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Archive for July 16, 2013

TIP OF THE DAY: Beat The Heat With A Pressure Cooker

The Kuhn Rikon 7.4-quart pressure cooker.
Photo courtesy Kuhn Rikon.


We’re in the middle of a heat wave, so the less the stove and oven are on, the better. We’ve turned to our trusty pressure cooker to make an entire meal from scratch.

This is not your mother’s (or grandmother’s) pressure cooker. Totally safe and user-friendly, there’s no scary hissing or rattling. It’s a must-have appliance for any busy person.

A pressure cooker does the opposite of a slow cooker. Instead of long, slow cooking, pressure cooking is short and fast. You can cook high-fiber, low-fat foods in record time, preserving vitamins and essential nutrients. Recipes that normally take four hours are ready in 45 minutes.

And pressure cooking creates a greener kitchen, since faster cooking means less fuel burned.

And when it’s too darn hot to stand over a stove, there’s no checking up on your recipe as it cooks. Just turn on the heat and come back to take the pot off the stove.


You can make anything in a pressure cooker, from soup to main to side to dessert. The potatoes for potato salad cook in five minutes. We made a cheesecake in 20 minutes that you’d swear was baked in the oven for more than an hour. And as the temperature here refuses to leave the high 90s, there’s no need to turn the oven on.

We use a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker. It’s not inexpensive, but when the food emerges with so little trouble, moist and delicious, we’d be happy to pay double. Almost.

Check out our article on pressure cooking.


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FOOD FUN: Fork, Knife & Spoon Cookies With Crème Caramel

At the Chocolate Lab restaurant in San Francisco, crème caramel is served with a surprise: streusel crumbs and cookie utensils. Make it yourself!

If you don’t want to go into baking overdrive, you can surprise your guests with just a spoon or a fork. You can buy the cookie cutters online:

  • Spoon cookie cutter
  • Fork cookie cutter
  • Knife cookie cutter
    You can make the cookies to serve with anything, from ice cream to oversize cups of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. The cookies are five inches long.


  • 1 cup turbinado sugar (you can use regular sugar, but turbinado sugar heightens the flavor of the caramel)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Optional streusel topping recipe
  • 8 six-ounce ramekins

    Photo courtesy Chocolate Lab | San Francisco.


    1. PREHEAT oven to 325°F with a rack in the middle. Place ramekins in a roasting pan and set aside.

    2. COMBINE the turbinado sugar in a stainless steel sauce pan with the water. Swirl pan to blend; heat over medium until a clear syrup forms. When the sugar is completely dissolved, raise the heat until the caramel darkens slightly to an amber color. Remove from the heat and immediately divide the caramel evenly among the ramekins. Spoon carefully so that the caramel is on the bottom of the ramekins and not on the sides. Set aside.

    3. WHISK the eggs, granulated sugar and salt in a bowl. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, bring the milk to a gentle simmer. Add the vanilla and pour it slowly over the egg-sugar mixture, whisking to blend. Distribute the custard evenly among ramekins.

    4. ADD at least 1-1/2 inches of water to the bottom of the roasting pan (this creates a water bath or bain-marie). Place the roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until they are firm in the center, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes and refrigerate until ready to serve.

    5. RUN run a knife around the top edge of each ramekin and turn the ramekin upside down on a plate. When you unmold, the caramel at the bottom of the ramekin becomes the sauce on top of the custard, running down the sides and pooling on the plate.

    NOTE: The pastry chef at the Chocolate Lab did not use ramekins with the caramel at the bottom. Instead, as you can see in the photo above, the crème caramel was baked in bowls with the caramel on top, and was served in the bowl in which it was baked. You can do the same.


    Flan is the Spanish name for crème caramel, the lightest of the classic French custards. Caramel syrup is poured into the mold or ramekin before adding the custard base. After the custard is baked, it is unmolded, leaving the caramel sauce on top and pooling around it. In caramel custard, caramelized sugar is mixed into the custard prior to baking.

    See all the types of custard in our Custard Glossary.


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