THE WASHINGTON POST – Every week, Aaron Hutcherson and Becky Krystal answer questions and provide practical cooking advice in a chat with readers.
Aaron and Becky write and test recipes for Voraciously, The Washington Post’s team dedicated to helping you cook with confidence.
Recently, Aaron answered questions while Becky worked on this year’s holiday cookie package. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: I have heard you can freeze egg yolks for later use when a recipe only calls for the whites.
But I’ve never successfully been able to revive them. Tried defrosting in fridge, on counter, gentle double boiler, gentle microwave, etc. Is this ever successful or am I just torturing myself by trying?
A: According to Cook’s Illustrated, you need to mix them with a sugar syrup: “On the advice of our science editor (who guessed the granulated sugar had not dissolved sufficiently to protect the yolks), we made a syrup of two parts sugar to one part water and stirred it into the yolks.”
Q: When my wife and I finally moved to a house after we got married, I was so excited to have a real, venting hood over my stove.
Did it do any good? Not at all. Now, in a second house with a different style hood, I’m still frustrated.
When I make beef bourguignon, everything smells like it for days. If I could fix this, we would eat way more curries, grilled fish, heck, I’d even make fried chicken from scratch.
How do people manage this issue? Are there ways to install a hood that can actually mitigate this? I love to cook, but this issue drives me to nearly exclusively grilling outside (no steaks or burgers all winter unless I bundle up and shiver as I flip) or limiting myself to sheet pan cooking in the oven.
My wife sees me starting to set up and manically runs to close as many bedroom doors as she can but that doesn’t prevent the furnace or AC from spreading the aroma.
Can’t even imagine how a house with an open-plan format deals with this. At least my kitchen is a separate room in our current house.
A: I just make sure to open the windows when I’m cooking particularly odourous foods and live with whatever happens.
I find that the smell usually dissipates after a bit and doesn’t last for days as it does for you.
Some kitchen hoods don’t actually have an exhaust that pushes smells and smoke outside, but just pushes it elsewhere in the house.
This sounds like it may be the case for you, which would mean talking to a contractor about
Q: I am a good cook. Bake anything that requires yeast? Zero. It never rises, works. Bread pretty much spits in my face. I have taken its temperature. Nothing works. Help?
A: If the yeast never rises, it sounds like it’s probably dead. Before using it in a recipe, mix it with warm water (and sugar or honey if the recipe calls for it) to see if it foams up, which means it’s alive.
Q: I hate wasting egg whites (which always happens when a recipe calls for egg yolks and I forget I have egg whites in the fridge).
When is it okay to use a whole egg instead of just the yolk and what adjustment should I make in the recipe?
A: It’s difficult to give a general answer to this question as it very much depends on the type of dish you’re making. For most custards, I would say that it is not okay to use whole eggs. You might be able to get away with it for some baked goods, but I’d want to look at a specific recipe before giving the go ahead.
Or if you want to take the matter into your own hands, you could always just experiment (I would guesstimate one whole egg for every two egg yolks) and see what happens.
Q: I don’t normally drink milk and my wife drinks one per cent. I love to cook and I’m not a bad baker either but my problem is when the inspiration strikes to bake something I never have whole milk in the house.
Do you think keeping cans of evaporated milk in the pantry could adequately substitute for whole milk in most baking recipes? And would it be a one for one exchange?
A: Yes, evaporated milk should work! Dilute it with equal parts water for use in recipes.
Q: Can I make cupcakes with a recipe that calls for a Bundt pan?
A: It depends on the exact recipe, but in general, yes. And you’d need to bake it for a much shorter time, of course.
Q: After decades of cooking I am downsizing my kitchen. What should I keep? I regularly cook but cast iron skillets are too heavy and are minimally used. Mixing bowls, what sizes, saucepans? Cake pans out the door. We already donated dishes we don’t use.
A: It all depends on what you have and what you like to cook and how many people you cook for.
(Even if you’re becoming an empty-nester, I assume your kids will come visit for dinner or you’ll have others over that you want to cook for, so I wouldn’t rush to get rid of everything designed for cooking large amounts.)
When looking to downsize, start by going through what you have and think about how often you use each item. Keep the things that you use most frequently or have some sort of sentimental value.