Ask Sara: TV Chef Answers Your Questions

VIDEO: George caught off-guard when friends, family, and even Mickey shows up to party.
Share
Copy

Celebrated author and TV chef Sara Moulton is the food editor at "Good Morning America."

You've written to her with questions about what you want to do in the kitchen -- and she responded.

Sara Moulton Answers Your Questions

Carol: I am an experienced cook, but I have trouble with pie crusts, whether for a savory quiche or a sweet dessert tart. I sometimes have great luck, but other times the dough does not roll out easily, and I end up trying to press it into the tart pan with my hands. It sometimes crumbles and does not hold together, therefore does not roll out well. Does that mean I am not putting enough water into the dough? Is there something else I could be doing wrong? Is there a perfect proportion of flour to butter to water that I should use? Every recipe I read seems a little different on these proportions. Thanks so much for any help you can give!

Sara's Answer: Carol

Unfortunately, because we measure our ingredients but don't weigh them (as they do in Europe) there is going to be a lot of fluctuation in the end results. A cup of flour is not a precise measurement, yet a recipe will tell you to use a cup of flour and then give you an exact amount of butter and water to add to it. It sounds to me like you need to add a little more water to your pie dough. It is probably falling apart because there is not enough liquid in there to hold the flour together. But your dough could also be falling apart because it has gotten too warm. Next time you make it, add a little extra ice water (like a teaspoon or two at a time). Grab some of the dough and squeeze it together, if it seems to hold together well, then you have added enough water. If it doesn't hold together, add a little more water. Chill the dough for at least an hour before you roll it out (this lets the gluten in the flour relax so the dough will be tender) and then let it sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. If the dough starts to feel soft when you roll it out, which means it has gotten too warm, then pop it back in the fridge to let it chill briefly before you continue rolling it out.

Jenny: I have two questions about pie baking. First how do you keep a pie crust from burning when you blind bake it? Second what is your preferred dish/pan for baking pies? Metal, glass, ceramic?

Sara's Answer: Jenny

I like to use a glass pie plate because it is a good conductor of heat, which helps the crust brown nicely and evenly. But I also like the glass material because you can actually pick up the crust and see how browned it is getting (before it gets too dark). A black tin pie plate might make your pie dough burn.

Also, blind bake the pie crust on the middle shelf of the oven. If you put it on a shelf in the bottom of the oven that could make it burn too.

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.

Sondra: I never understood the use of the bay leaf in so many recipes, to me there is no added taste or flavor ? Can you explain this herb to me?

Sara's Answer: Sondra

Bay leaf actually does have a very distinct flavor and taste – if you took a fresh leaf and crushed it between your fingers and then smelled your fingers I think you would know what I am talking about. I am wondering if you might have an old jar of dried bay leaves that you are using? The flavor of all dried herbs and spices fades with time. California bay leaves are much stronger than Turkish bay leaves and I actually prefer that latter. I use them in soups and stews to which they add a nice subtle perfume.

For more tips from Sara Moulton check out her website.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...