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    Keep cookies from burning and leftover ideas

    Aaron Hutcherson & Becky Krystal

    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 Post’s team dedicated to helping you cook with confidence. Here are edited excerpts from a recent chat:

    My shiny new cookie sheet is burning the bottom of the food. What can I do?

    If it’s a dark-coloured pan, it will brown foods faster than a light-coloured one. You can use parchment paper to help prevent food from burning. Plus, it makes for easier cleanup!

    Everything I have been raised to believe is that one should not mash their burger down because it releases so much juice/fat. Now all I see, from Alison Roman on, is to smash your burger to get it as thin as possible. I’m confused.

    Smashing the burgers against the cooking surface to ensure good contact to promote crust formation on the patties. This is usually just done at the beginning of the cooking process, so there’s no need to worry about pressing out the moisture from the meat.

    Classic chocolate chip cookies. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

    I’ve been on a (gluten-free) bran muffin-baking binge lately, trying out different recipes. I keep seeing in the directions, after combining the wet and dry ingredients, something like “Stir until just combined” or “Do not overmix”. Why is that? There’s no gluten to overdevelop, so if I stir a few more times than “just combined”, how might that affect the outcome? I stir with a wooden spoon, it feels very meditative and sometimes I kind of keep going for a bit.

    I’ve been reading around a bit and it seems like folks with more gluten-free experience than I have indicate that you can, in fact, overmix – some of the thickeners and stabilisers can get tough or stringy the more they’re worked.

    Lately, we’ve been having trouble with a few fruit flies (never happened to us before). I want to keep buying fresh peaches, tomatoes, etc at farmers market – but am now reluctant to have them ripen on the kitchen counter. What can you suggest?

    To be honest, just a few don’t bother me. They shouldn’t breed as long as there are no breeding sites where things have rotted or spilled. But do make sure that as soon as something is ripe, you either eat it or refrigerate. And take comfort that they’re largely seasonal.

    I made way too much farro, scallion, artichoke hearts, celery, lemon, parsley, mint and olive oil salad for a party. Have about six cups leftover. Any ideas for using the leftovers would be greatly appreciated!

    I would just eat the leftovers as is. You could add some chicken, tofu or chickpeas if you wanted more protein and to turn it into a heartier main course. If you’re looking to transform it into something else, you could try adding some broth to turn it into a soup or sauteing it in a skillet with an egg for a faux fried rice.

    I’m supposed to avoid soya now, so tofu is out for me. But I’ve always loved stir fries and Asian-style noodle dishes made with tofu. Are there any good substitutions that would keep me in the vegetarian realm but don’t contain soya?

    One option is seitan. Or you could always just omit the tofu and increase whatever other vegetables the recipe calls for. I feel like mushrooms would add some “meatiness”, too.

    I made a recipe that called for fresh pasta. I had no fresh pasta, so I used dried. I looked and looked online for a conversion chart to substitute dry pasta for fresh but didn’t find one. I cooked the pasta separately, drained it, and proceeded with the recipe. What is the substitution ratio, or is more of a time issue?

    Fresh pasta has a more delicate texture and cooks much quicker than dried pasta, so it’s mostly just a time issue.

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