Free Range on Food
Wednesday, October 18, 2006; 1:00 PM
A chat with the Food section staff is a chance for you to ask questions, offer suggestions and share information with other cooks and food lovers. It is a forum for discussion of food trends, ingredients, menus, gadgets and anything else food-related.
Each chat, we will focus on topics from the day's Food section . You can also read the transcripts of past chats . Do you have a question about a particular recipe or a food-related anecdote to share? The Food section staff goes Free Range on Food every Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET. Read about the staff of the Food section .
The transcript follows.
Joe: Hi, everyone! Thanks for coming to the chat today! Send us your questions, and we'll get rolling. Today we've got a copy of two books we review in today's section -- Fabio Trabocchi's "Cucina of Le Marche" and Michel Richard's "Happy in the Kitchen" as giveaways to the two chatters with the most interesting questions... Let's get rolling!
Arlington, Va.: While at the book store the other day I had a chance to look through "Happy in the Kitchen" the new cookbook from Michel Richard. While I agree that it is a beautiful book with wonderful pictures. I really had to wonder just how much someone would actually use such a cookbook. Maybe an expert chef may tackle some of the recipes, but I can't imaging the average or even above average cook using more than a few of the recipes. Why is it that in general very few cookbook have recipes that anyone would actually make? From all the ones I have I probably make less than 10% of what is there.
Joe: Hi, Arlington -- You've hit on exactly the issue with so many chef-driven cookbooks particularly. As someone who cowrote one with a chef in Boston, I understand all too well the chef's compulsion to document his/her legacy. But I also know how difficult it can be to get them to drop the chef-speak and remember what kind of difficulties there are for home cooks who don't have a staff of 30 at their disposal, or who don't have a bank of commercial stoves that are always fired up and ready.
Having said that, though, did you see Bonnie's review today? She would agree with you about much of the difficulty, but found some gems.
washingtonpost.com: Reviews: "Happy in the Kitchen" and "Cucina of Le Marche."
Reston, Va.: I have a question about Fabio Trabocchi's veal chop recipe. After you've browned the chops for 2-3 minutes per side, are you supposed to take them out of the pan? Otherwise, won't cooking them until the wine has evaporated really overcook them? (Maybe he's assuming any normal person would know to take the chops off heat and I'm the only one who needs that kind of detailed instruction!)
Bonnie: Hey Reston. Chef F. wanted the chops to stay in the pan, but our tester tried it both ways (since there were 2 pans in play). This veal is definitely cooked through, in the medium range. Feel free to adjust as you like it -- with the $$ of veal chops as dear as it is.
Centreville, Va.: Loved reading about the chefs, but don't think I'm going to have the time to do anything but those grapes. Would have liked a few more recipes in the ginger tea story, though. Like maybe that Jewish-Chinese chicken soup recipe??? Please???
Bonnie: We love those grapes.
If we'd had the room, we certainly would have run the chicken soup. Former Food section staff writer Candy Sagon's made this, and passes it along (FYI, baby spinach alert!):
Homey Chicken Soup in a Hurry
Makes 6 cups
When Nina Simonds wants a flu-fighter that nourishing but quick, she "cheats" with this recipe for The Easiest Chicken Broth (from her book, "Spices of Life") plus a store-bought rotisserie chicken and baby spinach instead of Chinese cabbage.
First, the easiest chicken broth:
4 1/2 cups store-bought (preferably reduced sodium) chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup rice wine or sake
6 slices ginger root, about the size of a quarter, smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife
Put the chicken broth, water, rice wine or sake and ginger in a pot, bring to a boil, and cook at low boil for 15 minutes. Strain out and discard ginger and use the broth as directed below.
The soup part:
6 cups chicken broth
3 cups shredded roast chicken (from store-bought rotisserie chicken if you're short on time)
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed and cut into
2 ounces bean-thread (cellophane noodles), softened in hot water to cover (if unavailable, substitute 1/2 pound thin rice stick noodles softened in warm water to cover, or cooked vermicelli)
Heat broth until very hot, then add mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes, then add spinach and chicken. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the bean threads or other noodles and cut into 4-inch lengths. Add to the soup and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and add salt, if needed, according to taste. Ladle into bowls and serve.
Dessert Ideas: Hello, got a dinner party to go to and I have been specially requested to do the dessert (I must be doing something right in the cakes and pies department!). I'm just not feeling inspired to recreate any of my recent dishes. I want something that will impress and it needs to feed 10-12 people, some of whom are big eaters (teenage boys). Got any great, signature desserts you wouldn't mind sharing? Thank you!
Bonnie: How about Jane Touzalin's great mousses, in today's section? link coming right up.
washingtonpost.com: Staff Favorites: Mousse
D.C.: I have an apple question. I bought a bag of McIntosh apples at Trader Joe's to use in apple pie, but after eating one I'm wondering if they're really the right apple for pie. They seem a little mushy. Can you help? Or suggest another dessert to make with them?
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Save the Macs for your lunchbox-they just turn to mush when cooked.
King Arthur's: Have you seen the new King Arthur whole grain cookbook? Have you checked it out? It's a pretty penny at $35. Is it worth it? Now that our household includes someone who can't eat refined flours, I can't rely on my standard baking repertoire.
And, have you tried King Arthur's White Whole Wheat flour? What's it like? How does it bake in comparison to "regular" whole wheat or "regular" white flour? I'm happy to have the higher nutritional value, but want to be able to taste the other flavors. We live in the hinterlands, and I'd have to mail order their flour. Is it worth it?
Thanks for your help.
Leigh: Funny you should ask. It's sitting on my desk as I type. I'm working on testing recipes and will be reviewing it in an up coming food section (soon!)
As for the white whole wheat flour, it is much milder in flavor than standard whole wheat flour, but you will still need to make adjustments when subbing it in for white flour. It is denser. Start by replacing 1/3 to 1/2 of your flour with it and go from there.
Richmond, Va.: Hello, I missed last week's discussion of the Food Section because I was, ironically, in DC enjoying Scrambled Eggs with Cilantro at Teaism (among other great meals ) only to come home and see it mentioned in the "Worth the Trip" section. I have enjoyed so many wonderful restaurants and markets by reading the food pages. So here is one enthusiastic vote to continue "Worth the Trip" and a vote for the brilliant Robert Wolke and his "Food 101" column. Love it, love it, love it!!
Joe: Hi, Richmond -- thanks for the vote of confidence in both columns! Tell me what some of your favorite "Food 101" columns have been... Are there topics you'd like to see covered that haven't been? Would you like to see his topics more closely related to other things/topics in the section week to week?
Washington, D.C.: I am searching for inspiration! My dear boyfriend just gave me the KitchenAid Artisan mixer. What should be my first creation with this great appliance??
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Congratulations on the new arrival. You've got plenty of cakes, breads and cookies ahead of you, but why not go for a more immediately gratifying item. Try Smashed Potatoes-so much easier than mashed. Scrub some thin-skinned potatoes well. Boil until tender when pierced with a fork. In the meantime heat milk (for 3 pounds, I'd have 1 cup hot milk ready although you probably won't need it all.) Place as much butter as your heart can stand (a few tablespoons) in the bottom of the mixer. Attach the paddle and add the drained, peel-on, potatoes. Turn that baby on to medium and let the paddle to the work. As the potatoes get smashed, slowly add the hot milk. Don't forget the salt and pepper. Stop adding the milk when the mixture looks creamy (it should still be chunky). Stir in some diced scallions. Spoon onto a plate, eat.
Arlington, Va.: Help! It's fall (well, sort of today) and I have been craving the cider doughnuts. It's a displaced New Englander craving. Does anyone know where I can buy them or does anyone have a good recipe? I don't know if I can hold out until Thanksgiving.
Bonnie: So glad you asked.
Apple Cider Doughnuts
Makes 18 doughnuts and doughnut holes
These apple cider doughnuts -- dense, richly spiced and with a faint taste of buttermilk -- are adapted from a recipe by pastry chef Lauren Dawson from Hearth restaurant in New York City's East Village. Hearth serves the doughnuts with applesauce and whipped cream.
For the doughnuts:
1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups flour, plus additional for the work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk (low-fat or nonfat work fine)
Vegetable oil for frying
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider
For the doughnuts: In a saucepan over medium or medium-low heat, gently reduce the apple cider to about 1/4 cup, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer on medium speed (with the paddle attachment, if using a standing mixer) beat the butter and granulated sugar until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to beat until the eggs are completely incorporated. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the reduced apple cider and the buttermilk, mixing just until combined. Add the flour mixture and continue to mix just until the dough comes together.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and sprinkle them generously with flour. Turn the dough onto 1 of the sheets and sprinkle the top with flour. Flatten the dough with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use more flour if the dough is still wet. Transfer the dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes. Pull the dough out of the freezer. Using a 3-inch doughnut cutter, cut out doughnut shapes. Place the cut doughnuts and doughnut holes onto the second sheet pan. Refrigerate the doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes. (You may re-roll the scraps of dough, refrigerate them briefly and cut additional doughnuts from the dough.)
Add enough oil to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 3 inches. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees. Have ready a plate lined with several thicknesses of paper towels.
For the glaze: While the cut doughnut shapes are in the refrigerator, make the glaze by whisking together the confectioners' sugar and the cider until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
To fry and assemble: Carefully add a few doughnuts to the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan, and fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds. Turn the doughnuts over and fry until the other side is golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Drain on paper towels after the doughnuts are fried. Dip the top of the warm doughnuts into the glaze and serve immediately.
Per doughnut: 201 calories, 3 gm protein, 33 gm carbohydrates, 6 gm fat, 31 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 200 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber
Joe: Take note, DC chatter above -- this is another option for your inaugural KitchenAid evening!
Buckwheat Flour: I have this buckwheat pancake mix that's basically a mix of buckwheat flour and whole wheat flour with some baking soda. Is there any way to use it in bread or muffin recipes to make them healthier? I was thinking specifically gingerbread or pumpkin muffins healthy enough to eat for breakfast.
Leigh: Without knowing precise ratios of how much flour and how much leavening is in your pancake mix it will be dicey trying it in recipes. If you want to play around a bit, you might try mixing it with some canned pumpkin, some sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup, egg and just see what you get. It couldn't be bad, it just may not be muffins.
Maryland: How much ginger do you need to eat to get the health effects? If I have a candied ginger scone from my local bakery, will that do it? The ginger tea I've tried in the past was just too spicy for me.
Bonnie: When you make your own ginger tea, like from the recipe in our section today, it won't be as spicy (you could cut down the slices to, say, four or five instead of six).
We may defer to our pals in the Health section about how much ginger you need to ingest, although something tells me that smaller, frequent doses might be the plan for your palate. Although our new editor Joe inspired us with tales of how ginger tea soothed his sore throat just this week...
Joe: It's true! It's the only thing that seems to help if I have a cough or sore throat. I do just ginger, sugar, and water, maybe some lemon, but am eager to try the scallions, too...
Washington, D.C.: I'm having a few friends over for a sorta "Asian" dinner - garden rolls as an app, Thai curry for main course, but I'm stumped for dessert. Any suggestions? Thanks!
Walter: How about some green tea ice cream, available at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods stores. Or, a fruit sorbet is always nice after an Asian meal.
Grilling for all seasons...: My husband and I just bought our first grill (gas) and we can't wait to start using it! The main reason we went with gas over charcoal is the convenience factor -- we're much more likely to grill during the work week if we don't have to wait 20 minutes for the coals. That said, we're very busy people, and we would really appreciate thoughts and recipe ideas for meals we can prep in advance and then grill when we get home from work -- e.g., marinated chicken. I know we'll rely on sausage, hot dogs, and the like -- but any ideas for quick and delicious recipes would be most appreciated!
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Let yourself off the hook-gas grills can be great. As for quick meals, I could write a book about them and many have but here are two quick ideas to set up in the morning and cook when you get home:
Chicken Thighs: Yogurt, salt, a pinch of sugar and chopped mint. Rub all over chicken thighs, especially under the skin. Transfer to resealable plastic bag. In fridge until ready to grill. 30 to 35 minutes on the grill, may do better with the heat on one side, thighs on the other (of the grill) to avoid burning.
Salmon: Prepare a mix of orange juice, orange rind, hot red pepper sauce, brown sugar, salt and red pepper flakes. Refrigerate. Get in the door, pour the mix over the salmon and let it marinate while the grill heats. Cook 10 to 15 minutes on a medium-high heat.
Joe: I have to add a vote for charcoal. The next time you're in the market for a grill, look at the Weber Performer. There's a little propane tank that's used only to light the charcoal, which adds so much to the convenience factor. Add it has a great cleanup system. So it solves some of the problems. But you're right that nothing's as convenient as gas. I have to have the smoke!
Side dishes: Your corn pudding has been a huge hit here, we love it!
What other side dishes have a similar homey-and-delicious quality? I'm definitely in search of more ways to serve veggies, especially with the change in the season.
Jane: Now that fall is here, side dishes involving sweet potatoes seem particularly homey and welcoming. Also squash and broccoli casseroles.
Reston, Va.: I liked the ginger story. I ate crystallized ginger to help with morning sickness. It seemed to help. Is it the same as cooking with ginger or ginger tea? Can it be used to make ginger tea (since I have half a bag left)?
Bonnie: Thanks. That Candy Sagon -- she knows how to tell a story. You can use crystallized ginger to make tea -- it'll make it sweeter, of course, and not quite as spicy as the fresh stuff since it's been cooked, but it does work. Experiment with the number of pieces to get the flavor you like.
Arlington, Va.: Help! It's my turn to host the book-and-dinner group this month. The last two hosts have made a version of baked pasta for the entree and I'd like to wow them with something different--but not something that takes a really long time to make since I have twin first-graders to keep track of. Any ideas?
Bonnie: Hope we're not doing too much of our own horn tootin' today. Stephanie Witt Sedgwick has come up with some great and crowd-easy dishes in her Entertaining column, which runs on our Wine Plus page once a month. Try this recipe of hers (actually from an article she did on potlucks) or come back at us with a preferred flavor profile...
Curried Shrimp, Chickpea and Potato Ragout
This is it for me -- the reason to buy a simmer sauce. This dish takes 25 minutes to make, and it's delicious. It can be a family supper or easily be a main dish at a large buffet. It's also a perfect pantry mainstay: Almost every ingredient can be bought ahead and stored for weeks, some for months. Add a few potatoes, and you've got dinner.
I used Ethnic Gourmet's Bombay Curry Sauce here, but any curry sauce will work. Serve this dish with basmati rice.
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
About 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen peas
One 16-ounce jar Indian curry simmer sauce of your choice
In a small pot of lightly salted water over medium-high heat, add the potato. Bring to a boil and cook until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add just enough oil to coat the pan. When it is shimmering, add the shrimp and cook until they just start to turn pink, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chickpeas, frozen peas, potatoes and the curry sauce and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the shrimp are cooked through and all the vegetables are hot, 5 to 6 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add water, a few tablespoons at a time, to reach desired consistency. Serve immediately.
Per serving: 552 calories, 26 g protein, 44 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 115 mg cholesterol,1 g saturated fat, 185 mg sodium, 10 g dietary fiber
Preheating : Hi,
I was wondering if there are any dangers in placing food in the oven while it's preheating? I know I've been guilty of it in the past. Thank you!
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Depends on what you're making. If you're making popovers, baking bread or biscuits or using a high heat oven to sear a roast beef, yes it will make difference.
But if you're roasting potatoes or vegetables, go ahead. In fact you'll save a little energy by putting the stuff right in and not letting an ever hotter oven sit idle while you wait for it to hit 350 degrees. Here are some more things that don't need preheating- say you're roasting a large piece of meat which will have plenty of time to brown, stick it right in there. Other things that don't need a preheated oven-an apple crisp, a baked pasta dish, any sort of casserole.
Washington, D.C.: Thanks for including the info that gelatin is not vegetarian-friendly in your piece on mousses. Not many people realize this. One alternative I've tried in the past for fruit mousses is to make a curd (I've tried lemon, lime, and grapefruit) and then to fold the whipped cream into it. It works well.
Jane: There are indeed plenty of mousse recipes that call for lemon curd. A good solution when you're feeding vegetarians.
Baltimore, Md.: I heard on the morning news today that the FDA is close to approving cloned meats and milk, which will not be required to be labeled as cloned once the products hit the supermarket. Do you think this is a problem and what do you think consumers can do to protect or at least inform ourselves about the ingredients we purchase. Personally, I don't want to see cloned anything in the grocery store.
Joe: Indeed, Baltimore, the Post's Rick Weiss broke that story on our page 1 yesterday. You're not alone if this makes you nervous. Now the article quoted studies that found little to no chemical differences between cloned and "regular" meat, but I worry about a day when every steak I buy tastes exactly like every other steak I buy. Consistency is one thing, but vive la difference! Hopefully there will be strong labeling standards so people can make a choice, and as a consumer you could/should certainly be expressing this concern to your congressman.
washingtonpost.com: The Post's story on FDA Approval
Buying apple cider donuts: The best, which I recently discovered: Marker Miller Orchards outside Winchester. Worth the trip, especially since the leaves are peak this weekend (I'm looking at them as I type)! While you're there, pick up their Kickles (spiced pickles), chocolate meringue pie, milk in glass jugs and, of course, apples.
Joe: Thanks for the tip. I'll have to get in my Zipcar and get some! Oh, and spiced pickles? I'm there.
Green tomatoes: Hi-
With the sudden frost last week we had to harvest our tomatoes. We now have about 3 dozen green tomatoes to use.
What should we do with them? We don't eat much fried food, but we can try frying a batch. There are just two of us, so we need a couple ideas for turning these into something delicious for the dinner table. And, how long will these keep in the fridge?
Thanks for helping us use the harvest.
Jane: You've come to the right place! Here are two recipes: one we ran this past summer, for fried green tomatoes, and one for an unusual pasta recipe -- because it doesn't sound like you're a real frying fan.
The Virginia Extension Service advises storing your green tomatoes at 50 degrees to 70 degrees for no more than three weeks.
Fried Green Tomatoes With Avocado and Sour Cream
The green tomatoes are so tart that they cry out for a rich counterpart; Joe Beck, executive chef at Susan Gage Caterers, uses a topping made of avocados and sour cream mellow them out.
4 green tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick, then cut into bite-size wedges (about 4 per slice)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
Flesh of 2 avocados, cut into 1/4 -inch dice
1 cup sour cream
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
Hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, to taste
1 cup clarified butter*
Season the tomato wedges well with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
Have ready 3 shallow pie plates or dishes. In one, place 1 1/2 cups of the flour. In the second, add the eggs, mustard and buttermilk and stir to combine. In the third, place the cornmeal and the remaining 1/2 cup of flour and mix to combine.
Dredge the tomato wedges, one by one, in the flour, followed by the egg mixture, letting any excess drain off, and then the cornmeal mixture, patting or pressing it gently if necessary. Shake off any excess and place on a baking sheet. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, add the avocados, sour cream, shallot and cilantro and mix gently to combine. Add salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce to taste. Set aside.
In a large, shallow fry pan on medium heat, add the clarified butter. When it is hot, add the cornmeal-crusted tomatoes and cook until browned, about 1 1/2 minutes per side (you may have to do this in batches). Transfer the tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
To serve, place the tomatoes on a serving platter and top each piece with a small amount of the avocado mixture.
*NOTE: To make clarified butter, melt unsalted butter over low heat without stirring. Let it sit for several minutes, then skim off the foam. Leave the milky residue at the bottom and use only the clear (clarified) butter on top.
Pasta With Green Tomatoes
(4 to 6 servings)
In his recent book, written with cardiologist Richard Wolff, talented cook and artist Edward Giobbi outlines ways to turn high-calorie and fat-laden Italian specialties into still-delicious diet dishes. This pasta dish is useful for cooks stuck with an excess of green tomatoes.
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons safflower oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
4 large green tomatoes, thinly sliced (about 8 cups)
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil
1/2 to 1 cup chicken or beef stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound bucatini pasta (or linguine)
6 tablespoons parmesan cheese
Heat the oils in a medium saucepan. Add onion and simmer over moderate heat until it begins to brown. Add garlic, simmer 1 minute and add tomatoes. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Add parsley, basil, 1/2 cup stock, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer, adding more stock if sauce becomes too dry, for 30 minutes. When tomatoes are nearly done, cook pasta al dente. Drain well and toss with sauce. Add cheese, mix and serve immediately.
Triangle, Va.: I bought a bottle of tawny port ($37) over the weekend. It was my first experience with port and it was delish. The caramel scent was enough to win me over. Other than sipping, how else can I enjoy my port? I don't usually spend that much on wine, so I want to savor it.
Joe: Triangle, you've got to taste your port with some chocolate! I love that combination. Leigh brought in some Scharffen Berger samples today, and your port would go well with anything really deep -- the higher the cocoa content, the better!
Crystallized ginger: I know two elderly people who each had problems tasting food - one couldn't taste, and the other everything tasted awful. Problems went away when they started eating a bit of crystallized ginger before eating anything else (accidental discovery).
Joe: That's fascinating! All hail the power of ginger.
Washington, D.C.: I know this will sound silly but "salt to taste" is fine when the dish is done but lots of times I see "salt to taste" at the middle of a recipe containing raw meats or other foods and this I cannot figure out. How do you "salt to taste" mid point in a recipe? I made some fig rice this weekend and when I saw "salt to taste" in bringing the rice to a boil I wondered how how how???
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: D.C., I'm guilty of saying salt to taste in almost every recipe I write, but there's no way around it. People's sensitivity to salt varies too widely for any strict recipe measurement. I've been shocked to see a guest ask for salt and then douse my well-seasoned food in the stuff, but enough with my horror stories.
Simple rules to follow. If the recipe doesn't tell you to actually "taste," don't. Always just sprinkle the salt over raw food. Once it's cooked through, then you can start tasting and adding more salt.
Rochester, Minn.: My husband learned that iron absorption is impeded by caffeine. Do decaffeinated coffee and tea contain any significant amounts of caffeine? I'm not referring to herbal teas.
Joe: If your husband has iron deficiency, this could indeed be a concern, especially if he's trying to get all he can! I'll look into the tea idea, but when it comes to decaf coffee, indeed there is still some caffeine. Just this month, a University of Florida study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology showed that samples of Starbucks brewed coffee, for example, had 12 milligrams to 13.4 milligrams per 16-ounce drink, which would have 170 milligrams if fully caffinated. So a fraction, but nothing to scoff at!
Star Tannery, Va.: Bought a crepe maker for $1 at a flea market (had always wanted one since my high school French teacher showed off hers). We have been gorging ourselves on basic crepes with a little honey. Any suggestions to give this new obsession a little variety?
Joe: I love crepes. You can do some really fun things here -- from the classic indulgence of crepes Suzette to all manner of combinations that feature Nutella: Nutella with chocolate and bananas, for instance, or Nutella with chocolate and chopped hazelnuts. Make buerre noisette by browning butter until nutty (but not burned!), and fold up the crepes and pour over the brown butter, brown sugar, and walnuts. Or make a lemon curd and stuff the crepes with the curd and blackberries, one of my favorite combos.
Alexandria, Va.: Why do so many recipes these days call for unsalted butter? Also, what is pareve margarine?
Leigh: Unsalted butter has gained in popularity because you can control the level of salt in a dish much more closely. This can be especially important in baking where you just want enough salt to off-set the sweetness and not be pronounced. Parve margarine is a kosher certification indicating it can be used with meat because it contains no dairy. Technically, all margarine is dairy free but may be made in facilities that produce dairy products as well.
Atlanta, Geo.: My mom is really a pretty good cook, and growing up I learned a lot about how to cook from her. She can cook from scratch with the best of them. But she also relied sometimes on packaged foods, like canned green beans or Kraft mac and cheese.
I consider myself a bit of a foodie now, and over the years I've grown to appreciate more and more fresh, locally grown ingredients in my food. But I still hold a fondness for some of the more convenient foods I grew up with. As much as I like eating fresh peas, I also really like eating mushy canned peas. A lot. And while there's really nothing better than a hearty homemade mac and cheese, I'll never stop liking the Kraft stuff. And don't even get me started on Shake and Bake pork chops! Maybe it's just the memories, I don't know.
So now my question. Even though I'm sure you all have developed more discriminating palates over the years, are there any packaged convenience foods you still like? Something you just can't give up?
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I can't get away from three things, no matter how much I try:
1) Pudding. I love the kind you have to cook, which I believe makes the whole thing okay!
2) Fudge Brownies. I know, I know, the homemade kind are great, but they just don't taste like what I want. What I crave. Don't stand between me and my brownies.
3) Yes, yes, time to confess, I serve my kids Kraft Mac and Cheese. They love it. I love the convenience. They think it's a treat. Everyone's happy.
Bowie, Md.: Speaking as one of those "above average" home cooks, I'd much rather have chef cookbooks with stretch recipes than the more rigid, limited ingredient material discussed last week. I may never make the most complicated recipe, but these books let me rethink or experiment with the food I'm cooking.
Joe: Thanks for weighing in, Bowie. I do think sometimes we can worry so much about people's time that we forget the joys of "aspirational" recipes. What are some of your favorite books?
Washington, D.C.: Hi all,
Loved the chef cookbook piece and I can't wait to try Comet Ping Pong, just blocks from where I live.
I have a concern that I'd like to get your thoughts about. My mouth watered reading your mousse recipes, until I noticed they contain raw and undercooked eggs--the yolks being only slightly warmed and the whites being completely uncooked. Do you feel this is safe? I'm not trying to sound critical, I'd just like to get your take on whether this is okay or not, since I've been told that consuming raw eggs these days is a bad idea.
Jane: Hi -- The story did note that salmonella is a possibility where raw eggs are concerned. The FDA says: "The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimate that 1 egg in 20,000 may be contaminated. Although the number of eggs affected is quite small, there have been cases of foodborne illness related to infected eggs."
I say, go with your comfort level. If you do not want to take the risk, use pasteurized eggs. And as the story says, you should never serve raw egg products to people who are very young, very old or immuno-compromised.
I make mousses all the time and have never had a problem, but there is NO guarantee that the next egg I pick up will not be that 1 in 20,000.
Silver Spring, Md.: Thanks for taking my question.
What's the deal with Woks?
I have an electric stove and I heard that Woks are best used over a fire or gas oven range. Is there a Wok that works best with electric ranges. Should I get a non-stick?
Joe: Hey, SS, thanks for asking about woks. Here's the thing. Real woks, real Chinese woks, sit practically in the flame, and are rounded on the bottom, which allows for the incredibly fast, high-heat cooking that results in such beautiful food. For Americans, a flat-bottomed wok is a better choice, because of our stove design -- there are some adapters that can help get us closer to that style of cooking, but really only with gas, and very high-powered burners at that. With electric (and my sympathies -- I'm staying temporarily in a furnished apartment that has the same, and I hate it!), you're better off with a really good saute pan. I like my Swiss Diamond nonstick; the surface is fully bonded, not a thin coating, so you can use metal utensils.
Thinking about Thanksgiving...: Hi Food Section, Staff!
I was hoping that you might be able to help me with our Thanksgiving pies. We are looking for a great pumpkin and apple pie recipe, and then also for a third pie. My mother suggested mincemeat, but it breaks my heart to see the lovingly homemade pie crust just used for the jarred mincemeat that she uses. Is there another pie (other than pecan) which might appease my mincemeat-loving mother and the rest of the Thanksgiving crew?
I definitely do not want to deprive my hard working mom on Thanksgiving, but I think she might have just suggested mincemeat as a third, non-pecan option. Would love to have something else to recommend to her...
Bonnie: We're testing, testing. We feel the drumbeat of eager holiday cooks. Lots of Thanksgiving recipes coming up in our Nov. 15 and Nov. 19 issues.
We've just found an unusually nice jarred mincemeat (to be featured On the Fridge in the next few weeks). Can you hang on?
In the meantime, does Deep Dish Apple Cranberry Pie sound good to you? Here's the recipe from baking ace Elinor Klivans, which starts with a cream cheese crust:
Cream Cheese Pie Crust
Makes enough crust for one 9-inch pie pan or a 9 1/2-inch tart pan
An electric stand mixer makes quick work of this crust, and a hand-held electric mixer will do a fine job. The dough can be refrigerated overnight, but it will have to sit at room temperature until it is soft enough to roll.
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablesooons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 3 pieces
In a small bowl, sift the flour and salt and set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed, combine the butter and cream cheese until smooth, about 45 seconds. Mix in the flour mixture until the dough holds together and forms large clumps that come away from the sides of the bowl, about 30 seconds.
Form the dough into a smooth ball, flatten into a 6-inch disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or overnight. The dough is now ready to roll.
Apple Cranberry Pie
8 to 10 servings
Maple syrup sweetens the filling and enhances the flavor of this generously filled deep-dish pie, which has the fruit on the bottom and the crust on the top. Because the apple-cranberry mixture is not overly sweet, taste it after mixing it together and add sugar, if you prefer a sweeter version. Vanilla or cinnamon ice cream makes a good accompaniment.
For the filling:
7 cups (about 7 large) apples (a mixture of sweet and tart), peeled, cored and sliced 1/8-inch thick
1 cup cranberries
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
For the topping:
1 recipe Cream Cheese Pie Crust (see recipe above)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
For the filling: Place the apples and cranberries in a 2-quart baking dish. Add the maple syrup, flour, melted butter, cinnamon and sugar, if desired, stirring to combine. The filling should come to the top of the container (the apples will shrink during baking). Set aside.
For the crust: Lightly flour the rolling surface and rolling pin. Roll the dough to a shape that is 1 inch wider than the top of the baking dish. Roll up the pie crust over the rolling pin and unroll it over the filling. Fold 1/2-inch of the edge of the crust under itself to form a smooth edge. Use a fork to press the dough firmly onto the rim of the baking dish. Cut four 2-inch-long slits in the top of the crust to release steam while the pie bakes. Lightly brush the crust with maple syrup.
Bake for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for about 15 minutes more, or until the crust is lightly browned and the apples test tender when a toothpick is inserted. Cool for about 20 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature. Use a large spoon to cut through the crust and scoop out servings of crust and filling.
Per serving (based on 10): 268 calories, 2 g protein, 34 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 39 mg cholesterol, 9 g saturated fat, 86 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber
SCHARFFENBERGER!!!: LOVE their chocolate. If any chatters are ever in the SF area, I highly recommend visiting the factory in Berkeley. So much fun and so informative!
Joe: Good stuff, isn't it? So here's my question for you: Are you a nib person, or not a nib person?
re: curry dish: That recipe you posted for the shrimp/potato curry looks awesome. One problem: husband hates shrimp. What would happen if I simply omitted it? Thanks.
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Nothing! The man doesn't like shrimp, more for the rest of us. Go ahead and leave it out. You can add more potatoes and chickpeas to compensate or add some cooked chicken.
State College, Penn.: Hi, What's the best way for a timid palate to taste-test hot peppers? I got my harvest mixed up and can't tell by looking which are the mild ones and the hot ones. I don't want to burn my hands and tongue unnecessarily. Any tips?
Joe: State College, the key is to taste just a teensy teensy bit, if you're worried... Pull on some latex gloves and use a paring knife to cut off the stem, slice open the pepper and, under running water, wash out the seeds. Then cut a little piece of the pepper in question and taste. Unless you're growing habaneros, that shouldn't hurt too much. But a little pain just reminds you that you're alive, right? Right?
Old Town, Alexandria, Va.: Hey Rangers,
Thanks for a great section today. I work in Old Town and have been dying for some new lunch places, so thanks. I am just about to run try the Red Mei before picking up some grapes for tonight's dessert (eaten while I watch "Top Chef," of course). YUM.
Joe: Thanks, Old Town! Glad you liked it. Let us know what you think about all three things: Red Mei, chocolate grapes, and Top Chef... Speaking of Top Chef, I found out today that one of the contestants, Emily, is from D.C. So stay tuned; we'll try to do something on her soon.
Off the beaten Path: Question for the food staff-What recent cuisines have you sampled that are off the beaten path of Italian, Mexican, Chinese, etc.? For example, I just heard about a Burmese place, Myanmar, to try.
Thanks as always for the great chats!
Walter: And that's a great example Path finder. Burmese, a combination of flavors from India, Thailand and China is very different. At Myanmar in Falls Church or Mandalay in Silver Spring don't miss the pickled ginger or green tealeaf salad as well as the national dish, mohingar-a hearty fish soup flavored with lemon grass. There's a new Burmese in Wheaton. We'll tell you about it and more in next week's section.
washingtonpost.com: Worth the Trip: Myanmar's Ginger Salad .
Silver Spring, Md: My question is about bouillon cubes. I am giving my brother cooking tips/recipes from various web sites (your included) and we came across a recipe for beef stew that was easy enough for him to master. However, I did not read it over carefully and it included 3 beef bouillon cubes and they list among their ingredients MSG. He loved it but I told him it was too high in sodium to be a favorite. Are there bouillon cubes with no salt or msg just spices to add flavor?
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Throw those cubes away. In their place, choose one of the many good beef broths available. One that widely available is College Inn Low-Sodium Beef Broth. It's perfect in stews. Substitute for the water in the recipe.
Crepes: For the person with the crepe maker - don't limit yourself to desserts. There are tons of recipes for meal crepes too with decadent sauces.
Joe: Absolutely -- great point. Stuff with mushrooms/bacon, creamy chicken, many other options. I remember in cooking school doing a fabulous but time-consuming dish that called for crepes to be stacked in a stainless steel bowl with bolognese sauce in between the layers. You bake it in the bowl and unmold, and the crepes become like pasta sheets.
Crepes thoughts: Add cocoa powder to your crepes, in place of some of the flour, and leave out/cut down on the sugar. Then stuff with honey or jam (I love lingonberry jam in these), and/or top with a bit of strained Greek-style yogurt.
Joe: More crepe ideas! Thanks...
Fall Desserts...: I have about 5 cans of pumpkin in my pantry and I need some inspiration beyond pumpkin pie. Please help!
Jane: Hi -- Just to extend this week's mousse theme, here is a great frozen mousse recipe from Eleanor Klivans that we ran in 1996.
PUMPKIN PECAN PRALINE MOUSSE (8 servings)
Canned pumpkin works fine for this mousse, but check the label to make sure the can contains just pumpkin rather than sweetened pumpkin pie filling. Heavy whipping cream, gelatin and bourbon all work together to produce a creamy texture for this frozen mousse. Soften the frozen mousses lightly before serving to ensure a pleasant soft-frozen texture. The pecan praline topping is best if added at serving time.
FOR THE PUMPKIN MOUSSE:
1 envelope ( 1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup whole milk
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 cup cold heavy (whipping) cream
FOR THE PRALINE:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup firm-packed light brown sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
For the mousse: Have ready 8 ramekins with at least 1/2 cup capacity. Soften the gelatin in 1/4 cup of water. Set aside.
Heat the milk in a medium saucepan until tiny bubbles form on top (about 175 degrees on a food thermometer). Do not let the milk boil.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture measures 165 degrees on a food thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the softened gelatin, stirring until the gelatin dissolves. Whisk in the lemon juice, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and bourbon. Gently stir in the pumpkin puree. Pour the pumpkin mixture into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool to the touch, about 30 minutes.
Use an electric mixer to beat the cream to soft peaks. Fold the cream into the cooled pumpkin mixture. Divide the mousse among the 8 ramekins. Freeze the mousse, uncovered, until the tops are firm. Wrap each ramekin with plastic wrap, then heavy aluminum foil. Label with date and contents. Freeze up to 3 weeks.
For the pecan praline: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with heavy aluminum foil. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring until the mixture boils. Boil for 1 minute without stirring. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the chopped pecans. Spread the praline mixture evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, stir and then bake about 5 minutes longer until the mixture bubbles vigorously. Cool the praline, stirring several times as it cools to break apart the nuts. The praline can be frozen in a plastic freezer bag or tightly covered metal or plastic freezer container up to 2 months. The praline does not need to be defrosted.
To serve the mousse: Remove from the freezer and let sit 15 minutes. Remove the wrapping and top with crushed pecan praline.
Per serving: 425 calories, 5 gm protein, 38 gm carbohydrates, 29 gm fat, 139 mg cholesterol, 12 gm saturated fat, 34 mg sodium
Silver Spring, Md.: The question about peppers reminds me of the year I picked a couple of dozen hot peppers (my first crop and boy was I proud). I had no clue about what to do so I split them all and used my thumbnail to scrape out the seeds(it was really easy and fast too). I can't tell you the pain that set in after about 10-15 mins that was totally unrelenting. Nothing would make it go away - not cold water, not ice - nothing but time. Now I use a spoon.
Joe: Thanks for the warning, SS. One day I'll relate the tale of taking a bathroom break after handling hot peppers without gloves. Or maybe I won't. Suffice it to say: Never again.
20906: I just looked at the ads for this week for both Giant and Safeway. Why are they both putting turkey on sale already? Do people practice their Thanksgiving dinner or do they really buy the turkey a month early?
Bonnie: Let's see. You mean in the very same stores where Christmas decorations have been on sale for a month already? If you like to buy the frozen turkeys, early birds get their choice of poundage, I guess. The appetite for turkey is certainly on the rise. Speaking of practicing, we sure have been.
Scharffenberger lover: I am TOTALLY a nib person. First discovered them in Zathmary's in Brookline, MA way back when that movie "Chocolat" came out. FINALLY got a chance to visit the factory last year. Was a blast. And during the tour, you get to eat whole roasted cacao beans! It was grand. They now make chocolate covered nibs. Heaven.
Joe: I'm with you. I can't get enough nibs. Have you tried them in cookies yet?
Great Falls, Va.: I'm not the other Scharffen Berger poster, but I'm totally a nibs person. When I make chocolate chip cookies, I substitute nibs for the nuts. So good.
Joe: Great minds think alike -- I was just saying the same thing! Thanks, GF.
Gas vs charcoal: I am 51 years old and just this year went over to the dark side. I bought my very first gas grill for use during the week. I reserve the charcoal for the weekends. My family has always used charcoal, in fact, they were such purists that they never used lighter fluid either. We always make a chimney with an old 3 pound coffee can and put newspaper on the bottom with charcoal on top. Light it and let it sit for about 15 mins, lift can off, spread out coals, pour more charcoal on, wait for those to warm and cool then cook. It can easily take more than 30 mins just to get ready to start cooking but, as you say, well worth it for a good steak or roast.
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Gas vs. Charcoal, I've got two grills too. I think it's the answer. I love my charcoal grill and if it's warm enough I fire up that baby. But for quick cooking, especially as the nights get cooler, we turn on the gas.
Bethesda Mom: I want to make chicken quesadillas for my son, who had them at a friend's house where the mom had some sort of quesadilla-making appliance. I have two chicken breasts defrosting until I come home, as well as shredded cheese and tortillas. What can I do to make them appetizing and authentic? When I tried to make them once before on a Foreman grill, my son pronounced them "not good" but I can't see buying another, extremely specific appliance (in fact, Foreman grill was a present, I don't think I would have bought this either).
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: One Mom to another, here's how I do it. I just take a large frying pan or griddle and melt butter and a teaspoon of oil over medium-heat. Lay down the tortilla and top with grated cheese of choice, sliced pieces of grilled or sauteed chicken, green chilies, etc...let's say the fillings of your choice. Top with second tortilla and then a pot, the same size or slightly smaller than the tortilla. Turn heat to medium-low. When the first side is browned to your liking, about 3 minutes, remove the pot, flip the whole thing over (it should be stuck together by now. Put the pot back on top and cook until the second side is brown. Transfer to cutting board, cut into wedges and serve.
for the crepe maker: Try creme de marron filling - YUM! You can get it in the States now. Chestnut puree. When I was in Paris for a semester lo these many years ago I ate street vendor crepes for many a meal. The creme de marron ones were unbelievably good. So add them to your dessert list!
Joe: With a little whipped cream to lighten the chestnut puree? I'm with you on this one; sounds fab.
Nibby!: I love Scharffen Berger and have been to their factory. The nibs are great! I like to add them to cookies, cakes, ect... They make dark chocolate covered nibs which make a great snack. I have one of their 4.4 lb boxes of bittersweet for baking (can you say cheesecake?) as well as snacking bars in pretty much every flavor.
washingtonpost.com: It's All in the Nibs
Joe: Here's what Candy said about the nibs last year -- obsessions abound!
Baltimore, Md. : I love this Pom blueberry pomegranate juice and wonder if you could suggest a cocktail beyond simply adding vodka. Got rum, vodka, gin and more on hand....
Walter: Hi Charm City, your best bet is the Pom Web site-www.pomwonderful.com where there are dozens of drink recipes. Cheers.
Washington, D.C.: Going to a pick-your-own this weekend. I'm pretty sure the only thing available will be apples. Any ideas for something apple-y -- other than a pie and apple sauce? Thanks!
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Hmm... so many things. Saute chicken breasts with sliced apples. Roast pork tenderloins with apples and butternut squash drizzled with butter and brown sugar. Throw diced apples into pork stews along with the vegetables. Saute sliced apples with sugar and butter and serve with pancakes, French toast on top of your oatmeal...
Columbia Heights: I LOVE ginger, but find the prep to be a bit of a nuisance, especially when you get to the fibrous bits. What do you think would happen if I used my garlic press on a garlic-sized chunk of ginger?
Joe: I think you'd get nothing but a little ginger juice and a tired hand. The best thing to use if you really want to break up the ginger is a grater. Have you seen Microplane's new box grater? It would be just the ticket.
Ginger: I have never used fresh ginger in a recipe and have a question before I buy ginger tonight. The recipe I'm using calls for a small amount, so I imagine there will be root left over. How long can it last, and how should I store it?
Bonnie: Good for you, trying new things! You'll be able to keep it for several weeks if you wrap the knob/hand of ginger in paper towel first, and then in a plastic bag. Keep it in your refrigerator's vegetable bin drawer. You can also freeze it (unpeeled) -- store in a freezer plastic food storage bag and get as much air out of the bag before sealing it. Here's a tip: Some people find that the more fibrous ginger is, the "hotter" its flavor will be.
Scharffen Berger Kisses: I love nibs; hate them in cookies (but most people don't) - love them in banana bread. Can't get over the fact that that SB was bought by Hershey's. Like Ford owning Volvo....
Joe: It's interesting to see what does and doesn't happen when big companies take over quirky independent ones in the food biz. Group Danone (Dannon) owns most of Stonyfield Farm, Kellogg's owns Kashi. In Stonyfield Farm's case, the only one I've done much reporting on, they claim that Dannon has left them much creative control over their little piece.
Re: Hot Peppers: Ooooh! After losing two sets of contacts due to jalapenos, I related the story to a girlfriend. She then told me how she burned her face so badly (peppers touching hands, hands then touching face) that her husband called poison control. They said that whole milk products help the burn. The only whole milk they had in the house was in ice cream form...but that didn't stop her from putting her whole face in the carton!
Bonnie: Yogurt works too.
Washington, D.C.: I feel like someone posted a recipe recently for preparing butternut squash by cubing, sauteing, then baking in the oven. I forget the details, but is sounded really good and I was hoping someone could dig it up? Thanks!
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: We're trying to find the recipe, but while we try jogging our memories, here's a shorthand version:
Take cubes butternut squash (about 1-inch pieces.)And yes, you can buy the squash that's already cut up. Toss with just enough oil to coat, cinnamon, pepper ,ground ginger and salt. Place in a roasting pan. Add a few pats of butter. Roast at 400 degrees until tender, about 30 minutes.
washingtonpost.com: Butternut Squash and Pork Stew Recipe
Saucy: My dear dear husband started making his own pan sauces without any clue of what's he's doing (and with not so appetizing results). Any good books on sauces and salad dressings I could get him? Or at least a good web site?
Thanks! I don't think he's buying my anti-sauce excuses anymore
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Everything you'll ever need to know about making sauces is in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It where I still go when I need help.
Washington, D.C.: I would like to make mini-cupcakes for a cocktail party I am hosting (one that will have substantial munchies). I was hoping to do a variation that would be a bit elegant. Any suggestions?
Jane: This is perfect for you! We ran it in 1991. The cupcakes were the dessert course for an elegant dinner party.
MINI-CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES WITH RASPBERRY CREAM (Makes 24 mini-cupcakes)
Don't be put off by the length of this recipe. Each step is simple and the result is delicious.
1 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten with a fork
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup sour cream
RASPBERRY CREAM FILLING:
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons seedless raspberry preserves
1 cup whipping cream
12 ounces top quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
Grease mini-muffin pans. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and baking cocoa in a bowl. In another bowl, cream butter until soft. Gradually add sugar to butter until blended thoroughly. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add boiling water to sour cream and stir to mix. Sift one-third of the flour mixture into the butter-egg mixture. Beat until smooth. Add a third of the sour cream-water mixture. Beat until smooth. Repeat, alternating dry and liquid mixtures, until all has been added.
Fill mini-muffin pans a little more than half full using rounded tablespoons of batter. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven. (You may need to bake them in batches if they all won't fit in your oven.) Let cool completely. If the cupcakes have overflowed, trim the edges, but do not cut off the tops.
For raspberry cream filling, whip 1/2 cup cream in a chilled bowl until soft peaks start to form. Add preserves and continue whipping until thick. Do not over-whip.
With a small tip on a pastry bag, fill the bag with the raspberry cream filling. Gently push the tip about 1/2-inch into each mini-cupcake and squeeze a small amount of filling into each one. Practice will quickly tell you how much to squeeze in. Too much filling will cause the cupcake to fall apart.
For the ganache coating, put the remaining 1 cup cream in a medium to large saucepan. Heat until the cream begins to boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate pieces. Let sit for 2 to 3 minutes. Gently stir with a wire whisk or spoon until thoroughly mixed and smooth. (A tablespoon of flavoring, such as raspberry or coffee liqueur, may be added if desired.)
Place a cooling rack on a cookie sheet to catch the drips for re-use. Place the filled mini-cupcakes on the cooling rack bottom side up.
While the ganache is still warm, spoon it over the cupcakes to coat. (If the mixture is too thick, thin with a little warm cream.) Refrigerate the completed cupcakes for 1 to 2 hours to set ganache. Store in the refrigerator.
Variation: Let ganache sit at room temperature for several hours until firm. (Refrigerate the filled cupcakes during this time.) Mix ganache with spoon or wire whisk until it lightens in color and has the texture of chocolate frosting. Frost mini-cupcakes as with regular buttercream icing.
Per cupcake: 203 calories, 3 gm protein, 15 gm carbohydrates, 17 gm fat, 10 gm saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 55 mg sodium.
Nina Simonds: Nina Simonds Chicken soup looks great - - plan on making it tonight. Really stupid question: the recipe describes making an easy chicken broth, then calls for 6 cups of chicken broth in the next step... I am assuming the said chicken broths are one and the same, but it reads a little unclear...can you shed some light? Thanks!
Bonnie: The first part of her recipe refers is a doctored chicken broth that you make before you head to the soup part. Does that make sense? Good luck!
Joe: Thanks everybody for a great session! Our winners today are the chatter from Bowie, Md., who defended chef cookbooks, and Red Hot Peppers who had the face-in-the-ice-cream story... Send your mailing addresses to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll send you the book(s)... And that's about all the time we have, folks -- see you next week. Happy cooking and eating!
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