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May 4, 2022

May Recipe of the Month: Perfect Pizza

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Applewood fired oven pizza

A few months ago, Culinary Crafts had the privilege of co-hosting an event with renowned chef Wolfgang Puck and his amazing crew. For our May recipe of the month, we’re going to share one of the appetizers we served at that party, our perfect pizza. When we do pizza for big events, we make it in big applewood fired ovens, but when we bake it in our own ovens at home, this is the recipe we use.

The key to perfect pizza (besides using delicious, fresh ingredients) is the dough. If you prepare and bake the dough correctly, it’s going to taste delicious no matter which of your favorite toppings you put on top. Dough in hands For perfect pizza—with a light, chewy inside and crispy outside—you’ll want to prepare your dough the day before so it has time to proof overnight.

Dough Ingredients (makes enough for three 12-inch pizzas)

  • ¼ oz yeast (one packet)
  • ¼ oz sugar
  • 2 ⅔ cups water
  • ¼ oz salt
  • 1 pound of flour (half all-purpose flour and half bread flour)
  • ⅓ cup olive oil

Instructions

      1. In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Let them sit while you measure out the other ingredients.
      2. Add the salt, flour, and olive oil to your bowl. Mix slowly for 3 minutes. (If you’re using a KitchenAid, use the speed setting of 4.) Adjust the dough’s consistency as needed by adding a little more water or flour. Then increase the speed and mix for another 4-5 minutes.
      3. Dust your hands lightly with flour before you handle the dough. Divide your dough into three even portions. (Or, if you prefer to make two larger pizzas, simply divide the dough in half.)
      4. Roll the dough portions into round balls and place each of them into an airtight container. You can use regular bowls if you cover them with plastic wrap, pressing it down over the dough. Eliminating air will keep the dough from drying out.
      5. Place the dough in your fridge overnight.
      Pizza Preparation
      1. Approximately 15 minutes before you’re ready to work your dough, remove it from the fridge. Turn on your oven to 500 degrees or as high as it will go. Place a pizza stone or metal baking sheet into the oven to pre-heat. Use more than one stone/sheet if you’ll need more surface area to hold your pizzas.
      2. As your oven is heating, dust your hands with seminola, cornmeal, or regular flour. Dust a flat counter surface where you’ll work your dough. Also give each of your dough balls a light dusting.
      3. Work the dough balls using the technique shown in the first three minutes of this video.

      Pro Tip: When our chefs are making pizza at an event, they don’t always have a convenient surface to work on, so they stretch the dough in the air. The technique is similar except that you let the dough hang from your thumbs as you turn it, using gravity to help stretch it. Use whatever technique works for you, but don’t use a rolling pin—if you squash the dough flat, it will lose all that wonderful airiness that it gained by proofing overnight!

      1. When your oven is heated, remove the hot pizza stone/cooking sheet and give it a light dusting.

      Pro Tip: If you’re using a baking sheet, flip it over and use the bottom side to cook your pizza. That way, when the pizza is done, it will slide off the hot sheet easily.

      1. Place your stretched dough onto your stone or cooking sheet. Use a pizza docker or a fork to score the surface of the dough. Don’t make holes all the way through the dough; just lightly indent it to prevent large air pockets from forming when it cooks. Air pockets will cause bubbles that tend to burn.
      Margherita Pizza
      1. Top the pizza with your favorite ingredients. Be careful not to overdo the sauce! Too much sauce will prevent the pizza from cooking properly, and you’ll end up with a soggy underside. If you’re using fresh herbs like basil or spinach, we recommend leaving those off until the last few minutes of cooking. Otherwise they’ll overcook and wilt.

      Pro Tip: If you like lots of sauce, consider baking your perfect pizza “Detroit style” by placing your cheese and other ingredients directly onto the dough. Then you can add the sauce on top of the other ingredients so that it doesn’t touch the dough. Or you can even wait until the pizza has finished baking before topping it with all the sauce your heart desires!

      1. Place your pizzas in the oven and keep a close eye on them as they bake. You may have to rotate the pizzas after a few minutes to give them an even bake. Once your crust is bubbling and forms a dark, golden brown, you know it’s done.
      Eat well!

March 27, 2022

Ryan’s Top Tips for Brewing Incredible Coffee at Home

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Ryan pours coffee at Culinary Crafts catering event Ten years ago, I set out to learn everything I could about making a perfect cup of coffee. I experimented with roasts, blends, and brewing styles from all over the world. I bought grinders, tampers, boilers, steamers…all the paraphernalia you can imagine. Most of that equipment is just décor in my home now, but a few of the lessons I learned, I still use. In this article, I want to boil down everything I learned into a few simple, affordable tips for brewing incredible coffee at home. Unground coffee beans spilled on table

Use fresh beans

How important is it to use fresh coffee beans? Let me put it this way: I’d rather have coffee improvised with a sock, an old pot, and a campfire if I get to grind my favorite beans fresh each morning, versus coffee from the latest expensive brewing machine using pre-ground, stale beans. As with all food, the ingredients matter much more than the tools.

Short science lesson: When beans are roasted, they go through a chemical change called the Malliard reaction. Not only does it turn the beans dark brown, it also creates aromatic compounds in the beans that give coffee its distinct taste and smell. But here’s the catch. The moment beans are roasted, those aromatic compounds start to fade away. After a few weeks the beans simply won’t smell or taste as good. Once beans have lost those compounds, there’s only one way to save the coffee: dump out that hot mess and start over with some fresh beans.

Have you noticed that beans off the grocery store shelf don’t print the date of when they were roasted? That’s because grocery store coffee is almost always past its freshness window. Sure, they can vacuum pack the beans and keep them fresh a little longer, but you can’t count on grocery store beans to be in their prime. Your best bet is to buy fresh-roasted whole beans from a local roaster. Or you can try one of the subscription services that will send you fresh-roasted beans every few weeks. If you’re feeling ambitious you can roast your own, but that’s the subject for another blog.

Pro Tip:

For the absolute freshest beans, buy local. We have some fantastic roasters along the Wasatch Front including Publik, Pink Elephant, Blue Copper, and La Barba (which is sold at Harmons). If you want an extraordinary experience with a coffee genius, visit John Piquet at Caffe D’Bolla. His regular menu only offers espressos, but ask for the siphon menu. You’ll see why I treasure all the time I’ve spent there!

If beans are past their fresh date, they can still be used to make pretty good coffee if you cold brew them! But don’t waste your really good beans on cold brew. The best a cold brew will ever give you is pretty good coffee.

kinu grinder for brewing incredible coffee at home

Grind your beans just before you brew

Grinding beans greatly increases the amount of surface area that’s exposed. Exposing more surface area means you'll get a lot more flavor out of the ground beans when you brew them. Unfortunately, as soon as beans are ground, they’ll start losing their aromatic compounds at a much faster rate. So if you’re trying to get the best-tasting cup of coffee, it makes sense to grind them only when you’re ready to brew.

One piece of equipment that’s worth investing in is a burr grinder. Unlike regular blade grinders that just bash the beans into random-sized pieces, a burr grinder mills the beans between two grinding plates until the pieces are all a uniform size. With a regular grinder, you’ll have tiny bits of bean that get overexposed during the brew, giving the coffee a bitter, sludgy taste. At the same time you’ll also have larger pieces that won’t be exposed enough, adding a sour, acidic taste. If you use a burr grinder, all the bits will be the same size, so you can get a consistent flavor. You may have to try some practice runs to find the perfect grind for your machine, but whatever size of grounds you’re aiming for, a burr grinder will help you hit it precisely and consistently.

Pro Tip:

You can spend thousands of dollars on a burr grinder, but the Kinu hand grinder, at around $200, is my favorite. 1Zpresso and Helor make comparably great grinders. For lower budgets, the Hario Skerton Pro is a good ceramic grinder. It’s not the greatest, but at around $60, it may be the best value for the price.

steaming cup of coffee in white mug on saucer

Use the right water temperature

To extract the best flavors out of your coffee, you should brew with water between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Below 195 degrees, you won’t get enough flavor from the coffee. Above 205 you’ll scorch the beans and get bitter chemicals that should have been left in the beans. Perfect brewing involves finding that temperature “sweet” spot.

If you’re boiling your own water, you may need to let it cool a bit before you start your brew. Remember, water naturally boils at 212 degrees at sea level, and the boiling point gradually decreases as you go up in elevation. If you live above 4,000 feet in elevation (as we do here in Utah), you can pour boiling water straight over your beans, since our water boils at 204 degrees. The lower your elevation is below 4,000 feet, the longer you’ll need to let your water cool before you brew.

Pro Tip:

One thing I learned from John Piquet is that the taste of coffee changes at different temperatures. If you drink your coffee too hot, it may smell great but it won’t taste its best. John encourages his customers to begin sipping their coffee when it cools to around 175 degrees and then enjoy the changing range of flavors as it gradually cools.

Chef Ryan Crafts teaches a class on how to make a perfect cup of coffee

Find the right ratio of coffee to water

In addition to temperature, the amount of water you use also affects the brewing process. The more water you use, the weaker the coffee will be. Finding the right balance of coffee and water (a.k.a. the “brew ratio”) is key to making a perfect cup of coffee.

Personally, I use 240 grams of water for every 15 grams of coffee, a ratio of 16:1. You’ll want to experiment with that ratio depending on how rich you want your coffee to be. As you’re experimenting, try to be as consistent as possible in your measurements. This brings us to the second piece of equipment that’s worth investing in, a digital scale. It’s impossible to control exactly how much ground coffee fits into a scoop, but a digital scale will allow you to measure by weight, giving you a precise and accurate measurement every time.

Pro Tip:

There’s an ongoing debate about what kind of water (tap, bottled, filtered, etc.) makes the best coffee. My two cents: unless you’re doing espresso, the type of water usually doesn’t make much difference. But I don’t recommend using distilled water. Just like food is enhanced by a little salt, a perfect brew needs a small amount of minerals in the water, ideally around 150 parts per million. Distilled water is too pure and will make your coffee taste bland.

Coffee makers and equipment at Culinary Crafts coffee class

Bloom your coffee

If you grind fresh beans just before you brew, you might notice that the coffee grounds appear to bubble when they first touch water. What you’re seeing is CO2 gas escaping from the beans, a phenomenon called “the bloom.” If you don't get rid of that gas before you start your brew, the CO2 can form a kind of blanket around the coffee grounds, preventing them from brewing properly. To bloom your beans, pour a little water over the grounds. Then give them a gentle stir so that all the grounds get wet, and wait for about 30 seconds for the gas to leave. Use about twice as much water as there is coffee grounds. In other words, if you’re starting with 40 grams of grounds, use about 80 grams of water in your bloom.

Over the years, I tried a lot of techniques and technologies in my quest to brew the perfect cup. Most of them turned out to be more time-consuming or expensive than they’re worth. But these five tips I’ve discussed are simple, tried, and true, and I guarantee that if you give them a try, you’ll taste a dramatic difference. I should warn you that once you’ve tasted how good your home-brewed coffee can be, it may spoil you. You’ll have a hard time forking over $6 at Starbucks when, for 50 cents, you can brew something much better at home.

Enjoy!

January 20, 2022

Getting Married in the Middle of a Pandemic? Innovative Ways to Make Your 2022 Wedding Spectacular and Safe

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Outdoor, micro-wedding, vows, safe and sensational wedding celebration Planning a wedding in the midst of a pandemic presents unique challenges but also incredible opportunities. If you hear wedding bells in the near future, here are some hints for how to create a safe and sensational celebration.

Think big by thinking small

outdoor, micro-wedding, white lights, create a safe wedding celebration.You may have to get innovative. Hot tip: Micro-weddings are the new posh. By trimming the guest list you can reduce crowding while relaxing your budget at the same time. Brides are starting to realize what mind-blowing experiences they can create for 20 guests instead of 200. In the last year we’ve seen small weddings in the middle of the Salt Flats and light tunnels created in the middle of a forest. We've served 10 course meals and even catered a dinner under a waterfall. With a smaller number of intimate friends and family, you’re free to open your imagination and entertain your most elusive dreams.  

Weigh and minimize risks in advance

Kimble Terrace, bubble, event, Culinary Drafts You owe it to your guests to identify risk factors and take reasonable precautions to minimize them.  If asking Grandma to fly in from out of state poses too much risk, consider setting up a Zoom or Google hangout for guests who can’t attend in person. For those who do come, think about ways to encourage social distancing and reduce traffic congestion. A lot of couples are finding incredible outdoor venues.  But if you need to be inside, implement a crowd-control design that prevents “clumping.” Consider providing private dining areas for your guests such as bubble tents, igloos, or simple separate table-spaces. Traditional self-service buffets can be replaced by safer options like boxed meals or a dessert drive-thru. Recently, a charcuterie served in pre-portioned bamboo cones was a huge hit.

Communicate expectations

pandemic, micro wedding, lesbian indian couple, lgbt, henna, brides Whatever safety plan you choose for your celebration, as the host it’s up to you to communicate your expectations to your guests. A classy insert with your invitation can let people know in advance whether they’ll need to do a temperature check on arrival, show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, wear a mask, or whatever precautions you decide are appropriate. Don’t worry about pleasing everyone: you can’t. Everyone’s situation is different. If you communicate clearly and let people know what to expect, they’ll be able to make their own choices about how to celebrate your day with you.  

Customize

pandemic, public health, signage, wedding, customized, masks Invitations, favors, and place cards are all pretty standard for a wedding. But the pandemic blew open a door for creating new items to customize! Masks, sanitizer, soap, towels, water, or even social distancing/selfie sticks can be practical and personal. Our favorite customized gifts are fun “in sickness and health packages” which sometimes include a hangover kit.             

Get help

Caterer, event planner, River Bottoms Ranch, mask, Covid The best way to enjoy your big day while staying safe is to hire a social coordinator. Your event planner or day-of coordinator may be perfect for the job. Along with a trained catering team, your social coordinator will direct traffic, answer questions, and make sure that everyone has a safe and spectacular experience. Meanwhile, you'll be free to relax and enjoy the day you've planned and waited for so long.

December 17, 2021

De-stress Your Christmas Cooking

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Christmas dinner, place setting catering, christmas table, table setting, christmas decor, holiday dinner, beef, meat, carved, centerpieceWith all the isolation and stress of the last year, 2021 may be a more important time than ever to sit down with loved ones and share a Christmas meal. Unfortunately, the pressure of making a memorable holiday meal can kick a cook’s stress level up several more notches. If planning and preparing your Christmas feast is feeling like one burden too many, don’t worry: we’ve got you! Here are our favorite tips to de-stress your Christmas cooking.

1. Think ahead.
mis en place, christmas cooking, holiday cooking, christmas dinner, meal, grean beans, fried onions, preparations, stress free, easy
Do as much as you can in advance so that when the day comes, you can spend most of your focus on the people you’re doing it all for.

• Shop early. Don’t plan on going to the store after December 20; it’s a zoo! Plan in advance and avoid the crush.
• "Mis en place" all your recipes. Mis en place is a French term meaning “everything in place.” It is the practice of measuring out all the ingredients for a recipe and doing any other preparation that you can do in advance. For example, mix your drinks and dressings beforehand. Peel potatoes and leave them in water in the fridge. Prepare vegetables on sheet pans so they are ready for the oven, wrapped in plastic wrap and stacked in the fridge, etc.
• Make your centerpiece, move the furniture, wrap the presents, and set the table as soon as you can. Actually, now! Don't wait.

2. Simplify what can be simplified.
gingerbread decorating man station kids holiday party
As foodies dedicated to our craft, we have a hard time telling others (or even ourselves) to use the shortcuts that modern society has created for meal production because the longer, scenic route of cooking and creating a dining experience is a beautiful labor of love that you can taste with every bite. However, that labor can be a bit much on Christmas morning with a family of kids hyped up on sugar and presents, rampaging with their loud new toys while you’re trying to clean up before guests arrive. One of the best ways to de-stress your Christmas cooking is to simplify where you can.

• Dice the onions: This is one of the most time-consuming steps, especially because so many recipes start with sautéed onions. You can do this in advance. Put them in a bowl and keep them in the refrigerator or freeze them. Or simplify even more by just buying onions already frozen and diced.
• Buy the ham. Seriously. They come spiral cut and glazed, and they are delicious. Don't kill yourself making one from scratch; there are better things to do with your time. Just remember to order and pick it up early.
• If bread-making is your forte and you are not tapped from holiday baking by the time you get to December 25th, spectacular! Try making, shaping, and freezing your bread dough in advance. Then, day of, just remove from freezer and bake. But if you don’t have that kind of time and energy, take advantage of local artisan bread options that can make your Christmas meal-prep much easier. Eva’s Bakery, Mims Bakery, Flourish Bakery, and Harmon’s artisan bread section are all great go-tos.
• Desserts are a similar situation. It’s beautiful to share any of your homemade sweets, but you can also simplify by trying out one of your excellent local artisans who make delicious desserts. A few of our favorites are Grapefruit & Thyme, Cache Toffee, Les Madeleines, Gourmandise, Flour & Flourish, Cake by Alessandra, and Tulie Bakery.

3. Give yourself a gift.
Ceramic Olive Oil Cruet and Salt Cellar
We’re not speaking metaphorically about being kind to yourself and not expecting the impossible (although, yes, you should give yourself a break). We’re talking about literally gifting yourself something this year, one labor-saving piece of equipment that will make life easier for you in the kitchen. If you need ideas, we have a few suggestions.

4. Delegate (or, better yet, share).
family black cooking for christmas dinner holiday meal sharing, experience, kitchen
Some cooks want to do it all by themselves. Believe us, we get that. But as tempting at it is to take the burden on yourself and be the Christmas kitchen god, it can be important for kids, spouses, and guests to have a hand in making the meal.

Remember: It’s not about the food; it’s about the experience. You’re not just feeding bellies; you’re helping create meaningful memories. We all know that turning part of the meal over to someone else can often create as much work and stress for you as it relieves, but don’t lose sight of the big picture. That grandson who messes up half the napkins he folds may not be saving you much time, but think about what he’s learning, the confidence he’s gaining, and the memories he’s making. We guarantee that the feelings and experience he gets from making a meaningful contribution will stay with him a lot longer than the mashed potatoes and gravy.

But how can you delegate part of the Christmas meal tasks without creating more headache for yourself?

• Have someone else bring dessert, salad, entrée, sides, or whatever parts of the meal you choose. If any of your guests have a specialty dish, consider giving them a chance to shine.
• Prepare a list of helpful things people could do when they arrive. Most people welcome a chance to be helpful if they know how to do it without getting in the way. Instead of waiting for them to ask and then scrambling to think of something for them to do, have it written down. The list could include things like
-- filling waters and pitchers on tables
--pouring cocktails
--adding crackers/chocolate/room temp things to your charcuterie board or appetizers
--pouring cocktails
--mixing mashed potatoes
--watching the turkey/ham, rolls, etc. in the oven
--mixing salad
--whipping cream
--doing dishes
• Have all your platters and serving utensils picked out and labeled so when people are helping they aren't scrambling to see what platter is for what item.
• If people are arriving early to help, leave a recipe with your mis en placed plates and have them follow the directions.

cookie making, christmas, holiday, rolling, cutting, sugar cookies

Realistically, there may not be any such thing as a stress-free Christmas meal (unless you follow the Japanese Christmas custom and just order a bucket of chicken from KFC). But if you do what you can to de-stress your Christmas cooking, you'll minimize the anxiety and maximize the meaning of the experience.

We hope your Christmas is joyous and delicious.

Happy eating!

March 29, 2019

The Top 15 places to eat lunch in Utah County

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Culinary Crafts headquarters is located in Pleasant Grove, so we are always looking for great places for lunch in Utah County. We polled Ryan, Kaleb, and our chefs to come up with this list of our 15 favorite lunch spots.
  • Pizzeria 712 - 320 State St #185, Orem, UT - This has been a Crafts family favorite since it opened. 712's approach shares many of our own philosophies and values regarding food - simple yet creative, ingredient driven, and house-made. Always delicious!
  • Asahi - 1470 N State St, Orem, UT - Great sushi at a great price. Conveniently located. We go here a lot!Image result for asahi orem
  • Tsunami Restaurant & Sushi Bar - 1616 W Traverse Parkway, Lehi, UT - Not only is the sushi fabulous, there are lots of delicious options to satisfy even the sushi averse, including an impressive sake list.Image result for tsunami sushi
  • Oteo - 139 S State St, Lindon, UT - Tacos, sopes, and empanadas after our own hearts! Innovative and trendy, yet still simple and without fuss. Don't miss the avocado tacos.
  • Black Sheep Cafe - 19 N University Ave, Provo, UT - Southwestern Native American cooking with full bar selections. Upscale and full service, but still casual. Ryan recommends the hog jowl tacos!
  • Image result for black sheep provo
  • Cravings Bistro - 25 W Center St, Pleasant Grove, UT - A modern take on classic comfort dishes (grilled cheese and soup). It's impossible to pick the wrong sandwich, but if you're undecided opt for the ABC (apples, bacon, and cheddar). And it's just a few blocks away from our own office!Image result for cravings bistro
  • The Foundry Grill - 8841 N Alpine Loop Rd, Sundance, UT - Ryan spends a lot of time skiing the slopes at Sundance, and drops in here often for an elegant dinner of modern American cuisine. The Tree Room, and Owl Bar are excellent too!Image result for foundry grill
  • Peace On Earth - 35 N 300 W #200, Provo, UT - Let's be honest, it's not easy to find a great cup of Joe of Utah County. We're so happy to see more places like this coming to town. Great sandwiches and beautiful digs as well!DSC08314.jpeg
  • Taqueria 27 - 1688 W Traverse Pkwy, Lehi, UT - Great food at great prices. Fun for groups. Also featuring an array of specials updated daily.Image result for taqueria 27
  • 180 Tacos - 3368 N University Ave, Provo, UT - Too many taco places you say? There's no such thing! Great to dine in or take. The daily specials are always fun!Image result for 180 tacos
  • Bam Bams BBQ - 1708 State St, Orem, UT - Delicious Texas-style BBQ. And just like in Texas, the best thing is the brisket! Image result for bam bam's restaurant
  • Yamato - 1074 State St, Orem, UT - As much as we like to see new comers in our local restaurant scene, we're also ecstatic that places like Yamato stand the test of time. Excellent sushi as well as other classic Japanese dishes.Related image
  • CHOM Burger - 45 300 N, Provo, UT - Just because you've ditched fast food for good, doesn't mean you can't find a tasty burger out there. We love CHOM. And the milkshakes are killer too (especially the rotating seasonal selection)!
  • Sidecar Cafe - 1715 W 500 S, Springville, UT - In addition to the great breakfast and lunch menus, you can check out the Legend's Motorcycle Museum while you're there.
  • Straptank - 1750 West 596 South, Springville, UT - Across the parking lot from Sidecar, this brewery (yep, you read that right) features pub grub to satisfy all comers.
 

March 8, 2019

Host an Olive Oil Tasting!

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Of course we never tire of hosting wine, cheese, charcuterie, whiskey, and chocolate tastings. Less common, but just as fun, we also love to sample a line up up fabulous olive oils.  It's a super fun experience to kick off a dinner party!  Moreover, slowing down to sample different high end oils will also improve your larger cooking experience as you find your favorite oils and use them in all your dishes.   What you'll need:
  • Extra virgin olive oils. Start with 3-6 oils. Pick premium selections. And look to achieve as much variety as possible - oils of varying itensity, of different colors, and from multiple locales.
  • Wine Glasses.
  • Small Plates.
  • Bread. Something with a great crust. Simple breads sans any flavors or accoutrements (the bread is simply to deliver the oil, not compete or contrast with it).
  • Palate Cleanser(s). We suggest fresh fruit (apples, oranges, berries, etc.) and sparkling water.
Photo Credit: Olive Oil Source
  1. First, pour about a tablespoon of the first olive oil into your wineglass.
  2. Swirl the olive oil in the glass.  Cup the glass in one of your hands and cover the top of the glass with the other.  Swirl gently to release aromas.  The warmth from your hands with help the aromas release as well.
  3. Uncover the glass and smell the oil deeply.  Take mental notes of what you smell.  Is it peppery? Fruity?  Buttery?
  4. Next, take a sip of the oil almost in a 'soup-slurping' fashion.  Allow the oil to run across the palate. Breathe in through your nose. Try to smell the oil again before swallowing.
  5. As you exhale, swallow the oil and concentrate on the flavor.  Think about some general categories such as fruitiness, pungency, bitterness, earthiness, pepperyness, etc.  Write down your observations and then compare them with your fellow tasters!  You can also re-taste the oil by pouring it on a small plate and dipping the bread in the oil and seeing how that affects the taste.
  6. When you are ready to move on to the next oil, cleanse your palate with plain bread, a slice of apple, and/or sparkling water.
  7. Repeat the process for the oils.
Taking notes helps. Putting your impressions into words and discussing them with others will help them take form and become more specific. It also helps to recall your thoughts later on when shopping for oils for unique purposes. Below is a great card that's fun to give each guest to help them take notes.Eat well!

February 13, 2019

Ryan’s Valentine’s Day Menu

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Ryan is at it again, making a special night for his stunning wife. Perhaps this will offer some inspiration for your meal.  Apertif & Appetizer 14 Day Rose & Cherry Infused Valentine 75 Rose & Cherry cupcake Amuse American Ossetra caviar, french toast, creme fraiche, and buttermilk syrup Soup wild mushroom bisque with black garlic crouton and mascarpone Entree tuna, gooseberries, and shaved foie gras Entree chili pepper fried chicken with radish, kumquat and ginger salad Salad winter squash and citrus salad with shaved fennel, local greens, and sorrel rhubarb dressing Intermezzo pomegranate, grapefruit, and herb granita Dessert olive oil cake with poached pear, zabaglione, and warm granola Cheese and Honey local raw unfiltered honey and artisan cheese selections Chocolate flourless chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache, and chocolate cookie crumble, finished with edible gold flake Wishing you a romantic and delicious Valentine's Day!

December 5, 2018

Badass Boards: Kaleb’s end grain cutting board

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An end grain cutting board is the Cadillac of cutting boards. Both functionally and aesthetically, they are tough to beat. Let's talk a little bit about why an end grain board is so special. Think of your cutting board like a paint brush with the wood grain being the bristles of the brush. Lay that paint brush horizontally, and you have a long grain cutting board. Your knife is going to rest on top of the bristles. Functional, but quite hard on your knife. Additionally, these are not quite as durable as an end grain board as scratches will add up over time and pieces of wood fiber can even eventually be dislodged.Image result for end grain vs edge grain Now take the paint brush and hold it vertically and you have an end grain cutting board. Your knife can slide easily into the bristles. In fact the bristles actually make a cushion for your knife. And after each cut the bristles or wood fibers can spring back into position. Scratches are less likely and less visible and the board itself much more durable.Image result for end grain vs edge grain So, if an end grain board is so much better, why don't we see them everywhere? The biggest reason is simply due to the additional work that is involved in making an end grain cutting board, which then makes them quite a bit more expensive. For a long grain board, you can simply glue strips of wood together and voila! Image result for edge grain However, to expose the end grain, you have to then take the completed board and cut it into strips, flip them on end and glue the whole thing back together before sanding for hours and hours to achieve a flat smooth board. So, if an end grain board is definitely the way to go...are all end grain boards created equal? Certainly not. The biggest thing to look for in selecting your new board is the type of wood. We don't want a soft wood or a wood that has an open or loose grain structure. We also don't want an overly oily wood. We are after a nice hardwood with a dense, closed grain pattern. But some woods have a VERY dense grain structure. So much so that even the end grain is still quite hard on your knives. Imagine our paint brush standing on end but being squeezed so tightly the knife still can't be cushioned because the bristles are so tight. Pine and cedar are cheap and easy to work with, but just too soft and open grained. Teak, ebony, bubinga, acacia, hickory and others will make a stunningly beautiful board, however they are just too densely grained. Cocobolo, goncalo alves, purpleheart and other tropical hardwoods are some of favorite woods for certain projects, but just too oily for a cutting board. My top choice for an end grain board is hard maple, often referred to as rock maple. This is the perfect balance of dense grain, that is hard and durable and actually still quite affordable. Now, some of the most beautiful boards out there combine different lumbers to create spectacular contrasting patterns, so a great choice for secondary woods could be walnut, oak, cherry, or others. I decided to make these for my holiday gifts. They were a lot of work but totally worth it! Check out what I have been up to all year!  
Tips for care of your end grain board
  • Utah air is awfully dry and cause wood boards to split and crack. Conditioning the wood will prevent cracking and keep it looking beautiful. A good rule of thumb for treating a new board is to oil once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, and once a year for life. You should also treat wood after washing with heavy soap or anytime the wood looks dry.
  • There are various conditioning oils, creams, waxes and blends available specifically for wood boards. However, the simplest solution is as good as any: mineral oil. Avoid vegetable oils and any others that aren't perpetually stables since they will eventually go rancid and make your board stink.
  • Keep your cutting board on the counter top where it can breath. Avoid storage in places where airflow is stifled and where moisture can get trapped.
  • Always wash your board by hand with soft materials. Only use soap when necessary. Never wash in the dishwasher, and never leave the board to to soak submerged.
Update: You can now purchase one of these amazing boards here!

November 29, 2018

Top picks for the kitchen! Holiday gift ideas from our chefs.

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  With the holidays just around the corner, we put together a list of items our chefs just could not live without in their own kitchens. Here are their recommendations: Ryan Crafts- Burr Coffee Grinder The single most important step to take to improve your home coffee experience is using freshly roasted and freshly ground beans. I find the best beans are almost always from a local roaster (Publik, D'Bolla, and Pink Elephant are some of my Utah favorites). I weigh out the beans for my cup each morning and grind immediately prior to brewing with burr grinder.   Kaleb Crafts- End Grain Cutting Board End grain boards last longer than edge grain boards. End grain boards are easier on your knives, leaving them sharper longer. They're also one of the most beautiful additions you can make to any kitchen. You can buy one of Kaleb's custom made ones here!  Meagan Crafts- Bench Knife and Squeeze Bottle The 2 items I use most in my home are a bench knife and squeeze bottle. I use my bench knife to cut and divide breads, desserts, and candies. It is the way it fits in your hand as opposed to a chef knife that makes it faster to use. I use squeeze bottles for everything—dressings, chocolate, sauces, etc. It makes plating and designing fun and creative! Chef Brandon Roddy- Immersion Blender From soups to vinaigrettes, a stick blender in your home will change a daunting task to the easiest thing to do in the kitchen. Chef Robert Mendoza- Can Opener I recommend a good can opener! I can make do with a lot of other things, but there is really only one way to get into a can!   Chef David Dexter- Vegetable Peeler This is simply for ease. Every home has 3 or 4 vegetable peelers, but only 1 good one. Invest in a quality one and throw the other ones out! Chef James Arnold- Cutting Board My cutting boards are my most used items in my kitchen. I love having set cutting boards for each type of food I am cooking—poultry, red meat, vegetables, etc. Chef Utahna Warren- Quality Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Drop the money to buy some quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It will change the way you cook. Culinary Crafts put together a box of our favorites here!  Chef Jaden White- Mixing Bowls Mixing bowls are a great addition to your collection. At Culinary Crafts, we have dozens and dozens of bowls and the varying sizes makes the kitchen experience a breeze. Chef Libby Rice- Electric Stand Mixer My KitchenAid is my most precious possession in my kitchen. I don't know how people managed to whip cream and egg whites or hand knead dough endlessly back in the day. A good mixer can change the speed and efficiency with which you cook in the kitchen. Chef Kayde Dexter- Cast Iron Pan A 9-11" cast iron skillet is the most versatile pan I own. It adds a cool level to home cooking. Chef Raquel (Rocky) Ortega- Heat Resistant Spatula Make sure you find one that can withstand the heat, it will ease your cooking experience. Chef Lacy Johnson- Instant Read Thermometer The best way to revolutionize the way you cook is with and instant read thermometer. Getting your proteins to the perfect temperature instead of guessing will change the way you eat. Chef Danielle Mahoney- Chef Knife You cannot even begin cooking without a quality chef knife. If I was going to upgrade any item in my kitchen it would be a good knife first! Chef Madison Oliveira- Rice Cooker As silly as this may seem, my mother-in-law gave us a rice cooker for our wedding, and I am never going back. It is wonderful. Chef Megan Gagne- Off-Set Spatula and Piping Bag As a pastry chef, I love to decorate—especially for the holidays. An off-set spatula and piping bag with tips are key to decorating all those fun desserts and plates for your holiday season. Chef Cambridge Dockendorf- Kitchen Shears If you follow our blog, last week we showed you all the glories of spatchcocking a turkey. The magic of kitchen shears doesn't stop there. I use mine every day and I love not having a pair that has to cross over—they are just for cooking. Chef Jocelyn Gillies- Scale Cooking is a science, the weight of your ingredients is so important, a volume measurement is never as precise as it should be. A scale will change the quality of all your recipes. Chef Hunter Ashton- Microplane A microplane in your home will add a new level to your cooking. Fresh orange zest over your pork loin or fresh nutmeg shaved right into your egg nog is a beautiful addition. Chef Kyle Castillo- Non-Stick Skillet A good non-stick skillet is a great addition to any kitchen. You cannot have too many of these! Chef Dardree McClellan- Serrated Knife I bake bread in my home all the time and having a great serrated knife makes my life easier. Chef Calli Kassel- Hallow Ground Santoku Knife A quality chef knife is important but an Asian chef knife is super cool. Because the blade is ground at a 20 degree angle it is crazy sharp and makes cutting anything like cutting though butter. Chef Allison Parker- Knife Sharpener I recommend a knife sharpener, not a honing steel (although that is a great piece as well), so you can keep your blades crazy sharp. Being able to do this at your home instead of taking it to a shop makes keeping your knifes sharp easy and convenient. Having this addition to your kitchen will surprise you by how dull your knives can get. Chef Megann Brimhall- Bacon Grease I couldn't think of a tool, but I certainly use bacon grease often! Don't be grossed out—I use it to grease pans, fry pancakes and eggs, and sauté vegetables—yummm. A great Christmas gift for me would be a pound of bacon and a wide mouth mason jar specifically for keeping my grease. Make sure to buy a little strainer specifically to get out the little bits of bacon, though, so it doesn't go rancid. Chef Adam Park- Large Flake Salt and a Salt Cellar Most home cooks under season. One of the best ways to finish a dish is with some beautiful seasoning salt. A salt cellar will help you keep your finishing salt separate. Also, salting by hand is more balanced than using a shaker. The salt cellar lets you measure your salt in your palm. Check out our favorite custom cellars here.

October 1, 2018

Knife Essentials: How to pick your knives for your home.

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Our passion for hospitality isn’t limited to large special events. We love to cook and serve fabulous food at home too. And we love to help others step up their home cooking game!

Does the quality of your knives really matter?

Yes. A lot. Good knives are safer and are more likely to avoid mishaps. They’re faster and will save you time. They are also a key gateway to better overall results in the kitchen. Admittedly, as with most things, there comes a point where extra spend doesn’t buy much more function or longevity. But there is still a big difference between cheap knives (that won’t perform and won’t last) and quality knives (that will). If you’re serious about cooking, it’s worth making an investment in your knives.  

What knives should you own?

If you visit a cutlery shop or start perusing options online, you’ll be quickly overwhelmed with options and could quickly spend a lot of green. Our recommendation is to start with the basics. With just a few select knives, you’ll be ideally prepared for nearly all kitchen tasks (and still completely serviceable for the remainder too).

It’s much better to have 3-5 great quality knives that will see a lot of use, versus a 18 piece block set of mediocre knives (most of which will just take up space). If you cook a lot and want to add more knives to your arsenal, you can add these one by one over time as your desire and budget allow.

 

We recommend making your initial investment on the following key knives. If you can afford to invest in 5 knives at once, excellent. If you can’t, start with the first three listed here and add the others later.

  • Chef’s Knife. Aka Cook’s Knife, this is the most commonly used knife in the kitchen. Features a wide symmetrical blade that tapers to a point. Ideal for a wide array of chores including, chopping, slicing, mincing, etc. Sizes range from 6” -14”. We find that 8” or 10” are most popular / easy to use.

     

  • Serrated Bread Knife. Straight or slightly curved blade, often with a single sided edge. Some bread knives are offset which help avoid knuckles hitting the counter or cutting board. Not limited to bread, these knives are also great for slicing fruits with a hard rind and/or soft interior. Sizes typically range from 6” - 12” and we prefer them 9” or more.

        

  • Paring Knife. Probably second only to the Chef’s Knife in versatility and frequency of use. Perfect for peeling, julienning, garnishing, and other tasks that require delicate precision. For your first and go-to paring knife, opt for a spear point or sheep’s foot style (put off buying a bird’s beak / tourne style until later or never). Sizes will vary, but will be shorter. We prefer 3-4”.

  • Utility Knife. Found with both straight and scalloped edges, utility knives could be considered filling the gaps and overlapping the uses between your chef’s knife, paring knife, and slicing knife. Excellent for slicing soft fruits and vegetables. Sizes typically range from 5-8”, with 6” being very common and our recommendation.

           

  • Carving / Slicing Knife. While perhaps not used as much as the other core knives listed above, when you have a large whole muscle meat (roasts, whole poultry, hams, etc.) to serve, these are invaluable. Blades are typically straight edged and relatively thin. Granton edges (hollow ground sections along the side of blade to create space and reduce drag) are common and popular on carving knives. Sizes vary and shorter lengths (9” - 12”) often have pointed tips while longer lengths (14”+) often have rounded tips.

           

   

Other useful knives.

For many cooks - especially home cooks, the knives already listed will suffice for nearly all applications and needs. That said, there are lots of other styles out there that can be helpful (or just fun to collect). Options include:

  • Boning Knife. Just like sounds - ideally suited for removing meat from bone, skin, and other tissues. Boning knives are generally either classified as flexible (great for staying close to bones and getting into odd shaped areas) or stiff (great for making straight cuts and jointing).

  • Santuko, Nikiri, Gyoto, and other Japanese style knives. Increasingly popular in Western kitchens, these knives are often alternatives to the traditional Chef’s Knife or Utility Knife. Typically these are single edged, and ground to a narrower angle than European style knives. The narrow angle is sharper and slices better with more precision, but requires more maintenance. Unique blade styles offer different ergonomics and function which many chefs prefer for certain tasks - especially very thin slicing and chopping.

  • Cleaver. Not common in home kitchens, since these are thick and heavy knives designed to chop through thick meat and bone when butchering. Also great for opening lobster shells and other similar tasks.

  • Cimeter. The staple knife for professional butchers, but not commonly used in home kitchens.  

What to look for and consider when buying knives.

 
  • Knife Anatomy

 

  • Stamped vs forged construction? Stamped knives are made by cutting the knife shape out of a flat sheet of metal (like a cookie cutter). Forged knives are made by hammering heated bar metal into the knife shape. Once the basic shape is formed, both types of knives will be ground and honed to create the cutting edge. Stamped knives are typically thinner, lighter, lacking a bolster, and are generally less expensive. Forged knives are thicker, heavier, stronger, well balanced, and are usually more expensive to purchase. For most long lasting knives, we prefer forged construction. That said, for some knives (a long granton edge meat slicer or a heavily used and often replaced butcher cimeter, we opt for stamped).

  • Type of steel? Nearly all high quality knives are made from some type of high carbon stainless steel designed to strike a balance between hardness and durability, ease of sharpening and honing, resisting stain and decay, and cost. German steel (often 420 or 440 C stainless) is common for European style knives. It’s excellent at resisting corrosion, and very easy to sharpen. German steel is durable and holds an edge well, though not as well as some harder steels. Japanese steel (often VG-10 or San Mai) is common in Asian style knives and is increasingly seen in European styles as well. This layered laminated steel is exceptionally hard which offers excellent sharpness and edge retention. They can be more difficult to sharpen well and sometimes offer slightly less corrosion resistance compared to the German steel. As noted earlier, these steels are all striking a balance between different factors. The best steel for you depends on your personal preferences and priorities.

  • Handles? Wood handles are not only very comfortable, we think they’re the prettiest options. They can also last longer than the blade of the knife, but require more maintenance than other options. Stainless handles are popular for the seamless styling and the ease of maintenance. The notable drawback is than many stainless handles can become slippery when wet, though many steel knives have textured stainless handles to mitigate this. Synthetic resin and Polyoxyethylene (POM) handles are very common on riveted full tang knives. They’re very durable, easy to clean, and although simple, very nice looking. Plastic, nylon, and rubber handles are popular in commercial kitchens because they are affordable, easy to clean, and fairly durable. We don’t find them nearly as attractive as other options though and many home chefs want something with more aesthetic appeal.

  • Edge type? Straight edge (aka flat ground) is the most common and applicable. Granton edge (see the note on carving knives above) reduce drag and are very nice in certain situations. Serrated edges (aka scalloped) have small “teeth” which help to penetrate a tough exterior without pressure that might harm a soft inside. Hollow ground edges are are concave to create a very thin and narrow cutting edge. They are very sharp and wonderful for delicate tasks, but not recommended for heavy duty chores.

  • Edge angle? European style knives usually have a 20 degree angle which is great for edge retention and durability. Asian style knives have usually have a 15 degree (sometimes even narrower) which is excellent for sharp precision slicing.

  • Full Tang design? Full tang refers to the entire knife being a single piece of metal end to end. The core of the handle is simply an extension of the blade. This can easily be seen on knives where the core of the handle is the same metal as the blade and the handle material is double or triple riveted to the metal. In general we prefer full tang knives because they are sturdier, longer lasting, and more reliable. If you’ve ever had a partial tang knife break apart at the handle during use, you know how frustrating and dangerous it can be. Heavy full tang construction is particularly important for knives that see a lot of heavy use and cutting. For lightweight knives that will be used primarily for delicate tasks, this is less crucial.

 

Caring for your knives.

 
  • Always hand wash with warm soapy water after use, rinse well, and dry thoroughly immediately. Avoid leaving knives dirty for long, machine washing, and extended air drying.

  • Hone your knives regularly - practically with every use.

  • Keep your knives sharpened. Frequency of sharpening will depend on the steel, type of use, and frequency of use. See our separate post about knife sharpening for more info and tips.

  • Store your knives safely and properly. Though popular and convenient, we do not recommend traditional knife blocks. These take up a lot of counter space, tend to dull your knives, can collect hard to remove particles, and often encourage buyers to purchase more knives than they need. We much prefer a magnetic wall strip which saves space, offers easy access, is easy to clean, and when used correctly, doesn’t dull the blade. There are also some great in drawer solutions that can protect your knives. If you need to frequently travel with your knives (like us), a nice bag or roll with a soft interior is great. Individual blade protectors can also be well worth getting depending on how you store your knives.

 

Happy cooking!

 

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