"roast" news and stories
There seems to be a lot of Starbucks news over the last few months. Here's some more, anyway.
It seems that Starbucks not everyone was happy about the switch to the Pike Place roast coffees. The Consumerist reports that the coffee chain got a lot of requests for consumers for the older, stronger roast coffees. Apparently some people likened the old roast style as having a burnt flavor, while the new Pike Place roast is much milder.
Anyway, the public demanded and Starbucks has conceded. They'll begin selling both varieties of coffee in stores that make fresh coffee all day. So if you're going to Starbucks for a leisurely weekend coffee, you can have your pick between the old and the new.
The first things that will attract you to the books in the Williams-Sonoma collection are the mouthwatering photographs of the dishes. They've probably caught your eye in their stores. But beyond the eye candy, their books usually have good recipes and, in their Essentials series, a lot of useful information about the topic at hand. Williams-Sonoma Essentials Of Roasting is their definitive guide to roasting and probably a good reference to have on hand if you're thinking of starting up the tradition of the Sunday (or Monday, as tomorrow is Christmas) roast in your home.
The book begins, as do others in this series, by covering the basic techniques of oven roasting and the equipment that you'll probably need to be successful, like a good roasting pan. It has over 130 recipes for both traditional and updated dishes, including meats, vegetables, fish and fruits, as well as a variety of sides to complement them.
For years, the "Tofurkey" seemed like some sort of make-believe food item and I pictured blocks of tofu stuck together and carved into a giant turkey shape. This particular mental image was smashed the day I first spotted an actual Tofurkey at the market. The product is a 100% vegan roast made out of tofu and vital wheat gluten (this is the combination, with seasonings, is known as "Tofurkey"), stuffed with a brown rice stuffing and accompanied by a side of "giblet and mushroom gravy," which contains more Tofurkey, mushrooms and a variety of seasonings, oils and thickeners.
I decided that I'd give it a try and see what it was like. After all - how bad could it be?
When brewing coffee, there are two factors that play a huge part in the final flavor. The water-to-bean ratio is important, but first you should have fresh beans and they should be ground as soon before brewing as possible. Fresh grounds will have the natural oils of the bean still in them, which will give you the fullest flavor, eliminating much of that flat and bitter aftertaste that can come from stale grounds - and ground coffee can stale very, very quickly. This is why, if you brew coffee at home, it's a good idea to buy a grinder and grind your own beans. Since that's another step between you and coffee in the morning, however, many opt for preground. The all-in-one coffee makers, which have built in grinders, are a good option for anyone who wants to get the best cup of coffee with the least amount of work.
The machines are programmed in advance and they heat water, grind beans and brew your coffee all with the touch of a button. A recent test showed good results from each of three machines. The Melitta preformed well, but had no insulated carafe, which keeps the coffee from becoming burned or overly strong sitting on a heating pad. The Cuisinart made a slightly better cup of coffee than the Melitta, but the Capresso, with a burr grinder to ensure even grounds and smooth flavor, won the test.
All in all, you can't really go wrong with any of the machines from the sound of it, but if you already have a machine you like, look into getting a grinder instead of a whole new machine to really improve the quality of your morning brew.
Many of us only use a large roasting pan a few times a year and even though the meals we are using it for are holiday dinners, where to is important to try to get the food as perfectly cooked as possible, it is hard to justify spending $200+ dollars on a pan that gets so little use. Cook's Country tested some inexpensive roasting pans, all under $100, to see if they would do just as good a job as the more expensive pans while staying in our budgets.
Each of the pans they tested was designed to work both on the stove-top, so they could be used to brown meats, and in the oven or under the broiler. They chose pans with a minimum size of 15" x 11" inches, to accommodate largest turkeys. Overall, they strongly preferred pans that had sturdy, upright handles, which were easy to grip and did not interfere with the way the pan fit into the oven by adding an extra 2-3 inches to the length. They also found that stainless steel pans with aluminum cores offered the best heat distribution, while plain stainless steel could be a bit spotty when it came to browning. Their top picks were:
- CALPHALON Contemporary Stainless Steel Roasting Pan ($100)
- CUISINART Chef's Classic Roasting Pan ($80)
- KITCHENAID Gourmet Distinctions Roasting Pan ($50) - Best Buy
- GRANITE WARE Oval Roasting Pan ($22) - Best Buy for very infrequent roasters