Sunday, 29 July 2012


Hence my blog name, "cupcakes and cookware," I wanted to do a post dedicated to the 2 types of stainless steel construction cookware. Stainless steel has a great rank among other types of cookware: long lasting and professionally used. Like most people, I have a mix of all three types of cookware and enjoy cooking on all types. Read more to find out the differences between the two stainless steel construction cookware on the market.

Remember, cookware comes in 3 main materials:

1) Non-stick (aluminum-material base)

2) Stainless Steel (usually a combination of stainless steel and aluminum)

3) Cast Iron

First off....why stainless steel over the other two types of cookware?

Answer: Stainless steel has a wonderful reputation for lasting forever, being non-reactive to all foods, and the ability to take high heat, from a stove or oven, without damaging it. Sound too good to be true? In some ways, yes. Cooking on stainless steel is, well, tricky. You will have to add more fat (olive oil, butter, etc), food will STICK, and more "elbow grease" is needed when cleaning and polishing. ( FYI: You will become best friends with polishers!)
I cannot stress this enough: cooking on non-stick is 100% different than cooking on stainless steel.

Then, why do professionals love it?

Answer: In a professional setting (Yes, I do have experience!) you use super high heat, at a very fast pace, with a dishwasher that is super hot with strong soap. Over time, even stainless steel pans wrap and damage. Remember, professionals have more experience and training in cooking, thus they are able to use any types of cookware without a problem.

FACT: Stainless steel naturally heats uneven. Yes, it is strong, durable, and attractive, but 100% pure stainless steel will not heat in an uniform matter. Aluminum is a decent heat conductor, very abundant, and easy to manufacture. Thus, it is usually combined with stainless steel cookware.

Now, to the two main constructions:

1) Aluminum encapsulated base

-Basically, the bottom has a layered base of: stainless steel-aluminum-stainless steel. The sides are pure stainless steel.

-This construction is lighter in weight and feel.

-These pans will heat decently.

-Perfect for someone who does not want to spend a ton of money of expensive cookware.

2) Clad construction, also known as tri-ply (Clad means layers, a bonding of two metals together.)

- Basically, full layers of: stainless steel-aluminum-stainless steel on the bottom and sides of pans. This will conduct heat better than an aluminum encapsulated base pan.

-Clad construction can get pricey. I recommended clad construction for serious and advanced cooks who do not mind spending extra money.

- Clad construction is getting very popular among consumers, many cookware manufactures are coming out with clad-lines.

-My recommendation? Find a good clad/tri-ply line that you personally like with the right price.

-Overall, "clad construction" is the same within cookware lines. Just find one you truly enjoy!

There are also 5-ply and 7-ply lines, which have more layers of aluminum, stainless steel, and possibly cooper. Why more layers? Unsure. But I do know the more layers you add, the pricier and heavier the cookware gets. My advice: stick to a good tri-ply lines for your best value.

Tips for buying stainless steel :

-Perfect for advance cooks. (Are you a beginner? Or just hate spending extra time cleaning/polishing? I recommend a good non-stick pan.)

-Always have a budget! Go in know you either want a tri-ply or aluminum-encapsualted base cookware.

-Interested in cooking on stainless steel but never have? Buy a small skillet and test out the difference!

Overall, the mass majority of people have a combination of all types of cookware and use them accordingly to the recipe and lifestyle. I recommend cooking on all types of cookware and seeing which ones you personally like and enjoy!

Happy Baking!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

What Bikram Yoga has taught me about baking.

When I am not working, baking, blogging, or tweeting, I am practicing Bikram's (pronounced "Beek-Rim") yoga. Now, exactly what is Bikram yoga and how does it differ from other types of yoga? Answer: Bikram is a guy. A hardcore yoga guy who created a series of 26 set postures and 2 breathing exercises.

Bikram yoga is a type of Hatha yoga, also known as hot yoga. Yes, it is always done in a hot, heated, and humid practice room. Why? Heat helps your muscles relax, therefore you can stretch better, and it makes you sweat.....buckets. Sweating is a naturally way for your body to cool itself down and detox any nasty stuff that is inside your body. Bikram's yoga tends to be more difficult, disciplined, and well, harder than other types of yoga out there today. (Now, don't be scared to try it! There are many life dedicated Bikram yogis in the community. Remember you are never too old, too sick, or too injured to START.)

Time for the lessons...

When I am taking class, the teacher always speaks the same dialogue...over and over again. Really? How can taking the same class teach me anything new?

Welcome to lesson number one:

I must try and never give up. Giving up lasts forever, trying does not.

In life, especially in baking, we need to do things over and over again until we have mastered them. Did my first brioche loaf turn out golden and delicious? Nope. How about my chocolate chiffon cake? Nah. Even my first attempt at French buttercream turned into a sweet, soupy mess. See, in life, we learn by attempts, fails, and mistakes. Yoga taught me if I fall out of a posture, I must grab my leg again and try, and try, and try.....

Every day is different. What affects my daily class? The weather, season, class size, teacher, how much water I drank, time of day, what I ate throughout the day, etc. The list goes on and on.

This brings me to lesson number two:

I am unable to change what I cannot. I may not be able to change the environment or situation I am presently in, but I can change my mind about it.

If I forget to order a special ingredient, prep my pans properly, buy enough cupcake wrappers, or preheat the oven correctly, there is not much I can do to 'un-do' my mistake. But, I can adjust my actions accordingly and make sure it comes out a sweet success. Yoga taught me if I can change my mind, I can change my life.

The Bikram series is meant to be an intense and hard workout. This is why athletes and "tough peeps" dig it. If you managed to master all 26 postures, which is a very difficult task to complete, there is an advanced series with even more challenging postures.

Finally, lesson number three:

Too good is no good!

In the beginning of my practice, a teacher said, "Kimm, too good is no good! You are sitting too low!" Is it really possible to sit too low in the first part of awkward posture? Well, I managed to do it. Same in triangle, my hips are too open and I often sit wayyyyyy below what is recommended.

Same with sweet treats. You never want anything too sweet, too salty, too dry, or too moist. At the end of the dessert, you always wants to crave one more bite, instead of feeling too full to move. I thought I had most pastry techniques mastered, until I met someone better, I read a book that taught me something new, or someone asked me a pastry question I was unsure how to answer. Overall, in baking and yoga, there will always be someone better and another technique to be learned.

Yoga and baking have one very important thing in common: Both strive for perfection. The perfect pâté brisee, pana cotta, buttercream rose, or semi-freddo to the perfect locked out knee, standing bow pose, backbend, or waiting for the day to finally see your feet in floor bow.

From my baking career to my yoga practice, the journey has been greater, and sweeter, than imagined and expected. Even in tough and difficult situations, I am able to breathe through the storm to sweet success.
Namaste. Happy Baking.

Monday, 23 July 2012

HOW TO BAKE....On a budget!

Yes, I am a dedicated foodie, cook, and baker. I save money for a brand new cake pan, search websites for a killer deal on spatulas, and am willing to eat instant noodles for a week to try out a new restaurant on the weekend. But, I know many folks are not like me. They enjoying cooking, trying new dishes, and want to do it within their budget.

This is a common questions I get asked on a regular basis: How do you cook and bake wonderful meals and treats without going broke? First off, save all of that fancy-schmacy stuff (like black truffles, saffron, beef tenderloin) for special occasions or high-end restaurants.

Here are my 5 basic tips for cooking and baking dishes...on a budget!

This is one of my greatest finds: the bulk food section in your local grocery store. Buying in bulks help you reduce the cost per pound. For example, on a recent grocery store tip, I saw a one pound of bagged brown rice cost $1.79. I headed to the bulk food area, and brown rice was on sale for $0.99 per pound. Not only does it save you money, you will only buy what you need, now!
I also buy in bulk when needing a special baking ingredient: a speciality flour, oats, nuts, or sea salt. All are found, and much cheaper, in the bulk section. Then, I can get the correct amount I personally need without letting any extra go to waste.

Set aside a set time and afternoon for food shopping. Write a list of what you need and stear clear of any crazy bargins the store is promoting. It is much cheaper to shop once a week versus five days a week! Planning ahead helps when planning meals during the week. Write down what you meals you are cooking at the beginning of the week. This is help reduce daily stress and last minute stops to the grocery store.

TIP THREE: Shop at warehouses!
Think: Costco, Sam's Club, and cash and carry-type stores. Larger stores will have higher volume creating a lower price for you. Also, remember my tip #1: buying in bulk saves money!

TIP FOUR: Buy all-purpose foods!
What is an all-purpose food? Food that can be used in many dishes and preperations. My favorite are: onions, garlic, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, green onions, beans, qunioa, rice, tofu, eggs, and chicken. With these items I can create: Mexi-scramble for breakfast, bell pepper-onion quinoa, garlic tofu/chicken, and veggie rice and beans. Not only are these foods multi-use, they are naturally filling since they contain fiber and lots of natural vitamins and minerals.
When I am baking, I always have these items on hand: all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, unsalted butter (I like to buy 'em in bulk and store them in the freezer when needed), and eggs. Any special nuts, chocolate, dairy, or dried fruit I buy when needed. Another good trick? I like baking a batch of cookies and storing them in the freezer. Thus, throughout the week, I can snag a homemade cookie when I am craving one!

TIP FIVE: Use all-purpose cookware and bakeware!
Just like your food, your bakeware and cookware should serve more than one purpose. With my round, sqaure, and rectangle-shaped cake pans, I use them to roast potatoes, chicken breats, and veggies. Remember to throughly clean 'em after each use! When you are cooking, I like 2-3 large skillets for sauting, stir frying, and browning proteins.

More helpful advice:
-Keep your dry baking ingredients store in an air-tight container, located in a dark drawer/pantry to lock in freshness.
-Store your nuts in the freezer, in an air-tight package.
-Store butter in your freezer. Thaw in the microwave and/or room-temp when you need it!
-I like to buy frozen fruit and use it when needed.
-When it comes to seasoning, I like using: sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and cayenne for my cooking. Spices do add up quickly, thus only buy what you constantly use on a daily basis and truly enjoy the flavor of!
-Other great all-purpose ingredients I love: soy sauce, olive oil, seasame oil, rice wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar.

Overall the best I advice I can give: is to plan! Plan your grocery store stops, meals for the week, and the spices/seasonings you will use.

Happy Baking,

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

LATEST INTERVIEW: With fellow baker and cupcake lover, Jenni Liu, from "Jenni's Sugar Shop."

As you know, I love meeting new people through social media, networking events, and foodie gatherings in the Seattle area. I constantly talk to Jenni, on twitter, about food, baking, and cupcakes. We find out we have TONS in common: we both are avid attendees of Google Plus Local events, love cupcakes, and live a busy lifestyle since we both have a small dessert business and work full time.

Below is my interview with Jenni Liu:

Brief bio on Jenni's Sugar Shop:

Jenni's Sugar Shop is an online dessert catering company that specializes in cupcakes, french macarons, and other sweet treats. I started it because I love baking and have always dreamed of opening my own bakery someday. I love baking and bringing joy to others through my sweet treats.


1) You seem to love baking for others, what was the "spark" that made you create Jenni's sugar shop?

I have always loved to bake for friends, for family, and for coworkers. However, over time, buying new equipment and quality ingredients really adds up. They had encouraged me to open my own shop for several years, but a storefront is a huge risk and a lot of overhead. With Jenni's Sugar Shop, since it is online-based, I get paid to do what I love -- it's a dream come true.

2) What are your most popular treats?

My most popular treats are my s'more cupcakes, carrot cake, "crack pies", and french macarons.

3) You live a similar lifestyle to me: we both work but also have a side business. How do you balance it all?

Sometimes it is difficult to manage all the things I do, but having a great support system through my family and close friends is key -- they keep me sane! Plus, playing sports and walking my dog are great stress relievers.

4) You are also a big foodie, what is your favorite restaurant in Seattle?

That is a tough question! There are so many good restaurants in Seattle. I would have to say that it's a tie between Harvest Vine and Nishino.

5) What is some advice you learned that you can give to others wanting to start a dessert business?

I think it's best to start small. Try it out and make sure it is something you love to do and want to pursue, then dive in.

From my conversations with Jenni, she is TRULY a sweet young woman with the confidence to balance a busy lifestyle. Plus, her macarons are devine!

Check her out:
facebook:!/JennisSugarShop "like" Jenni's Sugar Shop
twitter: @jennissugarshop

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

5 different people...5 different cookware NEEDS!

Cookware needs depend on your: lifestyle, cooking ability, and budget. Take those three factors and apply them to which pots and pans fits your life. Too many people watch competitive cooking shows and think, "If the pros use 'em, I must also use them!" WRONG. Your cookware should be different than your friends, family members, and professionals.

Below are 5  people/couples with different lifestyles, cooking ability, and budget: All of these scenrios are examples of people I have helped!

A brand new college student needs a few pots and pans for his/her dorm room. S/he needs pans with multiple use that are not too pricey.
-Some young teens grow up cooking, but most do not. And, if they do, it is basic food: pasta, protein, rice, and potatoes. Thus, they are just learning how to cook.
-Basic cooks do great with a strong, dishwasher-safe non-stick cookware.
-It is rare that you need an entire set of cookware right now.
Go for: What you need is a two non-stick skillets: one medium (10 inch) and large (12 inch) to do basic sauting and stir frying. Also, a medium non-stick size pot (about 5-7 quarts) to do any boiling or simmering. Make sure it is all dishwasher safe since most college student don't want to spend their free time scrubbing and polishing cookware.

A young couple is about to get married! The couple is choosing cookware for their registery. They are having a tough time deciding since most of it is "mix and match" from college days and both want something different: She wants a good non-stick set and he wants a clad-contruction stainless steel set. But, they do want their cookware to be budget-friendly for their guest.
-Remember, non-stick cookware is great for ALL cooking abilities: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
-Stainless steel is "different" to cook on especially if you have never EVER cooked on it. It also requires more time scrubbing and polishing, unlike non-stick cookware.
-In reality, most people have both types of cookware. (Like me!)
Go for: Non-stick set AND individual stainless steel pans. Too many times I have seen couples do the opposite: Stainless steel set with a couple non-stick skillets. Why do I like the "the other way around?" Non-stick is very user-friendly and easier to clean/maintain than stainless steel. Remember, this couple is young and still leads a busy social and professional lifestyle. Plus if they are planning on having children, they will have less time for maintaining their cookware.

A young single professional loves to cook and entertain for his/her friends and family. Often, s/he likes menu planning social dinners and Thanksgiving. Also, s/he is an avid viewer of all the cooking shows on TV!
-A young professional will demand a higher quality cookware than in scenrio #1 and #2. This person comes in with consumer reviews in hand and ready to ask questions about the differences in cookware.
-Since this person is single and probably living on his/her own, they do not mind spending extra money on nicer pans.
Go for: A clad construction stainless steel set with two non-stick skillets for everyday use. Why? They have extra time and money for it. Also, experienced cooks "know" how to correctly cook on stainless steel and often do not mind spending extra elbow grease cleaning it.

A full family of 5 needs basic, every day cookware. With young kids and teens, the parents need something quick and thrifty to use, cook on, and clean. The parents wants a "reasonable" price without losing quality of the pans.
-If both parents are working, some of the young kids may be helping out in the kitchen, too!
-The parents want healthy dishes for everyone in the family.
-Dishwasher safe is a plus!
Go for: Non-stick, dishwasher safe, set. The true benefits of non-stick cookware, versus stainless steel, is: little or zero fat when cooking, easier to clean, and great for all cooking levels.

An old retired couple needs some new pans. They have some beat up ones from the past when they were raising a family. Now, they are cooking just for two instead of five.
-They are experienced cooks from cooking for their family all those years!
-They do have extra time on their hands versus in the past.
Go for: If they like healthy dishes, go for some non-stick staples (like in scenrio #1). If they do not mind spending extra time cleaning, let them choose some great stainless steel pans.

I constantly inform people, not every cookware fits everyone. There is a style and price-range for everyone. Half the battle is finding the right cookware type for you, and next is maintaing it.

Simple tips for choosing cookware for your lifestyle:
-Non-stick is great for beginner cooks, healthy dishes, and people who do not want to spend extra time polishing their cookware. People constantly say, it is more convient cooking on non-stick when you lead a busy life.
-Stainless steel is great for advanced and experienced cooks. It does take more oil/fat when cooking and extra time scrubbing. Yet, like cast iron, it truly last forever.
-In reality, most people have a combination of both. They like cooking one dish in one type of pan, and another recipe in the other. That is fine, in fact, I encourage people cooking on different styles of cookware. It is a lesson all its own!
-Always: set a budget, read consumer report reviews, and check reviews online.

Happy Baking!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Is your cookware dishwasher SAFE?

"Is this cookware safe to put in the dishwasher?" One of the most common questions I get from customers. Why is it a concern? In the dishwasher, the water is hot and the soap is strong. Plus, pots and pans tend to "bang around" while being cleaned. You do not want those factors killing your brand new pans.

How does a cookware manufacturer determine if a pot or pan is dishwasher safe? It comes down to the metal, also known as the "vessel." Are you concerned about non-stick coatings? Most of them are OK to put in the dishwasher, you just have to worry about the metal.

*Remember: We need some sort of heat conduction from a metal when cooking. Stainless steel, by itself, heats uneven. It is lined with aluminum because it is abundant, conducts heat well, and pretty easy to mold. Or, we can cast, stamp, or hard anodize aluminum and line it with a protective coating.

- Stainless Steel cookware (Even with non-stick coating in the exterior)
- Hard anodized aluminum non-stick with a protective exterior (like non-stick or color coating) and base (like a stainless steel or rings.)
-Glass lids
-Stainless steel lids and tools
-Nylon/Silicone-handled tools

-Hard anodized aluminum (if your non-stick pans have zero protection on the exterior or bottom, you cannot put these pans in the dishwasher.)
-Cast aluminum cookware/bakeware (Cast aluminum needs to be treated and seasoned like cast iron.)
-Pure/Straight aluminum cookware/bakeware
-Full cooper or cooper-lined cookware (Even if there is a small amount of exposed cooper on the pan, it is not dishwasher safe.)
-Procelain enamel-exterior/lined cookware

Q: So, what happens if you put your "not dishwasher" cookware in your dishwasher?
A: You just voided the warranty. Remember you have to follow the cookware manufacture's direction to keep their warrany valid.
-Cooper: Will tarnish and turn blue-grey.
-Hard Anodized aluminum: Will turn bright white. (This is most common!)
-Cast Aluminum and Pure Aluminum: Discolor lightly and eventually warp.
-Procelain enamel: Dull over time.

What is your best bet? HAND WASH. Use regular dish soap with a soft yellow or green sponge. Please avoid metal scrubbies (they also void cookware warranties).

Here are some simple tips for cleaning your cookware:
-With stainless steel: In your pot/pan, add 2 cups water and 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar. Let it simmer for 15 minutes. Pour out the mixture and let cool. Use a polish to detail any stains.
-With non-stick: Make a paste with water and baking soap. Rub it on your pan, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Wash as you would. Repeat if the stain is bad.
*Note: Remember when you are cooking, you are exposing some sort of metal to direct heat. It is natural for the bottoms of  your cookware to discolor fast. I recommend polishing your cookware (with my tips above or a cookware polish) once a month.

Happy Baking,