Chef Sara Moulton Answers Your Cooking Questions

PHOTO: Sara Moulton offers her tips for creating a basic yellow cake.Getty Images
Sara Moulton offers her tips for creating a basic yellow cake.

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'd like to learn in the kitchen, and she has responded.

Sara Moulton Answers Your Questions

Jennifer Seger: I'm trying to perfect my scratch made cakes. I am not exactly new to baking, but baking a cake can take me all afternoon, from sifting the dry ingredients, to separating wet and dry ingredients, etc. Is there a way to make an easy, one-bowl way of making homemade cakes and frostings without it taking up my whole day? I still want to make cakes from scratch without relying on a boxed mix and taking too many short cuts. Thanks, Sara!

Sara's Answer:


Below are two super simple and quick recipes from my second cookbook, "Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals." The first is a basic cake made in the food processor in 10 minutes with six ingredients and the second is a variation using fresh summer fruit. Have fun with them.

Basic Yellow Cake

Nectarine and Peach Upside Down Cake

Jeanne Redman: Chefs and recipes call for mint..there are different kinds..what kind of mint do they refer to?

Sara's Answer:


If the recipe doesn't specify what kind of mint, most chefs are probably referring to spearmint which is the most widely available variety and the most versatile in recipes. It has a smooth well rounded mint flavor. The second most available mint is peppermint, a hybrid of spearmint and watermint. It contains more menthol than spearmint and has a strong peppery taste. It is the mint used for gum and candy because it is so strong. I prefer spearmint for my iced tea.

Andrea Landis: What size knife is the best for chopping and mincing vegetables?

Sara's Answer:


It depends on what you are chopping. I would not want to cut a butternut squash in half with a santoku knife (the Japanese vegetable knife with indentations). I always recommend a 10-inch chef's knife. Why? Because on a 10-inch knife the sweet spot, the spot from the bolster (where the handle of the knife meets the blade) to the middle of the blade, which is the part of the knife you mostly use for chopping/dicing/slicing is much larger (longer) than the sweet spot on an 8-inch knife. A 10-inch chef's knife also has more heft than a smaller knife which means you work less, the knife works more. So I use my 10-inch for everything with one exception - I like the 8-inch santoku for chopping onions. When you chop an onion you cut it in half leaving it attached at the root end, then you lay the half flat on the counter and start by slicing sideways, then down, then across. I find that the tip of the santoku, which does not come to a V like a regular chef's knife, is easier to use when slicing down on the onion.

Sara Moulton's Crispy Broccoli With Cappellini in Broth

Leslie MacFarlane: How can I maximize the flavor of garlic in cooking and in salads?

Sara's Answer:


If you are looking for a really strong garlic flavor just mince it and toss it into the recipe at the end. But I am not sure your friends will be happy -- not everyone likes garlic breath. If you want just a hint of raw garlic in a salad, rub the bowl with a cut clove before you make a salad or throw a cut clove into the vinaigrette for a few minutes just to perfume it. The more you chop garlic the more it asserts itself. The more you cook garlic, the mellower it becomes.

Carol Cowan: Is there a difference between corn beef brisket and beef brisket?

Sara's Answer:


Corned beef is beef, usually brisket, that has been cured in a salt brine, usually with spices before it is cooked. "Corned" comes from the English term "Corn" meaning any small particle such as the coarse grained salt used for curing. "To Corn" means to preserve in a salty brine. Nitrates (saltpeter) are often added, as a preservative and to maintain a bright red color. "Corning" takes a week to three weeks to do so you might want to just buy an already corned beef and then slow cook it rather than trying to "corn' the beef yourself. However, "Cook's Illustrated" has a good corning recipe if you want to undertake it.

Mary Willis: If I cut a recipe in half, do I need to reduce the cooking time?

Sara's Answer:


What matters most is the thickness of what you are cooking so let's say, you making a chicken recipe and you decide to cut it in half, as long as the chicken pieces are the same size and you have not cut them in half, the recipe will take the same amount of time.

For more great recipes from Sara check out her website or follow her on Twitter: @saramoulton