Chef Sara Moulton Answers Your Cooking Questions

PHOTO: Decorating a cakeGetty Images
Sara Moulton suggests leaving a cake out for only an hour or two at a time when the frosting contains milk.

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

Amanda Bennethum: Hi Sara, I have a question regarding cake frosting. I was wondering when a frosting recipe calls for milk, can the frosting stay out at room temperature or should it be refrigerated? When I use my frosting recipe that includes milk in the ingredients I always refrigerate my cake. I was wondering if my cake can stay out at room temperature for any length of time with the milk in the frosting. I am twenty five years old and enjoy baking; however, I do not want to make anyone sick. Thank you so much for your help, Amanda Bennethum.

Sara's Answer:


I reached out to my trusted source, the King Arthur Flour hotline and Jonathan got back to me with this answer (I asked about butter creams too):

"I conferred with another baker and we would really only keep a frosting that contained milk out of the refrigerator for maybe an hour or two at a time as there is still a chance for spoilage. However, an Italian or Swiss butter cream can hold for a longer period of time out of the refrigerator, up to 4 hours. There are some bakers that will keep butter cream out for a longer period of time, but butter can go rancid even in such a high sugar environment, so this practice is a bit controversial.

I tend to keep my cakes refrigerated until 1-2 hours before it will be served. At this point I take it out and allow the butter cream to soften at room temperature; works like a charm."

Marie Murphy: I need a new way to cook chicken breasts. This week we had oven fried chicken, chicken and dumplings. I am at a loss. Please help.

Sara's Answer:


Here are three different chicken treatments, one with chicken breast, one with chicken thighs and one with chicken breasts with the skin on. There is more versatility if you don't just stick to boneless skinless chicken breasts. I am sure you could adapt the second two to work with chicken breasts, just reduce the cooking time.

Chicken Saltimbocca with Artichoke Sauce

Chicken Cassoulet

Balsamic Chicken
The balsamic vinegar in this recipe -- and you can use the regular old affordable supermarket variety -- provides a sweet and sour base and great depth of flavor to this very quick sauce. This sauce would go nicely on sautéed pork chops or a flavorful fish such as salmon or bluefish as well.

Makes 4 servings

4 chicken breast halves with the skin but no bone (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion chopped (about 1 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
4 plum tomatoes, (about 1 pound) chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat until hot; reduce the heat to medium high and add the chicken breasts, skin side down. Sauté for 6 minutes or until the skin is nicely browned. Turn the chicken over and sauté for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through. Transfer with tongs or a slotted spoon to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

Reduce the heat to medium; add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened slightly, about 3 minutes.

Add the vinegar and broth and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the butter and any juices from the chicken plate to the pan and heat just until the butter is melted. Put the chicken, skin side up, on each of 4 plates and top each breast with some of the sauce.

Joan Nowak: How do I keep my chocolate chip cookies crisp? I keep them in an air-tight and locked container and the next day they have lost their crispiness.

Sara's Answer:


I have several suggestions: Make sure to transfer the cookies after they are cooked to a wire rack and let them cool completely.
Package them in tin, rather than plastic and package them in single layers with a piece of wax paper between each layer.
If they get soggy you can re-crisp them in a 300F oven for 3 to 5 minutes.

Barb Allen: Help. I bought Russet potatoes in a large amount. Each potato is one pound. They are starting to sprout and I need to do something with them. What can I do, can I make hash browns or French fries? Hope you can help me. Thanks Barb

Sara's Answer:


I would peel them, cube them, toss them with oil and roast them in one layer on a sheet pan until golden and tender. Let them cool, wrap them well, divide the cooked cubes into the amounts you think you will use them (in stews, soups, side dishes), wrap them well and then freeze them. Defrost the packets when you are ready to use the potatoes, and then either re-crisp them in the oven or in a sauté pan, if you want to serve them as a side dish or add them to a soup or stew at the end of the cooking process since they are already cooked.

Donna Archuleta: I'm not a gourmet cook, but love to cook using ingredients found in the average family pantry. Instead of using a vanilla bean, can I use vanilla extract?

Sara's Answer:


That is fine, you can certainly substitute one for the other. I did research and there seems to be some fluctuation on the exchange but I am going to suggest for every ½ vanilla bean, substitute 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Sara Moulton is the "Good Morning America" food editor and host of the PBS show "Sara's Weeknight Meals." For more great recipes from Sara, check out her website or follow her on Twitter: @saramoulton