Today I found a recipe for "1 minute microwave cake." It tasted horrible and was rubbery, so I won't rant about it anymore. Instead, I want to talk about the all-too-overlooked pantry pals: plastic wrap, tinfoil, and the pretentious parchment paper. These are are everyday, run-of-the-mill, can't-possibly-live-without-it, borrow-some-from-a-friend things that make cooking possible.
Our shiny aluminum friend has potential far beyond campfire chow. Not that camp food is bad. No name or ingredients list here, just trust me and do this.
Take a banana, and observe the little sections on the peel. You know, the little flat sides. Position the fruit so it makes a "U" shape, and use a paring knife to cut away a section of the peel on that side, leaving some connected to the top and bottom. Remove the piece, and save it. Scoop out the banana in that area, and fill with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. Replace peel, wrap in foil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 min. (about), or until the chocolate is melted and the flesh is soft. Unwrap, take off the handy dandy peel lid, and eat! Yum. :) Want something a bit different? Pour 2 cans (14 oz) of evaporated milk into a glass baking dish, and cover with foil. Place that dish inside of a poaching pan, and fill that pan with enough water to reach halfway up the side of the glass dish. Review: Milk inside of dish. Dish covered in foil. Foil-covered dish inside bigger dish. Bigger dish containing water. Place the whole contraption (being careful not to spill that water!) into that same 350 oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hours. What emerges is a delicious, ooey, gooey toffee-like sauce. Pour over some vanilla ice cream, or into a pre-made gram cracker crust with banana for EPIC pie. My idea? Keep the sauce in the original pan, chill in the fridge, and top with some chocolate ganache. Which is also another blog post for another time. Scoop out onto the serving vessel of your choice, and eat while promising to go to the gym the next day. Of course, there are also about ten gagillion craft uses, too. My final word on foil concerns thickness. What kind you get doesn't matter for covering, ect., but normal, bargain-brand foil is often thin and easily broken, heavy duty is strong but pliable (good), and super-heavy-duty is more like sheet metal. DO NOT get the stuff from BJ's (what I used to call the home depot of food) unless you will be lifting boulders with tinfoil.
Sadly, this little dude doesn't have many hot applications outside of the microwave because it, well, melts. Melts into a pathetic little heap. This wrap's forte? The fridge. It's good for keeping funky flavors out of fatty food like cheese, butter, frosting, pudding, you name it. Get a good kind, and it makes a nice air-tight seal. You can also use it in the microwave, but having no personal experience with that, I will not peruse the topic further.
A relative newcomer to the culinary scene, this convenient papery substance is nonstick up to 400-something degrees. You can use it to keep cookies, cream puffs, and other baked goods from cementing themselves to the pan. Goodbye, chisel. We'll miss you. You can even use it as a sling for brownies and cakes. Simply take 2 strips of the wonderful substance, and layer across eachother in the pan to make an "X" shape. Pour in the batter, and bake according to your recipe's instructions. If you did things right, there should be a good amount of parchment hanging off the sides of the pan that you can grab to lift the baked good of your choice right out. No more knife-chiseling, pan-flipping, or cooling rack marks on your fluffy, yummy brownies. Think you can do this with waxed paper? Think again. Waked paper has:
The waxy part can stick to your food even though you think it's not there
Parchment is impregnated with silicon, so it doesn't melt, doesn't stick, and doesn't leave undesirable flavors. You can use it in place of oil/cooking spray for baking, and throw it out when you're done. Less cleaning, more eating. But here's my favorite part: you can stage out all of you cookies, pastries, whatever, on separate sheets and then switch them out right away. I have to give credit to my favorite TV chef here (Alton Brown, whose word is law in my book for those who do not know) for introducing me to this- he uses it in innumerable episodes. For anyone who has never seen good eats, think a cross between:
and sock puppets. Add some sound food science, and you've got TV.
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