations, complete with color-coordinated lids.
Happy Holidays from the test kitchen team. Andrea Brown (not pictured), Sue Gray (l), Susan Reid (c), PJ Hamel (r), and me, MaryJane Robbins (rofl).