Ask Sara: TV Chef Answers Your Questions

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Joan: I have a couple of copper pots and I noticed the surface on the inside is showing the copper through. I want to know if it is alright to still use these or could it be toxic?

Sara's Answer: Joan

Yes, you are right, unlined copper is toxic to cook in. There are places around the country that will re-tin (re –line) it for you. I found this one but I am sure there are others.

Nancy: Sara, I have an enamel coated 6 Qt pot that I love, but somehow got a large chip on the inside. So the cast ion is showing. Is it still ok to use it?

Sara's Answer: Nancy

A little bit of cast iron showing is not a problem. In fact, unlined 100% cast iron pans are very popular these days. Cast iron will react with acids in foods such as those in a tomato sauce and give the sauce a little bit of a metallic taste but cast iron is not toxic so don't worry about that chip.

Vickie: I have tried making cake icing using confectioner sugar, crisco. flavoring and a little water. Both times the icing turns out runny and wet. I have added more sugar but that doesn't help either. Could the Crisco be bad? I have used the recipe many times and it had worked out beautifully but not lately. Help!!

Sara's Answer: Vickie

I think the problem is not the Crisco but the amount of liquid you are adding. Perhaps the confectioner's sugar was packed more or less than the last time you measured it? Maybe you are using a different measuring spoon (they are not all the same believe it or not). I would just start by adding less liquid than the recipe calls for and see how that works. If the frosting seems very stiff, add just a tiny bit more liquid. A little liquid goes a long way in this kind of buttercream.

Vickie: I have tried making cake icing using confectioner sugar, crisco. flavoring and a little water. Both times the icing turns out runny and wet. I have added more sugar but that doesn't help either. Could the Crisco be bad? I have used the recipe many times and it had worked out beautifully but not lately. Help!!

Sara's Answer: Vickie

I think the problem is not the Crisco but the amount of liquid you are adding. Perhaps the confectioner's sugar was packed more or less than the last time you measured it? Maybe you are using a different measuring spoon (they are not all the same believe it or not). I would just start by adding less liquid than the recipe calls for and see how that works. If the frosting seems very stiff, add just a tiny bit more liquid. A little liquid goes a long way in this kind of buttercream.

Farrel: I am trying to make my own sourdough bread from scratch. I have the starter going and have been feeding it for over 3 months. It bubbles along and smells sour lie it should I think. I have used it twice to make my bread, but I have failed both times in getting my dough to rise properly. It rises the first time. I punch it down and let is rise again, but it only rises a little. I put it in the oven anyway, and sure enough, I get a good tasting brick with no lift! I am not really trying to become a bread maker, but I want to conquer this and make a rye sourdough just for the fun of it. What is wrong?

Sara's Answer: Farrel

You know, I had the same problem. I was trying to make a sourdough bread from the Tartine Bread Cookbook and I really followed the recipe pretty exactly but my bread came out flat (although good flavor). A baking chef friend of mine pointed out that all wild yeast (and that is essentially what you are making for the sourdough bread) is not created equal. So the wild yeast that is floating around my New York Apartment may not be the same strength as that floating around in Northern California.

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