From beef stroganoff to whole wheat bread, cooks are liable to have problems expanding a recipe designed for a family of four into a batch for the PTA dinner or breakfast on the Cub Scout troop camping trip. Here are some common foods, the symptoms of expansion problems, the causes of those problems and the solutions:
Beef Stroganoff: Sympton -- dry, tough meat. Cause -- too much meat placed in small saucepan; meat boiled -- did not fry. Solution -- use frying pan of sufficient size and very strong burner; bring sauce quickly to boil and serve immediately.
Butter cookies: Symptom -- greasy, crumbly. Cause -- baker left cookie batter at room temperature while baking expanded batch; fat melted. Solution -- keep refrigerated while baking the cookies.
Carrot cake: Symptom -- foams out of pan. Cause -- inaccurate measurement of flour in expanded recipe. Solution -- measure by weight.
Cheesecake: Symptom -- uncooked interior. Cause -- batch doubled in order to make 3-inch thick cake, but baking time and temperature unchanged. Solution -- more than double original recipe's 60-90 minute baking time and reduce oven temperature 25 degrees.
Cream puffs: Symptom -- collapsed. Cause -- expanded batter is loose due to less evaporation of water during cooking of a larger batch. Solution -- use fewer eggs per cup of flour in expanded batch and rely on textural observation.
Dinner rolls: Symptom -- poor color, volume. Cause -- expanded bread recipe, then took too long to form rolls; yeast aged and ate up sugars. Solution -- develop a procedure to work fast so dough ages less.
Eggs, poached: Symptom -- overcooked. Cause -- prepared large number of poached eggs to order.Solution -- prep dozens in advance, plunging the barely cooked eggs into ice water, then reheating at last moment.
Meringue: Symptom -- first trays perfect, last are stuck to pan. Cause -- batch size too large for available oven space. Solution -- meringues must all be baked simultaneously.
Mussels, marinier (mariner's style): Symptom -- tiny rubbery bits. Cause -- since small batch didn't need stirring, larger batch wasn't stirred either. Solution -- stir, as cooked mussels must be brought to surface.
Omelets: Symptom -- dry, tough. Cause -- cook used only one pan to prepare 25 omelets. Solution -- use 2 or 3 pans so first omelets remain moist.
Pancakes: Symptom -- thin and dense. Cause -- lost gassing power as expanded batch couldn't be cooked within the hour. Solution -- keep batter refrigerated.
Pastry cream: Symptom -- loose. Cause -- milk not brought fully to a boil in expanded batch and starch did not gelatinize fully. Solution -- rely less on timing than on temperature of milk.
Poundcake: Symptom -- coarse texture. Cause -- baker tried to cream two sticks of butter in large bowl; little creaming was achieved. Solution -- start expanded recipe in small bowl and transfer creamed fat and sugar to large bowl.
Souffle: Symptom -- collapsed. Cause -- white sauce base not brought fully to a boil to gelatinize the starch; therefore, not thick enough to support foam. Solution -- rely on signs of boiling, not on original recipe's timing.
Spongecake: Symptom: foam collapsed.Cause -- baker tried to fit expanded recipe into bowl too small; foam wasn't whipped sufficiently. Solution -- use large bowl to allow full foam development. Symptom -- too light. Cause -- baker followed whipping time of smaller recipe; mixing attachment was more submerged in larger recipe. Solution -- cut mixing time.
Tomato Sauce: Symptom -- dull flavor. Cause -- expanded recipe cooked too long owing to small burner; also cooled too slowly. Solution -- use commercial utensils and cool sauce in running water bath.
Whole wheat bread: Symptom -- crumbly. Cause -- expanded batch without shortening proof time and lowering proof temperature; yeast grew too much and caused breakdown of gluten. Solution -- use ice water, increase salt slightly, shorten proof time if necessary.