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Donna Currie

Donna Currie

Gadget Baker and Bread Tweaker

I like to cook. I think I actually like to cook more than I like to eat.

Donna Currie likes wacky kitchen gadgets almost as much as she loves baking bread. You can find her on her blog, Cookistry. Her first book, Make Ahead Bread, is available on Amazon.

  • Website
  • Location: Colorado
  • Favorite foods: It's easier to list what I don't like. Raisins! Ptooey! Coconut: just say no! Nori: no way.
  • Last bite on earth: That depends on when the space ship is due to leave.

12 Things You Can Do with Silicone Muffin Cups (Besides Bake Muffins)

I love thinking outside the box—or bowl, or spoon, or whatever—when it comes to kitchen gadgets and tools. Many common gadgets have uses beyond what they're sold for, and it makes them so much more valuable than those one-trick gadgets that you seldom use. Silicone muffin cups are a prime example. Sure, we know they can be used for baking muffins and cupcakes. But what else could they be used for? More

Gadgets: Put Training Wheels on Your Rolling Pin

Have you ever run into a recipe that required you to roll dough to a specific thickness? Do you actually measure, or do you eyeball it and hope for the best? Sure, with a lot of practice, you can probably gauge a 1/4 inch thickness, or at least get pretty darn close. Or you can do the sensible thing and cheat; put training wheels on your rolling pin, if you will. More

Gadgets: A Pair of Tools for Pepper Prep

Is there any fruit or vegetable that doesn't have its own special tool? (In case you were wondering, that's a rhetorical question.) And peppers have the Progressive Pepper Corer Duo ($9.69), which is actually a set of two tools, paired to core and seed peppers of all shapes and sizes. The larger corer works on bell peppers and the like, while the smaller handles jalapeños, serranos, and other diminutive varieties. More

Gadgets: Get Your Garnish on With the Mastrad Spiral Veggie Slicer

If you're itching to make fancy zucchini fettuccine, but you don't want to commit to a spiral slicing machine, the Mastrad Spiral Veggie Slicer ($14.99) may just be your new best friend. Yes, okay, I'm sure Chef Morimoto could carve zucchini into ribbons with a chef's knife, but normal mortals probably need some sort of a tool. The advantage of this one over a spiral-cutting machine is that it's small and simple, and the pieces nest together for more compact storage. More

Gadgets: Give Your Canning Jars New Purpose With the Sip & Straw

Is there anything worse than reaching for that frosty glass of lemonade on a warm day, only to find a recently-airborne critter doing the backstroke in your drink? Well, yeah, I can tell you what's worse. Taking a gulp, then realizing there was a swimmer in the pool. A sports bottle or an insulated travel mug with a lid solves the problem when it's just you in the back yard, but when you're hosting a barbecue, maybe you'd like something a little more festive for the mojitos and margaritas. Enter the Sip & Straw More

Gadgets: Mastrad Minute Cooker

The minute cooker is simple. A somewhat square (wider at the corners, gently curved in the center), somewhat flat bowl nestles in a silicone base with a silicone lid. We gave it a run for its money to see if it would steam our food as efficiently as promised. More

Gadgets: Swissmar Cheese Holder

The Swissmar cheese holder's three short prongs poke into a hunk of cheese to grip it without stabbing so deeply that the cheese begins to crack or tear, allowing you to slice the cheese without using your hands to hold it. Meanwhile, the knob is big enough to hang onto easily. More

Gadgets: Use a BNTO to Pack Your Lunch in a Canning Jar

@Grinnellian, they sell these in both regular and wide mouth. Here's the regular in blue: http://cuppow.com/collections/cuppow-jar-drinking-lids/products/original-cuppow-regular-blue

Gadgets: Breville's Smart Waffle Maker Produces Perfectly Browned Waffles

Just FYI, you're only going to see positive reviews, because if I don't like something, it doesn't get written about. There are enough good products in the marketplace that there's no point in wasting space writing about junk.

However, I'll always point out negative as well as the positive points, because it's pretty rare that something will be 100% perfect. In this case, the price is the negative. But for some people, it's spare change. If you can afford it, this is a kick-butt waffle maker. Hands down, the best I've owned.

As far as recovery time, I made one batch of waffles, took them out, and made a second batch immediately. I don't know if you could make waffles continuously for a buffet of 250 people, but if you're doing that, you might want to get a commercial unit.

Testing samples are provided by manufacturers because SE doesn't have a budget to buy all of this stuff. I don't necessarily get to keep the items, though. The more expensive ones sometimes go back to the manufacturer, and if something is really new in the market, those often go back as well, because the companies don't have enough of them for reviewers. So they get passed around to different people.

I don't base my reviews on whether I get to keep an item, or if I want to keep it. I try to judge how well a product does what it's supposed to do, whether that's a function I need or not.

As far as them sending "better" products, I find that the opposite is often true. Some of the review items I get have obviously been repackaged, or the labels are crooked or the boxes are damaged or the product itself has a dent or scratch. In other words, they're items that they probably would have to sell at a discount to consumers.

In a perfect world, Serious Eats would buy the products and send them to me with all the manufacturer's nametags obscured so I wouldn't be influenced by the brand name. And in a perfect world, I'd have a chance to review several other similar products at the same time.

But, it's not a perfect world. These are just my opinions of products I have access to, with comparisons to other similar products I might have used before. Needless to say, you don't have to agree with the assessment. Just like movie reviews, there are always going to be differences of opinion.

Gadgets: Mix, Rise, and Bake Bread in the Lekue Silicone Bread Maker

It should be fine for a really wet dough. You'd get more browning at higher temps, too. I baked that loaf in the photo at 350.

Gadgets: Get Your Garnish on With the Mastrad Spiral Veggie Slicer

It's literally like using a giant pencil sharpener, so you do need to be able to grip and twist.

Gadgets: Get Your Garnish on With the Mastrad Spiral Veggie Slicer

There's a link in the text, and you can find them on Amazon or other cooking sites. The Amazon seller uses a different name for the tool. Here's another source: http://www.cooking.com/spiral-veggie-slicer-by-mastrad_621155_11/

Gadgets: Get Wavy With the Kuhn Rikon Krinkle Knife

My understanding is that the detergent is the culprit. I can't imagine the heat would be an issue, since surgical tools go through an autoclave. Maybe Kenji has an answer.

Gadgets: Give Your Canning Jars New Purpose With the Sip & Straw

If you guys know of small, interesting companies with fun products, tell me about them. You can hunt me down on Facebook, Twitter, my blog, or email me at dbcurrie at gmail dot com. Or, if you know people at these companies, tell them to contact me.

Gadgets: Give Your Canning Jars New Purpose With the Sip & Straw

Thanks for the heads-up. I'd never heard of Cuppow. I'll look into them and see what else they've got. Anything specific you recommend?

Gadgets: Colorful, Disposable Paper Bakeware That Works Like a Charm

@CityMinx, I got a little bit of grease-spotting with the crumb cake, but I think that might have been spillover from the buttery crumbs, since it was at the top rather than at the bottom. No issues at all with the chocolate cake in the photo. Or with the other things I baked that I didn't photograph. I made some mini pineapple-upside-down cakes in the round pans, and there was no leakage or color change on the bottom.

The colors didn't dim at all - the photo above shows exactly what they looked like when I baked in them. Those aren't stunt doubles. ;-)

I totally get it that if you're giving a special gift to someone, you might want to include a metal or glass or silicone pan as part of the present. And if you're baking one or two items, you can bake and unmold and then wrap in plastic, no problem. But when I'm making baked goods in larger quantities (like around the holidays or for some event), these make a lot of sense. For one thing, a loaf cake in a pan like this is sturdier for transport than that same cake in no pan, wrapped in plastic wrap.

The $24 pack is for 40 assorted pans, so that's in the neighborhood of 50 cents each. If you buy individual sizes, some are cheaper per-piece and some are more expensive. I've seen the high-end no-fade cupcake liners for about that price, and the fancy paper cupcake wrappers retail for $8-12 for 12. So these are priced competitively with those products. And of course you can shop sales and get better prices, particularly after holidays or seasonal changes.

FYI, I don't think the comments are horrible. Questions are great. No product is going to be 100% right for everyone all the time.

Don't Like Deep Frying At Home? Try the Philips AirFryer, a Convection Oven on Steroids

I see that I didn't mention the potato capacity, although I did note 2 pounds of chicken wings.

My average batch of potatoes, when I was cooking fries, was 2 pounds.

Don't Like Deep Frying At Home? Try the Philips AirFryer, a Convection Oven on Steroids

Holy cow: http://q-n-c.com/

Quick n Crispy. The cheapest one, according to the website, is $3295.

Food Huggers Help Keep Cut Produce and Open Containers Fresh

They also have one for avocados, which I'm curious about.

@Beavis, I think that since the onion half wasn't peeled, that probably also made a difference, but I honestly forgot that onion was in there because I didn't smell it every time I opened the bin.

The smallest one in the photo - the yellow - is actually on a square-shaped glass. I don't think you'd get one to fit a sardine can, though.

In search of: Popcorn Popper

I've heard great things about the Whirlypop here and elsewhere. I think, though, that if I'm going to get it, I'd probably pop for the stainless steel model, since that one has metal gears. The Amazon reviews on the standard model have a lot of complaints about the plastic gears on the aluminum model. Apparently they used to be metal in years past, but now they aren't.

They also have a model that's designed for adding caramel or flavorings, which could be interesting.

@Adam, I've seen that concept of heating and cooling the kernels before, but if I'm remembering correctly, it wasn't as long as 5 minutes. Basically, just heat, then take off the heat, for maybe a minute - long enough to find the bowl and get the butter out - then put it back on the heat. That's on my agenda to test as well.

Popcorn is a daily occurrence here, so I've been trying different methods. I've just recently been using a cast iron wok. Last night, it was two batches. The first, I tried the method where you wait until one or two kernels pop before adding the rest of the popcorn. I had a few charred pieces, but not bad considering I didn't do any shaking or stirring. For the second batch, I tossed in the oil and added popcorn right after I unloaded the first batch. The wok was already really hot, and the popcorn started popping right away. No burned kernels since nothing was sitting at the bottom very long.

Downside to cast iron wok is that it takes quite a bit of time to heat up - much longer than a thin metal pan. But, if I wanted multiple batches, the wok would probably be a good way to go.

In search of: Popcorn Popper

@Adam, I had the same result with fresh popcorn. I wouldn't call it tough, as in chewy, but it was more crunchy and solid rather than light and fluffy and tender. It certainly didn't pop any bigger than the popcorn from the night before.

In search of: Popcorn Popper

I just made a batch in my wok with a pizza crisper pan on top (holes in the pan) and that was a tad too holey, so I put a spatter screen on top of that. The spatter screen alone wouldn't have worked well, but on top of the goofy pizza pan (why do I even own that???), it was fine.

It worked really well, letting steam escape and no pot shaking. I had 3 or 4 unpopped kernels from the batch. I'm going to try the heat and cool method next. I've seen that elsewhere, but this is the first time I've seen it suggested to let it heat and cool twice.

In search of: Popcorn Popper

@Les ah, this is giving me ideas. Thanks!

In search of: Popcorn Popper

@lemonfair, one of the reasons I'm looking for another method is that the shaking of the pot has worn the enamel off that particular burner grate and the bottom of the pot I use is showing a similar amount of wear. The metal-scraping-on-metal sound isn't all the pleasant.

The wok method sounds interesting, if I don't have to shake it. The only wok I have is cast iron, so I don't want to have to move that around. It doesn't have its own lid, but maybe one of my larger pot lids will work. I'll have to give that a try.

In search of: Popcorn Popper

I'm such a troublemaker ;-)

In search of: Popcorn Popper

@Maggie, I've considered the brown paper bags, but for the amount of popcorn that gets devoured, we'd have to make a couple of batches in the sandwich sized bags. I'd rather have a big bowl that I can microwave and then just chuck it into the dishwasher.

In search of: Popcorn Popper

@Rohnjoberson, the "somebody" who has the popcorn habit can use the extra calories from the added oil.

In search of: Popcorn Popper

The whirly-pop looks interesting, but that's one more pot I have to find room for. I'd buy it, though, if the popcorn was better or easier than using a regular pot on the stove.

Benefit of a microwave bowl-like device is that it might nest with other bowls for storage.

I considered figuring out some kind of MacGuyvered microwave-in-a-bowl thing, but none of my popcorn-sized bowls are microwave safe.

Why would salt not be included in yeasted & sweet bread recipes?

There's not that much salt in salted butter if you're using a tablespoon, but if you're making something that uses a vast amount of butter, like croissants, there is a difference.

That said, unless a recipe includes a whole bunch of salty ingredients, like parmesan cheese, olives, or whatever, then for sure I'm going to add salt. I use it in all my breads and in desserts. Even in ice cream. Not a ton of salt, but a little.

Vegan Mayonnaise Taste Test Produces Surprising Results

I have to say that I like the SE policy of positive reviews. Because bad reviews still give attention to a product. People who skim articles might say, well, I thought I saw it mentioned on SE, so it must be okay.

Sometimes it's fun to be snarky about a product (food or otherwise) but I would much rather call attention to things that aren't awful, dangerous, un-tasty, defective, or otherwise not fit to be purchased. There are other sites for that. I come here to see what's new, interesting, tasty or useful.

That said, not everyone has the same taste, so of course not every product is good for everyone. I'm not vegan and never really thought about buying a vegan mayonnaise, but after this review, I'm curious enough about this one to consider buying it if I see it somewhere.

Slice Your Cake and Stack It, Too, With the Zenker Cake Slicing Kit

@negoiants, it's a yellow cake with layers of soft caramel, almond filling, and almond-flavored buttercream.

Yogurt Knife Recomendations?

Well, it is a multi-tasker ... ;-)

Bread Baking: Caraway (Stone-Ground) Rye

There are a lot of different rye flours available, including light rye, medium rye, and pumpernickel flour. However, my local grocery chains tend to have one brand and one type, and that's stone-ground rye. It's a coarser, grittier rye than most of the others that I buy online, but it still makes a nice bread. If your local markets have other varieties of rye flour, use what's available or what you like best. More

Bread Baking: White Potato-Egg Sandwich Loaf

In this bread, instant mashed potatoes create a softer, fluffier texture. I almost always use them in dinner rolls for that reason. The instant potatoes I buy are little more than dehydrated cooked potatoes, with no strange preservatives, chemicals, or flavors. The resulting bread is a very pale yellow, and very soft and fluffy with just a hint of flavor from the egg. More

The Top 50 Talk Threads of 2009

In the Best Thread Overall nominations post some folks were asking about the top threads of 2009 in terms of most-favorited or most-trafficked. I'm going to list most-favorited first, since that's probably a truer reflection of popularity among SE'ers than... More