THE WASHINGTON POST – The Washington Post Food staff recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: I now have regular table salt, kosher salt, and salt that you grind in a salt grinder. With the addition of the salt grinder, I am never sure what is the best type of salt to use in any situation. Can you help?
A: My go-to is Diamond Crystal kosher, which dissolves well. I typically don’t keep table salt around, as bakers especially say it can contribute a harsher more chemical flavour to dishes. If you want something finer, maybe go for fine sea salt over table. It’s a good all-around option. I would use the salt grinder to grind larger flakes for finishing dishes. – Becky Krystal
Q: Most cooking smells good to me, except cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. What can the home cook do to eliminate the stench? I like eating them, but not the cooking smell.
A: Other than opening a window and turning on the vent over the stove, most remedies are not that great. You could try putting a pot of aromatics on the stove. Or, even just a small pot with vanilla. Also, you could try cooking odoriferous foods well before you plan to eat. – Ann Maloney
A: You may be overcooking them! Or, try not cooking them at all and shredding them for slaws and salads. – Kari Sonde
Q: For Ash Wednesday, I’m going to try to make paczki. This is my grandmother’s recipe and it calls for scalded milk. I did some goggling and scalding milk for recipes was a thing before pasteurisation. Does the scalding just make it pasteurised-equivalent or does it also change the taste? I’d rather not do it if I don’t have to.
A: Scalding is often important for recipes involving yeast so that the warm milk will activate it. I recommend following the recipe instructions for the best results. – Aaron Hutcherson
Q: I’ve really been enjoying learning how to bake bread, especially the science of it so I can better figure out what went wrong/right. One thing I’m not certain on: Does it matter if you let your dough overproof on the first rise? I don’t have containers that allow me to easily see when the dough has doubled, so I like to err on the side of caution and maybe let it go past that point. (I know, I should just get better containers, but until I do!) Is there an issue in doing this?
A: If it’s already a two-rise recipe, I don’t think it’s catastrophic if you overproof, because presumably you are punching it down and shaping. When I talked to the ever-knowledgeable Martin Philip at King Arthur Baking for my story on proofing dough in winter, he said most people tend to underproof their bread at home. Overproofing, if you have a choice, is better. But do get a clear-sided container! Very cheap and makes it so easy. Here’s a piece from King Arthur, too. – BK
Q: Goat cheese is in everything now, and I really don’t care for it. Unless it’s very young and mild and mixed with something like persillade or other garlic and herbs. Can you give me some substituting guidelines? I can use feta in something melty and salty, but would ricotta or what they used to call farmer or pot cheese do?
A: It will depend on the recipe, but if you’re after a creaminess without that tang, consider cream cheese or mascarpone. Marscapone is super smooth. It’s got a buttery, nutty flavour. Ricotta is more grainy is creamy and slightly sweet. Farmer cheese would be good, too. In many cases feta would work as well, but I’d hesitate to make a general statement about all recipes. – AM