Ruhlman's Twenty

The Ideas and Techniques That Will Make You a Better Cook

by Michael Ruhlman

Ruhlman's Twenty

Hardcover, 367 pages, Chronicle Books Llc, List Price: $40 | purchase

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Book Summary

Presents 20 basic elements of cooking and explains their importance in order to become a better cook, from proper salting techniques to mastering such basic ingredients as eggs and butter.

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Ruhlman's Twenty is an endearingly geeky, earnest tome from one of the cooking world's best technical popularizers. In his drive to reach and instruct the rank beginner, Ruhlman sometimes reminds me of nothing so much as a 21st-century Irma Rombauer (she who so famously wrote in the first Joy of Cooking: "Stand, facing the stove"). Are there other ways to attain the perfect golden brown crust? A moist, fully cooked chicken breast? The platonically crunchiest pecans for

Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Recipe: 'Caramel-Pecan Ice Cream'

This ice cream takes the complexity of caramel and marries it with cream. As with many caramel preparations, salt is a critical counterpoint to the sweetness of the sugar. Simple toasted pecans can be used in the ice cream, but I think it is much better with sweet and salty nuts, so candying them is worth the trouble.

Makes about 4 cups/960 milliliters ice cream

1 cup/200 grams sugar

4 tablespoons/55 grams butter

1 cup/240 milliliters heavy/double cream

2 cups/480 milliliters milk

8 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons bourbon (optional)

Candied pecans (recipe follows)

Put the sugar in a high-sided, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When the sugar begins to melt around the edges, shake the pan to move the sugar around. Slowly stir the melted sugar into the center of the pan. Try not to stir too much, or the sugar may seize up (if it does, keep cooking it; it should eventually melt). Continue to cook until the sugar has dissolved and melted, and the caramel is a clear deep amber. It should read about 320F/160C on a candy thermometer. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the cream and 1 cup/240 milliliters of the milk, and stir to combine. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Put the egg yolks in a bowl. Whisk about 1/2 cup/120 milliliters of the hot cream mixture into the yolks, then pour the yolks and cream into the saucepan. Cook until the mixture thickens slightly, just before it returns to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1 cup milk, the vanilla, salt, and bourbon, if using.. Pour the mixture into a bowl set in ice to stop the cooking.

Thoroughly chill the caramel cream, then freeze it in an ice-cream maker. Transfer the ice cream to a 4-cup/960-milliliter container and stir in the candied pecans.

Candied Pecans

Makes about 1 1/2 cups/200 grams pecans

1 1/2 cups/170 grams roughly chopped pecans

1/4 cup/60 milliliters corn syrup

4 tablespoons/55 grams butter

2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar

Fleur de sel or Maldon salt

Cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/gas 4.

Put the pecans in a basket strainer and sift out any nut dust. Combine the corn syrup, butter, and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the pecans and stir to coat.

Spread the pecans on a baking sheet/tray and bake, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. They will be very foamy looking at this point. Spread the nuts on parchment/baking paper and, while they are still warm, sprinkle with salt and with a little cayenne, if desired. Allow to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

From Ruhlman's Twenty by Michael Ruhlman. Copyright 2011 by Michael Ruhlman. Reprinted by permission of Chronicle Books.

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