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Keeping Bread Fresh

by Elizabeth Skipper April 16th, 2014| Ask the Chef
bread-228939_640When I bake my own bread, it initially has a crusty exterior and chewy interior.  However, after storing it, it loses the crusty exterior. Is there a proper way to store bread to help keep the texture?

Bread is never better than when it's freshly baked. The aroma, the crackly crust, the contrasting chewy or soft interior... if only there were a way to maintain those characteristics. Alas, they are fleeting.

Is there a proper way to store bread to keep the texture? Sort of, although no method will keep it "fresh" for long. The one thing you definitely don't want
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Chicken Pot Pie: Keeping the Filling Thick

by Elizabeth Skipper April 9th, 2014| Ask the Chef
chicken pie dominic morelWhen I make chicken pot pie, I create a roux with butter and flour and then add chicken stock. Although it is fairly thick, after baking it seems watery when serving.  Is there a proper ratio for roux to stock or a step in making the filling that I am missing?

I'm not sure what ratio you're using to make your sauce/gravy, but here are the standards:

For one cup of thin sauce, use 1 TB each of butter and flour
For one cup of medium sauce, use 2 TB each butter and flour
For one cup thick sauce, use 3 TB each
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Breadcrumbs: Easy and Handy

by Elizabeth Skipper April 2nd, 2014| Ask the Chef
breaded shrimp

I would like to make my own breadcrumbs.  Is it as simple as placing bread in a food processor? Do I need to season or toast them?  Any insight is appreciated!

Making your own breadcrumbs is easy, especially with a food processor. Older recipes call for making them with a rolling pin or a grater, and that's time-consuming; but with a food processor, it goes quickly. It can also be done in multiple smaller batches with an appliance like a coffee grinder, which is the way I usually do it for smaller amounts.

For years, I'd collect my stale bread
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Save the Burgers

by Elizabeth Skipper March 26th, 2014| Ask the Chef
burgers cooked or notWe had a cookout and bought a larger package of ground beef.  After making all of the patties, we realized we had far more than we needed.  My husband and I are at odds over what to do with the extra.  Our options:  freeze the formed, uncooked patties or freeze the cooked hamburgers. Which is the better way to handle the leftovers?

Ground meat dries out more rapidly than solid pieces of meat because there's so much more surface area. So you'd definitely want to freeze those hamburger patties before cooking. Be sure to wrap them well to avoid freezer
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Baking Soda & Baking Powder

by Elizabeth Skipper March 19th, 2014| Ask the Chef
muffinsI know that both baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents.  Can you substitute one for the other in a quick bread recipe?

No, they're not interchangeable. Baking soda is a single chemical, an alkaline substance which when combined with something acid like lemon juice or buttermilk gives off carbon dioxide bubbles. This is what causes the rise in baked goods which use these ingredients. Baking powder contains baking soda, but it's mixed with a dehydrated acid, so by itself it raises quick breads, pancakes, waffles, and the like; there's no need for acidic ingredients in the batter or
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Springform Pan Needed for Cheesecake?

by Elizabeth Skipper March 12th, 2014| Ask the Chef
cheesecakeI want to try making my first cheesecake. Every recipe calls for a springform pan, but I don’t own one.  I’d rather not buy one if this is the only time I make a cheesecake.  Do I have to buy a springform pan?

"Every recipe calls for a springform pan," should be a clue that you need one. I've never seen a recipe that didn't call for one, in fact. Why? Why can't you just use a regular cake pan?

First, many cheesecakes are taller than a 1½ - 2" high cake pan will accommodate. Then how about using a
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Keeping Pork Tenderloin Moist

by Elizabeth Skipper March 5th, 2014| Ask the Chef
tenderloin usaHow I can I make a pork tenderloin moister? I took mine out of the oven at 145, per USDA guidelines, and it was dry. Help!

I can think of a few reasons why your pork tenderloin was dry, even though you feel you cooked it right. The first one you actually mention, though you may not realize it. By waiting until the thermometer reading was 145°F before removing the pork from the oven, you ensured it would cook to a higher temperature than that.

There's a phenomenon known as "carry-over" cooking. Solid foods like roasts retain heat and their temperature
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Peanut Butter Cookies: Why the Criss-Cross?

by Elizabeth Skipper February 26th, 2014| Ask the Chef
cookies with grid

When my mom made peanut butter cookies, she always used a fork and made criss-crossed lines on the cookies. Do I need to do this? Instead of using a fork, could I just flatten the dough?

When you think of a peanut butter cookie, the image that comes to mind is a dark tan colored cookie with a grid on the top. Somehow, nothing else seems right. That doesn't mean, though, that's the way it must be.

If you've made peanut butter cookies, whether using the simplest recipe which calls for just three ingredients, or a more complex one,

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Whisks: Which and Why

by Elizabeth Skipper February 19th, 2014| Ask the Chef
whiskI own two balloon whisks -- one large and one smaller.  I have seen other varieties of whisks, spiral and flat.  Are they necessary tools for my kitchen?  I’m not sure when either would be more useful but could add them to my repertoire if they have value.

Are you sure what you have are balloon whisks? I suspect what you have are French whisks, also called sauce whisks, which are used to mix ingredients without the incorporation of too much air. That's what is found in most kitchens.

Whisks come in different shapes and sizes. The handles, the number and
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by Elizabeth Skipper February 12th, 2014| Ask the Chef
crepes sanja gjeneroI want to try making crepes as a dessert on Valentine’s Day. I am comfortable making pancakes and hope that switching to crepes is easy. Before I begin I was wondering if I need a true crepe pan or if my regular frying pan will work? Also, can I just thin my pancake recipe with extra milk, or should I use a different recipe altogether?

Crepes! Oh, I love crepes! I love demonstrating them, teaching them, making them, and of course, eating them. Crepes are versatile, suitable for any course in a meal -- not just dessert --  or great
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Quinoa in Soup

by Elizabeth Skipper February 5th, 2014| Ask the Chef
quinoa chris de raudI read your answer about adding rice or pasta to soup.  Can I use quinoa in the same manner? My family and I enjoy using it in place of rice, but I wasn’t sure how it would hold up in a broth-based soup.

Quinoa, like rice, can be prepared in different ways. It can be steamed in liquid in a two-to-one ratio, sautéed and steamed like pilaf, or boiled in a large amount of water and drained. I hadn't tried putting quinoa in soup, though it's a logical enough idea. So I went to my copy of Rebecca Wood's award-winning
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Kitchen Scales for Better Baking

by Elizabeth Skipper January 22nd, 2014| Ask the Chef
sugarscaleI’ve read a decent amount of articles that encourage the use of a kitchen scale when baking.  Is it a necessary purchase, or can I just be sure to measure carefully with my current set of cups?

How much baking have you been doing, how successfully, and how much baking do you anticipate doing in future? If you're happy with your results up to now, maybe you want to keep on doing what you're doing. If you'd like to improve both the ease of and the results of your baking, though, read on.

Kitchen scales have been around for centuries; digital
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