baking · bread · day-to-day activities · food · tools

Tools and How You Use Them

I love getting new tools. Even something as a new rubber spatula will make me very happy. I like using very simple tools in the kitchen. I’m not one for one-use type tools. I don’t have a waffle maker or rice cooker. I know those can be used for other things but I would rather not clutter my kitchen workspace with extra tools. I have great knives, spoons, graters, scrapers and bowls. People always want to know how to cook well. I think it comes from simple but high quality tools. It’s like asking the photographer whose photos you like, “what kind of camera takes those beautiful pictures?” It’s not the camera; it’s the person behind the lens. Good tools won’t make you a better cook. But having and knowing how to use the tools that you have will take you quite a ways to becoming a better cook.

Yesterday, I was making bread. I had mixed the bread by hand in a stainless steel mixing bowl over the course of 48 hours. I fermented it in a covered plastic container that fits in my refrigerator overnight. I like plastic because I can see the rise.IMG_5010That plastic box is a tool. It’s a very simple one but it helps me make better bread. I scaled the bread into 500 gram pieces and put it on parchment and some silpat that I had and I let it rise for another 4 hours. I turned on the oven around noon to bake the bread. Nothing out of the ordinary yet. I baked the bread and it came out great. We were going to my sister-in-law’s house for dinner. I had also been contracted to make the potatoes and blanched asparagus. I had boiled some water with salt in it earlier and cooked the asparagus for a few minutes. I had filled up the same box I fermented the bread in with ice and shocked the asparagus in the ice water. It’s a very well used box. I drained the asparagus using my colander. I grated some parmesano reggiano for the asparagus. I like to serve cold asparagus with the parmesan and some lemon vinaigrette. I IMG_4970wan’t ready to cook the potatoes yet so I turned off the oven for a while. It was the last time I would do that. I read for a while, listened to some music and close to dinner time, I turned the oven back on. It beeped and then proceeded to stay at what it said was 100°F. It’s not really 100°F but that’s where it starts. It’s a GE Profile Range. It’s what they call a contractor special. It’s the bottom of the line type they put in most condos circa 1997. The oven is now 18 years old. Why would it stop working? I don’t know. It just did. The burners on the stove worked as did the broiler. But the part that meant the most to me stopped working. I’m a baker! I love to bake! I had to call my sister-in-law right away to tell her I would need some oven space to finish the potatoes. Meanwhile my wife Margie was looking through the owners manual to see if there was a way to relight the pilot light. That’s what I thought it was. Little did I know, that’s not the way they work in this type of oven. I have worked in commercial kitchens where it’s pretty easy to relight the pilot light. My oven at home didn’t have the same mechanism. We looked on YouTube and found a very detailed way to reinstall the igniter. I was not going to rewire my oven. I could just see the news report of a baking teacher blowing up his home with a gas fire! No way, so we called the folks who installed the oven 18 years ago. It was Abt in Glenview. They have been on Milwaukee Road for the last 80 years. We have bought every appliance in our home from them. They said they could have a guy come out in two weeks to have a look at it. It would be 160.00 for the service call but that could be applied to a new stove. Why would I want a new stove when this one was so good?

We decided to go visit today to see what was available in simple stoves in the 21st century. Since we live in the city it was a 40 minute drive up to Glenview.  We walked in and were greeted by a very jgb660dejww_143fffriendly person who handed us a phone recharger free of charge (no pun intended). It’s a gift! Thanks Abt. It was kind of weird but we walked over to the stoves and went right to a white GE model that looked nice. The salesman, Andy, mentioned that the price was so good because it was a return. He said there may be a ding here or there. We couldn’t find it. It was 500.00 less than any of the other models near it. It was exactly what I was looking for. It seemed too good to be true.

I would think you don’t think of your stove as a kitchen tool. But it really is. I don’t need the warming drawer, double oven, convection or any fancy stuff on my oven. I just need a few burners and a box that gets very hot and stays hot for the right amount of time to bake things. Margie and I looked at each other and decided right there we needed a new oven. This was the one. Andy wrote it up and we take delivery on Thursday. I now have a very versatile tool back in my arsenal. It joins my knives and scrapers in helping me make better food. It does have some improvements over my old one. It has 5 burners, one of which is a place to put a grill pan or flattop. That’s kind of cool but not really necessary. It’s got more BTU’s. I’m sure I needed more BTU’s.

I didn’t want to have to spend more money but I do want to keep cooking in my kitchen. It’s good to have the right tools for the job. What tool can’t you live without? I may not have fancy tools but I have the tools I need now.



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