Saturday, July 9, 2016

Cooking axioms

Assorted snippets of cooking wisdom from Astreja K.:

  • If a recipe calls for shortening or margarine, cut to the chase and go for butter.  Unsalted is best.
  • Cookies should be baked at 325° F or lower, especially if they contain baking powder or baking soda.  Sodium bicarbonate changes to sodium carbonate (ack! washing soda!) at higher temperatures.  So there you have it:  The real reason Auntie Em's gingersnaps taste like soap.
  • Cool down and wipe down your cookie sheets between batches.  Run them under cold water if they're too hot to handle.
  • Your best bet for getting cookies off the pans in one piece is parchment paper.  When the cookies come out of the oven, let them stand for about two minutes.  Place the cooling rack face-down on top of the cookies while they're still on the cookie sheet, then flip the pan and the rack over together, then lift off the pan and peel the parchment paper off the bottoms of the cookies.  (You may even be able to reuse the clean side of the paper for another batch.)
Things that aren't cookies:
  • There is no such thing as Too Much Garlic, except perhaps in chocolate cake.
  • There is no such thing as Too Much Vanilla, either.
  • Cook slowly and turn up the heat only if you have to.  It's easier than finding a place to dump whatever you just burned.
  • That said, if you're trying to burn something on purpose (For example, onions for French Onion Soup), a little salt will cause them to brown faster.
  • Read that last one again:  A little salt. Salt is the one spice that can severely wreck a recipe. Always err on the side of caution here.
  • However, when brewing coffee, always err on the side of excess.  You can water down the strong stuff, but you can't save the weak stuff.
  • Use nylon utensils, not metal ones, with your non-stick cookware.
  • The infamous Rule of Three:  When you can't decide what to make for supper, pick three ingredients at random from your fridge and/or cupboard.  Once you have the basic outline, you can cheat by adding flour, water, spices and other necessities.  Examples:
    • Carrot-Potato Pancakes (Grated carrots and potatoes, a couple of eggs, flour and spices.)
    • Lentil Soup with Tea Biscuits (Lentils and spices for the soup; flour, margarine and baking powder for the biscuits.)
    • Vegetarian Chili (Kidney beans, canned tomatoes and an onion.)
    • Corn Fritters (Frozen corn, flour, eggs and spices, fried in a bit of oil.)
    • Antibiotic Soup (All the onions and garlic you've got in the house, plus marjoram, a bay leaf and any other spices that look interesting.  Great stuff when you've got a cold.)

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