■ As I watched executive pastry chef Alex Levin make an Italian meringue recently in the kitchen at Osteria Morini in Navy Yard, I noticed that he practically dumped the hot sugar syrup into the mixer bowl as the egg whites were being beaten. Most recipes for that type of meringue — used in the making of macarons, for example — call for a gradual addition.
“There’s no harm in doing it slowly,” he says. “But as long as the whisk is moving fast enough, the syrup will be incorporated just fine. I recommend adding it as quickly as your confidence allows you to.” He points out that with a French meringue, the sugar does need to be incorporated slowly, or at least in three additions.■
■ It’s best for home bakers to use rapid-rise or instant yeast instead of yeast labeled “active dry.” Because of the way the last is dehydrated, Levin says, about 25 percent of what’s packaged is dead. (A different process is used for rapid-rise and instant yeasts.) The chef says every professional kitchen he has worked in uses SAF Instant Yeast, available via the King Arthur Flour Web site and Amazon.com.
■ The secret to better-tasting chocolate chip cookies might be in the flour-to-chocolate ratio, Levin says; he uses 1:1. Use a kitchen scale to measure the weight of each ingredient.