The enclosed recipe for Sauce Maltese either turns granular or it separates. Can you explain why?

The sauce turns granular if you overheat the egg yolks before you start to whisk in the clarified butter. One way to diminish the risk of this is to beat the yolks and juices before adding the butter. This dilutes the egg yolk proteins and delays their coagulation.

Sauce Maltese separates when held too long before serving or if made with too much butter. If you make the sauce too early or if you let it cool, it may well separate. To prevent this, keep the sauce lukewarm and, if it thickens too much, whisk in a teaspoon of hot water. Sauce Maltese can be kept for several hours in this way.

Here is the recipe with the appropriate changes:

SAUCE MALTESE (Makes 2 cups sauce)

1 1/2 cups clarified butter

3 egg yolks

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

1 teaspoon salt

Juice of 1 orange

Juice of 1 lemon

2 drops hot pepper sauce

To make clarified butter: Place 1 pound of butter in a 2-cup measuring cup. Butter may at first tower above the rim but, melted, it will barely touch the 2-cup line.

Set measuring cup in a saucepan containing boiling water. Heat over low flame until butter melts and separates. Skim off top layer. Using a ladle, remove middle layer, which is the butter oil, leaving at the bottom the buttermilk.

Whisk yolks, orange rind, salt and juices over boiling water until mixture just begins to thicken. Remove immediately from heat. Whisk in slowly the clarified butter, which should measure 1 1/2 cups. When all the butter has been added, you should have a thick sauce. Add hot pepper sauce.

Keep sauce in an ovenproof glass measuring cup or mixing bowl in hot water. Serve with grilled, broiled or baked fish.

How would I flavor whipped cream with coffee for icing ?

To make coffee-flavored whipped cream, just mix a little powdered coffee with an equivalent volume of liquid and add to the cream. The following recipe is a really nice icing for chocolate cakes.

COFFEE-FLAVORED WHIPPED CREAM (Ices a large chocolate cake)

2 teaspoons instant coffee

1 teaspoon water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups whipping cream (chilled 10 minutes in freezer before use)

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Mix instant coffee, water and vanilla extract together. Beat whipping cream in a chilled mixing bowl until it forms moderately stiff peaks. Add coffee mixture and sugar to whipped cream. Beat until stiff. Using a wide spatula, ice cake. The cake must be cold before you ice it.

What is praline? I have a cake recipe that calls for sprinkling the top of the cake with chopped praline.

Praline has two interpretations. In New Orleans, it is a candy made of brown sugar, butter and pecans or almonds. One mixes brown sugar, cream and butter together, brings them to a boil and adds toasted almonds or pecans. The candy is dropped in puddles, texturally resembles sweet sand, but is quite addictive.

In most of Europe, however, praline is a little different. It is made either with hazelnuts (filberts) or with almonds, and is a chopped or ground caramel-nut mixture. Here is a recipe for the European version, which would more likely be the topping of a cake:

PRALINE (Makes enough to top one cake and a few dishes of ice cream, too)

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups water

2 cups toasted, chopped almonds or filberts

Bring sugar and water to a boil, covered. Shift lid to make a 1/2-inch gap between lid and pan so the steam can escape. Cook over high heat until the boiling sound becomes muted. Remove lid and reduce heat to medium-low. When syrup darkens to an amber color, remove pan from burner and pour in the nuts (works best if they are still hot). Stir briefly to mix and pour candy onto a greased marble slab or aluminum foil. Let cool until hard. Break into pieces and then crush on a very sturdy, hard surface with a rolling pin.