Dear TMH: Cleaning Zesters, Basic Bread Recipes and Childhood Baking Photos

In this edition of Dear TMH I share a fast way to clean a grimy zester, some quick sandwich bread recipes, and the earliest known photo of me baking. Want me to test out a recipe or a cleaning tactic you’ve heard about? I’ll do that, too. Just e-mail, or post a note in the comments.

Fallon writes:

Alright, so I have this really excellent zester that I love to use for all sorts of zesty things, but the only problem I have with it is getting the leftover chunks of lemon/cheese/whatever out of the grooves! I’ve tried soaking it in water, and I’ve tried scrubbing it with a sponge, which ended horribly for the sponge even though I scrubbed across instead of up and down. It just seems like I never ever get all of it out. Help please!

Two general scrubbing tips first: Do yourself a favor and buy a scrubbing wand with plastic bristles. That will do a number on most gunk, and won’t get torn up like a more delicate sponge. When removing cheese from a grater or zester, make sure to wash with cold water. The cheese will stay firm and loosen much easier.

I had a theory on what would clean your zester if a scrub brush didn’t do the trick, but I needed to test it first. I filled both my zesters with lots of freshly grated cheddar cheese, melted it, and let it harden and cool before I started trying to clean.

Take a close look at the sequence of photos above. At the far left is the zester full of melted cheese. The middle photo shows the zester after being scrubbed with a brush under cold water. Most of the cheese came off, but there was still plenty in the grooves of the zester. The far-right photo shows the zester after it had been wiped down with some vegetable oil. The cheese has been freed from the grooves and is ready to wash off.

That’s right, a little vegetable oil on a paper towel is all it takes. Rub vigorously and the remaining cheese (or lemon zest) will start to come right off. Then wash with soap and water. In no time my zesters were clean and shiny once again.

Jill writes:

We just got a fancy KitchenAid [mixer] and we want to make bread – which I know you are an expert at. Can you recommend a very basic and easy starting-out bread baking recipe? Bonus points if it is multi-grain.

I think it’s easiest to start baking sandwich loaves, but you do have to have the proper-size loaf pan. Buy a non-stick 8 1/2-inch-by-4 1/2-inch pan. Thicker metal is definitely better, so the bread will cook evenly. It’s best to buy the type of pan where the metal is folded.

Now, on to recipes. A few months ago I gathered together my favorite sandwich bread recipes that I had written about. Of those, Healthy Honey Wheat Bread is a straight-forward 100 percent whole wheat recipe. As you’ll read, I was intentionally trying to make a low-calorie bread. The best-tasting bread of the bunch (also with good whole grains) is Multi-grain Bread Extraordinaire. It’s a little more work, but the method is essentially the same as other loaves. The next time you cook brown rice, just remember to save a few tablespoons for the bread.

After I wrote about encouraging kids to cook and shared some of my childhood cooking memories, my mom e-mailed with some of her own recollections. She writes:

Unfortunately I rarely documented our time in the kitchen. But here’s one of you making muffins for your 3-year-old birthday.

My memory is that you LOVED helping make dinner. As a really young guy your favorite task was getting the frozen vegetables ready. You’d eat so many of them frozen I’d have to supplement. I always laughed because when you were a baby I worried about heating up your baby food to just the right temperature. I joked that I should have just served you frozen food as a baby.

  • Jeannie

    All I can say is I’m so happy I found your site!  You’re a genius!!! 

  • Van Swearingen

    I second the scrubbing brush idea.  Cleans colanders, graters, anything with grooves or slots much better than a sponge.

  • Dangerouscrayon

    Why if a folded bread pan better?

    • Mark Evitt

      In general, I find the quality and thickness of the metal to be higher in the folded pans. Plus, with the folded pans you get sharp corners.

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