Frequently Asked Kitchen Questions and Answers

Frequently Asked Kitchen Questions and Answers

Here's a list of random kitchen-related questions and answers (cooking, baking, ingredients, etc.).

  1. Is it possible to make my own superfine sugar at home rather than purchase it? 

Granulated sugar can be finely ground into a powder in a food processor or blender.

  1. What exactly is half and half cream? 

It's a 50/50 blend of whole milk and cream; it doesn't whip, but it can be used in place of heavy cream in baking (to reduce fat).

  1. What is the distinction between a soft boiled and a hard boiled egg? 

Soft boiled eggs are made in the same way as hard boiled eggs, but they are not cooked for as long, so the yolk is runny rather than firm. The yolk of medium-boiled eggs is slightly firm.

  1. I like to make large batches of mashed potatoes so that I can freeze the leftovers; is there a way to keep them from turning color once frozen?

Before freezing, add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to the mashed potatoes to help prevent discoloration.

  1. Is it possible to freeze eggs for later use? 

Because you won't be able to separate the whites and yolks after thawing, you must either separate the whites and yolks before freezing or stir the yolk into the egg before freezing. Details can be found on this page.

  1. Is it safe to use olive oil in place of vegetable oil in baking recipes? 

You can bake with olive oil, but the flavor of the final product will be affected because it has a stronger flavor than regular vegetable oil. If you must use olives in your baking, choose one with a milder flavor.

  1. Is there a quick way to bring eggs to room temperature? 

You betcha! Simply place the eggs in a small bowl and cover with warm (not hot) water. They should be ready to go in 5 minutes.

  1. How can you tell if a yeast packet is still good?

If there is no expiry date, you can test it by adding 1 teaspoon sugar to 1/4 cup warm water, then stirring in the yeast packet. Allow it to stand for 10 minutes, and if the yeast foams up to 1/2 cup, it is active and ready to use in recipes.

  1. I've noticed that when I make homemade cookies, they spread excessively; any ideas why? 

You might be over-greasing your cookie sheets. Another suggestion is to test the oven temperature; if the heat is too low, cookies may spread.

  1. Is it safe to use an old spice bottle I discovered in the back of a cupboard? 

I'm not sure what the expiration date is. Spices do not spoil, but their flavor does fade over time. If the color appears to be good, take a small taste to see if there is still flavor to be found.

11.Can a portion of a block of hard cheese (such as cheddar cheese) be saved or should it be discarded if a portion of the block molds or becomes hard and discolored?

The rest of the block of cheese is safe to eat if you cut deep around the mold or old part and remove it.

  1. How long can gravy be stored in the freezer?

Consume the gravy within a month for best results.

  1. I have a couple of boxes of cake mixes that have recently expired; are they still safe to bake with?

 I'd throw them out because the ingredients could be rancid or have lost their flavor, and they're unlikely to rise well.

  1. What size eggs should I use if a recipe doesn't specify?

Unless otherwise specified, large eggs are the norm.

  1. What is the distinction between evaporated and sweetened condensed milk?

Both have a high percentage of water removed from the product (60%) to make it condensed, but evaporated varieties do not have sugar added to them like condensed varieties (condensed has about a 40 percent sugar content). They are not interchangeable in recipes, but you can substitute evaporated milk for sweetened condensed milk by adding a lot of sugar (about 1.25 cups of sugar per 1 cup evaporated milk–stir together, then heat to dissolve sugar, then refrigerate).

  1. Is there a vanilla extract substitute that will work in baking?

Here are a couple of ideas: Try almond extract, brandy extract, maple syrup, vanilla powder, or rum extract–they won't have the rich vanilla flavor, but they're a suitable substitute. If you have a vanilla bean, you can substitute it for the extract (1/4 vanilla bean for 1/2 teaspoon of extract or 1 full bean for 2 teaspoons of extract). If you want to replace a vanilla bean in a recipe with vanilla extract, use 2 teaspoons of extract to replace 1 bean.

  1. What is the distinction between synthetic and pure extract?

Pure vanilla is created by steeping vanilla beans in water and ethyl alcohol in exact proportions mandated by the government. Imitation varieties, on the other hand, are a byproduct of paper production or a derivative of coal tar that is chemically manufactured through relatively simple and low-cost processes. Cook's Illustrated is the source.

  1. How do you keep apple slices from browning after they've been peeled?

Dip the apples in lemon juice or 7-up to keep them from browning. If you're peeling and slicing apples for baking, do it right before adding them to the batter rather than ahead of time. If you're making a large batch for a later snack, soak them in water with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar before draining well.

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