In this issue:
I've answered lots of cooking questions since I became a cookbook and newsletter writer. Most were sent to me by email, but some were also asked of me during radio interviews and cooking classes. The more popular questions, i.e. the ones asked repeatedly, are the ones I'm sharing here. When I didn't know the answers, I usually could turn to The Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst. I hope all of you can come away with more knowledge as a result of this special edition of Foodstuff.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ALMOND PASTE AND MARZIPAN? ARE THEY INTERCHANGEABLE?
Almond paste and marzipan are both made from ground almonds. They differ mainly in their sugar content. Marzipan is made from almond paste and sugar and is used primarily in confections and decorations because it's moldable and less pronounced almond flavor. Almond paste is used in pastries and other baked goods. They are not interchangeable in recipes.WHEN A RECIPE CALLS FOR SCALLIONS, CAN I ALSO USE THE GREEN TOPS?
Unless the recipe specifically says to use the whole scallion, I don't think you should include the green tops. The green portion of the scallion should be saved however to be used for chives when that herb isn't available. WHAT IS DEGLAZING?
Deglazing is making a sauce using the caramelized brown bits that have accumulated on the bottom of a pan during sautéing. To deglaze, add some stock, wine, or water to the pan and boil the liquid, stirring and scraping to dissolve the bits. This cooking method is also great for loosening all those stuck on bits, making the pan easier to clean.WHY IS IT SOMETIMES EASY AND OTHER TIMES SO HARD TO PEEL HARDBOILED EGGS?
Very fresh eggs are more difficult to peel than older eggs because the air pocket that forms between the shell and the egg is smaller in fresh eggs. Try peeling the egg under running water, starting at the larger end, where the air pocket is larger.WHAT IS A KOSHER CHICKEN? Kosher chickens are raised and processed according to ancient Jewish dietary law. The law specifies (among many other things) that only disease-free chickens are used and that all the blood be removed by salting and rinsing the birds in cold water. WHAT IS ZEST? IS IT DIFFERENT FROM THE PEEL?
Zest is the outer colored rind of citrus fruit, excluding the white pith, which is bitter. Zest contains concentrated citrus oils and is used to flavor desserts, drinks, and sauces.WHAT CAUSES GARLIC TO TASTE BITTER, ESPECIALLY IN MY HOMEMADE SPAGHETTI SAUCE?
Cook your garlic only until it turns brown. It becomes bitter if allowed to get too brown.IN YOUR BOOK, YOU HAVE A RECIPE FOR STOVETOP CRÈME BRÛLÉE. YOU SAY THAT YOU CAN TELL IF THE CUSTARD IS DONE IF IT COATS A WOODEN SPOON. I'M A NEW COOK, IS THERE A MORE ACCURATE METHOD?
You could use a candy thermometer. The custard must be heated to a temperature of 170 degrees F. to thicken the custard, but not curdle it. If you do curdle it, don't worry, you can toss the whole thing into a blender and it will smooth out perfectly.WHAT IS FISH SAUCE?
Fish sauce is an ingredient fundamental in Southeast Asian cooking. It's made with anchovies or oysters and is aged in wooden barrels.WHAT IS A TORTE? ISN'T IT THE SAME AS CAKE?
A torte is a cake that uses ground nuts as the predominant dry ingredient in place of most or sometimes all of the flour. It's often layered with jam, cream, or buttercream. Tortes make a great dessert for the Jewish holiday of Passover, when flour can't be used.MY PIECRUST IS NEVER LIGHT AND FLAKY AS IN RESTAURANTS. IS THERE A SECRET TO ACHIEVING A CRUST THAT IS ALWAYS FLAKY AND TENDER?
The secret is to never overwork the dough. Handle the dough gently. Also, always use very cold ingredients. The butter or shortening and the liquid should be well chilled before using.CAN I WHIP CREAM A FEW HOURS BEFORE I INTEND TO USE IT?
Yes. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Turn it out into a cheesecloth-lined strainer placed over a bowl. Store the cream in the refrigerator. The liquid will drain, leaving the cream thick.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE…
I apologize for being AWOL and for the brevity of this issue of Foodstuff. It's been a very hectic end of summer for our family. I've started writing a new cookbook, our firstborn started college, our middle son started high school, and our baby is now playing on the "big kid" playground. (Third grade!) The promotion for Elegantly Easy Crème Brûlée has taken me all over the country. Recently I was able to visit the wonderful city of Chicago. I have trips to Houston, North Carolina, and New Orleans on the calendar. Of course, I would love to meet my subscribers while I'm out and about, so please check cremebrulee.com for my appearance and signing schedule.
The next issue of foodstuff will be in its usual format with recipes, cookbook reviews, and lots other fun stuff.