Friday, October 28, 2011

Culinary IQ: Friday, October 28, 2011; Spatulas

Lift, Turn, Flip!

How did so many tools in the kitchen come to be known as spatulas? The term spatula is used to refer to various small implements with a broad, flat, flexible blade used to mix, spread and lift food.

Often when mixing food we use a heat resistant or silicon spatula to stir items over the stove as we cook them. The pliable tool allows us to cleanly scrape the sides and bottom of the pot or bowl we are cooking in. These spatulas usually have one 90 degree corner and one curved corner to assist in scraping food from the edges of the pan or dish being cooked in. Some are shaped like a spoon and referred to as spoonulas. They are great for mixing thinner batters and sauces but are not well suited for thicker mixtures like frostings or doughes.

Spatulas are often used when cooking on the stove or grill to turn or lift the food being cooked. These spatulas can be metal, plastic and more recently silicone or silicone covered metal. Plastic or silicone are well suited for non-stick cookware to prevent scratching. Plastic spatulas can melt at higher temperatures therefore silicone versions are quickly taking there place because of its tolerance for high heat. You will also find solid or slotted versions of spatulas, each serves a different purpose depending on what you are cooking. Slotted spatulas allow the food being lifted to drain.

Cake decorators also use spatulas when icing cakes. There are usually two common versions that come in multiple sizes, the straight spatula and the offset spatula. Which one to use is often a personal preference. I have found the straight spatula is best for icing the tops of the layers and the offset is best for icing the sides. An advantage of the offset is that it keeps your hand away from the surface you are icing.

As promised here is a recipe that will use several of the utensils I have discussed this week:

Crème Anglaise (Vanilla Custard Sauce)

Stage 1

12 ea. Egg Yolks
8 oz. Sugar

1. Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a stainless-steel bowl. Whip until thick and light.

Stage 2

1 quart milk

2. Scald milk in a boiling water bath or over direct heat.
3. Very gradually pour the scalded milk into the egg yolk mixture while stirring constantly with the whip.
4. Set the bowl over simmering water (bain marie). Heat it slowly, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (or until it reaches 185˚F).

Stage 3

1 Tbsp. Vanilla

5. Immediately remove the bowl from the heat, strain through a wire mesh strainer and set in a pan of cool water. Stir in vanilla. Stir the sauce occasionally as it cools.

For a richer crème anglaise, substitute heavy cream for up to half of the milk. To flavor with a vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, first split the bean in half lengthwise. Scrape the pulp from inside the bean with a paring knife. Add the pulp and the split bean two the milk heating in step 2. You can also run a whole nutmeg over a microplane grater 2 or 3 times before heating.
Chocolate Crème Anglaise
Melt 6 oz. sweetened chocolate. Stir into the Crème Anglaise.

And yes I used 4 of the utensils from this weeks posts!

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