Tools & Utensils

Mamy’s Marble Mortar

Mamy's Marble Mortar

I love it when unexpected things — be they gifts, ideas or opportunities — fall onto my lap. Luckily, in this instance, the thing didn’t literally fall onto my lap or I’d be limping as we speak, but you get my drift.

Last Saturday, my sister Céline and I went to visit our dear grandmother, whom we call Mamy (although my sister insists on spelling it Mamie), who lives not far from us, in the 17th arrondissement. My grandmother would hate for me to tell her age, but let’s just say that she was a little girl during World War I, so you know, she’s seen a thing or two. She loves to talk and tell stories, fascinating memories of times past — some of my favorites being the ones about the sweet and clever boy my father was, and how talented he was at scarfing down camemberts and apple cakes.

She loves to cook too, although now her health doesn’t allow much of that anymore, and I know that she is particularly glad to see me so passionate about it. We talk about things we like to make, and I’ve often asked her for recipes. They are endearingly fuzzy, and it takes a little while to get her to tell me exactly what she means, but that’s all part of the pleasure of course.

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New Toys by Flexipan

New Toys by Flexipan

Two weeks ago, I attended a home sale of Demarle Flexipan molds, hosted by my friend and fellow food-blogger Pascale. Demarle is the original inventor of those nonstick flexible baking molds, made of silicon and glass fiber. Originally sold to professionals only, they have been available to happy home bakers for a few years : most brands distribute their products in department stores and such, but Demarle chose to sell their molds (and the other cooking/baking tools they make) in Tupperware-style meetings instead.

Pascale was there of course, as were her sister and our friends Alisa and Isabelle, of the Paris Potluck crowd. Pascale and Chantal, the Demarle representative, had prepared quite a few things for us to taste, to illustrate what you could make with the molds. In particular, Pascale had baked chocolate hazelnut madeleines, which she insisted were “ratées” (failed). We couldn’t have disagreed more, and in fact thought they represented such a high risk for the health and sanity of the general public, that we made sure to eat as many as we possibly could. It was tough, but I think we have reason to be proud.

It was my first time attenting such a meeting, and it was a lot of fun. Chantal presented the different products and their possible uses, they were passed from hand to hand, and we made a couple of recipes together (a really tasty spinach and fresh cheese roll, and some gougères, those little cheese puffs). I had a grand time, as I always do when I’m in the same room with other cooking enthusiasts, and Pascale’s bright and sunny kitchen, filled with goodies as it was, was the perfect place to be on that beautiful June day.

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Mini Paper Cups

Mini Paper Cups

You know how sometimes, you’ll be reading a cookbook or a cooking magazine, and a recipe will call for a specific piece of equipment? And all of a sudden you just have to have that thing, right that minute? Even though this is the first recipe you’ve ever laid eyes on that mentioned it? Because you can just feel, deep inside of you, that it will make your life better?

Well, this is exactly the story of my mini paper cups.

In no way can I be held responsible, of course. The culprit, in this instance, was Pierre Hermé, by way of his cookbook Mes Desserts Préférés. Among all the gorgeous tempting if-I-had-three-days-to-devote-to-it-I’d-definitely-make-this recipes, he offers a simple recipe for Moelleux aux Amandes. These are bite-size almond cakes, on which he encourages you to plop anything you fancy, a pinenut or a piece of pineapple for instance, and he instructs you to bake them in caissettes en papier. “Mini paper cups?”, thought I, “But I don’t have mini paper cups! I can’t go on living like this!”

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Chocolate Dipping Fork

Chocolate Dipping Fork

I keep a running list of tools I absolutely need and must acquire at all costs. I’ll admit that this list tends to be much longer than reasonable, and completely out of proportion with the capacity of our kitchen or the actual utility of said tools.

But hey, some girls buy shoes, I buy kitchen toys! (Well, shoes too, but I’m trying to make a point, here.)

This “fourchette à tremper” is an item I recently crossed off my list. It is what chocolate makers use to make chocolate-dipped things : you melt some chocolate in a wide and not too shallow pan, you balance whatever it is you’d like to dip onto the tines of the fork, lower the fork into the chocolate, take it out, and deposit the coated bite on a special non-stick plastic sheet (“feuille guitare”) for it to dry and harden.

The fork is also used to form the little ribbed lines you can sometimes see on chocolate bites. Just after depositing the coated confection on the sheet, while the chocolate is still soft, you gently apply the fork tines on top of the chocolate, then lift it up and towards you : the chocolate coating will sort of follow the fork’s movement, and will keep the imprint of the tines.

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