In an ideal world, I’d always choose a first-rate brand like Callebaut or Valhrona chocolate over a lesser one. But there are great, more budget-friendly options that don’t compromise quality. My favorite is Baker’s brand. Their white chocolate has a unique melting consistency, which isn’t to say Baker’s bittersweet, semisweet, German sweet, and unsweetened chocolate aren’t just as good. No, it’s not 61% Grand Cru or 72%, but it’s still worthy chocolate.
I love real vanilla beans, the smell of fresh cardamom pods, and just-grated nutmeg. Sometimes, they’re not entirely practical or economical ingredients. Extracts and ground spices save money and space. Do keep in mind, fresher’s always more potent. That means you’ll have to add a little more.
Lots of recipes call for steaming when baking custards or cakes. The recipes refer to an actual steamer, rack and all, but if you don’t have either, don’t give up altogether. You can make your own steamer: Place your cake pan or ramekins in a large deep pan and cover with foil. Then pour enough hot water to come up the sides, place in the oven, and you’re ready to steam.