Go-To Gadgets

favfinds1Written by Wini Moranville

Handleless Rolling Pin
After a particularly arduous pie-baking blitz, cooking instructor Deb Cazavilan, owner of Wooden Spoons Workshops and Cooking Classes in Ankeny, once spotted a handleless rolling pin at a woodcrafter’s booth at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market. With tired, sore hands, she reached for it. “When I gripped it, it felt like putting the perfect shoes on achy feet and having the pain just disappear,” she recalls.

Cazavilan has since commissioned the woodcrafter, Dennis Eastman of Grandma’s Spoons and Grandpa’s Stuff in Packwood, to make dowel-style rolling pins to her exact specifications. In addition to offering better comfort and more control of the dough, the handleless pins are also more sanitary, she says. (“Ever see what collects in the nooks and crannies of those handles?” she asks.)

I have been a fan of these pins since I bought one at one of her pie-baking workshops. Find them for $20 at Wooden Spoons Workshops and Cooking Classes (303 S.W. School St.; Ankeny; 577.9937).

favfinds2Cuisinart Five-Speed Hand Mixer
Sure, I love my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer (what home cook doesn’t?), but truth be told, this mini-but-mighty hand mixer gets much more play in my kitchen, especially for smaller tasks. It weighs just 3.5 pounds, but with its 220 watts, the little guy can tackle cookie dough as deftly as it aerates whipped cream. The designers have thought of everything: The cord swivels to stay out of your way and accommodate left-handed users, and the grip feels just right, even after a few minutes of whipping. And groove to the colors: Why settle for ’80s-style black or white, when you can get it in tasteful hues like Watermelon Sorbet, Key Lime Pie and Chocolate Cherry? Available at national retailers (suggested retail price: $49.95); find the best selection of colors at Amazon.com.

favfinds3High-Carbon Stainless Steel Fish Spatula
Bracket the word “fish”—you’ll use this for everything from lifting delicate cookies off baking sheets to gliding under that fried egg for the perfect flip. The ultra-thin, slightly sharp beveled edge lets you smoothly slip the spatula beneath the food, and those long, narrow slots work two ways: They allow fats and oils to drip away while distributing the tension of the load, preventing even the most delicate food (like fish) from breaking apart. Pictured: The Lamson-Sharp Turner from Williams-Sonoma at Jordan Creek Town Center ($25.95).

Many recipes for cookies, pastries and pizza crusts call for the dough to be rolled to an exact thickness. No surprise, then, that many home cooks guestimate that thickness—sometimes with not-so-great results.

To add exactitude and ease to the task, Greg Luna, a Des Moines freelance food stylist whose job it is to make baked goods look perfect in magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens, developed Do-Stix (pronounced dough sticks). You simply place the dough between two appropriate-sized Do-Stix, making sure both ends of your rolling pin are in contact with the sticks. Then, get rolling; your dough will be the right thickness when it’s level with the top of the stix. Available on Luna’s website, dostixonline.com, each set costs $18 and contains six sticks—two each of 1/8-inch, 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch thickness.

favfind5OXO Instant-Read Meat Dial Thermometer
If you’re still cutting into burgers, steaks and chicken to see if they’re done, well, stop it! A meat’s color is no assurance that it has reached proper temperatures for food safety (a pork chop, for instance, can be pink, juicy, wonderful and safe to eat, as long as it has reached 145°F and allowed to rest three minutes).

Besides, why do you want to mangle that lovely cut of meat by slicing into it? Get a meat thermometer, for heaven’s sake. And once you do, you’ll be surprised at how often you use it, for everything from gauging the water temperature when activating yeast to figuring out if you need to put more chill on that ’89 bottle of Chateau Palmer you’ve opened. At the very least, you can stop sticking your finger into microwaved leftovers to see if they’re warm (165°F will do the trick).

I like dial-read over digital thermometers (who wants to bother replacing batteries?). OXO’s easy-to-read dial thermometer offers an easy-to-grip silicone ring and comes with a storage sleeve that shows proper temperatures for cooked meats. Available at Williams-Sonoma.com ($12).

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