Sunday, February 09, 2014

Hario - The Fancy Pants Coffee Grinder

I used frugality as a label for this post which some of you might think is funny or just simply wrong, considering the title of this post.  But hear me out.

We have had a few coffee grinders over the years.  Our current setup includes a Proctor Silex coffee grinder.  it's OK.  Manuel likes it, but I find it a bit irritating because you can't get a uniform grind - it's all by look and feel.  Manuel often over grinds and I definitely under-grind.  This over/under scenario can leave us with coffee results that are lacklustre ... so sad because we really love our coffee.

While I was researching for our new Windows Phones (and Nokia's in particular) I happened open Andrew Kim's Minimally Minimal blog.  You might disagree with his views on certain products, but this 22 year old visual designer from Microsoft can truly open your eyes to the concept of design and esthetics ... to form and function.  I love how he writes about objects that we use and, sometimes, lust for.  So, after reading his post on the Nokia 1020 I continued to read through his blog.  Which is how I happened to read about the Hario Skerton ceramic coffee mill.  At the time we weren't even thinking about getting a new coffee grinder, but after reading Andrew's post I got curious ... and then forgot about it.

Just before Christmas we were in Crate and Barrel in Oakridge and I happened to see the Hario.

At $50 CAD it wasn't cheap, but it was beautiful and well made.  Andrew's post had already convinced me that it would be a wonderful grinder to own, and because it's manual and doesn't require electricity to use I figured it was both frugal and practical.  I could even take it when we went camping since it wouldn't require power.

It's taken me a bit of time to get the perfect grind.  Since you have to remove the knob at the base of the handle, remove the handle, and a little metal footer beneath the handle before you can manually adjust the coarseness/fineness of your grind it does take time to arrive at the perfect grind.  I finally reached that yesterday.  Wonderful.

Now, I'm thinking we need a new coffee machine.  Why, you ask?  You see that string?  That's holding the basket from flinging open.  The clips been broken for eons.  We have to shake the lid of the thermo pot to make sure it's moving - if we don't we often get freshly brewed coffee all over the place (and none in the pot) ... which is why the coffee machine is placed inside a tray.  Yes, it's decorative, but it's real function is to contain that overflowing coffee.  That tray saves us at least 1-2 a month.

I've been contemplating the Technivorm, a made in the Netherlands coffee machine that is supposed to make the perfect cup of home brewed coffee.  I've hesitated because it's about $400 CAD.  Is it really worth that much?  Despite the string on our machine, it still makes a good pot of coffee ... when we get the grind right.  We've been looking around for several months now and can't decide.  Go cheap and get average coffee or take a chance on an expensive machine?

What do you use to grind coffee?  How far are you willing to go to make the perfect cuppa?

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Bosch Sugar Cookies

I have a ton of cookbooks, but I'm finding I use the internet more these days when selecting a recipe to use.  I tend to use my cookbooks to figure out meal plans, flipping through the pages to get inspiration.

This recipe comes from the place I bought my Bosch Universal Plus stand mixer, Healthy Kitchens.  It's great to get some actual Bosch-centric recipes because the machine is capable of making large batches of almost anything and having a recipe ready to use that volume makes it a no brainer.

I loved making these cookies.  It took me about five-seven minutes in total to mix them, separate them into batches, roll them, and put them in the freezer.  Not bad, eh? 


  • Butter, room temperature - 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups)
  • Sugar - 2 1/4 cups
  • Eggs, room temperature - 4 large
  • Sour Cream - 1/2 cup (I used yogurt)
  • Vanilla Extract - 1 tablespoon
  • Flour - 8 cups  (I used 1 cup whole wheat flour, and the remainder unbleached all-purpose)
  • Baking Powder - 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Salt - 1 teaspoon
Put the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.  Set aside.

If you have them, use the cookie paddles as they can definitely handle the firmer dough more easily.  If you don't have them start with the batter whisks and switch to the dough hook once you start adding the dry ingredients.

Cream the butter and sugar for 2 minutes, scraping at the 1 minute mark.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  Scrape after mixing in the second egg.  Add in the vanilla extract.  Next, put in half the flour mixture.  Mix.  Add in the sour cream.  Mix.  Add in the last of the flour.  Do one final mix.

Remove the bowl and turn & pull the cookie paddles to remove them.  I divided the dough into four, rolling them into long logs, and wrapped them in wax paper.  I put the logs on a cookie sheet and placed them in the freezer. 

The other morning I grabbed a roll while making our lunches and baked a batch before heading out to work (375F for 12 minutes).  Being able to have freshly baked, homemade bakery items is a total win for us.  Knowing what the ingredients are is great, and going this route saves us so much money.

I'd say I could easily get 8 dozen mid-sized cookies from this recipe.  You could easily make changes to the recipe to create different flavours - lemon zest instead of vanilla extract, some chopped nuts or chocolate chips.  Candied fruit for a Christmas cookie.

My Bosch Universal Plus

I've had my Bosch Universal Plus stand mixer for just over a month and thought it would be a good time to give you a review of it.

First, I have to say I'm really happy with my choice.  When I first got it I wondered if I should have gone for the smaller one, but the Universal Plus has been perfect.  It has a permanent spot on the kitchen counter next to our coffee maker, ready to go.

I do keep the extra attachments in two cardboard boxes that I happened to have around.  One of the boxes holds the food processor blades and other attachments necessary for food processing.  The other wider and shorter box holds the whips, paddles, and scrapers.  These boxes plus the blender attachment sit on top of the fridge, in easy reach.

When I was doing my research I read some reviews where people complained about clean up after using it, but I've found it as easy as any prior setup I've used.  Since it uses a drive shaft in the centre you do need to pull that out before washing it, but that's simply tilting it slightly to get to the underneath portion - turning the shaft and pulling it out.  Here you see the underside with the drive shaft removed.

Then a quick rinse with warm water and soap and it's done.  Nothing really sticks ... I haven't struggled at all to clean it.

I dry it off with a tea towel, and even roll up the towel so that I can put it into the underside drive shaft spot and turn a bit one way and a bit the other way to pick up any moisture that's managed to get inside.  After that I just place it on a tea towel to completely dry.  It is important to allow it to completely dry before putting it back together.  Since the motor is at the bottom and the drive shaft connects to it you don't want moisture getting into the motor via that connection.  A dry bowl ensures that doesn't happen.  The one failing I find is that Bosch didn't supply a little cap to put over the connection to prevent anything from getting in there when the bowl isn't in place.  I have come up with my own solution - I use a tiny china bowl and invert it over the spot.  It fits perfectly, protecting the opening nicely.  You can see it in the picture below with the drive shaft laying on it's side in front.

So, aside from not being supplied with a proper cap to cover the drive shaft connection point I'd have to say this stand mixer is perfect.  It is extremely easy to mix anything ... and so quick.  You're done in at least half the time.

I'd give it a 9 out of 10.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Life Lately ...

Sorry for not posting for several weeks.  Life has been pulling me in all directions and I just haven't been able to carve out any time to write, and take & edit photos.  I'm amazed at the people who can publish on their blog 3-5 days a week.  I do have a ton of ideas ... I just need to sift through them and select a few!