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Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food

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Are you the innovative type, the cook who marches to a different drummer — used to expressing your creativity instead of just following recipes? Are you interested in the science behind what happens to food while it’s cooking? Do you want to learn what makes a recipe work so you can improvise and create your own unique dish?

More than just a cookbook, Cooking for Geeks applies your curiosity to discovery, inspiration, and invention in the kitchen. Why is medium-rare steak so popular? Why do we bake some things at 350 F/175 C and others at 375 F/190 C? And how quickly does a pizza cook if we overclock an oven to 1,000 F/540 C? Author and cooking geek Jeff Potter provides the answers and offers a unique take on recipes — from the sweet (a “mean” chocolate chip cookie) to the savory (duck confit sugo).

This book is an excellent and intriguing resource for anyone who wants to experiment with cooking, even if you don’t consider yourself a geek.

Initialize your kitchen and calibrate your tools Learn about the important reactions in cooking, such as protein denaturation, Maillard reactions, and caramelization, and how they impact the foods we cook Play with your food using hydrocolloids and sous vide cooking Gain firsthand insights from interviews with researchers, food scientists, knife experts, chefs, writers, and more, including author Harold McGee, TV personality Adam Savage, chemist Hervé This, and xkcd

From Cooking for Geeks: Butternut Squash Soup

Purée in a food processor or with an immersion blender:
2 cups (660g) butternut squash, peeled, cubed, and roasted (about 1 medium squash)
2 cups (470g) chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock
1 small (130g) yellow onion, diced and sautéed
1/2 teaspoon (1g) salt (adjust to taste)

Notes The weights are for the prepared ingredients and only rough suggestions. So, prepare each item individually. For example, for the squash, peel it, then coat it with olive oil, sprinkle it with salt, and roast it in the oven at a temperature around 400–425 F / 200–220 C until it begins to brown. When you go to purée the ingredients, hold back some of the squash and some of the stock, taste the purée, and see which you think it needs. Want it thicker? Add more squash. Thinner? Add more stock. This soup by itself is very basic. Garnish with whatever else you have on hand that you think might go well, such as garlic croutons and bacon. Or top with a small dab of cream, some toasted walnuts, and dried cranberries to give it a feeling of Thanksgiving. How about a teaspoon of maple syrup, a few thin slices of beef, and some fresh oregano? Chives, sour cream, and cheddar cheese? Why not! Instead of purchasing items to follow a recipe exactly, try using leftover ingredients from other meals to complement the squash soup. If you’re in a rush, you can “jump-start” the squash by microwaving it first. Peel and quarter the squash, using a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Then, cube it into 1–2” / 3–5 cm pieces, drop it into a glass baking pan that’s both oven and microwave safe, and nuke it for four to five minutes to partially heat the mass. Remove from microwave, coat the squash with olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt, and roast it in a preheated oven until done, about 20 to 30 minutes. If you’re not in a rush, you can skip the peeling step entirely: cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, add oil and salt, roast it for about an hour (until the flesh is soft), and use a spoon to scoop it out.

Pumpkin Cake

There are two broad types of cake batters: high- ratio cakes–those that have more sugar and water than flour (or by some definitions, just a lot of sugar)–and low-ratio cakes—which tend to have coarser crumbs. For high-ratio cakes, there should be more sugar than flour (by weight) and more eggs than fats (again, by weight), and the liquid mass (eggs, milk, water) should be heavier than the sugar.

Consider this pumpkin cake, which is a high-ratio cake (245g of pumpkin contains 220g of water–you can look these sorts of things up in the USDA National Nutrient Database, available online at http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/).

In a mixing bowl, measure out and then mix with an electric mixer to thoroughly combine:
1 cup (245g) pumpkin (canned, or roast and puree your own)
1 cup (200g) sugar
3/4 cup (160g) canola oil
2 large (120g) eggs
1 1/2 cups (180g) flour
1/4 cup (40g) raisins
2 teaspoons (5g) cinnamon
1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (5g) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
1/2 teaspoon (2g) vanilla extract

Transfer to a greased cake pan or spring form and bake in an oven preheated to 350 F / 175 C until a toothpick comes out dry, about 20 minutes.

Notes Try adding dried pears soaked in brandy. You can also hold back some of the raisins and sprinkle them on top. One nice thing about high-ratio cakes is that they don’t have much gluten, so they won’t turn out like bread, even with excessive beating. With a total weight of 920 grams, of which only roughly 20 grams is gluten, there just isn’t enough gluten present in this cake to give it a bread-like texture. There’s also a fair amount of both sugar and fats to interfere with gluten development.


Hamilton Beach Digital Steamer

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Hamilton Beach Digital Steamer. Satisfying many different tastes at dinnertime is easy with this versatile Food Steamer. It has two separate steaming tiers with a removable divider to fit (almost) anything.

Product Features

  • Designed for more cooking options
  • Two tiers with removable divider – use the divider to separate the tiers or remove it for large foods
  • Switches to warm when food is ready
  • Fits corn on the cob or a head of broccoli
  • Steams delicate fish, lobster and fish


Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler

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Cuisinart

Compact in size but big in features, Cuisinart’s countertop Griddler offers five-in-one functionality as a contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, and half grill/half griddle. The stylish brushed stainless-steel housing looks sleek and modern in the kitchen and features a wide panini-style handle and a hinged floating cover that adjusts to various food thicknesses. On the base, two temperature controls and a function selector are clearly marked and have indicator lights for quick reference and accurate, no-guesswork operation. Open the cover and customize the cooking surface with removable and reversible nonstick grill and griddle plates that snap in and out easily and drain grease to an integrated drip tray for healthier cooking. The Griddler also comes with gourmet recipes and a cleaning scraper tool. The cooking plates, drip tray, and scraper all go safely into the dishwasher. Limited three-year warranty.

The Cuisinart Griddler is actually five appliances in one. A hinged, floating cover and one set of removable and reversible cooking plates turn the Griddler into a contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, or half grill/half griddle. Dual temperature controls and indicator lights make this product easy to use. Dishwasher-safe plates, integrated drip tray and a cleaning/scraping tool make cleanup fast and easy.

Parts & Features

Base and Cover: Solid construction with stainless steel self-adjusting cover Panini-Style Handle: Sturdy cast-metal handle adjusts cover to accommodate thickness of food Removable and Reversible Cooking Plates: Nonstick and dishwasher safe for easy cleanup Grill Side: Perfect for grilling steak, burgers, chicken, and vegetables Griddle Side: Prepare flawless pancakes, eggs, bacon, and seared scallops Controls: Indicator lights signal Power On and Ready to Cook Selector: Choose the Grill/Panini or Griddle function Grill/Panini: Adjust temperature from “warm” to “sear” Griddle: Adjust temperature form 200°F to 425°F Drip Tray: Collects grease and removes from base for easy cleanup (dishwasher safe) Cleaning/Scraping Tool: Helps clean grill and griddle plates after cooking Plate Release Buttons: Push in to release and remove cooking plates Hinge Release Lever: Allows the cover to extend back for cooking in the flat position

Cleaning and Care

Once you have finished cooking, turn the selector dial control to the Off position and unplug the power cord from the wall outlet. Allow the unit to cool down for least 30 minutes before handling. Use the cleaning/scraping tool to remove any leftover food from the cooking plate. The scraping tool can be washed by hand or in the dishwasher. Dispose of grease from the drip tray once cooled. The drip tray can be cleaned by hand or in the dishwasher. Press the plate release buttons to remove plates from the housing. Be sure that the plates have cooled completely before handling (at least 30 minutes). The cooking plates can be washed in the dishwasher. The housing base, cover and control knobs can be wiped clean with a soft, dry cloth. For tough stains, dampen cloth.

The Griddler’s Many Uses

Cuisinart Cuisinart

Contact Grill
Use the Griddler as a contact grill to cook burgers, boneless pieces of meat and thin cuts of meat and vegetables. The contact grill function works best when you want to cook something in a short amount of time or when you are looking for a healthy method of grilling. When cooked on the contact grill, food will cook quickly because you are grilling both sides of the food at the same time. The ribs on the grill side of the plates, combined with the grease spout at the rear of the plate, allow the grease to drip from the meat and drain off the plates. When the Griddler is used as a contact grill, the grill side of plates is recommended. Rest the cover evenly on top of the food until it has reached the desired cooked temperature. The Griddler was designed with a unique handle and hinge that allow the cover to adjust to the thickness of the food. You can easily grill anything from a thinly sliced potato to a thick sirloin steak with even results. When cooking more than one food item in the contact grill, it is important that the thickness of food items is consistent so the cover will close evenly on the food.

Panini Press
Use the Griddler as a panini press to grill sandwiches, breads, and quesadillas. The sandwich is pressed between two grill or griddle plates to toast the bread and warm the sandwich. We recommend using fresh-baked bread to produce the best tasting panini. When the Griddler is used as a panini press, the grill side of the plates is recommended. We recommend the grill side of the plates because traditional style panini sandwiches have grill marks on the bread. However, depending upon the type of sandwich you are preparing, you may wish to use the griddle side of the plates or any combination of the two. The Griddler functions as a panini press in the same manner that it functions as a contact grill. The Griddler was designed with a unique handle and hinge that allow the cover to adjust to the thickness of the sandwich you are preparing, and to rest there evenly. Light pressure can be applied to the handle to press and heat the sandwich to your liking.

Full Grill
Use the Griddler as a full grill to cook burgers, steak, poultry (we do not recommend cooking bone-in chicken, since it does not cook evenly on a full grill), fish, and vegetables. Full grill refers to using the Griddler with the cover lying flat, creating a double, flat cooking surface. In this position, the foods you are grilling will have to be turned over for cooking. When the Griddler is used as a full grill, the grill side of the plates should be used. Cooking on the full grill is the most versatile method of using the Griddler. With the full grill, you have double the surface area (200 square inches) for grilling. You have the option of cooking different types of foods on separate plates without combining their flavors, or cooking large amounts of the same type of food. The full grill also accommodates different cuts of meats with varying thickness, allowing you to cook each piece to your liking.

Cuisinart

Full Griddle
Use the Griddle as a full griddle to cook pancakes, eggs, French toast, hash browns, and breakfast meats. When you use the Griddler as a full griddle, open the cover so it lies flat, creating a double, flat cooking surface. In this position, the foods you are preparing will have to be turned over for cooking. When using this cooking function, the griddle side of the plates should be used. Cooking on the full griddle is a wonderful way to prepare breakfast for two or for a large family. The large surface area allows you to cook a variety of different foods at the same time, or large amounts of your favorite food.

Half Grill/Half Griddle
Use the Griddler as a half grill/half griddle in order to create full meals like bacon and eggs or steak and potatoes at the same time. When using the Griddler as a half grill/half griddle, simply place the unit in the flat position and insert one plate with the grill side facing up and another plate with the griddle side facing up. This cooking option allows you to use either the grill/panini temperature or the griddle temperature selector.

To Insert Cooking Plates

Adjust the Griddler to the flat position with the controls directly in front of you. Insert one plate at a time. Each plate is designed to fit in either the upper housing or the lower housing of the Griddler. If you are facing the Griddler, the drip spout should be at the rear of the plate. Locate the metal brackets at the center of the housing. Tilt the back end of the plate and line up the cutouts at the back of the plate with metal brackets. Slide the plate underneath the brackets and push down the front end of the plate. It will snap into place. Turn the Griddler around and insert the second plate on either its grill or griddle side into the upper housing as you did with the first plate.

Bringing the Good Life Home

Cuisinart products are designed to make life delicious all day long. Specialty items, like the Griddler, offer today’s consumers a variety of menu options, and fun and easy new ways to entertain family and friends.

Cuisinart first came into home kitchens over 30 years ago when it introduced the now legendary food processor. People discovered that routines could be broken and creative cooking quickly became part of the new lifestyle. Preparing fresh ingredients with products that offered easy and interesting new techniques meant healthier meals and more free time.

Today Cuisinart develops products to make every meal memorable. From breakfast toast and coffee to elegant five- course dinners, the preparation and cooking have become a pleasurable part of the total experience. Today’s relaxed lifestyles and the convenience of Cuisinart products make it easier than ever to Savor the Good Life, right at home with family and friends.

Product Features

  • 5-in-1countertop unit works as a contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, and half grill/half griddle
  • Brushed stainless-steel housing; sturdy panini-style handle; floating cover to adjust to thickness of food
  • Removable and reversible nonstick cooking plates drain grease for healthy cooking; integrated drip tray
  • Adjustable temperature controls with indicator lights; gourmet recipes and scraping tool included
  • Product Built to North American Electrical Standards


Nostalgia Electrics HDT600RETRORED Retro Series Pop-Up Hot Dog Toaster

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The Nostalgia Electrics Hot Dog Toaster is a fast, fun and convenient way to enjoy hot dogs. This unit holds up to two regular-sized hot dogs and two hot dog buns at one time. A fun way for guests of all ages to enjoy delicious hot dogs, the Nostalgia Electrics Hot Dog Toaster is perfect for entertaining, as well as a quick meal solution. Now cooking hot dogs is as simple as making toast!

Product Features

  • Adjustable heat controls
  • Removable hot dog basket
  • Removable drip tray makes clean-up easy
  • Mini tongs included
  • Product Built to North American Electrical Standards
  • Cord wrap for easy storage


Hamilton Beach 6 Speed Classic Stand Mixer 64650

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The Hamilton Beach 6-Speed Classic Stand Mixer lets you determine the best tool for the job. Kneading a batch of sticky dough? Let the mixer do the work. Blending a quick dressing? Remove the hand mixer from the base to achieve the fast results you want. That sort of versatility is what this interchangeable hand/stand mixer can offer your kitchen. Attachments including traditional beaters, whisk and dough hooks make tackling any mixing job easy. Other features include 6 speeds and a QuickBurst button and Bowl Rest mixer stabilizer and a classic brushed stainless steel bowl.

Powerful Hamilton Beach® Hand Mixers focus on versatility and ergonomics. You’ll see evidence of Good Thinking┢ throughout their thoughtful design. Most hand mixers have convenient snap-on storage cases, which keep attachments (and sometimes cords) together so you don’t have to search for them each time. A variety of attachments are available with different hand mixers, from traditional beaters to wire beaters, whisks and milkshake attachments.

Hamilton Beach® Hand Mixer handles are designed for control and comfort, and the unique Bowl Rest┢ feature allows the mixer to sit on the edge of the bowl to eliminate messy drips. A special QuickBurst┢ button provides a quick boost of power and can be used for tough tasks at any speed.

Product Features

  • 4 qt. stainless steel bowl
  • 6 speeds & QuickBurst button
  • Bowl RestTM mixer stabilizer
  • Doubles as a hand mixer
  • 290-Watts peak power makes mixing easy
  • Shift & Stir bowl
  • Versatile attachment set includes traditional beaters, whisk and dough hooks
  • Brushed stainless steel


Hamilton Beach 25475A Breakfast Sandwich Maker

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Forget the fast food drive-through. With the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker, you can enjoy a hot, homemade breakfast sandwich in under 5 minutes. Simply place the ingredients inside, build the base of your sandwich in the bottom layer, place the egg on the cooking plate and close the lid. Slide the cooking plate out and your sandwich assembles itself. Open the lid and your hot breakfast sandwich is ready to eat. The included recipe book provides a variety of breakfast sandwich options, from the traditional egg, ham and cheese to the unique cheddar, apple, bacon and egg croissant sandwich.

Product Features

  • Ready in 5 minutes, cook delicious breakfast sandwiches in the comfort of your own home
  • Use your own fresh ingredients, including eggs, cheese and much more
  • Make sandwiches with English muffins, biscuits, small bagels and more
  • All removable parts are dishwasher safe; surfaces are covered with durable, nonstick coating
  • Quick and easy recipes included