What a Dish

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davew's picture

I have an engineering mind which is largely a hindrance when it comes to cooking. Directions like "stir until the batter has the consistency of Scottish Warfleblatt and drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet" confound me no end. Both halves of the sentence are equally troubling. I never have an implicit knowledge of whatever thing is being used as a texture comparison which presumably all real cooks memorized at the institute or in home economics class. The second part is worse. Even though the words simpler to understand they make no sense in combination. What kind of spoon? Is that a tablespoon, soup spoon, or ladle? What do they mean by "rounded"? All spoons outside of Ikea are rounded. Do they mean "more rounded?" How much is that exactly? Lastly, no matter how I mix the dough or batter the very last thing it wants to do is drop. I try to push it out, but only succeed in transferring it to my finger, then back to the spoon, then back to my finger. This is like something out of a Dr. Seuss story. Eventually I attempt to fling the remaining dough with some vigor and manage to hit the pan about one out of three times. The other two either hit the floor or my shirt. If we had a dog he'd be happy and chubby.

Dishers to the rescue. I got my first one, a #20, at the suggestion from Alton Brown as the perfect amount of dough to use for chocolate chip cookies. As time went by I collected more dishers partially because they are useful, and partially because they are cool and feed my gadget obsession. Eventually their usefulness won me over and I rarely cook without them without them any more. How can this be? Lemme tell you. Cookies, biscuits, muffins, and pancakes. No matter how sticky or uncooperative the dough your disher will not only measure the proper amount, but deposit it exactly where you like with a simple squeeze. I use the #10 (about 1/3 cup) for biscuits, the #20 (about 4 tablespoons) for large cookies, and the #30 (about 2 tablespoons) for small cookies as well as the perfect amount of filling for a cheese blintz. Sometimes I grab a disher as much for neatness as for measuring. Nothing does a better job of moving sticky stuff like peanut butter or shortening. It doesn't stop there, though. The large dishers are perfect for serving up mashed taters in high style and the smallest ones are great for flavorful sorbets. The portion control on doughs is especially wonderful. If your cookies are all the same size they will all cook at the same rate. Never again will half your cookies turn out like squashed basketballs of semi-cooked dough while the other half turn out like toasted chocolate host wafers. Also, you'll know with some degree of certainty the second time you make a recipe exactly how many cookies it will produce.

And know for the disher technology which as any geek knows is the best part. The number, usually stamped onto the sweeper, is the fraction of a quart. A #20 disher is 1/20 of a quart or 32/20 ounces or 1.6 ounces. (Don't you just love the English measuring system?) Outside of measurement critical items like crepe fillings I rarely do the math though. I usually just open the drawer and grab the one that looks right. If I'm feeling particularly diligent I'll note on the recipe which one I used for future reference. Usually consistency is more important than the actual amount. Not all dishers are created equal, however. You'll notice in the model I favor the handles squeezing together operate the sweeper. There is another, cheaper, model where the sweeper is activated by a press of the thumb. I had two of these which broke very quickly. I don't have them any more.

There is one final use which I almost hesitate to mention. Hate to blog away all my secrets. Suppose your wife asks you to get her some ice cream. Suppose further that she has a cat on her lap so the request is reasonable. Try the following, "I used the #20 disher because I feel the scoop size is the most aesthetically pleasing. Nothing but the best for you, honey. Now I could have gotten you 1.6 ounces or 3.2 ounces, but I decided to go for the 3.2 ounces because I wuv you so vewy, vewy much." This will have the effect of making you sound helpful and loving while at the same time strongly discouraging your spouse from ever asking for ice cream again. That's what I call a win-win.
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