Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tools and Tips: Food Processor

Pastry Dough Made in Food Processor


We're rapidly approaching the holidays and your kitchen deserves a little gift. It's not that iPad you've been lusting after for two years. It's not that flat-screen TV that would be the perfect accessory in that blank bit of wall over the sink. And it's not that amazing do-it-all convection toaster oven everyone (well, everyone on QVC!) is raving about.

Your kitchen deserves a food processor. And 4 reasons not to bury this appliance at the back of your cabinet.

  1. Speed demon: You probably own a blender, possibly a stand mixer and maybe even a food processor (buried at the back of your cabinet) and you're wondering why you would involve yet another appliance in your food prep. After all, what task can a food processor accomplish that a blender or stand mixer cannot? Quite frankly, a food processor's biggest advantage is speed. It can grate, chop, puree, emulsify, grind and mix so quickly and uniformly that you may find time to twiddle your thumbs.
     
  2. Big batch athlete: It takes about a minute to set up your food processor (haul it out of the cupboard, fit it with the blade, fit the bowl onto the power unit, attached the feed tube top, etc), so think big when you use this appliance. Make a big batch of pesto or grind multiple cups of almonds; puree a whole stock pot of soup or make a couple batches of pastry dough; grate a week's worth of cheese from bricks or emulsify a jar of homemade mayonnaise. The point is, give this speed demon a workout and you'll never regret spending that minute of set-up time.
     
  3. Cold butter's bestie: Forget about cutting in butter using that old hand pastry cutter or your 98.6℉ finger tips - it's a waste of time. A food processor is cold butter's best friend and can create the perfect crumb for pastry, biscuit and scone dough. And this appliance is such a speed demon, the butter never has a chance to melt. I would argue (quite fiercely) that biscuits and pastry dough are reasons enough to invest in a food processor - even if you never use if for anything else.
     
  4. Obsessive uniformity: For the little part me that is obsessed with perfection, my food processor is my OCD hero. The design of the straight-side processor bowl combined with the two-tier steel blade allows this appliance to blend, chop, grind and puree with delightfully uniform results. Unlike that conventional blender that purees anything close to the blades and leaves everything else in varying degrees of chunkiness. Maybe it's just me, but I like my soup, hummus and pesto to be of uniform texture.

Chopped Tomatoes in Food Processor

Still not convinced? Here's just a handful of ways I save time with my food processor:

  • Biscuit dough - measure, dump, pulse, done
  • Chopped ham - dump, pulse, done
  • Grated cheese - run, feed, done
  • Grated vegetables - run, feed, done
  • Ground nuts - dump, pulse, done
  • Ground parmesan cheese - dump, run, done
  • Ground oats - dump, pulse, done
  • Hummus - measure, dump, puree, done
  • Mayonnaise - measure, dump, run, drizzle, done
  • Pastry dough - measure, dump, pulse, done
  • Pesto - measure, dump, run, drizzle, done
  • Ranch dressing - measure, dump, pulse, done
  • Scones - measure, dump, pulse, done
  • Soups - dump, pulse, done
  • Syrups - measure, dump, run, done

And that's just a list of my favorites. Seriously, do yourself a favor and gift your kitchen a food processor.

But before you rush off to pick up that super seasonal department-store deal, equip yourself with food processor basics:

  • Keep it simple: Forget bells and whistles and go for simple. You need a steel blade, a grating blade and preferably also a slicing blade. And you need a "run" or "on" setting where the food processor runs continuously and a "pulse" setting where the food processor spins the blade in short bursts. You need a feed-tube, preferably with wide and narrow feed options. You don't need a special dough blade, a dizzying number of speeds or a slew of attachments.


  • Size matters: Look for a full-size bowl on your food processor with capacity of at least 9 cups (12 cups is better). Make sure the processor includes a secondary smaller bowl (often inserted on top of the larger bowl) for processing foods like salad dressings, nuts, etc. Size is important because if you are working with fluids like soups or syrups, the capacity of the bowl is roughly half the rated capacity (e.g. 5-6 cups vs. 12 cup rated capacity). Alternatively, the smaller bowl is necessary when working with small batches or emulsifying oils.

2 Pasturized Egg Yolks in Food Processor

  • Get personal: Food processors are relatively expensive and I would never plunk down that much cash without examining a model version in person. So spend an afternoon at your local kitchen store getting tactile with different models. Find one with buttons or switches you like. Find one with a comfortable lid and locking mechanism. Find one you can heft around your kitchen. Then go online and read up on reviews from consumer review sites or even Amazon.com. And price shop.

Adding Ice Water to Food Processor

  • Use it: I know food processors look a little scary, all bulky and unsightly. But once you get familiar with your weighty new friend, it's not scary at all. In fact, with all the time it saves whipping together biscuits and pastry and pesto and hummus, you may even find it lovable. Kissable, even. But maybe that's just me.

Now that I've spent an entire post explaining why you need a food processor instead of that iPad or flatscreen, I expect you to save your pennies and invest them in this appliance. I also expect I shall feel entitled to brazenly post recipes relying on the use of a food processor.

So remember: Food processor. Not iPad.


3 comments:

  1. I should really get one, I have a small one and my mom recently bought a bigger one...she doesn't let me use it for some strange reason :/

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  2. Hi Javelin!

    Thank you so much for your well wishes....feeling a lot better but still have a sore throat :(. Hope all is well for you!

    BTW, I love reading all your posts its always so informative. You inspire me to bring out the blender and use it more often...:). Have a lovely weekend!

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  3. I'm glad I was able to provide sufficient prodding (or is it encouragement?) - I must admit, it took me almost a year to work up the courage to use the food pro regularly. Now, I seem to haul it out every other day ;)

    ReplyDelete