Editor’s Note: Here’s the second installment to Things Grandma Never Told You About Cooking From Scratch. If you missed Part One, you can find it here. Enjoy!
#11 — You can totally bake in your cast iron.
I LOVE my cast iron cookware. Seriously, I’ve been down the cute enameled Paula Deen route, and I’m never going back, because these things are built to last and are AMAZING for baking. Try baking an apple crisp in your cast iron skillet and you’ll see what I mean — it doesn’t get much easier than this.
#12 — Plastic utensils SUCK.
Sorry, I’m very passionate about my distaste for plastic utensils. Not only does plastic not hold up as well as stainless steel, but holy leaching, Batman — even BPA-free plastic has been observed leaching hormone disrupting chemicals into food.
Stainless steel is awesome, but metals can interfere with some recipes that contain yeasts and acids, so I prefer wooden utensils like these.
#13— Even the best ovens have a mind of their own.
Never trust an oven, and never count on a timer. Always use the peek, poke, and jiggle test over sticking to bake times and counting on your oven’s thermostat being accurate.
#14 — Take cookies out underdone for over the top gooiness.
I bake my cookies on either a pizza stone or a cast iron pizza pan, which holds onto heat really well. The trick to soft, gooey cookies is to cook them just until they start to get golden brown, and then pulling them out to let them sit on the stone for another 5-10 minutes. The bottom will firm up just enough for you to be able to pick it up, and the insides will stay nice and soft.
#15 — Don’t mess with the leavening agents.
Ingredients like baking soda, baking powder, and yeast serve specific purposes in recipes, and amounts needed can actually vary depending on your elevation. Don’t mess with them unless you know what you’re doing, people.
#16 — Yes, you have to sift the stupid powdered sugar.
Pretty much the only time you won’t have to sift powdered sugar for a recipe is if it’s going into something warm, like this chocolate frosting recipe from Hersheys (can you guess why it’s my favorite?). Otherwise, break out the sifter. I love hand crank ones like this because they hold so much and help to contain the mess.
#17 — Cake mix is not an ingredient.
I live in the boonies, which means if I don’t have an ingredient, I can’t go to the store and get it. Cooking from scratch means making do with the basics, so learn to live without mixes unless you’re really in a pinch for time. (And that said, when you are, this Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix is AWESOME to have on hand).
#18 — Plastic wrap can take a hike.
Okay, plastic wrap has its uses, but I am so much more in love with Bee’s Wrap. It’s reusable, biodegradable, and made of nothing but cloth and beeswax. A great way to seal up foods like cheese platters and cakes, it makes an equally awesome stocking stuffer.
#19 — Food coloring is the pits.
As a mother of a toddler, I’ll do pretty much anything to curb the insanity that is everyday behavior, and that includes avoiding artificial food colors. I know they’re festive, and I know they’re cute, but skip the red and green treats this year if you want to avoid any extra meltdowns. Food colors have been linked to hyperactivity, and I’m gonna file that under nope for this holiday season.
#20 — Your pie crust will always burn before the pie actually bakes.
It’s a cruel fact of kitchen life that that perfect crust of yours is going to be well beyond golden brown by the time your pie is actually done, so invest in a pie crust shield to save yours from certain demise.