Free Range on Food: A Danish Christmas menu, chess pie, this week's recipes and more.

Dec 19, 2018

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, and welcome to today's chat!

Hope everybody has been behaving themselves since I've been gone. If not, well, you probably had the right idea, didn't you? Good behavior is so boring.

Anyhoo, hope you've been scarfing down what we've been serving up, including Shirley Cherkasky's gorgeous Danish Christmas menu; Lisa Donovan's essay on chess pie and how we talk about food and where it comes from; Becky's provocative defense of fruitcake (I KNOW you have feelings on that, so share them -- nicely!) and her recipe for cheesy chicken enchiladas; Bonnie's latest DinMins (look at the color of this soup!); Maura's taste of boozy kombucha (booch = hooch); and so much more.

We know you've still got cookies on your mind, so of course we're always here for that!

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR3478 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

As always, we'll have a giveaway book for our favorite chatter today: It'll be "The Washington Post Cookbook," signed by Bonnie!

Let's do this.

What vegetables and vegetarian foods would go well with mole sauce?

Gosh, I'd eat mole on just about anything. I see beets, eggplant and winter squash working particularly well. Heck, beans, too.

Whole Roasted Beets With Mole Sauce

RECIPE: Whole Roasted Beets With Mole Sauce

I have long made Seven Minute Frosting successfully without much fuss. The last two batches looked lumpy. I know that I used corn syrup instead of tartar sauce the last time and possibly the time before. Is this the cause of the poor texture?

I suspect you mean cream of tartar, not tartar sauce? Because that would definitely cause problems. ;)

I see, for example, this King Arthur Flour recipe that gives the option of cream of tartar or corn syrup. I'm obviously not a pastry chef, but at least on the surface, the either/or is confusing me. Acidic cream of tartar helps with the stability of egg whites when they're whipped. I'm not sure corn syrup serves exactly the same function, because usually it's included in recipes to keep sugar from crystallizing and everything smooth. It's possible your egg whites are just not holding their shape as well without the cream of tartar.

Other thoughts/theories/experiences?

OP here from last week's nutmeg viability question. I grated the top of each nutmeg and smelled and tasted for potency. They all seemed OK to me. They will be used in baking and on green beans and other veggies, as one chatter suggested. Each and every one escaped being gilded and turned into a Christmas ornament! Happy holidays to all!

Glad to hear it! There's always next year for those ornaments, I suppose. ;-)

My husband doesn't like bourbon or rum (I know!) so I was thinking of making the rum balls with amaretto, which he loves. Will that work? Anything I should do to adjust?

Oh, sure, you can swap out the alcohol in these types of cookies to your heart's desire. No adjustments necessary, beyond tasting and making sure you like it. But amaretto would be delicious, so I think you're golden.

If you're in need of a recipe, this one is fantastic.

 

A friend gave me a stalk of sprouts that I won't be able to eat before going out of town. What's the best way to preserve them for a couple of weeks? I thought about shredding them before freezing. Should I blanch them first?

You're in fine shape; no need to blanch, shred or freeze. Brussels sprouts keep just fine for weeks. And they keep even better on the stalk, so you're good. If you have room, I'd cut the base of the stalk fresh, and stand it up in a glass of water in the fridge. If you don't have the room for that, I'd still cut it fresh, then wrap the base in a wet paper towel, and then wrap that end with plastic wrap -- or stick it in a zip-top bag. They'll be just fine when you return.

I have great co-workers, but I need to stop doing the annual cookie swap! I'm ending up with way too many cookies. Can I procrastinate and hope no one is interested next year, or should I start laying the groundwork now? (I know, it's probably a Carolyn Hax question.)

Do you mean organizing it or just participating? If the former, I would start asking around at this year's party and say you've really enjoyed doing it, but you think it's time someone else takes the reins. And leave it at that. If no one else does, oh well!

If it's just a participation thing, then just RSVP no and move on.

Then again, if it's just the too many cookies thing and you still are OK with the social aspect and group morale and whatever, I'm sure you could generously donate the cookies to anyone who would appreciate them, from your building's security or janitorial staff to your mail delivery person, etc.

Hi there! I got inspired by your cherry bounce recipe from a couple of years ago and actually made a big batch this year, and now it's time to bottle it up for Christmas presents. I bought a bunch of attractive pint-size bottles from Ikea with the old-fashioned metal snap latches, and some similar half-cup jars for the cherries. My question is how to sterilize these things for safe storage...or even if I need to do so. The issue seems to be the alcohol content of the bounce and, separately, of the cherries. I've read everything from you don't need to bother with sterilization at all for liquors like bounce, up to you need to go the full hot-water-bath canning procedure, and the internet being the internet, who knows if any of these people know what they're talking about. I thought at one point I'd just run the bottles through the "sterilize" cycle of my dishwasher, washing and sterilizing at the same time, but for some reason the dishwasher tends to leave metal discolored, and I'd rather that not happen with the wire clasps on these gift bottles. Other things suggested putting them in the oven for a while, which also might be good, but the caps are made out of an artificial rubber to make a good seal, and I'm hesitant about how well it would hold up to baking. My original thought is still my favorite, and probably the easiest, if it will work: doing a regular hand wash in the sink--you know, good old hot soapy water--and then rinsing them well with boiling water while they're still warm, making sure to pour it over the rim and the top. If you say that will work--giving it some kind of stamp of approval--I'll just go with that. The jars have the same kind of clasp, but with the more traditional rubber ring gasket. I suppose I could boil them in my canner like I do when I'm making jam, though I don't know what I'm supposed to do with that rubber ring, having only done that with the usual Mason jars that have the rubber ring built into the lids. (I suppose I could do that with the bottles, too, but then again, there's that rubber cap question.) But after that, I've read things suggesting you really should keep the cherries in the freezer after that if you want to use them for, say, ice cream toppings, or on pound cake slices. My question is...why? Don't they have enough alcohol in them to be shelf-safe the same way the bounce is? And are the jars safe in the freezer, or will they get too brittle from the cold? Or will the refrigerator be better? Help!

Cherry Bounce

Cathy Barrow says:

Wash the jars and bottles well. The alcohol will protect the bounce. Keep the cherries in the refrigerator. Happy gifting!

My 19-year old daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease this week and so disappointed to be giving up gluten. I have two questions: What's the best gluten-free flour to use for breakfast items like pancakes or waffles? Also, could you recommend a good gluten-free cookbook for a kid cooking her own food at college? Happy Holidays to all of you! You are like another pair of hands in the kitchen!!

There are many good cup-for-cup gluten-free blends out there that work well. I like Bob's Red Mill's brand, but there are many others. I'm sure our chatter have other suggestions! As for a cookbook, I like the work of Shauna "Gluten-Free Girl" Ahern. Danielle Walker has a lot of fans for her "Against All Grains" and "Eat What Your Love" books, and America's Test Kitchen has "The How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook" that's worth a look.

My Instant Pot appears to have died after two and a half years - the heating element seems to have gone to the great appliance store in the sky, and while I did submit a service ticket to IP, I'm not holding my breath. I do have a stove top pressure cooker, so I'm not in any immediate need for a new one, but I am starting to browse. The IP I had was just a Duo, so I'm wondering if one of the more fancy ones are really worth it. Of course, after seeing mine die so soon, I'm also wondering if I should look at other brands. I really don't need most of the other "tools" of an IP - I just use it as an electric pressure cooker. Thoughts? Have you heard of other IPs dying young or does this seem to be a fairly rare happening?

I have an Instant Pot Duo now, which is what we also have in the lab here. No complaints, really, and I don't think you'll get that much more out of a souped up Instant Pot. Sorry you got a dud this time.

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is a fan of the pricier Breville model, and you could also look into the Zavor brand, which is the revival of the late Fagor brand.

 

Right in time for party season, I have finally gotten better at making silky smooth hummus, but only right when I make and its room temperature. I store it in the fridge where it gets more solid (makes sense). But when I warm it up, it never quite comes back to that same silky smoothness that it had when I first made it. The versions I buy at the store are silky smooth while refrigerated. Is there some additive I don't want to know about that keeps it that way? Or is there a way to keep it silky smooth at home. Love the chats!

I made hummus this weekend and got a little carried away with my addition of water -- it was more sauce-like than dip-like. But after a time in the refrigerator, it was perfect and silky (and has remained that way for several days!). So: Make it too thin, chill it for at least a few hours, and serve it straight from the refrigerator (but taste it first and adjust seasoning as needed).

Agree with Kara that it takes more liquid than you think! For maximum smoothness, I use my Vita-Mix, so if you have one, do that. Another trick is to heat up your chickpeas in their liquid, because a food processor or less-powerful blender can make them smoother if they're warmer/softer. If you're cooking the chickpeas from dried, a little baking soda in the cooking water helps get them wonderfully soft -- and a lot of the skins come off, too, which guarantees silky fluffiness (or should that be fluffy silkiness?)

I'm a little biased against cold-from-the-fridge hummus, so I support your technique of warming it before serving -- I do 20-30 seconds in the microwave. Then drizzle with good olive oil, or chile oil, or a nut oil for something fun, and sprinkle with seasonings/herbs like sumac, za'atar, parsley...

Was excited to see Becky's fruitcake story, as I have been trying to recreate my great-grandmother's fruitcake for my stepdad for 15 years. I had never tried her cake, so I was flying blind at first...and each year I get closer but I'm _still_ not there yet. And he's 81 so I'd like to nail it while he can still enjoy it... I've ended up adapting a Fannie Farmer recipe, but if anyone might have an old recipe that maybe could be the same as what she made, I'd loooove to see it! I expect it was fairly simple with no uncommon ingredients. His original description ("from a foggy memory") was that it was dark/medium dark/brown; included raisins, yellow raisins, cherries, red/green/yellow glazed fruit pieces, walnuts, and pecans (no other fruits or nuts); had a little cinnamon and no other spices; and was semi-shiny on top. It sat wrapped in cheesecloth with a little booze (rum or brandy, not sure which) poured on top, for a few weeks. Others may chuckle at the old-timey-ness that he also said it sat in a "potato chip can". Thanks to anyone that may have a secret recipe they are willing to share!!

fruitcake

ARTICLE: Dear America: It’s time we gave fruitcake another chance

I hope you figure it out! I'm pasting in two recipes below that might help you some. Maybe a reader has an idea, too? I would also hop over to the comments on my piece and post your question, because there are a lot of people talking about their family recipes there. I recall one comment about Julia Child's fruitcake, which sounds somewhat similar to your request, so you could try hunting that down, too.

Christmas Cake

RECIPE: Christmas Cake

Emily Dickinson's Black Cake

RECIPE: Emily Dickinson's Black Cake

How well does this chili hold? I made it several years ago and liked it. But I ate a few servings myself in a couple days, then froze the rest. Now, I'd like to make it on Thursday or Friday to reheat (crockpot?) for serving Sunday afternoon. Doable? Changes? Thanks.

It would hold just fine for a few days, no changes needed.

Thank you for posting the Post Point Code at the top of the hour! The On Parenting chat never posted it today. (help) And Happy Hour usually waits until the very end of the chat, or even later.

That's why you love us, I know.

I received a gift box of pears — nice, but they are all ripening at the same time and there’s just one of me. What are some good ways to use them all up before they rot?

You could make a small-ish batch of pear butter, as in this recipe for pancakes with pear butter. It'll last about two weeks refrigerated, or you can freeze it. (And it uses three pounds of pears.)

Spelt Buttermilk Pancakes With Pear Butter

RECIPE: Spelt Buttermilk Pancakes With Pear Butter

Or roast them! These are good warm or cold, as dessert or with yogurt for breakfast; you can mash it up to make a chunky sauce, too.

Roasted Gingery Pears

RECIPE: Roasted Gingery Pears

Another fun way to go: make these crisps. (And depending on how you feel about regifting, you could give these away to party hosts or coworkers.)

Pear Crisps

RECIPE: Pear Crisps

I plan to prepare the above-mentioned cookie and would like to know if I can substitute the heavy cream with evaporated milk? I wish to thank the entire Food Section Staff for brightening my Wednesday's immeasurably. Warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful holiday.

Oh, yeah, it's such a small amount, I think that would be fine.

Salty Chocolate Nutella Thumbprints

RECIPE: Salty Chocolate Nutella Thumbprints

The article last week about Jack Malone reminded me of my childhood--when tuna salad, spam, salmon croquettes, and home canned vegetables were staples. Some of this was the result of my parent's Depression era survival memories. Some of it was the ingrained need to plan for adversity...read as stockpile for snowstorms, hurricanes, or the end of the month before payday. When I lived overseas, I learned to stockpile those items that meant home but were unavailable (white cornmeal, B & N Baked Beans, canned pumpkin....). I tried to find Jack Malone's books on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. No luck. Then I remembered a book I bought used Apocalypse Chow, written in the aftermath of a hurricane when there was no power. I did this sort of cooking when the power went out after Hurricane Isabel....and when I was housebound after breaking my hip. One of Michelle Singletary's cash fast ideas is to eat from your pantry for as long as possible--a week is suggested. California earthquake preparedness also suggests a pantry. Thank you for this article about Jack Malone and her ideas about how to stretch the food budget/use unfamiliar ingredients to achieve near gourmet results.

Glad you liked the piece about Jack ... Monroe!

BTW, "Apocalypse Chow" has to be one of the best cookbook titles in recent memory. Up there with "Fifty Shades of Kale," "The Taco Cleanse," and the classic "Manifold Destiny," about cooking on your car engine. 

 

Hi, Do you think these could be mixed, kept cool and baked a few hours later? Would like to bring them to friends for dessert and serve warm as suggested. Thanks!

You bet! I successfully held a batch of dough overnight in the refrigerator. Baked up beautifully, or even a little better(?). I didn't find I had to adjust the cook time, but be prepared if it needs a couple more minutes.

Skillet Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

ARTICLE: Chrissy Teigen’s peanut butter-chocolate chip blondies are warm, gooey bliss

Somehow someone managed to lose the little adapter for my old Kitchenaid food processor that lets me use the disks. The part is not made any more. The FP is a treasure 11-cup size, made in France, a reliable workhorse. So do I suck it up and buy one of the various accessory kits for $90 on eBay that include the little stem adapter thing, or is there any FP still being sold that isn't made in China?

If you love the old workhorse, I'd say, go for the $90 kit, yes.

Can you suggest an egg-free, nut-free dessert that I can take to Christmas dinner with friends? Fruit or chocolate leanings, either way.

Something like this?

Smoky S'mores Bars

RECIPE: Smoky S'mores Bars

Any ideas for a festive dish or two for a kid who's had oral surgery and will be eating a soft diet for Christmas?

He would be ecstatic, I'd imagine, to have this incredibly indulgent, tasty milkshake, wouldn't he? You might need to leave off the garnish, of course.

RECIPE: Milky Way Malt

But the post points code was left off the parenting chat? Could you pass along the message? Maybe someone can add it to the end. Thanks so much.

Yes, passed along.

Google Repair Clinic. It's a website that stocks odd parts, and I've been able to make fixes to my 15-yr-old and older GE dishwasher and Amana fridge.

Hi all, and happy holidays! I'm hoping that you can settle an argument, and avert some GI distress, before Christmas. My mother swears that any food in a slow cooker is being kept to a safe temperature. I agree - for the initial cooking/holding period. The challenge is that mom regularly cooks something like pulled pork before our get together, cools the crock on the counter before refrigerating, then returns the meat to the slow cooker for a second (and sometimes third) day on warm. She swears it gets hot enough to kill any germs. I think the combo of countertop cooling and a long warm period make it a bacteria incubator, and won't let my family touch it (we had a "stomach bug" two Christmases ago that was...scarring). It doesn't help that the CrockPot is a 1970s version from her wedding shower. What do you think? She's agreed to at least refrigerate the meat promptly if you say so; I've agreed to give the meat a try if you fall on her side. Thanks for all you do!

I'm with you! You're right that the bad part is letting the meat cool in the cooker on the counter. That's when you start getting into the danger zone where bad things can start growing in food. If she refrigerates the meat promptly, then for sure, she can reheat in the slow cooker and all should be well.

Hi! We have three unopened 1lb tins of old Bay leftover from a party last spring. They expire this spring so we are trying to figure out what to do with it. Any innovative ideasfor recipes that involve old Bay and work for Christmas? Food gifts? Please help!

Wowowow.

Make many batches of bloody marys? 

How to make better bloody marys at home

Or this very tasty vegan take on crab cakes? 

Hearts of Palm and Artichoke Cakes

RECIPE: Hearts of Palm and Artichoke Cakes

Use it as a spice in savory cookies, then give those away as gifts? Thinking Dorie Greenspan’s Sour Cream Everything Seed KnotsCornmeal Thumbprints With Tomato Jam, and Spicy Cheddar Thumbprints could all be adapted to use Old Bay. 

Chatters?

Before I ship fruitcake, cookies and bagels - and some candied nuts - to family and friends, I need advice on what containers are best at keeping out pests! I have received baked goods in sealed containers of the baggie and burping plastic box sort that somehow got infested with creepy-crawlies and I sure don't want to send anyone a gift package like that! Thanks for keeping my gift packages vegetarian, except for the butter and eggs :)

I think a hard-sided plastic tub is still your best bet. Have never had anything break into the containers of cookies we've gotten from family in those. I think we've gotten a lot of Rubbermaid ones that have held up well. Another option would be one with a snap-on lid, so you have four sides of security. Plus, you can always add some decorative tape for extra protection.

If I were to cut the Black Cake recipe in half, how would I manage the 13 large eggs? Six extra-large or jumbo eggs?

I'd just do 6 eggs plus one yolk.

RECIPE: Emily Dickinson's Black Cake

Dear WAPO food gurus and readers, I hop you all have a nice holiday coming up. I never ate fruitcake growing up, but somehow became the designated baker of my late MIL's recipe. The key is to make it at least two months ahead, and baste with bourbon once a week. By the time Dec. 25th rolls around it is this delicious, subtle cake. Now my son makes it. The only down side is that Great Grandma was one of 22 children and the recipe is huge. The up side is following family tradition, the cook partakes of a little bourbon while basting. Rumor has it sometimes more than a little.

This is great. But my lord, 22 children!

I do have an old family recipe, but I can't dig it out today. I'll send it via chat in a couple of weeks. (Serves 22, beware.) My MIL said it was important to chop the dried fruit into pretty small pieces, not big chunks. I like Julia Child's advice to pour some really hot water as a rinse over the candied fruit, then pat dry. Maybe even toss with a little flour before incorporating.

Another option is for you guys to hook up via email. Feel free to shoot us notes at food@washpost.com.

I found a recipe for a holiday cake that I would like to make, but the instructions list 8 inch cake pans as equipment. I have 9 inch. Outside of thinner layers, does it matter? Do I adjust cooking time? is there a formula by which I can increase the batter? Yes, I am too cheap to buy more pans unless it is absolutely necessary. I don't bake that much, and I am out of room for the stuff I already have.

This is a totally acceptable swap. I wouldn't bother adjusting the recipe other than the cook time. The slightly thinner layers will cook faster, so maybe start checking 5 to 10 minutes earlier than the recipe suggests.

Get a chef's jacket! Best thing ever- my parents gave me one (asked for) last year xmas and it gets used a LOT. I don't splash hot oil on my arms using the wok or deep frying, I don't spatter things on my sleeves, and it closes around my neck so I don't drop things behind my apron. I can't keep things from my pants, but WOW it's been great otherwise. It was cheap, it washes, has snaps and I have a 3/4 sleeve one because I am short w/short arms. It's kinda hot in summer, but when I can, no worries about splashes of jam, etc.

Good thought! I've got an old one from my culinary school days, and honestly the main thing that keeps me from every putting it on is that it feels like dress-up, since I have a very strict definition of what a chef is, and I'm not one!

I highly recommend using gf mixes that are specially formulated for the things you want to make. So I would buy a pancake/waffle specific mix. For baking - make sure to get a 1-to-1 mix because if you don't, it won't have the xanthan gum (which replaces gluten) and it just doesn't come out right. Another general baking recommendation - if just substituting gf flour in a recipe, use less than the recipe calls for - anywhere from a cup to half a cup less. GF baked goods can be really dense and I find that this really helps. For brands, I love Pamela's brand products.

I made cookie dough that required chilling. I chilled it overnight and took it out of the fridge to roll. A sudden (minor) family emergency made me leave the house suddenly, totally forgetting about the dough. SEVEN hours later, I returned and found the now wonderfully pliable dough still on the counter. I thought about the high quality ingredients in the dough, but pitched it anyway. Was I correct? I'm no food safety expert, but it seems that this was unrefrigerated for too long. What food safety issues might have come up if I HAD used it?

I always prefer to play it safe, especially when advising readers, lol, so I don't think you necessarily made the wrong decision. I'm assuming the dough has eggs, so if that's the case, probably the danger would be from those sitting out for too long, allowing bacteria to grow, potentially giving you an upset tummy.

It's nice of you to translate 48 tablespoons into 6 sticks, but it would have been nicer if you'd included "a pound and a half." Seriously, nobody's going to count out 48 tablespoons, and a lot of us buy our butter from local farms in tubs.

We have been including more weights lately in recipes. That's an older one, but I suspect also a lot of people are still portioning out butter with regard to sticks, since that's what those of us who don't get local butter in tubs (lucky you!) buy.

Old Bay lovers in our house use it on freshly popped corn.

Thanks for the suggestion, but they don't seem to have any food processor parts. I've tried a few other specialty places, but this adapter stem thing just isn't in stock anywhere.

I'll send the recipe via email, thanks. Great Grandpa had 10 or 12 kids with one wife, and married a second when she expired. Hence 22. He must have had amazing powers of persuasion.

Thank YOU!

know we love them so much we will stay and chat even without the "gift" at the end. I now have over 55,000 points and I'm still trying to figure out what to do with them. Are there any really cool kitchen gadgets that are available to redeem for points? Things that I don't think I need, but if I had one, I would be over the moon about it?

I see a lot of possibilities on that reward page -- you have to look for yourself, I'm afraid!

I'm thrilled someone wants a really old recipe from a really old cookbook! I have all my mother's old cookbooks, including those she inherited, and other even older ones I've bought for a pittance at sales, so I will try to find what the poster is looking for - but not before this chat ends. I love really old recipes, like from the XVII, XVIII and XIX Centuries - and wonder if you might do an article about them sometime. Happy holidays to all!

That's so nice of you. We've run a couple of very oldish recipes. This one comes to mind.

Spiced Wine Custard

RECIPE: Spiced Wine Custard

What about spiced nuts? Perfect for the holidays and you can use Old Bay for the spice mix. You can also make homemade cheez-its with old bay instead of garlic powder. Or Old Bay cheese twists with pastry dough

My brother and sister-in-law just got one a few weeks ago (and just sent one to me) and he says that using it to sous vide is a revelation. You can cook meat to a much lower temp and still kill the salmonella if you can keep it at that temp for a while. So chicken can be cooked (I haven't looked this up, just trying to remember the conversation) to 140 and kept there for a while and be perfectly safe, while it would have to go up to 160 at least to kill the salmonella instantly. I prefer to make my own protein for my lunch salads and I'm really looking forward to trying it. Cause just sautéing chunks of chicken to the right temp is hard to gage and dries them out.

If it's extra cookies and you have older family or other elderly people in your life who might appreciate a treat bring the cookies to them! We send portions of the cookies from various cookie swaps to my grandparents so that they have something cheerful and fresh - plus it gives us another "reason" to visit and hang out with them

Sweet idea.

Raw nuts like peanuts and pecans or cashews roasted in butter and Worcestershire are delicious and keep well in the freezer. I remember, as a child, many decades ago, using a 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar plus corn syrup in seven minute frosting...I think the recipe was from a 1960s version of the Ladies Home Journal cookbook...it never failed.

Yeah, I'm thinking both corn syrup and cream of tartar is not a bad idea since they seem to do different things.

What?? Wouldn't the flour be bad by then?

Nope, the fruitcake is baked (and bathed in booze), so I think they're good. Some people do this for a year!

I always look forward to your annual cookie offering. I try something new every year. I'm happy to report that everyone LOVES these cookies - thank you for the recipe! I made a 1/2 batch to test on my book club. I made one tray with the 2 T size. WAY too big. Paired it back to 1 T. Then made a full batch for my annual holiday cookies. I neglected to cool the cookies on the tray during the test batch, that made a BIG difference. One question, do I have to only bake one tray at a time?? When I'm making so many different cookies, I really need to be more efficient. Thanks again for the recipe! These were the first to go when I took a tray of nine varieties to my friends party. ;-)

if you are a diligent baker with lots to make, go ahead and do upper/lower racks, rotating them front to back and top to bottom halfway through. we just did this cookie for a class and i noticed you get different levels of that candy melting/and browning when you do 2 pans at a time, vs the one pan. 

How many days can I keep raw cookie dough in the fridge before baking? This is the Dorie's Vanilla Cookie dough, so it has eggs and butter in it.

The recipe says, "The basic rolled-out dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 2 months."

Dorie Greenspan’s Do-Almost-Anything Vanilla Cookie Dough

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan’s Do-Almost-Anything Vanilla Cookie Dough

I made the pecan sandies from the cookie special last week and did the variation with bacon. My husband and I love them! But a few days after I made them I began to wonder...should I have refrigerated them because of the bacon? The bacon I used is Benton's, which is dry-cured, and claims to not require refrigeration when uncooked and unopened. And I fully cooked the bacon until it was crispy. Do you think they will be okay? I'd hate to have to toss them, as they are really great.

They do not need refrigeration. You're good.

Last night we really enjoyed watching Lidia Bastianich's latest installment in praise of diverse Americans' cuisines, "Lidia Celebrates America," this year from "the heartland." The hour included characteristic dishes of immigrants from Laos and Mexico, as well as descendants of Buffalo soldiers, Cajuns, Creoles, PA. Dutch and northern Minnesota Scandinavians. (Lidia stresses the she and her family came to the US as refugees). While her style is different from Marcus Samuelsson's in "No Passport Required," she's just as engaging in her own way. I imagine local PBS stations will be re-running the show during the holiday season.

Old Bay will not go bad. It's probably a "Best if Sold By" date to indicate when it was produced.

I have used old spices on my plants to deter deer and other animals. Very handy way to get rid of that huge container of "taco seasoning" my husband picked up at Costco. Not sure what the local fauna think of Old Bay, but it wouldn't hurt!

I moved to Colorado a few years ago and since then have been unable to make snickerdoodles that are not completely flat... any suggestions?

Yeah, leavening requires some adjustments when baking at high altitudes. It proceeds more quickly! So that could mean that what happened was your snickerdoodles inflated so quickly, before they had a chance to set, that they inflated too much and then deflated completely. A couple of pieces of advice for high-altitude baking are to raise the oven temp by 25 degrees when baking cookies, so they have a chance to set before overinflating, and to decrease the amount of baking powder/soda, among other changes. Here's more from Quaker Oats and King Arthur Flour.

Take the extras to your local public library! Or leave some for your postal carrier.

Because it's already bad...sorry, I hate the stuff so I'm delighted with the suggestion to use it as deer-repellent. Maybe I should have posted this in Adrian Higgins' chat.

The past few years I've been cooking sauerbraten for Christmas Eve dinner for us and family. This year my husband invited more family and I'm panicking at the idea of having to feed more people. Then last night he dismissed some of my ideas for side dishes and dessert because "they're not German." Oy. Could you please suggest a German side dish (other than the hot potatoes. I'm already doing that) and a German dessert/cookies?

Rotkohl! This recipe looks similar to something I've made. (And you can make it ahead.)

I would suggest Spaetzle, but you probably don't need another carby thing since you've got potatoes.

If you want a REALLY German recipe, send me an email at kara.elder@washpost.com and I'll send along a recipe for Schichtsalat that I got from my husband's German host mom. It includes layers of jarred and deli ingredients that I think you'd be able to find at Cafe Mozart or German Gourmet, such as Sellerie Salat (celery salad) and boiled ham. Plus canned corn, diced hard boiled egg, canned pineapple, apples, green onions, and .... Miracle Whip. If I hadn't eaten two helpings myself I would be making the face you're probably making as you read this. But it is very good.

For cookies, Zimtbrezeln are nice. Can also vouch for the Pfefferneusse from Dorie Greenspan's cookie book. Here's that recipe from her site

It's unclear whether the person trying to recreate an old fruitcake recipe used an old edition of Fannie Farmer. If not, s/he might look for one in a used book store- here in MoCo, Second Story Books, Friends of the Library, and Wagging Tails, all in Rockville, have old editions of cookbooks like Fannie Farmer and Joy of Cooking. I make fruitcake (Fannie Farmer version) before Thanksgiving and find that the flavor improves with age. I also soak the fruit in rum for a few days, then pulse it in a fruit processor till it's a chunky paste.

Good advice, thanks!

Do you know anywhere locally that sells really good fruitcake, preferably soaked in liquor? All the places I know are mail order only.

I'm coming up empty at least initially. People in the comments are swearing by ones they buy at Costco, sooo...

Wouldn't the heat in the baking process have killed any bacteria that might have developed?

Nope.

The artificially colored fruits my grandmother used were a turnoff, but there are SO many fruit cake alternatives. Once I discovered panforte, I knew I could love dried fruit in cake. It is so easy to make, but fruit candied naturally is a lot easier to find nowadays.

Yes to panforte!

Do you still have the broken piece? Can you use that to 3-d print a new one? Public Libraries will teach you how to do it and sometimes have slots you can sign up for. If it is just a plastic piece....

Fun idea! OP, please let us know if this happens!

So do I, and I second the motion to do an article on such recipes. The 19th c. plum pudding recipes call for plums that are actually raisins, right? And other items are not available, so suggestions for substitutes would be great.

We'll keep it in mind, thanks!

Take a look at food historian Annie Gray's blog. She has some recipes in there you might enjoy.

I exchange my points for Giant gift cards. Free food!

Nice!

What happens if we don't put leavening in pancake batter? If it's important, is it more important with, say, regular AP white flour than with, say, buckwheat or some other healthier grain?

I think you get flat, rubbery pancakes! I would say it's equally important in all cases. But would probably be even more critical with something like buckwheat or whole grain because those are heavier and denser than all-purpose.

I paid for a WaPo membership but can't register for post points because I live in a different state. Phooey.

I thought you could be eligible for Silver membership as a post.com but not home delivery subscriber?

From the FAQ page:

Q: Who is eligible to register for PostPoints?

A: Anyone local who reads The Washington Post—the best newspaper in the world—is eligible to register for PostPoints at one of the following levels:

Silver Membership: If you’re not a home delivery subscriber, but buy single copies of The Washington Post, read washingtonpost.com on-line, or read Express, you’re advanced to the Silver level to register as a Silver PostPoints member. You can collect Points in many ways, but you won’t receive the card that allows Gold and Platinum members to collect Points. Local digital subscribers may also join PostPoints at the Silver level.

It has a metal pin but the rest is plastic. Alas, it is lost rather than destroyed. I think The Other Occupant of the House accidentally threw it out, but she says no. Maybe I could bring a high-def photo to the library.

I have redeemed mine for gift cards at Calvert Woodley. Free liquor!

Years ago my 1984 cuisinart Food Processor broke. I took it to Appliance Fix-It in falls Church and they were able to repair/replace the broken stem. Don’t know if they are still good but I was impressed and happy at the time. Not sure what the price was but it was cheaper than buying a new one. That food processor is still going strong.

Whenever something is lost in our house, it is always the fault of the Other Occupant :)

Agreed.

two reasons for this post - one the kid eating soft food, the other because I would like to find a custard type recipe for corn pudding. Do you all have any recommendations? Thanks for all the fun on Wednesday at lunch time. Happy Holidays!

When I try to register it has a drop down menu of only the DC area states. Nothing else.

Email info@postpointsrewards.com and see if they can help.

Most food safety websites warn against reheating in a crock pot. You can reheat it in a safe manner, and then keep it warm in the crock pot. "Do not reheat food in the slow cooker—it takes too long to reach a safe temperature. Use the stovetop or microwave for reheating. However, you can use a slow cooker to keep food hot up to 2 hours before serving"

OK, thanks for clarifying! So reheat elsewhere and keep warm in the slow cooker.

The recipe for Tom Yum Gai is delicious!! And super easy to make, too. One question though - it says it makes 2-4 servings (3 cups total), and the nutritional info says 800 mg sodium. Is that for all 3 cups total? Or per serving - and if so, for 2 or 4 servings? Thanks - and more recipes like this, please!

Tom Yum Gai

ARTICLE: This tangy, spicy Thai soup recipe will slash your takeout expenses

Glad you loved it! Our nutritional info is per serving, and we base it on the higher number in the range. So this was run based on 4 servings. The sodium is kind of high. Unfortunately that's the nature of cooking with fish sauce and other seasoning pastes.

At first glance I was trying to decipher this: rolling on the ... Obviously I'm on social media way too much.

LOVE. Rolling on the kitchen oven hat line? This could get fun.

you could get any machine or appliance repaired. Not so any more.

What do you mean by "rubbery"? Flat sounds like thin and that sounds like crepes, which I like.

If you like crepes, that's one thing. But it's a different recipe, not just a matter of removing the leavener. It's a runnier batter, probably more eggs, etc. If you just take the leavener out of something like pancake batter and let the same flour and liquid still combine, I think rubbery comes into play because there's nothing to lighten the gluten forming. It's just dense and chewy.

So, I now have 4 days off in a row, so I can make a bit of a mess (clutter, not actual dirt) and still have time to fix it. How do I organize my spices/blends/whatever cabinet shelf. Alphabetically? By the type of food they usually pair with? Single ingredients vs. blends? I really need to get a grip on this. I can't see things and have a tendency to forget what I already have.

I'm a huge fan of alphabetically organized spices -- it's a system that works for a reason! When I organized the spices in our kitchen at work (please pardon this brief humble brag/here's a photo), I first picked out the spices and herbs we rarely use and put those in their own cabinet, along with bulk/refill things (which I've now divided further into blends, herbs, baking spices, and A-F and G-Z boxes for easier searching; I also inventoried all of those and taped the inventory on the inside of the cabinet, so you know which box to look in. It's also in a Google doc so that you can easily ctrl+F it.)

Back to those two drawers in the photo, though: They are the ones we reach for most and they are all alphabetized, save for the salt, which has its own section on the right-hand side. With things that are ground and in seed, I alphabetized by spice, then by type. So: "Coriander, seed" and "coriander, ground;" "mustard, yellow, ground" and "mustard, brown, seed" etc., etc. The tins and jars that we ordered very conveniently and perfectly fit. That was just a happy accident. But using those square tins and jars that are all relatively the same shape certainly helps.

Do what makes the most sense for your space and your mind, and definitely plot it out a bit before going all in. This took me a few rounds (and years) to get right, but it's been this way for a month or so and they're STILL ORGANIZED and I AM SO HAPPY. I also wrote little labels that are under each spice, so that once someone uses the spice, they know exactly where to put it back. 

If I had some spare time, I would also note all the spices in the drawers into the Google doc and maybe add a column to serve as an inventory/way to keep track of the stock. Maybe next year.

I just got to see the chat since submitting my question - thank you to the chatters who provided some ideas! I'll post in the comments as well, and send my email to link up with the chatter who generously offered the family recipe :) THANK YOU all!

thanks very much!!

I am hosting a baby shower in February. Any ideas for a punch for brunch? one that doesn't depend on alcohol or sherbet? Or should I just stick to orange juice and make it easy on myself?

One of these?

Summer Fruit Punch (Kompot)

RECIPE: Summer Fruit Punch (Kompot) (can use other fruits)

Cozy Cranberry Sipper

RECIPE: Cozy Cranberry Sipper

Could also always go the mulled apple cider route.

Well, you've checked us occasionally to make sure our liquid hasn't boiled away, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, all! 

Now for our cookbook winner: It will be the chatter who originally wrote "ISO ooooooold fruitcake recipe." Send your mailing info to Kara.Elder@washpost.com, and she'll get you your book!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading -- and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is the lead writer for Voraciously.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
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