Most of us have a “wish list” for Santa. What’s on yours? Diamonds, furs, an exotic trip? Or, something less expensive that will make your gluten-free life easier?
You can always ask Santa to deliver big-ticket kitchen items such as a heavy-duty KitchenAid stand mixer…or a Zojirushi bread machine…or a super-powerful KitchenAid food processor…or a costly, but very powerful VitaMix blender––––they’re all terrific time savers in the gluten-free kitchen. A bit expensive, yet they last a very long time and are a good investment in preparing your own food!
But what I have in mind this holiday season are small kitchen items that make your job easier and fit nicely into a Christmas stocking.
Ice Cream Scoop: Spring-action, metal ice cream scoops aren’t just for ice cream. They come in a multitude of sizes, so you may want to have several on hand ranging from 1 ½-inches to 2 1/4-inches in diameter.
Use them to “scoop” uniform-shaped balls of cookie dough. Or, drop mounds of muffin batter into muffin tins so your muffins are all the same size (see photo). Or use ice cream scoops to make uniform-sized balls for cream puffs that bake at the same speed because they are the same size.
Ice cream scoops are particularly good for gluten-free dough, which tends to be sticky. Plus, your hands stay clean because they don’t have to touch the dough. Dip the scoop in very hot water between “scoops” so the batter dislodges easily.
Parchment Paper: Once labeled an “unnecessary luxury” in my kitchen, I now think it is indispensable––especially since gluten-free baked goods have a tendency to stick. This silicone-lined paper prevents baked goods from sticking, thus eliminating the need to oil or grease the baking sheet––which means fewer calories. Each sheet can be used more than once (depending on what you use it for) so it really isn’t that expensive. Or, try a Silpat liner―a silicone mat that can be used over and over, washing it between each use.
Microplane: Luckily for us, this handy utensil found its way from the woodworker’s bench––where it’s known as a rasp––to the kitchen. It does a fantastic job of grating cheese or fresh ginger. But I especially like it for grating lemons or limes because it captures only the fragrant peel, leaving behind the white, bitter part of the skin.
Microplanes come in many different shapes, but I prefer the kind with a large, rounded handle so I can get a firm grasp. If it gets too clogged with grated food, just use an old toothbrush to dislodge the stubborn food before putting it in the dishwasher. (I keep an old toothbrush in my dishwasher for such tasks.)
Measuring Cups: It’s important to have a standardized set of measuring cups; one set for dry ingredients such as flour or sugar and another set for liquid ingredients such as milk or water, because correct measurements are critical in gluten-free baking. Choose yours from a reputable, well-known manufacturer for standardization.
How do you know the difference between liquid and dry measuring cups? Dry measuring cups usually have flat tops, no spouts, and nest together. Liquid measuring cups are usually see-through, have pouring spouts, and don’t nest together. Don’t use liquid measure cups for dry ingredients. You can get up to 20% more flour this way, which might not make a huge difference in some recipes, but can spell disaster in others. See How to Measure Flour for tips on accurate measuring.
Many of our gluten-free recipes call for amounts not included in the typical measuring cup set. So, look for cups that measure 2 cups, 1 1/2 cups, 3/4 cup, and 2/3 cup. They’ll save you loads of time.
Plastic, Flexible Ruler: Use it to measure dimensions or height of dough (for example, when the recipe says to roll out pie dough to a 10-inch circle or cookie dough to a height of 1/4-inch).
The food that is likely to accumulate on it can easily be washed off with a damp cloth. Keep it in your kitchen utensil drawer (not an office drawer) where it’s stays clean and is readily available.
Spread the Cheer
All of these items can be found either at kitchen stores or specialty catalogs online. If you already have these items, then you know how handy they can be. Why not share these secrets with your gluten-free friends!