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The Absolute Best Way to Make Homemade Butter

When I was a child, I got into such a bad pinching war with my older sister Zoe at a pilgrim-themed summer camp during the butter churning demonstration that we were both removed from the activity. As a result, I never learned how to make homemade butt…

When I was a child, I got into such a bad pinching war with my older sister Zoe at a pilgrim-themed summer camp during the butter churning demonstration that we were both removed from the activity. As a result, I never learned how to make homemade butter. That changed last week. Read on for the results of Absolute Best Tests: Homemade Butter, in which I dragged out more than half of the heavy appliances in my home to answer the question of how best to top toast.


controls:

For each method, I used 2 cups of heavy cream, and, at the end, a scant ½ teaspoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt. I reserved all of the drained liquid in the following methods—the fresh, salted buttermilk—and used it in my coffee. (Note: you could mix in the salt with a flexible spatula or butter paddles after you drain the buttermilk, if you prefer to keep the run-off unsalted.)

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The Absolute Best Way to Make the Strawberry Shortcake of Your Dreams

In Absolute Best Tests, columnist Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She’s boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today,…

In Absolute Best Tests, columnist Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She's boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today, she tackles a summer dessert superstar: Strawberry shortcake.


Strawberry shortcake hasn’t always been quite so recognizable. The three-part dessert—one part base, one part berry, one part sweet topping—was first popularized in America by an 1847 recipe for “Strawberry cake” penned by Eliza Leslie in The Lady’s Receipt-Book. While Leslie’s shortcakes did call for the essential three components, they were topped not with billowing dollops of whipped cream but rather with white icing designed to harden. Cream later found its way to the dish, around the 1860s, and by the time The Original Fannie Farmer Cookbook came out in 1896, strawberry shortcake called for a topping of “Cream Sauce I,” three parts cream to one part milk—beaten ‘til stiff with an egg beater—powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.

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The Absolute Best Macerated Strawberry

Macerated strawberries are as much a part of my dependable cooking technique arsenal as the Nora Ephron vinaigrette, adding a drained jar of tuna fish to freshly cooked rigatoni along with Pecorino, cream, and salt, or standing over the sink as I eat c…

Macerated strawberries are as much a part of my dependable cooking technique arsenal as the Nora Ephron vinaigrette, adding a drained jar of tuna fish to freshly cooked rigatoni along with Pecorino, cream, and salt, or standing over the sink as I eat cold salami with my bare hands while my husband is on a work trip. The word itself—maceration—may have lofty connotations (I do hate to “steep”), but in this context, it simply means tossing fruit with sugar, some form of acid, a hint of salt, and letting it sit until it releases its sweet juices. Those juices then mix with the soaking solution to forge a thick syrup excellent for drizzling over ice cream, whipped heavy cream, or an unadorned cake. Macerating strawberries requires no special equipment and produces a peerless form of fresh berries, even if (and don’t tell any cheffy types I said this; I’ll know) your berries aren’t peak-season to begin with.

With that said, let’s dive in.

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The Absolute Best Way to Make Lava Cake

In Absolute Best Tests, columnist Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She’s boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today,…

In Absolute Best Tests, columnist Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She's boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today, she tackles the stalwart dessert we can't stop ordering at restaurants: The lava cake.


While there is much to like about lava cake—a single-serve portion of oozing chocolate, made ubiquitous to the point of punchline-status in America in the 90s—there is a single, tedious feature of the dessert that is critical to nail: its molten core. Bake a lava cake a minute too long, and you’ll end up with a soft pillowy core—less lava, more volcanic tuff.

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15 Father’s Day Brunch Recipes That Dad Will Love

My dad isn’t much of a breakfast person. Like me, he lives to eat, but that takes shape mainly as a lunch, dinner, and snack pursuit. I’ve never known him to go crazy over a fried egg sandwich, or to make pancakes of his own accord. Most days, he has t…

My dad isn't much of a breakfast person. Like me, he lives to eat, but that takes shape mainly as a lunch, dinner, and snack pursuit. I've never known him to go crazy over a fried egg sandwich, or to make pancakes of his own accord. Most days, he has toast, either slathered with peanut butter while still warm, or with gently crushed avocado, olive oil, and salt.

So Father's Day brunch is really for the rest of the family (and for the dogs, who each year anew act like they've never seen a muffin scrap before). My dad will attend, of course, but menu planning is dictated by the tastes of my sisters and mother. Enter the cinnamon rolls and the cream cheese frosting. And the custardy, soft-scrambled eggs. Oh, and the biscuits.

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The Absolute Best Way to Hack Box Cake Mix

In Absolute Best Tests, columnist Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She’s boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today,…

In Absolute Best Tests, columnist Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She's boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today, she tackles the childhood bake sale favorite: boxed cake mix.


Layer cake is among the most idealized of foods. How could fleecy layers of sweet crumb—painted with blankets of satin-soft buttercream and towering high on a pedestal—not be playing on an infinite loop in our minds? It has been the center of cinematic scenes of cultural import and is nestled deep in nostalgia for many of us. It's emblazoned across the covers of lauded culinary zines and cookbooks. It is pushed to the front of bakery display windows, casting its shadow onto forlorn cookies.

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The Absolute Best Way to Make Onion Dip

There are so many cooking techniques that exist to be hacked: deconstructed, simplified, expedited, and improved upon.

And then, there is the caramelization of onions. Add enough baking soda to make a difference, and you will turn the contents of your…

There are so many cooking techniques that exist to be hacked: deconstructed, simplified, expedited, and improved upon.

And then, there is the caramelization of onions. Add enough baking soda to make a difference, and you will turn the contents of your sauté pan to mush. Increasing the heat will only give you burnt pieces interspersed with nearly raw ones unless you’re hovering over the skillet with a kettle of water in full stage-mom mode, ready to splash every few moments. Cheating with balsamic vinegar or cane sugar produces overly sweet caramelized onions that lack the characteristic depth and richness. You could add water at the beginning to speed up the softening, though you’ll only save a few minutes. But really take your time with the process—sink into it, become one with it—and you’ll be sumptuously rewarded as the alliums release their moisture until their cells break down, spilling out sugars that later caramelize into rich, heavily-flavored coats for your softened onion bits.

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The Absolute Best Way to Make Crispy Potato Chips

In Absolute Best Tests, Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She’s boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today, she tackl…

In Absolute Best Tests, Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She's boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today, she tackles the ubiquitous potato chip.


Nobody knows who fried the world’s first potato chip.

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The Absolute Best Way to Make Sugar Cookies

In Absolute Best Tests, Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She’s boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today, she tackl…

In Absolute Best Tests, Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She's boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today, she tackles the sugar cookie.


Most sugar cookies are just fine. Good, but not great.

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The Absolute Best Way to Cook Butternut Squash

In Absolute Best Tests, Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She’s boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today, she tackl…

In Absolute Best Tests, Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She's boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today, she tackles the butternut squash.


In October of 2022, Michigan-based farmer Derek Ruthrouff claimed the Guiness World Record for the heaviest butternut squash. Ruthrouff presented a hulking specimen that weighed in at just above one hundred and four pounds. Three weeks later, I consumed roughly the same volume of butternut squash. I did not win an award for it.

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