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TheFoodGeek

Brian Geiger, Charlottesville, VA, US

contributor

TheFoodGeek

I try to find out how food works, not just how to work food. This means I will delve into the science and traditions of food, so that I can not only make a dish, but I can know why the dish is made.

The Kitchen Mysteries column is always looking for more mysteries. My favorite way of receiving a mystery is through twitter (twitter.com/thefoodgeek), but you can always email me instead.

For more food geekery, read the pages of Fine Cooking Magazine or visit my web site, The Food Geek.

Gender: Male

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Posts

The Deal with Bread Dough

The Deal with Bread Dough

Different types of doughs require different techniques, and sometime familiarity with one dough's method takes you down the wrong path with another type of dough.

Cream of the Crop

Cream of the Crop

What is Culinary Cream, and is there a good substitute for adding to hot or acidic liquids?

How Eggs Provide Lift

How Eggs Provide Lift

Adding an egg to a cake mixture will tend to cause the cake to rise more. What is it about eggs that provide lift, even without making a foam?

Salt: Pasta and Water

Salt: Pasta and Water

We salt our pasta water because our pasta is unsalted, but why is our pasta unsalted?

Its Only Mostly Cooked

It's Only Mostly Cooked

The techniques of blanching and parboiling seem awfully similar. Are they the same?

Saucy Lumps, and How to Avoid Them

Saucy Lumps, and How to Avoid Them

Lumps in a sauce are the sign of a cook who isn't your grandmother, and is therefore an inferior cook. Learn to avoid the lumps, and be ready for a better comparison at holiday meals.

The Why of the Wooden Spoon

The Why of the Wooden Spoon

Recipes sometimes specify using a wooden spoon. What's wrong with plastic?

Slow Cooking Secrets

Slow Cooking Secrets

Too often the results of a night of slow cooking are a grey, gooey mess. If you're making oatmeal, that's not so bad, but for most things, it's icky. Here are some tricks to slow cooking success.

A New Method for Panna Cotta

A New Method for Panna Cotta

A reader runs across a new method for making panna cotta, but it seems vaguely familiar in a different context.

Ginger ale, ginger beer

Ginger ale, ginger beer

What's the difference between ginger ale and ginger beer, and is there really such a thing as a "ginger beer plant"?

Mashed potato textures

Mashed potato textures

Potatoes processed with a ricer have a different texture than those processed with a mixer. Why?

Cucumber Preservation

Cucumber Preservation

Though it's not the best for the environment, there are reasons to wrap cucumbers in plastic.

Flattened Cookies

Flattened Cookies

Sometimes what should be a nice, puffed-up cookie falls flat. Literally.

Less Moist: Dehydration at Home

Less Moist: Dehydration at Home

Sometimes you get a bounty of tasty food that you want to preserve, but you don't want to take up all that freezer space and you've canned about as much as you're going to can. Do you buy a specialty machine to do that, or are there other options?

How Baby Carrots are Made

How Baby Carrots are Made

There are no storks, but baby carrots often have to go a ways to get to your home

Why is Spicy Food Spicy?

Why is Spicy Food Spicy?

Some foods are a little spicy, and some are really, really spicy. What causes the spiciness and why?

Steak vs. Hamburger

Steak vs. Hamburger

If beef is beef, why is it safe to have a rare steak, but not a rare hamburger?

Chef vs. Cook

Chef vs. Cook

What is the difference between a chef and a cook? Should you feel bad if you are one and not the other?

Under Pressure

Under Pressure

Pressure cookers speed up cooking by increasing pressure inside the pot, thus raising the temperature of the food inside. So why are they also affected by high-altitudes?

Freezer Burn

Freezer Burn

A surprising find in a freezer and why it's safe from dehydration

Is Cheese Food Either?

Is "Cheese Food" Either?

There are things masquerading as cheese in grocery stores all across America. Are these things cheese, especially the cheese that is named for our country?

Muffin/Cupcake Taxonomy

Muffin/Cupcake Taxonomy

What's the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?

Popping Foam Bubbles

Popping Foam Bubbles

Sprinkling cinnamon sugar onto a latte's foam seems to pop the bubbles more than it should. Let's explore why.

Stale Irony

Stale Irony

The refrigerator is supposed to keep our food fresh for longer, but some claim that putting bread in the refrigerator makes it go stale faster. Read on to learn what's going on, how to prevent it, and how to fix it (sometimes).

High-Rise, Fallen Cake

High-Rise, Fallen Cake

A promising angel food cake collapsed in the oven shortly before it was done. What could have caused this tragedy?

Simmer vs. Boil 202: The Master Class

Simmer vs. Boil 202: The Master Class

Why does heating to a full boil make it hard to simmer afterwards? Why does stirring a simmering pot cause it to stop simmering? And, most importantly, why does a watched pot never boil?

Bain of the Cheesecake

Bain of the Cheesecake

When making a cheesecake, is the water bath, also known as the bain-marie, the best way to go? Why do we even need to bathe a cheesecake?

Baking by the Numbers

Baking by the Numbers

There are times when it's really useful to have know how much of one ingredient to use versus another. Bakers use formulas called Baker's Percentages to help them. Here's how they work.

The Tyranny of Precision

The Tyranny of Precision

Precise measurements can make you feel like a small mistake will cost you too much in your recipes, but it's really not so bad.

Melted Butter in Baked Goods

Melted Butter in Baked Goods

Many cookie recipes call for creaming sugar into soft butter, but one blogger found melted butter worked better.

Oatmeal Boils Over

Oatmeal Boils Over

When microwaving oatmeal, why does it boil over so easily and are there any tricks that'll keep it in the bowl?

Making Automatic Drip Coffee Better by Blooming

Making Automatic Drip Coffee Better by Blooming

Using a technique I'd never heard of before, you can make your automatic drip coffee taste much better. But at what cost?

The Comfort of Soup

The Comfort of Soup

Soup is often recommended for sick people. Why?

Like Sugar for Butter

Like Sugar for Butter

When canning food, such as fruit butters, for long-term storage, safety is critical. Is sugar a factor in that safety?

Processing Wheat

Processing Wheat

How does wheat go from being a plant to being an ingredient, and how do the changes affect it? Are all of the changes good?

Reheated Spaghetti Tastes So Good

Reheated Spaghetti Tastes So Good

Often, spaghetti that is reheated tastes even better than it did the first time around. Why is this?

Weighing Ingredients

Weighing Ingredients

Some recipes give flour by weight, and some by volume. Why the difference, and what is better?

Testing recipe variations

Testing recipe variations

What's the hardest part of altering recipes? In some cases, it's coming up with ideas, but in others, it's being methodical.

Rise in Gluten-Free Cake

Rise in Gluten-Free Cake

A gluten-free wedding cake isn't getting quite enough lift. What can be done?

Browning meats

Browning meats

When making a stew, how important is it to brown the meat?

Shortening vs. Butter in Cookies

Shortening vs. Butter in Cookies

Butter is such a flavorful fat, and everything made with butter is better. So why use shortening?

Why You Hate Tomatoes

Why You Hate Tomatoes

For most of my life, I hated tomatoes but really quite enjoyed tomato-based products. I was not alone, either. That's changed, and here's why.

Corn Syrup vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup

Corn Syrup vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup

What's the difference between the corn syrup that you get for baking and high fructose corn syrup? And what's the big deal about that stuff, anyways?

Storing Olive Oil

Storing Olive Oil

What is the proper way to store olive oil, and does it differ somehow from other oils?

Bread: Delicate Crumb and Hearty Crust

Bread: Delicate Crumb and Hearty Crust

We've discussed gluten quite a bit, but how can we make use of that knowledge to make some artisan bread?

Dried egg pasta revisited

Dried egg pasta revisited

Waaaay long ago, we discussed why it is okay to dry your own egg pasta. A comment from a reader encourages us to revisit the topic.

Cast Iron Seasoning

Cast Iron Seasoning

Contradictory advice abounds on seasoning cast iron, so we look at what goes on when you season to figure out the best way to do it.

Gluten: In Depth

Gluten: In Depth

My discussions of gluten, including those in the Kitchen Mysteries, have some handwaving and vagueness when discussing the process, which leads to not knowing why some basic things happen. Let's clear up some of that vagueness to learn why, for example, dough needs to rest.

The Right Pan for the Job: Understanding Aluminum, Anodized Aluminum, and Nonstick Coatings

The Right Pan for the Job: Understanding Aluminum, Anodized Aluminum, and Nonstick Coatings

Choosing cookware is tricky, and knowing the differences between materials can help you figure out what is best for you. There may even be some tips related to cleaning hidden inside.

Pink Chicken: Always a Menace?

Pink Chicken: Always a Menace?

We're told, when cooking chicken, to cook it thoroughly to make it safe. Why do we do that, and is it always necessary?

What Kind of Bakeware

What Kind of Bakeware

It's time to buy all new bakeware. Hooray! But what kind of bakeware to get? Hmmm.

Ice Cream Issues

Ice Cream Issues

In an effort to make ice cream that's not as bad for you, how far can you go before things go wrong?

Scummy Stock

Scummy Stock

Making a stock or broth often has consequences in the form of a scum that forms at the top of the stock. Let's take a look at what that is and how to deal with it.

Gummy Gnocchi

Gummy Gnocchi

How to keep your gnocchi light and fluffy rather than gummy and heavy.

Why straws make the drink better

Why straws make the drink better

Some drinks are better drunk through a straw. Sure, that's partially because straws are fun. There are good reasons why, though it is all in your head, it's not all imaginary.

The Incredible Invisible Egg

The Incredible Invisible Egg

Have you ever frozen a hard-boiled egg? No, that's too easy. A hard-boiled quail egg? The white of the egg turns transparent. Do you want to know why? Of course you do. Who wouldn't?

Roasting a Chicken Well

Roasting a Chicken Well

A few of the why's and how's of roasting a chicken and having it come out properly.

Copper: Nutrient or Poison?

Copper: Nutrient or Poison?

We vaguely know that copper pots are lined with tin because copper can be bad for us, but some pots tend to be all copper. Is this bad for us, and why?

Kosher vs. Table Salt

Kosher vs. Table Salt

A lot of people make a fuss about using kosher salt instead of table salt. Here is the why of it, and an in-depth look at crystals.

A Sharp Decline

A Sharp Decline

In food and cooking, many artisans are making a comeback, but when was the last time you saw someone who travels around the area sharpening your knives?

The Taste of Meringue

The Taste of Meringue

Sometimes we want a particular texture, but we have a difficult path to work in the flavor properly. Learn about some tasty pastries, and help The Food Geek solve a mystery.

The Magic of Maple Substitution

The Magic of Maple Substitution

There must be some changes to a baking recipe using maple syrup instead of sugar, right? Indeed there are.

The Perfect Pancake Powder

The Perfect Pancake Powder

The race to an ideal homemade pancake mix leads to some interesting troubles with one of the ingredients.

No Need to Knead Bread

No Need to Knead Bread

Kneading is important to bread dough, but it's not vital, and sometimes can do some damage.

Searing Steak

Searing Steak

There's some conflicting advice on searing, and some weird ideas floating around about it as well. A little knowledge about the difference between plastic and meat will set things straight.

Freezing Greens

Freezing Greens

Herbs have finally arrived at our CSA, so how do we keep from wasting them?

To Cool, or Not to Cool

To Cool, or Not to Cool

There is nothing better than ripping into a loaf of bread fresh from the oven. Or is there?

Now were cooking with cell phones!

Now we're cooking with cell phones!

Can you cook popcorn with a cell phone?

The Flour Weevil

The Flour Weevil

The Red Flour Beetle, or the Confused Flour Beetle, are commonly called Flour Weevils. How do they get in, why, and what do we do about it?

Hollowed Egg and Egg Balance

Hollowed Egg and Egg Balance

Easter is coming, so we have a doubly-eggy set of questions: how to hollow out an egg, and the timeliness of balancing an egg.

The Food Geeks Guide to Cooking with Eggs

The Food Geek's Guide to Cooking with Eggs

Eggs don't have to be so mysterious. From the right way to boil and crack eggs to how to make perfect scrambled eggs, The Food Geek gathers his best advice on cooking with eggs and shares it in time for Easter.

Numbing Celery

Numbing Celery

Celery is a veritable chemical weapon house, but really, what isn't? Some people get a numb tongue from eating raw celery, and we explore possible reasons why as well as some of the limits of our knowledge of food.

Allons-Y, Allium!

Allons-Y, Allium!

There's a family of vegetables that I love which polarizes many people: the alliums. Onions, garlic, shallots, and the like.

The Secret of Spooled Gyro Meat

The Secret of Spooled Gyro Meat

The first time experiencing a side of gyro meat can be a daunting and confusing experience. Fortunately, gyro meat is nothing but tastiness and a clever technique or two.

A Thicker Bechamel

A Thicker Bechamel

Sometimes a standard recipe isn't quite what you need. Usually we make changes to recipes for flavor, but what do you do if you want a white sauce to be thicker than it normally is?

Red Velvet Vinegar and Baking Soda

Red Velvet Vinegar and Baking Soda

Normally you mix baking soda in with dry goods when making a cake, but some Red Velvet Cake recipes call for mixing the baking soda with vinegar ahead of time. This seems odd.

Baking Soda and Pretzels

Baking Soda and Pretzels

Pretzels are very similar to bagels in terms of cooking technique and ingredients. So why do pretzels have baking soda on the outside?

One egg at a time

One egg at a time

A standard step with the creaming method of cake preparation is to add the eggs one at a time and fully incorporate before adding the next egg. But… why?

A Bad Egg

A Bad Egg

There's quite a bit of mystery around eggs. Because of the effort to simplify when things go bad, there's some mystery about that, too. Let's see if we can't clarify things a bit.

Resting Meat

Resting Meat

Another bit of popular cooking wisdom is that you need to rest your meat before cutting, so it will "re-absorb its juices." What does that really mean?

Soaking Basmati Rice

Soaking Basmati Rice

It's traditional to soak basmati rice, and proponents swear by the results.

The Application of Salt

The Application of Salt

Salt is one of the most important ingredients in all of cooking. When it is applied is often more important than how much is applied. Here is a grand tour of salt and its applications.

The Hardest Cut

The Hardest Cut

Sweet potato fries are tasty, but they take a lot of work to cut with a knife. There must be a faster way.

Not All Its Cracked up to Be

Not All It's Cracked up to Be

There's some cracking good advice that's going around about eggs, but is it really as good as it sounds?

The Second Rise

The Second Rise

When baking bread, you're often asked to allow bread to rise, then punch it down and let it rise again. Why go through all that trouble? What does this "second rise" do for the bread?

Suet Secrets

Suet Secrets

There are some ingredients we just don't use much any more. This week, we examine beef kidney fat.

The Purpose of Sifting

The Purpose of Sifting

The whys of sifting, and a better way to accomplish sifting without using a sifter.

Sweet and Sour: Opposing forces

Sweet and Sour: Opposing forces

A discussion of how different, basic flavors interact.

The Convection Changeover

The Convection Changeover

There are always pitfalls when working in an unfamiliar kitchen, but how much worse to have a completely new cooking method?

The Cake Bump

The Cake Bump

An uneven surface at the top of the cake is not uncommon. Here we take a look at ways to mitigate, prevent, and/or fix the problem.

Converting Measurements

Converting Measurements

How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon? Will this be a one-word answer?

Baking Soda and Baking Powder

Baking Soda and Baking Powder

How these two leaveners get a rise out of baked goods.

Cast Iron Nutrition

Cast Iron Nutrition

Iron is good for a diet, but will a cast-iron pan add iron to the diet?

Lifting a Choux

Lifting a Choux

Pâte à choux is useful in many culinary circumstances, and it's relatively easy to make. Still, sometimes things go wrong for no apparent reason. Let's see some of the pitfalls of this dish and how to fix them.

Tomato Sauce. . .Or Soup?

Tomato Sauce. . .Or Soup?

Why does what should be a tasty tomato sauce turn into something closer to soup?

What does it mean to win?

What does it mean to win?

Sometimes it's not enough to make great food. Sometimes you have to judge food formally. And sometimes you have to make up the rules by which things are judged. A look inside the process of making competition rules.

Too Hot for Hollandaise

Too Hot for Hollandaise

How temperature, ingredients, and technique interact in distinguishing a hollandaise from a mess of scrambled eggs, butter, and lemon.

Mystery Tools from Another Land

Mystery Tools from Another Land

Getting a box of assorted kitchen implements will give you a mixed bag of tools at the best of times. But what if the set is from a company that is not only exclusively kitchen-related, but is also based out of a foreign country?

Splitting the Egg

Splitting the Egg

Exploring the division of the indivisible: a single egg.

Ingredient Temperatures

Ingredient Temperatures

Think it doesn’t matter if your butter and eggs are room temperature or right out of the fridge? Think again.

Dried Egg Pasta: Hidden Danger or Perfectly Safe?

Dried Egg Pasta: Hidden Danger or Perfectly Safe?

When someone at home makes some fresh pasta, it's generally made with egg. Why is this okay to dry and store?

The Flavor Difference: Cooked vs. Raw

The Flavor Difference: Cooked vs. Raw

Why does a cooked hamburger taste different from a raw hamburger?

Cheesecake or Cheesepie?

Cheesecake or Cheesepie?

It's shaped like a cake, and it's called a cake, but cheesecake might be something even more delicious.

The Problem with Science

The Problem with Science

A rhetorical question from the web leads to thinking about the good and the bad of food science.

Egg sizes and substitutions

Egg sizes and substitutions

How can we merge the world of farmer's markets and precision recipes to ensure that we use the proper amount of farm-fresh, un-graded eggs in our baked goods?

Talk the Wok

Talk the Wok

Wok: Just a big frying pan, or something more?

The Best Scrambled Eggs

The Best Scrambled Eggs

It is often said that the true test of a chef is how well they cook eggs. The Food Geek is not a chef, but he does have some advice on scrambling eggs.

Double or Nothing Jam

Double or Nothing Jam

Why does the label on the pectin box warn against making a double-batch of jam, and is there anything that can be done to remedy the situation?

Proper use of basil as a stuffing

Proper use of basil as a stuffing

Basil is the King of Herbs, and it's the right time to use it in foods. This week, we explore what it goes well with, and how to maximize its flavor.

Keeping Fresh Greens Fresh

Keeping Fresh Greens Fresh

The science of cell structure helps explain why good lettuce goes bad.

Stainless steel... or is it?

Stainless steel... or is it?

Sometimes while going through some known territory, I run across some new tidbits. What started out as a simple look at boiling revealed hidden dangers to your pots.

Saving Garlic from Sprouts

Saving Garlic from Sprouts

Garlic is a wonderful addition to many foods, but it seems like it's a lot easier to find bad garlic than good garlic. Find out what causes garlic to lose its wonderfulness and how to prevent that from happening.

Degrees of Boiling

Degrees of Boiling

Sometimes recipe authors like to add a little pizzazz to their descriptions, and sometimes what's written means something important. This week, we explore the possibilities of different kinds of boiling, bringing back a metaphor from articles past.

Essence of Coffee

Essence of Coffee

What are the secrets to great coffee, both the ones we know and the ones we have yet to find?

Cracking the Boiled Egg Mystery

Cracking the Boiled Egg Mystery

Is a boiled egg hard to peel because I don't know how the proper technique, or is it because I don't make the egg properly in the first place?

Competition Pies

Competition Pies

If you're gearing up for your first pie competition, what sort of things can you do to prepare, and what do you do when it all goes wrong?

How hot is the oven?

How hot is the oven?

Ovens are notorious liars when it comes to reporting their operating temperatures. Sure, you could buy a thermometer to verify what your oven tells you, but how much do you trust your thermometer?

The components of Pie Crust

The components of Pie Crust

When thinking of baking pie, people tend not to fear the filling; after all, filling is a relatively simple creature, mostly concerned with flavor and binding up the liquid in some sort of saucy structure. The crust, though; the crust inspires wonder and caution. This inspired me to look into what makes up a good pie crust.

Cooking Eggs with Sugar Alone

Cooking Eggs with Sugar Alone

Occasionally vague and/or strange cooking advice lurks around every corner. Can you cook an egg with sugar alone? And not hot, candy-making sugar, but normal, room temperature sugar? Could be.

Soy Milk vs. Instant Pudding: Who will win?

Soy Milk vs. Instant Pudding: Who will win?

Soy milk doesn't play well with instant pudding. Try to make soy milk instant pudding, and you'll have a pudding-flavored glass of milk. There is a reason why, and it all has to do with the differences between soy and cow milks.

Baking soda *and* baking powder: too much of a good thing?

Baking soda *and* baking powder: too much of a good thing?

Seriously, how much leavening does one recipe need? Let's find out if baking powder and baking soda are needed for some recipes, or if we could get by with one or the other.

How is sugar wet?

How is sugar wet?

Follow enough baking recipes, and you'll see the instructions that sugar is to be treated as a wet ingredient. Clearly, if you were dropped into a big pile of sugar, you would not be covered in liquid. Learn why it's considered a wet ingredient.

Martian blood oranges

Martian blood oranges

Why would a perfectly respectable blood orange turn green? There's only one real answer, and it has nothing to do with aliens.

Gelatin Dangers

Gelatin Dangers

Sometimes the kitchen can be a perilous place. Knives, flames, and making suggestions for how to "improve" the cook's dish. But gelatin? Is that really all that dangerous?

Sunken Sourdough Sadness

Sunken Sourdough Sadness

Is there a special touch needed to make sourdough bread rise? Is there perhaps some special music or proper colored light that will convince the yeast to make their magic? Probably not, but there are ways to encourage bread to rise properly.

Which Flour Is Best for Pasta?

Which Flour Is Best for Pasta?

Conflicting advice can lead you to doubt your favorite recipes, even for something as simple as fresh pasta. Do you listen to your heart, or listen to what others tell you?

Bloomin Spices

Bloomin' Spices

Blooming with spices doesn't mean that you're planning on growing them as plants. Instead, it's a way of opening up the flavor and making it more effective in your cooking. This is how, and why, it works, and what it can do for your food.

For Butter or Worse

For Butter or Worse

Clarifying how to make butter a more versatile player in the kitchen.

Like syrup for candy

Like syrup for candy

Is a syrup a syrup for candy-making, or does the origin of the sweet liquid make a difference?

Cooking beans in salt water

Cooking beans in salt water

A traditional bit of advice in cookbooks is to avoid putting salt in the cooking water for beans. Will this toughen the beans, or is that advice not entirely correct?

Reducing Complexity

Reducing Complexity

Some of the most basic advice in cooking can be an opportunity to learn about important fundamentals. In examining the basic reduction sauce, we can also learn how temperature control is vital to cooking well. On the way, we can answer the question, "what is temperature?"

The Party That Is Egg Foam

The Party That Is Egg Foam

As with a party, the success of an egg foam relies on getting all of the guests to mingle properly. In this follow up to last week's article, we explore how to keep water, proteins, and air mixing it up to ensure your foam is stable.

Whipped Cream: Stability and Celebrity

Whipped Cream: Stability and Celebrity

Whipped cream is an ephemeral treat that, sometimes, needs to be a little more treat and a little less ephemeral. What can we do to overcome the time limits on whipped cream, and what makes whipped cream so famous, anyways?

Sous Vide or Bust

Sous Vide or Bust

Some cooking methods require merely a knife, a bit of fire, and a little know-how. Sous vide cooking typically asks for some specialized equipment. Is it all necessary?

The Buttercream Nemesis

The Buttercream Nemesis

What, precisely, is buttercream frosting, why is it hard to make, and is there something that can be done to make it more easily?

Vegetable stock? Really?

Vegetable stock? Really?

Just what is the difference between stock and broth, and is it really possible to have a vegetable stock?

Toffee Troubles

Toffee Troubles

What sorts of things can go wrong with toffee making? Will humidity doom a toffee to failure, or could there be something more sinister at work?

Recent Comments

Re: Fine Cooking's Secret Weapon: The Wooden Spatula

And perhaps a clickable link to the Why of the Wooden Spoon might be better.

Re: Fine Cooking's Secret Weapon: The Wooden Spatula

And for more information, I answered a question about these a while back. http://www.finecooking.com/item/43369/the-why-of-the-wooden-spoon

Re: The Why of the Wooden Spoon

Ha! Maybe I should put in fire-proofness to the various materials. Plastic and wood - not so good. Metal is hard to catch fire on the stove. I've not tried with silicone. It probably takes some doing.

Re: A New Method for Panna Cotta

Thanks, Kimmipi! You are quite welcome.

Re: Flattened Cookies

Interesting. I think it takes a lot for more for baking soda to expire. I may have to do some digging to see what causes it. With the powder, it's mostly because of humidity causing the acid to combine with the base ahead of time. Though I'm sure there's oxidation going on as well (oxygen is such a troublemaker). Hmmmm.

Re: Popping Foam Bubbles

Lower-fat milk tends to make for better foam primarily because the milk producers put extra proteins into the milk to try to make up for the loss of flavor with the loss of fat.

I did test out regular cinnamon this morning and table sugar, but I couldn't test cassia nor powdered sugar because I was apparently out of both. The cinnamon did pop some bubbles when it hit, but I think that was primarily a mechanical thing (like poking a bubble with your finger) rather than any sort of chemical interaction. When the cinnamon sat there, it didn't cause any extra loss of bubbles, whereas the sugar-side definitely did.

The primary difference between the different types of sugar mentioned is the size of the crystals. So if your crystals are very fine, then it'll be more likely to soak up water, though even with the table sugar, as I mentioned, it was a pretty thorough defoaming.

I'm glad to have helped, and thanks for asking!

Re: Stale Irony

Thanks, DessertForTwo. LpAngelRob, I imagine the odd shape of the buns causes some problems with even heating. Does that seem like the sort of problem you are getting?

Re: Baking by the Numbers

I apologize, nanofaz, you are completely correct. I should have been using a different percentage, or been referencing butter instead of sugar. I have updated the article to reflect reality. Thank you for catching that!

Re: Baking by the Numbers

You mean from Ruhlman's Ratios? It's covered in the book and the app. He doesn't include the amount of leavening or other ingredients with small amounts (i.e. salt) in the ratios themselves to keep them clean. But there are basic formulas to determine each of those depending on the method. The Professional Chef's baker's percentages all have the leavening and so on listed.

Re: Baking by the Numbers

You are quite welcome. Usually the percentages will have a standard amount by them along with the yield, which was true in this case. Those percentages were from Professional Baking.

Re: Melted Butter in Baked Goods

Excellent, I will have to do that next time. I'm also thinking of doing a no-bake, eggless cookie dough (i.e. for ice cream or handling a break up) with a toasted roux instead of uncooked flour.

Re: Making Automatic Drip Coffee Better by Blooming

That doesn't really solve the problem of the convenience. Personally, I don't have or use an automatic drip, but people like them because they wake up and coffee is made. But if there's a way to take the most convenient method of coffee making and make it better (and possibly even making it good), then why not try it?

Re: The Great Pie Debate

If I were picking only one pie, it would definitely be the Pork Confit with Creme Fraiche Potatoes and Puff Pastry.

Re: The Taste of Meringue

You don't need it for meringue, but you do need it for macarons. You can get it through Amazon.com easily enough if you can't find it locally.

Re: Weighing Ingredients

Pielove, the 30% was something of a theoretical estimate, ranging from well-sifted flour through to highly compacted flour, but was not particularly scientific. It may have been overstating. That being said, 18 different measurements is not really a statistically great sample, either, though it's better than I did.

Another thing I didn't mention in the article is that different measuring cups are actually different sizes. Aside from the difference in wet and dry measuring cups (a dry measuring cup has a greater volume than a wet measuring cup in order to handle the fact that dry things don't stack as neatly as liquids do), across different brands and makes of dry measuring cups, I've heard reports that they hold different amounts of material.

All that being said, I do still support the measurement of flour by volume, if you are familiar with the baked good in question and know how it's going to turn out. But I still say you will get more consistent results with weighing.

And yes, I have lost power to both my scales before (because I neglected to replace the battery of the first before the second ran out), but not my measuring cups. :)

Re: Weighing Ingredients

I forgot to mention in the article that, in the case of Julia Child and the old-school celebrity chefs, equipment is the reason. Scales are a lot better, faster, and cheaper now than they used to be. The tare function, which will reset your scale to 0 after you put something like a bowl (or a bowl filled with the stuff you've already measured), makes the act of measuring so much easier than it would be with an analog scale. So if you don't have a good scale, then using a bad scale would be a pain.

Once you've gotten good at measuring by volume, and used to the inconsistencies, then it would take a big effort to switch to a weight measure. In the case of organizations like King Arthur Flour, they have a large staple of recipes that need to be converted from weight to flour, but as they have likely instituted methods of measuring flour that they suggest all of their recipe writers and test kitchen people use, then they can more or less safely give a conversion factor.

There is no one weight conversion, but I think the method you're going about it will work well. Conveying a recipe is an inaccurate business, despite all of the numbers. It just depends, from person to person, how inaccurate it's going to be.

Re: Rise in Gluten-Free Cake

Yes, I just posted the follow-up.

Re: Baking Soda and Baking Powder

lululovesu, you don't have to alter the amount of baking soda that you use, but you should alter the amount of baking powder. Because you aren't using the cornstarch, you should use 3/4tsp of baking powder whenever 1 tsp of baking powder is called for, but keep the baking soda the same.

Re: Baking soda *and* baking powder: too much of a good thing?

Hi, GFBaker,

Check out http://www.finecooking.com/item/26874/rise-in-gluten-free-cake and let's see if we can figure out how to best fix up your cake.

Re: Shortening vs. Butter in Cookies

The article about Cookulus is at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/07/AR2010120703052.html

Re: Gluten: In Depth

You can now find your answer at http://www.finecooking.com/item/23899/bread-delicate-crumb-and-hearty-crust - Thanks for the question!

Re: How hot is the oven?

It's always these little last minute flourishes that get me in trouble. I'll do some testing, but I suspect the problem is my suggestion of the pyrex dish, which makes perfect sense on the one hand because you could actually see the water boiling, and isn't that nice?

The problem is that most of the heat transfer in an oven is radiant, so a transparent liquid in a transparent dish is going to get very little heat transfer. Though the air is transparent as well, it need much less heat to get to temperature than water does.

One option is to use a non-transparent dish. Another is to add a pizza stone and put the dish on the pizza stone. The pizza stone would not only transfer heat via conduction instead of convection, but it would smooth out that temperature cycling that jfield mentioned.

Jeff Potter suggest in Cooking for Geeks to use sugar instead of water. Sugar melts at 367°F. His procedure is to set the oven at 350°F, ensure that the sugar hasn't melted, then to 375°F.

If you wanted to be a bit more careful about it, you could start at 325°F, then move to 350°F, then 375°F. If you are really keen to know your electric oven, you could pay attention to when the relay kicks on (that's the loud clicking noise) which would start the heating process, and then again when it turns off. If the sugar starts melting only just before or as the oven stops heating, then you can get a good idea of how much higher the temperature is at the top of the heating cycle than what you've set.

Incidentally, if you buy a new oven and have it installed, it is the duty of the installers to calibrate your oven, but they might not do it unless you request it. You should always request a calibration.

Re: The Second Rise

Barina,

That is great to hear. Nothing makes me happier than when you can take the basic ideas and incorporate them into your cooking in a new way to fix a problem or to make something better. Thank you.

Re: Dried Egg Pasta: Hidden Danger or Perfectly Safe?

Hi, Amyjean2222,

It's interesting to hear that salmonella can survive so long. I suppose having all the nooks to hang out in and the relatively warm temperature of the pasta helps out.

Still, that doesn't make the dried egg pasta particularly dangerous. Having a little of a bacteria isn't a big deal, especially as you mentioned that they'd be killed when they're cooked. The problem would come in if they had a chance to multiply.

The older view of bacteria is that they work as individuals, growing and causing whatever problems they might cause on their own. If they get into large groups, the effect, it was thought, would become noticeable.

Recent research indicates that some, if not all, bacteria communicate with each other, waiting until they reach certain group size before activating and doing whatever damage they're going to do. I don't know if salmonella works this way particularly, but I do know that a little salmonella that goes dormant and gets killed isn't going to be a big problem.

A big problem would be if you were to keep the pasta warm and moist for a while, then let it dry. So if you left it on the counter covered in plastic wrap for several hours before letting it dry. In that case, if the bacteria were allowed to multiply before going dormant, even cooking the bacteria might not be enough to prevent the problems that they could have left behind.

However, if you have access to pasteurized eggs, that's a great way to go, especially if you will be feeding the pasta to someone very young, very old, or with otherwise compromised immune system.

The larger concern is about cross-contamination. You know to wash your hands after handling raw chicken, but you might not think to do so after handling dried pasta. So if you make your own egg pasta and don't use pasteurized eggs, it would be a good idea to treat it as you would raw chicken: clean any surfaces the raw product touches, especially counters, cutting boards, and hands.

Re: Scummy Stock

I hope you left out the egg shell. :)

Re: Gummy Gnocchi

Baking is something that had been in the back of my mind, but I had never tried it. One of my Twitter followers said that she's baked before to good effect. Also, she reminds me that a potato ricer is vital equipment for gnocchi cooking.

http://twitter.com/adrienneEliza/status/19585640498

Re: Kosher vs. Table Salt

The problem may be that we are thinking of different styles of dishes, which will act differently. In a soup, for example, you are going to need the same mass of salt whatever the kind, because it will be dissolved before you taste it. On the other hand, a steak seasoned with a heartier crystal will provide more flavor enhancement, because once the salt is dissolved, it can go into the bulk of the steak volume rather than hanging out close to the surface. Most of the flavor of a steak comes from the surface of the steak, which is why searing provides such a change in flavor even though it affects such a small amount of the steak itself.

Does that help?

Re: The Application of Salt

Yakman, are you using a commercial dry rub, or did you make your own? If you are using a commercial rub, they generally make them mostly out of salt with a bit of spice in it. You would be better off making your own. If you are making your own, then just reduce the amount of salt vs. the amount of spices. No, I take that back. Don't put salt in your own rub. Adding salt is a separate step from adding flavoring. Make your rub with spices etc, rub that on, then sprinkle with salt.

The short of it is that, no, you shouldn't be tasting salt. Salt should only enhance the existing flavor. Learning to adjust and control that will make your cooking worlds better.

Also: Thank you.

Re: The Taste of Meringue

Some sort of flavoring is what I'm hoping will fix it. Possibly an almond topping or extract, and of course powdered sugar can never go amiss.

I know that caraway will prevent the formation of sulfides when used in making sauerkraut, but I don't know how effective it would be in masking or inhibiting the taste of sulphur in a meringue cookie. It might be worth a brief experimentation, though clearly one would have to go light on the caraway with many flavor combinations.

Re: The Secret of Spooled Gyro Meat

Marcella, most gyro meat that I've seen in the US is the meatloaf variety. I've seen photos of the spools as you've described, and I've wondered about those, so thank you for describing what's happening. It's a very different visual look, and easy to see the difference.

It's been a while since I've been to one, but I want to say that it might be a bit more common to have the sliced, layered meat style at a fair or carnival rather than at a restaurant. I could totally be making that up, though.

Re: Vegetable stock? Really?

That's some good information, Prototypeman. Thank you for adding it.

Re: The Perfect Pancake Powder

Unfortunately, powdered buttermilk has kind of the opposite problem. It doesn't clump as powdered milk does, but it is perishable and has to be stored in the refrigerator, so that won't really work well in an instant pancake mix. I have used it rehydrated in pancakes before, and it works just fine (though, as you say, not as tastily).

Re: To Cool, or Not to Cool

Thank you, gayleo.

PrettyKitteh, I have to say that I'm not personally a fan of raw bread dough, but if it makes you happy, that's the important thing. As for the second warming, the water has already been drawn out of the starch, so it won't have a chance to go gummy again.

Re: Hollowed Egg and Egg Balance

I hadn't heard that one, but yes, I see no reason why that wouldn't work. I would use a really fresh egg were I to try that.

Re: Not All It's Cracked up to Be

Loreena, that's fantastic. I had never heard of that before. I can't say that I'm going to follow in your footsteps, but I love it even so.

Re: Cooking Eggs with Sugar Alone

Any type of sugar should cause that effect, though I suspect that the finer the sugar, the faster the coagulation, because the fine sugar will dissolve more easily in the water.

Re: Baking Soda and Pretzels

It's a good point. There are a lot of pretzel recipes that don't call for the baking soda and just have a light-brown coloration as well. For me, a proper pretzel will be that thoroughly dark brown, and a bagel will be somewhat lighter. Though I'd bet a pretzel bagel with salt coating is someone's specialty treat somewhere.

Re: Perfect Quick Bread

It's funny, that post I did made me take a look at my cookie making routine a bit closer when I made cookies this weekend. Knowing what to do and doing what you're supposed to do are not always the same, are they?

Re: The Second Rise

angiecbrown, since you're going to freeze it, you're going to need to thaw it. The best way to know if a dough is thawed is to wait for it to expand in size, which shows that the yeast are active again. Because of that, I think that you can safely skip the second rise. You'll have to do another rise anyways, so no sense having the yeast try to do all that extra work.

The other option is that you can par bake (or partially bake) the loaf. In this way, you get it set to its basic shape, but you don't do the browning. This will not necessarily yield the most flavor from the loaf, but it is reasonably convenient.

Re: Resting Meat

jacjem, I would suggest not letting the meat rest so long. Don't worry about the foil tent, but the goal is to get the meat to around 120°F. If it drops below that, you've rested too long. If you don't like the temperature of meat even at 120, you can cut the resting shorter even than that, but it will be a balance between temperature and juiciness.

SheSavorsSeattle, I am pleased to have been of assistance. And yes, I understand the difficulty of not writing about the subject as a double entendre. I just figured I'd power through and it should be okay.

Re: Soaking Basmati Rice

celinda, AP flour has more gluten than cake flour. You can find more about that at http://www.finecooking.com/item/9842/which-flour-is-best-for-pasta

barbski, brown basmati has more flavor than white basmati, but it also takes longer to cook in general. I would go ahead and soak either.

Re: A Bad Egg

That is great to hear. I am all for ending domestic disharmony. You are quite welcome.

Re: The Application of Salt

Both of you are quite welcome. Arseneault, you will likely also want to look into using a wider salt, such as a kosher salt or fleur de sel. These salts don't dissolve as quickly nor as thoroughly as table salt, so you don't have to use as much of it to get the benefits of the salt.

Re: Soaking Basmati Rice

Smitty2k2, I generally hear that 30 minutes is a good amount of time to soak basmati rice. Don't cook the rice in the soaking water, drain and fill with new water.

CityGardner, the rinsing is to clear away starch granules that are on the outside of the rice. This works for any long-grained rice, and will keep the rice from sticking together. Rinse 2-3 times if you are so inclined, though I prefer my rice to stick together. It makes it easier to eat.

The flavor is part of the rice, and not on the surface, so you don't have to worry about washing the flavor off.

Re: Suet Secrets

It occurs to me that poaching might be interesting as well. Or perhaps some manner of short rib confit. Hmmmmmmmm.

Re: The Purpose of Sifting

I am fortunate to have never run across twigs nor rocks from my flour. Where did you get that flour anyways? In that case, yeah, I think you're going to want to use a sifter or a fine mesh to separate your flour out, as the whisk method isn't going to handle twigs well. Lumps should be demolished by a food processor easily, though, and maybe not as easily with the whisk.

Thank you for the extra insight, and I'm glad you're enjoying the blog.

Re: Baking Soda and Baking Powder

Hi, 1Steve,

chefrox is correct, the molasses in the brown sugar is the acidic ingredient in your recipe. If you use older eggs, they will become alkaline and may neutralize some of the acidity, which may reduce fluff or add that soapy taste into your cookies.

son of brooklyn, a better way to know which baking powders to use is to check the ingredients and consult the table in Shirley Corriher's indispensable BakeWise (though the source of the table was from somewhere else entirely, that was the easiest way for me to find it). http://books.google.com/books?id=b-iwjIb2RxwC&lpg=PP1&pg=PT59#v=onepage&q=&f=false That table gives the percentage of carbon dioxide released at various points of the mixing and baking cycle, and will give you a better understanding of how your particular baking powder will react.

For your homemade powder if you're using immediately, feel free to ditch the cornstarch. Just remember not to use as much of the cornstarch-free baking powder as you otherwise would. Think about how much baking soda is being used in the whole baked good, and use accordingly.

Re: The Convection Changeover

Those are some great rules, LpAngelRob, thank you.

Re: The Cake Bump

Well, I mean, if it's *crucial*…

Re: The Cake Bump

It's nice to hear that there are some tools for those who need level cakes.

AuntJenny, I have Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie and Pastry Bible, but don't have her cake book yet. I'm sure I'll pick up a copy sooner or later.

I should also mention that someone on Facebook suggests that the bump is both good and necessary, as it allows the baker to verify the quality of the cake without damaging the look. But it's great that we have options for cakes both with and without any frosting.

Re: Tomato Sauce. . .Or Soup?

That's a great tip. Something similar also works well on some fruits for pies, which have pretty much the same problem. Freeze, for example, blueberries, heat in a sauce pan and reduce, and you have a very tasty pie filling base.

Re: What does it mean to win?

Thank you both. I was worried that a couple of the rules would be a bit cumbersome, but I think we'll be okay. I'll know soon.

Re: Help me identify this item

What you have there is a clip on funnel. Usually for motor oil, you might be able to find a way to use it in the kitchen. I'd clean it really well, first, though. ;)

http://www.wirthco.com/funnels-fluid-control-products-clip-funnel-c-17_59-l-en.html

Re: Plastic Fantastic

This is good to know. I will try out Stretch-Rite. The easiest way to get it is just to order it from Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Stretch-tite-Premium-Plastic-516-12-Ft-8-Inch/dp/B001F0RBLA/

Re: Cheesecake or Cheesepie?

Well, really the height depends on the style of cheesecake. I will admit to favoring the New York style cheesecake as the form I was describing. For home chefs, it's unlikely that the cheesecake will be more than 2-3/4" tall, unless they go the extra mile to find a specialized springform pan or bake in some other type of pan.

We don't have official PieFest rules for judging posted yet.

Re: The Flavor Difference: Cooked vs. Raw

Hi, Carrie,

Looks like you need to do some additional experimentation. For the first round, let's go with the easy to differentiate stuff: temperature, fat, and surface area.

We know we're going to taste different flavors when something is warm vs. when it's cold, regardless of its cooked state. It's very difficult to get something uncooked but warm, but not so difficult to do the other way. So you might do something like take some steak, cut into thin slices, cook the same amount, then serve one immediately and put one onto something like a cookie sheet that just came out of the freezer while the first one was cooking. After eating the first piece, the second one should cool quickly, so eat the second one shortly after. Try that the other way around as best you can; instead of eating the warm piece immediately, wrap it in aluminum foil and put under a heating pad. Cool the first piece, eat it, then eat the warm piece. See if there's any differences if you change the order, see what kind of difference just from the temperature differences.

For the fat amounts, try the same test as above, except instead of having one piece be warm and the other cool, after cooking brush a little flavorless oil over one piece and not the other. You could also do something similar by making hamburger with lean beef instead of fatty, then putting some fat in the center of the patty (clarified butter, for example). You could even try putting some beef fat from the same cow in one patty, and clarified butter in the other, just to see if not the percentage of fat but the actual flavor of fat from that cow changes the flavor (I suspect it will quite a bit). To go just a bit further, you could mix fat from one cow with the beef from another and see what happens there.

Surface area is important when cooking, because the more surface area there is, the more browning there will be. Even when not cooking, if you add other flavorants to it, the flavors will mix more with the meat if there's more surface area. So ensure that temperature is kept constant for this test, and try a few variations with only the surface area changing. The easiest way to test this would be on a raw, tartare style preparation. Same weight of beef, same amount of oil, same amount of salt, spices, etc., but one prep has it in a block, another has it rough chopped, fine chopped, ground, etc.

So you see where this is basically going: find some aspect you want to test, set up a control circumstance (where something is as "normal" as it can be), then do some variants, changing only one thing for each test. Don't change temperature and surface area on the same test, nor change cut of beef and fat percentage, and so on.

Once you are quite sure you know what's happening with each of the single-change circumstances, you can do some more advanced experiments with modifying two things at a time. And, of course, eventually you'll get tired and just want to cook the rest up, and that's cool, too. Just be sure you record all of the results from the experiments when you're doing them, and then you can properly enjoy the cooking after.

Re: The Problem with Science

It's a good point, James. I am reasonably certain that the overloading of the term "science" in "food science" is primarily because most of the people who study food science also jump straight into the engineering portion of it as well.

It's actually one of the reasons I really like to study how food works, because it's something that someone can easily jump from theory to experiment in their home, and then apply the results of that experiment onto their day-to-day cooking. Still, what someone can do in their home, someone can do in a factory with increased efficiency if not the same robustness of flavor.

Re: Double or Nothing Jam

It's certainly true what you write, hjcharesworth, but it is a lot more fiddly if you're missing out on extra pectin from the fruit itself. Thanks for the extra information; I suspect it will help someone out who wants a good clear jelly or jam in a large batch (one of the problems with the calcium-enriched pectin is that it makes a cloudier product), or someone who is having trouble finding such a product.

Re: The light at the end of the (cake) tunnel - update

I think that reducing the leavening has a good chance of solving the collapsing center problem. Out of curiosity, how much flour and leavening are you using for this recipe?

Re: Cooking Eggs with Sugar Alone

By chance, is the recipe for the lemon pots de creme available online for me to peruse?

Re: Stainless steel... or is it?

kelbel917, I've just returned from some travel, so I've not yet had a chance to find the pots to experiment with. I'm concerned, based on what purringcat and Betty_01 have written, that my plan of going with a cheap pot might be a poor idea. I'll have to find a good bargain on some small but quality stainless steel, apparently. Harumph.

Re: Stainless steel... or is it?

Indeed, from a theoretical standpoint, the salt will raise the temperature of water. However, from the perspective of "Should I add the salt before or after the the water is boiling," or even, "Will the salt change how the spaghetti will cook," any concern for the boiling point is foolishness. Not only will it not raise the point any measurable amount, but the changes from the chemicals in the tap water, any sort of water softener you might use, and the eventual addition of starch from the pasta itself will all mix in to have a greater or lesser, but still negligible, effect.

From other perspectives, naturally it means different things and has different effects. From this perspective, it's foolishness.

Re: Saving Garlic from Sprouts

Sorry about that, I had meant to explicitly name the refrigerator as a bad place for garlic. While the fridge is great for cold and dark, it's not so good for dry. You'd be better off putting it in a pantry, cabinet, or even a drawer in a cool section of your home. I tend to keep mine in a drawer in the kitchen, which is probably a bit close to the oven, and so my garlic dries out a bit faster than it otherwise might. However, it's convenient, so I'll use it for now.

Re: Multiplication Frustration

Hi, Andy,

My first thought, inspired by reading through what you tried, was that perhaps when you scaled up, some ingredients that got rounded off weren't right in the end. You want 1/4tsp of baking soda (or 1 tsp of baking powder) for every 1 cup of flour or flour-like substance. So, if you had 8 cups of flour, one would think that 2tsp of baking soda would do.

But then I started thinking some more. What's in the recipe that activates the baking soda? Baking soda needs an acid, and while the dissolved espresso powder should be slightly acidic, your eggs are slightly alkaline as well, so that may come close to canceling out. There's sour cream, which would be perfect if it weren't in the icing. Harumph.

This is not the first recipe I've seen recently that uses baking soda where I don't think it would be wise to do so, which makes me wonder if perhaps I am missing something either obvious or subtle about the use of baking soda. So I did some more research, and, oh, yes, chocolate is acidic, so the melted chocolate will react with the baking soda.

Still, I would use 1 tsp of baking powder for every 1 cup of flour instead of the baking soda, or possibly split the difference. I talk a lot more about this sort of thing in http://www.finecooking.com/item/10257/baking-soda-and-baking-powder-too-much-of-a-good-thing which also details some of the other reasons to use and not use baking soda or baking powder.

Re: The components of Pie Crust

Thank you, Pielove, I am indeed making pie crust and employing some of the theory for better crust.

Pam, lard can add quite a bit of flavor, depending on exactly what kind of lard you use (leaf lard is supposed to be very mild). So lard is safe with a savory pie, and many robust pies can probably handle it fine, but a delicate filling would just be overwhelmed.

Re: Cooking Eggs with Sugar Alone

I don't recommend this path. There are two general reasons to cook something: to enhance the flavor/texture, or to make it safer to eat. The sugar definitely isn't going to get rid of any pathogens in the egg, and I haven't noticed any improvement in texture or flavor from letting the sugar sit. The best course it to whip the sugar into the yolk, mix that into the cream, and enjoy yourself some custard.

Of course, someone more into the cutting-edge of food techniques may be able to come up with something that will work from that, but I haven't found any evidence of it yet.

Re: Baking soda *and* baking powder: too much of a good thing?

Thanks, Lisa and Jenni. And good work on remembering the login. :)

Keri, you are quite welcome. If you're talking about the recipe I found for Golden Wheat Carrot Cake (or if she has another, similar recipe), then it would seem that she's neutralizing the 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Which is understandable. If it weren't something highly acidic like lemon juice, I'd probably lean towards swapping it out 1:4 with baking powder (you use 4 times as much baking powder as baking soda). However, 1/4 cup of lemon juice is quite a bit, which is why 2/3 of the leavening is coming from the soda.

In this instance, I'm pretty sure that most of the point behind the powder is the double action. Well, that and all the extra ingredients such as carrot. Normally, with two cups of flour, you'd only really need 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Nuts, raisins, and carrots are heavy things, though, and a little extra lift doesn't hurt in this instance.

Re: Sunken Sourdough Sadness

You are quite welcome. I, as you may have noticed, am a big fan of Peter Reinhart.

Good luck with the starter!

Re: Which Flour Is Best for Pasta?

Thanks, Lisa! It was remarkably easy to take photos in Italy. It's like a magical, photos always look nice place.

Roz, I think you've hit on one of the best parts of homemade pasta, in that not only do you get to make it yours, but you get to change it however you want, whenever you want. No need to wait for some manufacturer to come out with a new version. But that's one of the reasons we cook, isn't it?

Re: Which Flour Is Best for Pasta?

You are quite welcome, I am always glad to help.

Fresh pasta with refined flour takes 1-3 minutes to cook. It's a pretty quick process.

Re: Juice It Up

That's very interesting. I had heard of using that trick for limes, but I thought that the structure for lemons was a different enough on the inside that it didn't warrant the technique. Now I know, thank you.

Re: Reducing Complexity

Well, I hope I didn't induce *too* much kitten-related trauma. Sometimes the metaphors are very effective. Have you managed to boil water since?

Re: Reducing Complexity

Thank you. The elephants are also fine.

Re: The Party That Is Egg Foam

Is it that hard to follow? My apologies.

The short form is that basic whisking mixes in air and starts to stretch out some of the protein molecules. The protein molecules form a mesh around the water, which surrounds the air. If you over-whisk, then the proteins coagulate and the water and air fall out.

If you want to stabilize the foam, you can cook it. Adding heat causes the protein ovalbumin to unfold, which increases the number of proteins immensely. It also causes a lot of the water to evaporate.

The proteins tend to connect to each other by losing the hydrogen in the sulfur-hydrogen bonds and forming sulfur-sulfur bonds. The more sulfur-sulfur bonds you have, the more intra-protein connections you have, which means the proteins are coagulating, which causes the water to fall out and the bubbles to collapse.

Adding an acid increases the number of hydrogen ions in the mix, so if one of the proteins lose one, chances are another one will reattach itself to the opening before another protein molecule with a loose sulfur molecule comes along to attach itself. As cream of tartar is an acid, it fulfills this role.

Re: The Buttercream Nemesis

Thank you, CareBearNJ. Most of my fun comes from making up analogies. It's always good to have them appreciated.

Re: The Buttercream Nemesis

My fingers are crossed, kamico. You should be able to make a wonderful buttercream.

Be sure, both you and DebIFF, to let me know what may have been useful the next time you try a buttercream.

Re: Vegetable stock? Really?

You are quite welcome, Crystal. Sometimes it's hard to know what's important and what's just traditional when it comes to cooking.

And, Cooksbakesbooks, thank you very much. I will do my best to keep the science going.

Re: Toffee Troubles

Cane syrup and corn syrup are not interchangeable. Cane syrup is primarily sucrose, and corn syrup is primarily glucose. They act somewhat differently in candy making. If you are making a candy where you want to prevent crystal formation, adding in a bit of corn syrup will make things easier.

Strictly speaking, you could just make your own syrup by dissolving granulated white sugar into water. There are some impurities in white sugar that may cause some discoloration or change the flavor a bit. I would say give it a try with making your own sugar, but if you think it could be better, go with the cane syrup. As always, I'd be interested to hear if you prefer one way over the other.

Re: Vegetable stock? Really?

Thank you, sercook. The salt/no salt distinction does make sense from an ideal perspective of what stocks and broths should be. After all, one does not want too to over-season one's food with extra salt in the stock. But even if that were commonly the case, it doesn't get to the heart of the matter, so I can see why you'd be skeptical of that explanation.

The Professional Chef is one of my under-utilized books in the "library." I didn't even think to look in that for this question. I'll have to keep it in mind for the future; lots of good information in there.

Re: Toffee Troubles

And fudge is its own kind of excitement, as you know. Sooo much stirring. I did some "tech support" over the holidays for a friend making fudge, and it took a while to get that one right. She almost gave up on the idea of cooking, but she persevered.

Re: Toffee Troubles

I am so glad. I started writing this one, and then I was running into "Wow, candy making is complex and all interrelated. I suspect if I hadn't figured it out by this point, I'd have to just write a book chapter on candy making. Heh.


Good luck with the next batch, and let me know if, you know, it actually does all work properly.

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