When holidays are coming, how to resist to cakes and chocolates? Preparing homemade desserts can be a good solution to combine gluttony and health, carefully choosing ingredients and getting help by technology
by Elena Corti
Christmas is time of celebration in which to cuddle the palate with special delicacies. At this time of the year desserts become the protagonists of the table, beautiful to see and greedy to taste. So why not have fun with your loved ones preparing some homemade delicacy? If you are a novice cook and your previous experiences have been ended with burnt cakes and hard biscuits like stones, don’t give up. With the right tools you can really wish a sweet Christmas to friends and relatives, because if it is true that machines cannot replace human creativity, it is also true that they can help in the phases in which precision is essential to obtain good results.
Work the ingredients in an easy way
Planetary mixers, food processors and kitchen machines are excellent allies for working ingredients without too much effort and with precision thanks to the numerous accessories supplied. These appliances are designed to be simple to use, safe, easy to clean and compact. With the mixers, it is possible to easily whip, knead and mix: thanks to the planetary movement, doughs are homogeneous and thanks to whips and hooks, the different types of ingredients can be processed to their best (whether they be hard or soft or to obtain perfectly whipped egg whites). There are also models that use a special leavening lid (ensuring the optimal humidity level to make the dough rise) and bowls with different capacities to use more or less large quantities of ingredients.
Regarding food processors, their strength is the vast number of accessories that allow different operations to be performed using just one appliance. Any examples? You can whip the cream with the emulsifying disc, use the blade to knead, cut the apples for the cake with the disc to slice and crumble the hazelnuts with the chopping blade. You will find that the advantage of using these devices is not only the quality of the result but also the time savings you will get.
Among the latest innovations in the field of small appliances, there are kitchen machines that stand out for their versatility and their innovation level.
Some of these products have an integrated scale, so all the ingredients can be weighed directly in the bowl; moreover, these machines are equipped with advanced technologies which, for example, allow, through simple and immediate commands, to reach the perfect consistency for creams, egg whites or doughs. They are equipped with numerous accessories and it is also possible to add some optional ones with respect to the basic equipment. And if instead of the ultra-modern kitchen machines you simply need a small reliable and fast appliance that allows you to whip and beat easily, you can choose an electric mixer, equipped with different speeds and whips to make the work faster and more accurate.
The good smell of cake that spreads in the kitchen also depends on the oven, because the cooking phase is very important for the success of a dessert. The technological innovations in this area are many and today the most advanced devices guide us through pre-set recipes and automatic programs to help us not make mistakes programming times, temperatures and cooking methods. Using the electronic displays that allow to select commands quickly and intuitively, multifunction ovens can be managed in a practical, precise and fast manner: among the latest innovations useful for the preparation of desserts, there are the function for leavening dough, the rapid preheating function and the aluminum tray inspired by that used by pastry chefs. Moreover, some models of ovens are equipped with a connected video camera with which it is possible to verify the cooking without having to be close to the appliance.
Who then has little time and little space today can also count on the microwave oven to prepare different types of desserts. If until a few years ago it was unthinkable, now it is no longer so because these products have evolved a great deal by offering automatic programs and different cooking modes, even combined. Finally, on the front of small appliances you can find other effective tools to experiment for teasing the palate: from the plate to make waffles, to the appliance for crêpes, up to the device to prepare the chocolate fondue.
Chef tools also at home
Among the latest generation appliances, the steam oven combined with ventilated cooking and the blast chiller bring professional cooking techniques and tools to our homes too. The controlled combination of humidity and hot air allows desserts to reach an optimal leavening, avoiding that the inside part dries and the outside one burns. These combined ovens generally have special programs to manage the right amount of humidity that is introduced into the cavity of the appliance. The blast chiller, on the other hand, can be considered the “cold oven”. It allows, for example, to quickly cool creams and cakes so there is no need to wait for natural cooling before proceeding with fillings or glazing. And models with specific programs for desserts and ice creams are already available. Some blast chillers, then, are multi-function and also have the leaven option.
|Did you know that...
... with the bread machine and the pasta machine you can also prepare desserts. In addition to numerous types of bread, thanks to automatic programs, the bread maker can also be used to make homemade cakes and jams. Some models even have special programs for gluten-free desserts. In addition, there are devices for making pasta at home that, with special tools, allow to prepare smooth and striped biscuits.
|Chef Knam's tips
An internationally renowned pastry chef and well-known face of TV, Ernst Knam manages to transmit his passion for pastry even to non-professionals through television programs such as "Il Re del Cioccolato" (“The Chocolate King”) and "Bake Off Italia", which made him known to the great public. Born in German and Milanese by adoption, Knam has received important awards for his creations, which stand out for refinement and unusual combinations. His recipes follow the seasonality of food and his interpretations of chocolate, spices and fruit make his desserts unmistakable. So, who is best than him to offer precious tips to those who wish try the art of pastry at home? Here are some ideas for experimenting your own cooking skills.
Chef Knam, in your opinion what tools can't be missed in a domestic kitchen to make dessert preparation easier?
Surely the classic whips, the sac à poche to also be able to finish everything to the best and a balance for the quantities. Then there are household appliances that in recent years have greatly improved their functionality to help and simplify the preparation of desserts, even at home. An example of this is the blast chiller, which can now be bought and inserted even in private kitchens: for those who like to prepare desserts, it is certainly a precious help.
In making a cake, is precision as important as creativity?
Of course, in the pastry art it is important to be very precise, especially in the dosage of ingredients. Even creativity is indispensable, but if you choose to experiment with new and unusual ingredients and these are not calibrated with due care, the dessert can never come out well.
What advice can you give to those who want to experiment with the preparation of desserts but are not very expert in cooking? Nowadays technology can help even the less experts to cook a good dessert with their own hands?
The secret is always the same: lots of practice. Household appliances can certainly help, simplify, in some cases perfect, but those who take their first steps in this field, must start by doing a lot of practice, pastry is a job that requires good manual skills. This is why it is important to learn how to use tools such as sac à poche, spatulas, whips and so on.
Any tasty suggestions to make Christmas parties even sweeter, both for those who love tradition and for those who want to experience something new?
Panettone is an Italian must of the Christmas tradition, both in the classic version and with some variations. For example, every year I develop a new version, the Knamettone, always with different and special ingredients. This year it is with Senorita cocoa, a particular type of cocoa that I had the opportunity to taste and experience during my trip to Peru, a Bronte pistachio crust with candied orange. For those who want to "dare" something more, I recommend instead chocolate and spices: there are many and different, both in taste, and in consistencies and methods of use. I use them a lot both for chocolates, chocolate bars, for cakes and other creations.