You've written to her with questions about what you want to do in the kitchen -- and she responded.
Sara Moulton Answers Your Questions
Jean: Hi Sara. I'm reading and hearing a lot about durian. Is it, technically, a fruit, or a vegetable, and is it only eaten directly from the hull, or is there a special preparation for the "custardy" inside? (Also, and perhaps most importantly, how does one prepare it and eliminate the horrible smell from a home kitchen?) Thanks for your help.
Sara's Answer: Jean
Durian, a tropical fruit grown in Malasysia and Indonesia does indeed have a very strong aroma when ripe - a cross between mango, pineapple, alcohol and sulfur. In fact, its aroma is so strong it's not allowed on airplanes or hotels in Southeast Asia. I don't think there is any trick for removing its aroma. You could try boiling some mulling spices in a pot, which is what I do to remove a fishy odor after I cook salmon.
To get to the flesh, cut the fruit open, scoop out the flesh, and remove and discard the seeds. Then you can puree the fruit and proceed with your recipe. It is used raw in ice creams and desserts and to make candy. Durian has two short growing seasons and is not easy to find in this country. But I have seen it occasionally in our local Chinatown.
Marianne: I made a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake for Easter. It was delicious, but not very pretty. While it was in the oven it puffed up and looked beautiful. After it cooled it sank, the sides stayed high, and there were cracks all over the top. What did I do wrong? Did I beat the batter to long, incorporating too much air?
Sara's Answer: Marianne
There are several things you could do next time to end up with a prettier cheesecake. Don't overbeat it, don't overcook it (the center should be a tad jiggly), bake it in the middle of the oven and when you first take it out of the oven, run a thin knife around the outer edge to completely separate the cake from the pan at the sides. A cheesecake, like a soufflé is going to rise up and then crash down (not quite as dramatically as a soufflé) because of the air that was beaten into the eggs when making the recipe. A cheesecake is going to shrink naturally and by loosening the sides you help it to shrink inwards which will prevent cracks in the top.