There’s nothing that puts me more behind on daily chores and happenings than having the stomach flu. We were greeted by the stomach flu yesterday morning at about 3:00 and are just now starting to feel better. Our little nine-month-old son is sick today, but at least both his parents are feeling better to help him! Poor little guy.
I decided to make today’s post a question and answer post. I’ve had a lot of questions come through my e-mail inbox or through comments on the blog and thought it would be a good idea to post the answers for all to see. So here we go!
- What kind of cocoa would you suggest using for homemade cake or brownies? I really like using Hershey’s or Nestle Toll House cocoa. I’ve also used the cocoa that comes in the bulk container at the grocery store. But I like the taste of Hershey’s or Nestle Toll House better.
- Why do eggs need to be room temperature for baking? If you’re making cookies, cake, or some other kind of baked item it is good to leave the eggs out to reach room temperature because they give maximum volume when whipping. They also help when mixing the batters together. Cold eggs don’t mix into batters as well, which can cause little lumps of butter or other ingredients to appear.
- Do I always need to run water through pasta when making a pasta dish or can I just drain it and move on? It depends on what you’re making. If you’re making a pasta dish where the sauce and pasta will be mixed together than you don’t need to rinse it. In fact, it’s better that you don’t because that extra starch on the pasta will soak in the sauce better and make it creamier. But let’s say you’re making something like spaghetti and meatballs. You’ll want to rinse the pasta to remove that extra starch and help it from sticking together. Some like to add a tablespoon of oil to help the pasta from sticking together. I prefer not to, only because your dish ends up being a little more oily. If you rinse it really well under water you should be just fine.
- Is there something I can do to make my cookies not so flat? Unlike cooking, it is important with baking to follow the recipe exactly. That means making sure everything is measured out and separated by dry ingredients and liquid ingredients as well. After your dough is made, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then go ahead and start scooping the dough out onto the pans. Put the dough back in the refrigerator between baking times.
- It seems that every time I make a cold pasta salad the sauce or dressing I put on it doesn’t seem to have a lot of flavor after I mix everything together. Why is that? It seems like there are a lot of dull-tasting pasta salads out there. Most likely, here’s why: When making a pasta salad it is important to mix the sauce with pasta that has just been cooked and not put in the refrigerator to cool first. When pasta cools the starch on the outside almost makes a layer on the pasta that doesn’t allow sauce to soak in. When you cook the pasta and drain it, go ahead and mix the sauce and other ingredients while the pasta is still warm. If you have ingredients like cheese or nuts that go in the salad, let the salad chill and add those ingredients right before serving so they don’t melt or get soggy.
- When making fried chicken, how do I know when the oil in my pan is ready to put in the chicken? It’s all about the sound when frying. Put the oil on medium heat so it doesn’t get too hot. After it has been heating up for a few minutes you can check to see if it is ready to go by taking one of the prepared pieces of meat and dipping it into the pan. Touch the bottom of the pan and listen for the sizzle. If you hear it sizzle, you’re ready to go! If there’s no sizzle the oil isn’t quite hot enough.
- Sometimes when I make cupcakes they turn out really crumbly and difficult to eat. How do I make them more solid? Depending on your recipe, you can do a couple of things. Instead of the common three eggs you use when making cupcakes from a box, use four eggs. Second, instead of using water, put a cup of buttermilk in the batter. No matter how much water the recipe calls for. These tips are also good for cupcakes if you’re building on top of them. You’re going to want a strong cupcake if you’re planning on putting a lot of ingredients on top of them, and these tips will help you succeed in that.
- Is it ok to melt the butter or margarine when baking chocolate chip cookies instead of just bringing it to room temperature? Yes. In fact, I’d rather melt it a little bit than keep it at room temperature. The reason is because the liquid helps the different sugars dissolve better and makes it easier to work with the dough. The important thing is to start with a low time on the microwave so you don’t burn the butter. Go a little at a time. I like to melt it about 3/4 of the way and then let the rest of the solid pieces melt in what has already been melted. That way I don’t take a chance on burning it.
- I’ve heard that when cooking with wine the alcohol will cook out of it. I don’t want to take the chance on using wine, but I still want to make this dish. What can I use? It isn’t always the case that the alcohol is cooked out of dishes made with wine. In fact, more often than not there is still alcohol in the dish. It is safer to use a substitution if you don’t want to chance the alcohol in your dish. You can substitute the wine for chicken or beef stock, depending on what you’re making, and you’ll still get a really great flavor.
I hope these answers help! Feel free to keep these great questions coming!