Free Range on Food: We're here to answer all your cooking questions about substitutions, baking binges, social distancing and more.

Apr 15, 2020

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

The way we eat has changed in recent weeks. It has had to. As we practice social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus, we’ve been eating less restaurant food, going to the grocery less often and cooking more from our pantries and freezers.

Just like you, we here at The Post have had to change the way we live and do our jobs to reflect these everyday challenges.

Like you, some of us with more time on our hands due to our shelter-in-place lifestyle have taken to baking and then baking some more.

Just before the pandemic hit our shores, we were working on a series of stories on bread baking that touched on everything from how to make sourdough starter and gorgeous boules to perfect English muffins and white sandwich bread. Food writers Cathy Barrow and Eliza McGraw are here to help us answer your bread baking questions.

With the renewed national interest in baking, however, we suddenly faced flour and egg shortages at some groceries.

Becky wrote about egg substitutes and about sweet baked treats that require no flour, eggs or even butter. Then, she dug deeper into how to make substitutions for spices, herbs, dairy and meat in cooking anytime. 

We talked with food experts, such as Padma Lakshmi, and got their recipes for pantry-friendly cooking.

Carrie Allan showed you how to make great cocktails from ingredients found in many home bars and pantries

Speaking of pantries, Becky also looked at just how long those condiments in your refrigerator last. And she reminded us that while we love fresh, fresh, fresh, those dry herbs and spices pack a lot of flavor into a teaspoon.

Groceries seem to have a good amount of fresh produce, but if you’re stopping in less frequently, you want it to last. Food writer Angela Davis offered advice on how to freeze fresh vegetables and preserve their quality.

Sometimes you just don’t feel like a cooking, right? Joe Yonan and I did big-batch recipes and shared ideas on how to use those large pots of food to get dinner on the table more quickly throughout the week.

Joe, of course, cooked a perfect pot of pinto beans while I made a vat of vegetarian tomato sauce.

Olga Massov explained how to make your own yogurt at home. It is easier than you might imagine and perfect for making everything from breakfast bowls to marinades to salad dressings.

If all this home-cooking is starting to make your jeans feel a little tighter than you would like, check out Kari Sonde’s roundup of healthy snacks for then you get the nibbles. She also dug into the archive and found a delicious batch of healthful recipes from Ellie Krieger’s Nourish column that you can enjoy.

It hasn’t all been about how the pandemic has affected our kitchens, of course. We have also just been writing about delicious things to eat as well, including a chicken and potato tahdig, vegetarian taquitos and salads that use the herb leaves and stems.

Still, Joe meant it in March when he told Post readers: “We’re in this together. What do you need?” Let’s talk about that today. 

Tell us what we can do to make all this just a dollop or two easier. 

 

I am getting weary of cooking. I have a little of everything to be creative and now I am just tired of it all. The only desire I have is a recipe for mile high biscuits slathered with butter and honey. Alas, my hips can't take it. Yes I would eat the whole pan. I didn't cook for Easter. Vent over ..... Thank you!




We get it. Here are a couple of stories that might help.
Joe and I just did big batch recipe stories with easy follow-up recipes.
Joe, of course, did a perfect pot of pinto beans.

I did a piece on how to make a big vat of tomato sauce.


Both allow you to make a big old pot of something and then get dinner on the table quickly. Hope it helps.

And, we know you don't need this, but now we all want biscuits, right? Here's Becky's guide to making perfect biscuits.

Hang in there! I actually did end up making Becky's biscuits and it DID make me feel better so...make them. (You can always freeze some cut and unbaked biscuits for later.)

Are Jerusalem artichokes suitable for a low carb diet?

They have the same number of carbs (17) per 100 grams as a potato, if that helps you make this decision.

Trying to find the bright spots where we can, so here's one - I finally tried aquafaba as an egg replacement and it worked great! I subbed three tablespoons for the usual egg in my banana chocolate chip muffins (adapted from one of Smitten Kitchen's banana bread recipes) and they were perfectly delicious and extra-moist. Here's my question, since we have other canned beans on hand but no more chickpeas: can the liquid from other canned beans work too? White bean liquid should be pretty taste-neutral, right? But I don't know if the chemistry is the same. I do have ground flaxseed on hand so could also go in that subbing direction.

Aquafaba is amazing, isn't it? Yes, you can use the liquid from white beans instead -- they're not QUITE as neutral tasting as chickpea liquid, but with all the other ingredients in something like banana bread I think you'll be fine.

I have cheated with boxed cake mixes and brownie mixes by using my waffle iron. Whipped cream and fresh or canned fruit on top. Yummy. For an adult twist I may splash on some bourbon or spiced rum in the fruit.

Wait what? You're making the brownie mix and putting it in your waffle iron? Love it. I've been experimenting with sweet and savory concoctions in my waffle iron as well. Hope to write about that some day soon. Shoot me a note at food@washpost.com. I'd love to talk with you about this. Such a good idea. 

GENIUS

Do any of the chatters have suggestions for CSAs with small shares? I'm single and splitting a share with someone isn't really an option right now, but I'd like to continue to support local farmers who will likely lose a lot of revenue from farmers' market closures. Plus produce is where I tend to run out more quickly and it would limit my visits to the grocery store. I live in Fairfax, so Northern VA pickup/delivery required. Anyone? Help!

I've been getting a $30 box from Spring Valley Farm and Orchard, for 1 to 2 people. I'm picking up at Westover market in Arlington, they may have other sites as well.

Hi! I tried my hand at making the Cookout Burger Buns last week--they came out beautifully! However, I was worried the whole time I worked with the dough, as I found it to be incredibly sticky. I couldn't give it the four or five recommended kneads when it came out of the mixer, it was so incredibly sticky. Event after the rise, I had to coat the outside in flour in order to divide and roll. Is it supposed to be that sticky, or did I mess up somewhere? Again, they came out beautifully once baked, but the dough felt... weird! Thank you!

It is a very sticky dough, but your post suggests they may have been more sticky than usual. The weather can have a big effect on flour projects, so that might have been the issue? Also, it can be useful to mix the dough and then let it rest for 20-30 minutes before kneading. In bread baking it's called autolyse, but I like to think of it as letting the flour absorb the moisture completely. I'm glad they came out well, after all!

I found a packet of yeast in my fridge with an October 2019 expiration date. If I proof the yeast and it seems bubbly should I go ahead and try to make my recipe or are there other ways to test if it's viable?

Yep, the proof is in the proofing! Add a teaspoon of sugar to about 1/2 cup water, sprinkle on your yeast, wait 15 minutes, and if it's bubbly you're good.

I'm back from senior hour at the grocery store, and there is still no yeast or flour, so no homemade English Muffins. but! in cleaning out my pantry (aren't we all?), i came across a jar of unsweetened applesauce (with ascorbic acid/vit C) with a sell by date of Jan 2017. no leaks, no puffiness. I'm thinking a simple applesauce cake might be a good use for it, and I feel like the applesauce is probably ok, but I'm the one in the house who will eat a year-old yogurt (really). Food experts, thoughts?

I think the applesauce is probably ok. To be official, FDA says 12 to 18 months, but use your judgment.

The perfect omelette has always eluded me. I've come close, but never quite perfection. My question is regarding the blending of the eggs. Can the eggs be over-mixed? Will air bubbles impact the texture? Also, what percentage of the omelette's interior will continue to cook once it has been rolled onto the plate? Thanks!

Oh, I have got just the recipe for you. I went to Le Diplomate several years ago and spent a couple hours making omelets with the chef there, and it was game-changing, honestly. You really want to whisk them a lot before they go into the pan, for several minutes -- you really can't overwhisk. And then you want to use low heat in a nonstick pan, switch to a rubber spatula, and use this motion where you're jerking the pan back and forth while you're constantly stirring with the spatula. This keeps the mixture smooth while it's setting. 

The interior will cook a little more once it's been rolled (percentage? who knows??!), but I love it when the inside of the omelet is still VERY creamy.

This can take a little practice, but it works like a charm, and the result is phenomenal.

RECIPE: Sunday Brunch Omelet

Hi friends, I'm living in a dorm room in France, essentially, for the current lockdown, and this means all I have are a small refrigerator, an induction hot plate, and a rice cooker. There's no issue going to the grocery store, thank goodness. I've been making some fantastic food from WaPo recipes, particularly the trout amandine, mushroom quesadillas, rosemary bean toast, mushroom bourguignon. I've made some good creations of my own -- my favorite is store-bought ravioli with a sauce made from cherry tomatoes and dried thyme seared in oil and then tossed in baby spinach. Also on my list are fried rice, and tuna melts, and fajitas (except the grocery store won't be getting any more international items, so no more tortillas :( I'm going to start experimenting with Indian food just for different textures and spices. But please, I'm kind of dying. Cooking every meal is exhausting and it's all starting to taste the same. Can you suggest any recipes or good base ideas for stovetop-only meals?

Ugh, sorry, and we hear you. Cooking 3 meals a day is DRAINING. Plus, the prep and cleanup are beastly. It gets even more fun when your 5 year old requests a totally separate meal because what you made "looks like garbage" :) How about this easy mango dal my colleague Becky did recently? I'm itching to try it and it's a stove-top one-pan sort of thing.

Check out Joe and Ann's big batch recipes too: they're designed to be repurposed over the week in different dishes. That should help cut down on cook times and give you a little mental freedom. 

Joe's beans: 

How to cook a simple, flavorful pot of beans and use it throughout the week

Ann's tomato sauce: 

Make a big batch of pantry-friendly tomato sauce for a leg up on dinner all week

I'm social-distancing on my own and wanted to cook something a little special for Easter, even though I couldn't be with family. I decided to do a mash-up of 2 recipes you printed recently, Ann's puff-pastry quiche and the wonton wrapper mini-lasagne. I am in deep pantry/freezer territory, so I used 2 wonton wrappers as the "crust" in a muffin tin, & then added the beaten egg over chopped broccoli & sauted onion, a little parsley, topped w/parmesan. I served up the quiche "muffins" on my mom's china, & it cheered me up a bit. So, thanks for the inspiration!

This is such a great note. Thank you. So often, we think recipe ingredients and steps are rules, but, within reason, they are suggestions or inspirations. Becky's recent round-up of substitutions in just about every area of cooking is a great way to jump into this way of thinking.

If anyone missed the quiche, you can find it here.

Hi Food Gurus! You've never steered me wrong, and so I come to you again with a desperate question. My husband is trying to stay away from too much pasta and is substituting cauliflower rice. It's also great during Passover, I guess, if one likes it, which I *don't*. But he does -- and he's counting on me to figure out the herb/spices to make it less bland. Massive fail a couple days ago -- so please, can you suggest some spice/herb blends to kick the cauliflower rice up a notch, or side-dish recipes. Thank you!

This isn't a recipe recipe, but I do it all the time with riced cauliflower. I toast sliced almonds in a frying pan. When they are just short of where I want them, I toss in a couple of tablespoons of butter and a clove or two of minced garlic and a scant teaspoon of fresh grated ginger. Then, I stir all of that into the rice cauliflower. You can adjust the heat with crushed red pepper flakes. It's delicious as a little side with your main meal.

Fry it! Get some oil hot and add chopped veggies -- carrot, snow peas, onion, whatever. Then add in your cauliflower rice, some soy, maybe some egg. 

I'm a huge fan of roasting cauliflower with za'atar and serving with a lemony-yogurt sauce, so why not try to cook cauli rice with some za'atar and then drizzle the yogurt after?

Here's a lovely recipe from Ellie Krieger to inspire you!

Cauliflower 'Rice' With Cumin and Saffron

Hi all-in one of my early shopping sprees, i bought a large tub of honey cinnamon graham crackers (apparently thought i was going to survive on smores). but now i'm bored-other than the obvious graham cracker crust, what else can i do with these. i've seen recipes for graham cakes using the crumbs of the graham cracker in place of flour-any thoughts? thanks!

What about a S'mores Torte? It's incredibly delicious!

Not sure about other cakes, but Key Lime Pie is a good candidate for graham cracker use too. 

S'mores Ice cream? Break the crackers up into smallish pieces, add mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. Stir into softened vanilla ice cream and refreeze. 

Proportions please! This sounds delightful!

Not until you give me your cauliflower amounts first ;)

Can I substitute self rising flour for regular flour to make bread. It's almost impossible to find flour for bread making.

Not really. Self-rising already has leavener (baking powder) and salt, so it's not going to work in a yeasted bread situation. But make biscuits to your heart's content!

I'm taking up bread baking. Got a good book or place for recipes? thanks! Fred

Becky put together a list of easier baking recipes, including bread! Check that out here: 

Want to learn how to bake? These sweet recipes and guides will help you do it.

My most-used bread books are, admittedly, standbys: Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread, and Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast. I also have found great tips in Abigail Johnson Dodge's Everyday Baker as well as the Cook's Country Cookbook.  

I have some dried Indian lentils (urad and chana dal) which have been in the pantry for about 5 years. Do you think they're still any good? They would be hard to replace with fresh supplies at my current location.

Yeah, I think they're probably fine. Dried legumes last SO LONG. Since lentils cook fairly quickly anyhow -- especially the split ones like urad and chana dal -- I don't think you'd notice too much of an effect on the cooking time, either.

how, what tips do you have for using milk that is a couple days past its date? it smells a little and I can't use it in my coffee. thanks!

My mom uses it in pancakes! 

hi, box cake mixes are pretty good I think. They call for vegetable oil. I've been substituting different oils: canola oil, safflower oil, for example, with mixed results. can you use oilve oil? coconut oil? so far I think I like plain vegetable oil the best

I think any neutral oil should work fine for you - canola, grapeseed, avocado, etc. Though I do love olive oil in boxed cakes for that zhuzhing up of things :)

Agree. I sub in olive oil in brownies all the time. 

hi, I roast vegetables regularly on a heavy duty cookie sheet. no matter what oil I use, vegetable or olive, a very sticky residue is left on the pan and it won't come off no matter what I do. do you have any recommendations - other than using aluminum foil~? thanks!

What temperature do you use for roasting? Some of the sticky residue is the polymerization (did I just lose you with chemistry talk?) so it's unavoidable... but it could be that the temperature of the oven is a bit high?

I call this seasoning!

It's been decades since I made a pie crust. I dug out my trusty Better Homes and Garden cookbook. How to work a crust? It all came back like riding a bike. This cookbook isn't fancy but a basic one that works even after 30 years.

Sometimes old favorites, like "Joy of Cooking," are old favorites for a reason. Thanks for the reminder.

Love an all-butter crust? Was it all butter?

I bought some thin sliced frozen pork butt from an Asian market a couple weeks back. My barbecuer's mind is a bit flummoxed by the product. Pork butt (shoulder) is supposed to be slow cooked to break down the meat. Yet here we have thin sliced stuff that by definition has to be cooked quickly. I suppose it's supposed to be used for Bulgogi and the like. But it still has my head spinning. Other suggestions?

You can make my pork Milanese! Or rather Wildair pork milanese I adapted from the chefs -- it's really terrific!!

While making your (fabulous!) english muffins and reading the comments, I thought I finally had it figured out -- there are 3 types of dry yeast: active dry, rapid rise/bread machine, instant. But I continue to see recipes that call for "instant or rapid rise" yeast. HELP! Are "instant" (like SAF) and "rapid rise" interchangeable or not?

Being confused is fair! There are actually more types, if you count fresh/cake. :) I'm hoping to tackle the topic separately, but I'd encourage you to take a look at Stella's primer on yeast. She says that instant and rapid-rise are not the same and that with the English muffins, the rapid-rise doesn't have the oomph for such a long-rising project. That being said, I heard from at least one reader who did in fact use rapid-rise for the muffins but added more to compensate.

No-Knead English Muffins

RECIPE: No-Knead English Muffins

Haven’t had yeast for a month. I’ve tried to make a sour dough starter and ended with a smelly mess. What can you suggest?

That is great that you have a starter going -- I wonder if the mess might have some life to it? Consider discarding all but about a tablespoon, and then adding maybe two tablespoons of flour and two of water. Give it a day and see if it revivifies? Then you could use starter to leaven your bread. . .

I got into sourdough baking in the fall and have been baking up loaves of sourdough, sourdough pasta, and sourdough naan. Any tips for making sourdough sandwich rolls/ buns? What else can I make? I am determined to keep this starter going!! Thank you!!

You have done a ton with that starter already -- the pasta sounds terrific. . .here are a couple of recipes that might work for you as you continue to stretch your starter's abilities, one for buns made with sourdough:

https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/sourdough-buns-recipe 

https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/old-fashioned-maine-sourdough-waffles-recipe. . .

In an effort to use what I have, I found dried hibiscus in my pantry. Do you have any thoughts on what to make with it?

It makes beautiful teas, and you can turn that tea into a tart, floral syrup that works over ice cream and cocktails too. Here's one option!

Getting on the sourdough train and been working on my starter all week. I now have more than I need and would love to find ways to use the extra instead of tossing it. Thank for your ideas!

Check out this story from Cathy Barrow: Want to make the most of your sourdough starter? Start with these castoff crackers. These crackers are delicious and easy.

The internet is a wonderful thing. People are making all sorts of things with their starter. I love the crackers Ann mentioned and we snack on them all week long. I make English muffins, pizza dough and waffles -- once a week, if I make one of these things, I do not get overwhelmed with starter. I've seen people making bagels, peanut butter cookies, brownies, pretzels and more. These days, maybe the best thing you can do with the extra starter is share it. Seems like everyone wants to get on that train!

I appreciated the link to food storage data in today's article. Do you have recommendations for apps for keeping inventories of items in pantry, freezer and/or fridge?

Actually, I keep the Food Lab's inventory in a spreadsheet. Make columns that help you identify clearly what you have and where you've put it. I have "Item," "Type," "Brand," and "Location." There's also a key in the fridge and freezer door noting where everything is, and each shelf in the pantry is labeled.

Muffins! Not the huge cupcakes that claim to be muffins nowadays, but the old-fashioned Betty Crocker/Joy of Cooking muffins.

Yes! And Marion Cunningham features Sour Milk Waffles in her Breakfast Book!

One large head of cauliflower! Easily a couple of pounds.

I use about 2 to 3T za'atar... roast at 425 until edges are crisped up (florets and stems)...  for the yogurt, I just use about 1/2 cup yogurt, squeeze about 1/2 lemon and add a little salt and pepper. Sometimes i get fancy and add a little tahini in it, too, or preserved lemon instead of regular lemon. Sometimes, i blend everything with fresh mint and dill. 

gonna try this! I notice you say, "fresh mango lends more tartness" -- if you can't get fresh mango, try amchoor powder, which is dried unripe mango, used for tartness in Indian recipes.

Yeah, sure, although I suspect a little goes a long way!

Mango Dal

RECIPE: Mango Dal

I went to make my usual batch of yogurt a bit delayed, since I wanted to make sure I had plenty of milk to last until the next grocery trip. Got the milk scalded, then found my last bit of yogurt moldy! After a quick google, I squeezed a bit of lemon into some milk/scalded milk, added a spoon of sour cream, and set it for it’s fermentation with a prayer. It worked! Not sure if it was the sour cream (not a “live culture” label) or the lemon, but I’ll take it!

I think what you got is something else - not sure what it is. Sounds lovely though and a good way to rescue your past-prime products.

When I've included it in Instant Pot beans, the kombu is hard to remove without totally falling apart. So my cooked beans have fragments of green which isn't the worst thing in the world. But am I doing something wrong?

Nope, not at all. Depending on the kombu and the cooking method, it might disintegrate. Thankfully it tastes great!

Hi, I'm planning to use chia seed and water to substitute one egg in a cake (the recipe only calls for one egg total). How long do i let the seed and water mixture sit before mixing it into the recipe? It needs to form a gel right? Thanks!

Usually I do 10-15 minutes and then it's gelled and ready to use.

I tried the steaming eggs process, and I like it a lot. The yolks were not quite as well done as I'd like, so will use 14 minutes for the next try. I do like that this will eliminate the dreaded dark yolk when the water boils too hard! Thanks for the idea!

Hey, Glad it worked for you. The size of the eggs could have an impact on cooking time. I used large eggs right out of the fridge. In case anyone missed it, here's the story on three ways to hard-cook eggs.

I have died and gone to heaven. Thank you!!

This may not be relevant to the topics asked for but I do a lot of cooking sous vide and have short ribs in the cooker as I write for Friday's dinner. Any suggestions for side dishes? I think that is what I'm worst at because I am true carnivore and while my wife isn't. She enjoys potatoes and all kinds of vegetables.

Personally, I would pair with mashed potatoes and roasted carrots. But really, any potato prep and a roasted vegetable would be really tasty!

I'm working through my pantry/freezer food stash and I'd like your thoughts on a potential recipe. I have some frozen meatballs and some "cauliflower cooking soup" (?? spouse bought, it's cauliflower/cream/potato starch etc.) and feel that they could be combined, with some frozen veggies, into a pasta sauce or casserole of some sort. These are desperate times so it doesn't need to be stellar, but I'd like to minimize the gloppiness if possible. I'm not really a casserole person so I don't really know where to start. Does anyone have any ideas/what would you do in this situation? Thanks!

I'm not sure if the meatballs will work with the soup. That's a head-scratcher. I do think that soup would likely make a good base for a chicken noodle/pasta casserole. Bake or poach the chicken first. You could throw in frozen vegetables and give it a flavor boost with your favorite dried spices and/or fresh shallots, onions or green onions. Put it all in a casserole dish and bake it for 30 minutes or so.

For the meatballs, why not make a quick and easy marinara with canned tomatoes, if you've got any? Hope that helps.

Hello - I have a ham bone from Sunday and want to throw it in my slow cooker for ham and bean soup. The only problem is I only see recipes for dried beans and all I have is canned navy beans. Can I just throw those in? Should I keep the liquid or drain them? Thank you!

Yep, you can absolutely use those navy beans here. I'd keep the liquid if they're in BPA-free cans and preferably organic, and drain/rinse if not. Use good vegetable or chicken stock if possible instead of water, and perhaps add some more aromatics (onion/garlic/bay/celery) for some extra flavor since you're not getting that "liquid gold" from cooking the beans from dried.

For many years, I've stopped by the grocery store about 3 times a week to pick up a few things (especially perishables). Now, I have to literally tell myself every day, "Don't go to the store! You don't need those things today! It can wait!" (This must be what it's like to quit smoking). So, when I do go, I'll buy two dozen eggs instead of one dozen, a 5-lb bag of potatoes instead of a few potatoes, etc.

Good for you. It's important.
It is hard habit to break, but I've broken it. I go only once a week and this past week I stretched it to almost two weeks. Not all of us can afford to stock up when we go. Some of us don't have much storage space. Some of us have to use public transportation or walk, so that makes it difficult to stock up.
But, if we can, we should try to do it.
Sometimes that means eating what I have on hand and not what I really want or crave, but that's a small price to pay.
Some good tips here: Go grocery shopping every two weeks? You can — and without hoarding.


I don't have instant yeast right now, but have a TON of active dry yeast + bread flour (or suggestions for when it's safe to sub active dry for instant). Any suggestions for a kneaded bread (or roll) that uses both (that's not pizza crust)? I have little kids who LOVE to help measure, stir, and knead bread.

Think you all would enjoy pretzels? The recipe uses both (don't sweat the barley malt syrup, can swap in honey or even molasses).

Soft Pretzels

RECIPE: Soft Pretzels

I think you an also get away with modifying the English muffins to use all bread flour (unless you also have whole-wheat) and active dry. Just proof the yeast first in a little bit of the milk that the recipe calls for, warmed up. Then add to the rest of the ingredients and proceed.

I'm excited to try homemade yogurt, after buying Trader Joe's nonfat yogurt for many years. You recommend whole milk-- If I use 2% or 1% milk instead of whole, will that significantly lessen the quality or thickness of the yogurt? By the way, Cultures for Healthy website was completely sold out of the heirloom culture, but Amazon will have it in supply by next week.

Yes, lower-fat milk yogurt can be great, but it definitely won't be as thick. There are things you can do to help, such as holding the milk at 180 for awhile to evaporate some liquid, and some people add dry milk powder to thicken it up, more, too.

Is this chat group only for subscribers? (Wondering if I should let my family members know to join.)

Nope, anyone can join! Invite them :)

My sourdough bread is not rising enough. It is very heavy. The starter seems to be growing and bubbling. Suggestions????

Sounds like your starter is going well, which is terrific news. If you're getting dense loaves, you may be "de-gassing" your dough during your stretch-and-folds or shaping. Try to go a little easier on the dough so that air can add that height you're looking for. Also, be sure to bake for long enough with the lid on, during that first round -- sometimes that helps, too. Keep going -- you've clearly got a hale starter, and will get that loft you want soon.

If you have a probe thermometer, make sure the bread reaches 190 degrees before removing it from the oven. 

I love grocery shopping and visited various shops 2 - 3 times a week prior to the pandemic. We have recently moved to an area that has both curbside pickup (Kroger) and free delivery (Amazon Fresh). I am finding that I am making extensive lists, modifying my orders and almost panicking if I run out of something (garlic paste was my latest crazy moment). Last night at 6pm I placed an order that was delivered at 9:30pm. I've spent over $400 on food in less than a week. I don't believe I am hoarding, just well stocked. To be fair, we just moved in at the end of January so I didn't have the pantry/freezer completely stocked. Do I need an intervention?

Take a deep breath. Don't look back at what you've been doing and try to look forward. You've stocked up, so now do what I encouraged another reader to do: Check out Becky Krystal's terrific substitutions stories. They include:

How to make substitutions for spices, herbs, dairy and meat in your everyday cooking

Egg substitutions for cooking and baking when the store shelves are empty

and

Dry herbs get a bad rap, but they can be flavor powerhouses. Here’s how to use them.

Read through them. I find them very freeing. Rather than panicking over what you don't have, it makes you realize just how much you DO have, how versatile food can be. You might make it your mission learn how to use what you have. It's a fun little mind game to play in the kitchen right now.

In digging through the depths of our chest freezer, I found some assorted ancient and unloved veggie burgers. I'm trying to think of ways to make them more palatable so they don't go to waste, but I can't think of anything other than breading and frying. Any ideas?

Depending on the type of veggie burger, you may be able to crumble it and use it as sort of a ground meat product. Breading and frying doesn't sound bad though! Why not try that?

Crumble, cook, and make a burrito!

What is the best cut of beef for stew in a slowcooker?

Any cuts that need slow cooking. Short ribs, chuck, shin, brisket, anything labeled "for stew," etc. 

Hello! I hope that you and yours are well! I tried making no knead bread for the first time from the Homemade cookbook. The recipe said to heat the dutch oven at 375 and then drop the temp to 340 and bake for about 50 mins total, removing the lid after 30 mins. The bread was underdone in my oven, so I cooked about 15 mins longer. It turned out ok, but the crust is a little anemic. I'm wondering if a higher heat would have given it more color? I've seen recipes that are pretty hot, like up to 450. Any thoughts?

Our Overnight Dutch Oven Bread recipe from our Baking Basics newsletter has you heat the oven up to 450. That's likely going to get you that burnished crust.

I had some grated zucchini in my freezer --- my spouse took it out and forgot to put it back in right away. It's now been refrozen, but was out of the freezer for 2-3 hours before we put it back in. Would it still be safe to use?

Was it in the refrigerator or on the counter? If it was in the refrigerator, it is probably OK. If it was on the counter, do not use it.

I follow recipes carefully, prepare ingredients in advance, but it always takes longer to cook almost everything, at each stage, than the recipe suggests. Even something like thin sliced, preseasoned, chicken breasts that were to take 15 minutes in the oven. Or "saute onions til softened, about 3 minutes." Why?

Is this in regards to ALL recipes, including ours, or... I think prep times might vary across the board for people, because I might be slower at chopping an onion than you... or... if I'm making something for the first time, it takes me longer to make because I'm unfamiliar with the recipe. Still, cooking times should be pretty accurate. I get really annoyed when recipes tell me to caramelize onions in 15 to 20 minutes, which is just not possible :) Give me examples, and hope to help you! The other thing is I try to test all my recipes using a very standard stovetop/oven -- nothing super fancy, which might have more BTUs and hasten the process. I know that most folks don't have Wolf ranges, so for me it's important to test recipes using something that is pretty standard in most kitchens. Another thing might be if you're cooking using electric and someone tested the recipe using gas? Just some thoughts.

I made a carrot cake for Easter. It's the 2nd time I've made it but I forgot how heavy the final product was. Each pie pan was about 1.5lbs. Anyways the receipe while good had a weird metal taste to it and I can't figure out why. The pan's were new and I followed everything to a T. The ingredients standard as all other receipes out there. The only thing I did different was I used store bought frosting instead. Do you think it was an issue with the pans?

This is a tough one. Are all of your ingredients fresh, including your baking powder? Sometimes, that can cause an off-taste. I doubt it is the pans. Anyone else?

I wonder if your baking powder has aluminum in it. I'm pretty sensitive to it, so I always look for aluminum-free one. 

I was organizing my freezer in an attempt to get a handle on what we can cook while avoiding the store, and found SEVEN sticks of salted butter. Any ideas on how we can use some of that up? We don't even know how we bought that much salted butter -- we never use it.

Oh my, yes. I love salted butter. We recipes that call for lots of it. And, remember, it will keep well in the freezer, so feel free to pace yourself due to the calories and fat.

I recently shared a recipe for Trout Amandine that calls for salted butter. It makes such a terrific meunière sauce, which tastes great on any number of types of seafood.


or how about these Salted Butter Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread cookies.

You can use it in place of unsalted and cut back the amount of salt you add in in baking recipes, have done that with perfectly fine results. 

Like everyone else, we've been eating down the stock in freezer and cupboards. Some things well past their "best by" dates have been tossed, other stuff cooked up and eaten. Yesterday I found not one but two unopened packages of kombu and some bonito flakes. So upon seeing today's WaPo, I immediately pressure cooked a pot of pinto beans using kombu and plan to make some ramen broth later. Curious to know what's the craziest thing you've found in your kitchen and how did you use it?

My husband likes one particular kind of peanut butter. I found six jars. 

I love canned tuna. I bought quite a stack of it, but, well, I've eaten most of it, so I don't feel bad about that. :-)

I toast up some breadcrumbs in butter (typically in a cast iron pan), then stir in the cooked cauliflower rice. Season to taste--mostly salt--and enjoy. My grandmother used to do this with boiled cauliflower and it adapted well to the rice. :-)

I saw AP flour at two stores yesterday (Giant and Target) so it's returning to shelves but I haven't found bread flour. Ok to substitute 1:1 if bread flour isn't available?

That's great news for bakers and yes, if you happen to have some whole wheat flour, too, adding some of that in your recipe (like, 200g whole wheat and 800 AP for a 75% hydration sort of thing) can help give a sourdough loaf some heft if you're using AP. But you can make sourdough bread with just AP flour. Good luck with it!

does maple syrup really last forever? I found a can in the back of the cupboard... but it could easily be 8years old.... or more.

I don't know about forever. Is the can sealed? If so, then maaaybe. It does seem like a long time. Check for mold, etc.

Couldn't they use a silicon baking mat or parchment paper on the pan? I use my mat for roasting vegetables all the time, and it keeps my baking sheets free of crust.

Absolutely.

I'm definitely going to make those soon but all that is left chez moi is white flour. What if I used that with no rye, ww, or spelt?

I suspect they will be airier and you will get more bubbles on the top, which sounds good to me. Think Saltine texture. Do you have nutritional yeast? I tried some on my last batch of crackers and while not exactly the cheeze cracker I craved, it satisfied the itch.

Can you suggest a basic recipe for whole wheat bread ? Thank you

Sure. We have a great one that can be made with white whole wheat: Raise a toast to white bread with a recipe even a nonbaker can master

Some baking recipes I use call for sifting flour (sometimes together with baking soda or baking powder - depending on the recipe - and salt. Is this sifting strp really necessary?

It depends on the recipe. For things like delicate cakes and other pastries, yes. For one-bowl mixes, loaf cakes, etc. I don't think so. It doesn't hurt. 

I'll tell you a secret. In most cases, I'll just whisk the dry ingredients instead of bothering to sift. But if an airy texture is important to the final product -- think Angel Food Cake -- I sift through a sieve. 

Hi, thank you so much for continuing these chats. Like many others, we've been doing a good deal more baking and cooking in the past few weeks. My husband's project is a sourdough starter that he started a few weeks ago. It's mature enough to bake with, but I'm wondering how I go about subbing it in our tried and true bread and pizza dough recipes. Is there a rule of thumb I can refer to when incorporating the starter into recipes? Or am I better off looking for sourdough specific recipes? Thank you!

Cathy Barrow wrote about cooking with sourdough starter cast-off recently. You could try making her Sourdough Cast-off Crackers. They were delicious. Also, you can certainly use the cast-off starter in waffles and pancakes. Check out this recipe from King Arthur flour.

Since you are new to it, I would look to sourdough-specific recipes to get you used to how the starter might get used. We ran a sourdough bread recipe recently in our bread issue, so it's a great place to start. For pizza dough, Eater just ran a recipe from Roberta's pizzaiolo on pizza dough with sourdough starter, and while I think it's best to halve it (otherwise you get 7 disks of dough), it's a great recipe to have in your back pocket. Also, Roberta's pizza is really spectacular, says this former Brooklynite ;)

When substituting starter into a recipe that's normally made with yeast, starter adds more flour and water. By weight, reduce the ingredients in the recipe. So, if adding 100 grams of starter, then reduce the flour by 50 grams and the water or liquid by 50 grams. That's the best rule of thumb I can provide. From there, it's all experimentation.

I'm just so tired of cooking and tired of everything I cook. I read your recipe suggestions and think, "I don't have those ingredients and I can't go to the store to pick up cilantro or capers." I do the cooking normally, but am now burdened by the multiple daily meals with no restaurant relief...ever. Now when asked, "What's for dinner?," the answer is, "Chicken or hamburger, same as yesterday." The creative motivation left two weeks ago with that 8pm urgent staff Zoom call. Help me get back on the horse. Chained to the Stove

First of all, give yourself a break. These are tough times to keep your spirits up. It's OK to feel the way you do.

Second: Read through Becky Krystal's story on substitutions: How to make substitutions for spices, herbs, dairy and meat in your everyday cooking
It is so freeing. For example, I just made an onion tart that called for sage. No sage, right? I did some starting-to-wilt fresh basil and I used that. Delicious. No vinegar, use lemon or even pickle brine. Have some fun with experimentation, if you can work up the enthusiasm.

Also, try this. Make a big batch of something you love and build easy-to-make meals around that.

Joe recently wrote about how to make the perfect pot of beans and then he offered 5 recipes to try with those beans.

I followed him with a giant vat of vegetarian tomato sauce and then offered a batch of easy-to-make recipes that would make good use of that. (The creamy penne pasta is almost too easy.)

To add to the "give yourself a break,'' it's perfectly fine to just eat some rice/noodles with butter and call it a day. 

Regarding sourdough bread, what is your opinion about using sourdough as the only leavening agent vs. adding active dry yeast? I would prefer just to let the sourdough do it alone, but it takes a long, long time and still doesn't always reach great heights. Do you feel that adding dry yeast alters the flavor or texture of the bread? Also, what is your opinion of baking the bread in a preheated Dutch oven vs. a flat stone or baking sheet? It's hard to get a risen batch of sticky dough into a Dutch oven without collapsing it, despite what cookbooks claim. I might have to miss your answer live as I am working, but I hope to read it online afterward. Thank you.

I think that the joy of baking with sourdough/levain is its adaptability. If a little dry yeast helps your loaves and allows you to bake more and get that height, by all means, embrace it. Ken Forkish's comprehensive book, Flour Water Salt Yeast, has many recipes that use both. And yes, easing dough into a Dutch oven is definitely a move that improves with practice. (If your loaf collapses totally, don't forget you can always roll it gently, put it into a loaf pan, and bake it that way. It will not have the big holes, but will be delicious and look pulled-together.) 

Is it ok to use the last bits in a can of baking powder that expired in...2008?

I think you might have trouble with your baking powder acting as a leavener. That is quite a bit of time ago. You could make your own baking powder if you've cream of tartar...  1 t baking soda, 2 t cream of tartar, 1 t cornstarch.

For Carrie Allan: Love your suggestions, but I feel a bit intimidated by your good faith that many of us can be creative in the cocktail category. But we have lots of eau de vies around of various types -- any suggestions for how to use them in a cocktail? We always have scotch, gin, bourbon, rum, tequila to blend.

Oh, of course! There are some beautiful eau de vies (eaus de vie?) out there. I actually think the prep on the Jammartini would likely work really well for a lot of those spirits -- look for a jam or preserves that is either the same or complementary to the fruit of the eau de vie, and sub in the eau de vie for the gin. Also, if you've never tried a Gin Blossom -- that's a lovely cocktail, and would likely work nicely with eau de vies other than apricot.

What are the benefits of slowly rising the bread dough in the refrigerator?

Slow, long rises slow down the yeast, so you have more time to develop flavor without the dough overproofing. Often that happens with a no-knead bread, which gives the dough time to basically knead itself.

Hi, these no-knead recipes have long rise times - this one's 14-19 hours. A baker friend who also lives around 7000 ft elevation advised me to proof for shorter periods with all baking recipes. Is there a %age reduction guideline, or do I have to keep checking the dough? Your thoughts?

Check out my piece on high-altitude baking. You can reduce the yeast and you may need to proof for less time. You could also considering a slower rise in the fridge.

My sourdough starter is about 3 weeks old now. I've made three loaves of bread, and 2 were so heavy, I had to throw them away. The other one was edible, but still heavy. Suggestions? Marva

Hi Marva, There are so many questions! What was your flour to water hydration? I work at about 1000 grams total flour and 750 to 800 grams water, so a very high hydration. The more hydration, the lighter your bread, but the more challenging it is to form. Don't be discouraged, just keep learning. 

And with those dense loaves? Make croutons or stuffing cubes. Make ribbolita, a truly delicious bean and bread soup. Cut thin, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, toast, and serve with hummus or another dip. There's always a way to make the bread delicious.

Fresh/cake yeast still exists??

It does! Definitely not as easy to find, but it's out there.

I want to make millionaire's shortbread. I've seen recipes that use sweetened condensed milk and corn syrup, cooked on the stove, for the caramel layer. This seems easier than making caramel but what exactly causes it to thicken? I was hoping to omit the corn syrup as I think the sweetened condensed milk is sweet enough on its own. It's been in the pantry for months so it's already caramelized some on its own. Will it thicken enough just from cooking it on the stove for a bit? How do I know when it's thick enough to use?

Cook the sweetened condensed milk down enough and you'll get dulce de leche! It will be sticky, but it should work.

Or, you could get all fancy and make this Ottolenghi recipe. It's stellar (at least to eat).

Middle Eastern Millionaire's Shortbread

How early is too early to post a question? I mean, if I post something at 9 am does it disappear before noon? How does this work?

You can post a question anytime. We'll see it and will answer as many as we can in the hour-long chat.

Can they be frozen? If so, chopped first, blanched, thrown in whole?

Yes, just make sure they're clean and pop them in. It doesn't really matter if you chop them or not; they're easy to chop straight from the fridge. No need to blanch.

This is such a basic question: What is the best way to crack an egg? I often wind up with tiny bits of shells when I do it. Can you post a video please?

Hit the side of the egg on a flat surface, not the edge of a bowl/what have you.

I wanted to share a story. I like everyone else put yeast on my shopping list and was surprised to find it missing several weeks in a row. I decided to look on Amazon and was pleasantly surprised to see it available in small packets. It was a brand I didn't recognize, but for a few bucks I added it to my shopping list. When it arrived, I saw on the packaging that it was for wine makers! I've never made beer or wine at home so I never thought about uses for yeast other than my pizza dough, etc... But there is a happy ending. I made some focaccia with it the other night, and it turned out great. As for my flour needs, a neighbor and I are ordering from a restaurant supply store, and sharing a large bag. I think she ordered a 50 pound bag, so I see a lot of baking in my future.

Thanks for the tip. I would never have thought of this.

Good Afternoon! I made the puff pastry quiche for Easter brunch, it was a hit! What should I do with the leftover light cream? I know it seems like a silly question, but I don't really do cream in my coffee. Could I make biscuits with it?

So glad you enjoyed it and on Easter. Feel honored to have contributed to your table.
Go to our Recipe Finder and search for "light cream," with quotes around it. You'll find lots of options, such as Grilled Cream Corn or maybe a cocktail, like Cavalletta.

Here's the Quiche With Broccoli, Gorgonzola and Walnut recipe, if anyone else wants to try it.

 

Think they would turn out using a regular non-cast iron skillet on an induction stove?

Induction, yes, definitely, since that's what I tested on at work. I did not test in anything other than cast iron, which is great for its fairly steady heat retention. You could probably get away with another skillet, but might have to improvise on timing, butter, etc. Can't guarantee the same results but if you're willing to try, go for it.

Hi! I have been having trouble finding arborio rice but my roommates and I have a hankering for mushroom risotto. I have jasmine rice, long grain brown rice, white sushi rice, and a "Royal Blend." Any thoughts on which would be the best substitute? I was thinking brown rice because of the longer cooking time but really have no idea.

I would try sushi rice before others -- it's the one with the highest starch content. Another good contender, should you see them are Carnaroli rice or short-grain Spanish rice.

I was surprised to find this with my Tuesday paper, but then had the trusty Food section as usual on Wed. Is this a trend?

It was a special Bonus Day! A one-off, I'm afraid!

Long time Rancho Gordo users. When we make hummus is the water we've soaked/cooked the chickpeas in usable as aquafaba or does it have to come from canned chick peas, which we never use?

You theoretically can, but I find it's less practical and dependable than from canned chickpeas. The reasons: First, I like to season my chickpeas when I cook them, resulting in cooking liquid that tastes much more savory than I would want in aquafaba. Second, the aquafaba needs to be at a certain concentration in order to whip properly, so you'd have to cook it down to that point. I've seen instructions online for doing that, but I've never tried.

Any good recipes for hamburger buns? I've got bread flour and yeast.

How about canned Michigan cherries from American Spoon that expired July 2019? Would you eat if can looks fine?

Gluten-free substitution for non-fat milk powder in an ATK recipe?

Is there a general rule for substituting the yeast in a recipe with sourdough starter? I am aware of the corrections that need to be made to the liquid and flour in a recipe (my starter is 50/50 water and flour by weight), but I don't know how much starter I should use to substitute for, say, 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast.

I have used the following article/table with success, and it can be done! but I know it's kind of involved to get into here. . .http://www.wildyeastblog.com/going-wild/

 

I have bread flour and cake flour in my pantry. What makes them different from all-purpose flour and can I use bread or cake flour in lieu of all-purpose?

They're all different because they contain different amounts of protein. More protein means more gluten -- so more chew and rise. Higher protein flours are for foods such as bread, lower (cake, pastry) are for more tender goods, such as cake or cookies.

So, in a cake, I think cake flour would be fine for AP. Bread flour? Not so much, it would be tough and rubbery. You need to think about what the end result should be like.

Here's my flour primer.

flour

ARTICLE: How to choose the right flour for the right baking recipe

Bought mostly basics to make the most of my last grocery trip for a while, but bought a glass bottle of my favorite kombucha as an indulgence -- which I then sprayed to sanitize, left to dry, and completely forgot to put in the fridge. It was out about 36 hours, and I've returned it to the fridge now. Safe to drink, probably?

Yep, but just be very careful opening it -- it might have continued fermenting, and therefore is in danger of erupting!

I have a recipe for cauliflower kuku which is pretty darned amazing. Love it.

We got one this Passover from food writer Susan Barocas. Here is: Cauliflower Kuku.

I was using all-rye starter, which was difficult to mix and handle. Lesson learned. I just flattend the whole thing out and baked it and we break it up to use.

That must have been a strong dough! I would use more AP flour in the cracker mixture.

Hi rangers! I found two boxes of fresh sliced baby bella mushrooms in my fridge that were still ok but needed dealing with ASAP. I sauteed them down in olive oil and finished with a splash of white wine and now have a lovely bowl of almost mushroom puree. I am going to put some in a cream sauce for pasta (we dipped down to 40 degrees grrrr and pasta sounds wonderful). Any ideas on what else to use this for? Thanks in advance!

I think it would be great on a roasted or grilled veggie sandwich. Or in an omelet.

Hi gang, thank you so much for doing this chat..now and always! I have thoughts about gathering a few friends for some sort of Zoom event in the kitchen, basically an interactive cooking 'show' where I am a Julia Child-like host (heehee) and my friends cook along with me. Seems doable, right? I'm looking for suggestions of meals, baked goods, and/or cocktail that are relatively simple and use pantry/liquor cabinet staples (or easy substitutions). Thanks!

That sounds like so much fun! First, check with your friends on what they have/what they can get ahold of, and then make plans accordingly. Try to pick something that can be adjusted depending on what people have: burritos, a sheet pan dinner, rice bowls, etc. Please let us know how it goes!

I have been making a lot of mashed potatoes lately - I have a very small kitchen and limited supplies. How do I elevate mashed potatoes to be gourmet without spending a lot of money and just using a single pot? I want to impress my girlfriend with these.

Mashed potatoes are my favorite food of all time, and the late, great Nora Ephron would agree. After all, her character in Heartburn makes a pot of mashed potatoes and eats it in bed as she processes that her husband is cheating on her. Anyway, an easy way to up the ante with mashed potatoes would be to use lots of cream and butter when mashing them, to create that rich texture. You could also roast some garlic and squeeze the roasted garlic into the potatoes while you mash. If you've fresh or dried herbs, those will work well too. When I make mashed potatoes to serve with meat for my kosher in-laws, I use lots of good olive oil. And of course, be generous with salt to make sure your final dish is beautifully seasoned! Having said all that, anyone who makes you mashed potatoes is a keeper in my book, so your girlfriend is very lucky!!

Here's a couple fancy mashes from our archives: 

Garlicky Roast Potato Mash

Mashed Potatoes With Manchego and Olive Oil

 

Thanks for these chats! I want to make another batch of your delicious bagels, but the only yeast I have is instant ("rapid-rise"). Do I need to make any ingredient amount or timing modifications to your recipe?

Based on what I've heard from readers with my English muffins, using 25 percent more rapid-rise than instant might work. Timing shouldn't be that different, but definitely follow the visual cues.

Best-Of Bagels

RECIPE: Best-of Bagels

What changes do you have to make to account for higher elevations in baking or cooking? Please include scientific explanation for such changes if possible. Thank you very much.

Luckily, Becky wrote a whole story on this! You can check it out here: 

Don’t let high-altitude baking get you down. Here’s how to ensure sweet success.

I made seafood stock last night for the first time! It's now resting comfortably in the freezer. Can you suggest easy-ish ways to use it? And thanks for all the interesting ways you are show us how to make do with what we've got.

How great! Make chowders, gumbos, seafood stews and other seafood-based dishes. Go to our Recipe Finder and search for "seafood stock," with the quotes around it.
Fettuccine With Crab and Asparagus is one example.



I was able to successfully make both the medium-cooked Ramen and the hard-boiled marinated eggs from one of your recent recipes, and they were excellent. I'm wondering how to safely keep a peeled egg in the refrigerator. The article said not to marinade it in soy for more than 12 hours or it gets too salty. Can it be kept in vinegar? Or is it better to just leave the shell on and peel it when used? Thanks.

For the ramen eggs, you can leave them in an airtight container for three days after they've been marinated. Glad you liked them :) 

 

You can do this with boiled eggs as well. You can peel them and put them in an airtight container for three days in the refrigerator. I find it best to refrigerate them in a single layer.

I have a sourdough starter that seems to be doing well in the fridge and on the counter, but every time I try to bake with it, I end up with something like matzoh or gluten-based building material. I've tried adding less water, more flour, more water, less flour, keeping the mixed dough at a higher temperature, and even adding sugar as a very last resort. I know it's not the yeast, because the starter remains active and my friend who gave it to me has made bread successfully. What am I doing wrong?

You're already on the right track with a willingness to keep experimenting but gluten-based building material -- that is rough. Maybe the starter is not quite ready? Does it bubble? Does the leaven you make from it float in water if you pinch off a bit? Those are some signs that your starter is prospering. I might take it way down -- until there's maybe just a tablespoon left -- then add three or so tablespoons of water and flour, and see if it can build back up. Then, it might be time to evaluate your recipe. Sometimes denser breads come from overkneading, old flour, or for many other reasons. If your friend is having good luck with her starter, perhaps you could start again with a new bit from her? Onward and good luck. . .

I want to get on the baking train but there’s no flour at the store. I do have a bag of almond flour. What could I bake? I have 6 eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder

A great time to get familiar with searching our Recipe Finder. :)

Do you have butter (and hopefully white chocolate)? I would suggest this!

Warm Blondie Pudding Cake

RECIPE: Warm Blondie Pudding Cake

Or these?

Banana Cookies

RECIPE: Banana Cookies

Thanks for having bread experts on hand. I've been learning and practicing for a couple years now, and am slowly growing more confident -- even as I realize how much I have yet to learn. Two questions: (1) Can any dough be shaped into rounds and/or rolls? Or are there specific recipe elements I should look for before deciding to do something different than a bread pan? (2) I have a multigrain recipe that I've tweaked and gotten "just right" -- most of the time. But, it has a fairly high hydration/wet dough, so kneading I use a "pull up and fold" sort of kneading. It works well most of the time, but just when I get confident, I end up with loaves that dome well in the pan, then collapse in the oven. The taste is still OK, but they are flat or even cratered on top.

If they collapse, you're overproofing. Start there. Bread baking is a skill; it takes time and practice to get it right. Fortunately, there are a lot of delicious recipes for left over bread. 

I loved yesterday's recipe. I skipped the blending step and it turned out just fine. I also added crunchy bread crumbs on top.

This one? It IS amazing :)

Greens Mac and Cheese

 

Joe, I am looking forward to getting your bean cookbook. I agree, beans are really good news for cooking, especially at times like these. The other good news is that everybody and their uncle seems to think similarly which leads us to bad news: no dried beans to be found on the grocery shelves! (or pasta, rice, etc.).

Yes, bean sales have been off the charts, it's true. Even the online purveyors have been overwhelmed: My favorite, Rancho Gordo, is taking several weeks to get shipments ready, but, you know what, it's worth putting in an order now and enjoying those beans when they arrive! I've got an order coming soon (I hope). I also just got a few pounds from Camellia in Louisiana, which is out of some varieties but has others in stock. Even Kalustyan's, one of my favorite stores in NYC and a great mail-order source for beans, spices, teas, so many other dried goods, has a note on their website saying they've stopped taking all online orders until they catch up! And I just placed an order at Timeless Natural Food because they have black chickpeas back in stock! I love these -- have a recipe for black chickpea hummus in my book that I adore, and want to be able to make it. Timeless is a great source of mostly fabulous lentils, but these chickpeas are so wonderful, too. 

Bob's Red Mill is out of stock of all dried beans on its website, but I see black beans at Gustiamo.com. 

The other thing, though: Sometimes smaller markets will surprise you. In DC, for example, I found lots of things a couple of weeks ago at an Italian market that were sold out at bigger stores. Plenty of pasta, rice, and beans! The lesson: Keep looking, and be prepared to buy when you find them!

Because all the "regular" AP flour is gone everywhere, I snapped bought some fancy/expensive organic Spelt white flour and some whole wheat Einkorn flour. The internet tells me I can use them as I normally would in my bread (sourdough) but I can't seem to figure out their gluten content/percent so I'm wary of how the dough will come out. Also how can I expect white Spelt to behave in things like cookies/muffins when compared to my "regular" AP KAF? thank you guys!!!

I am not sure about cakes/cookies, but have had terrific luck with spelt in sourdough bread. It's serious stuff -- more like a whole wheat for sure -- but really flavorful. . .

I am not suggesting people go on a quest and visit numerous places but you may be surprised what turns up at little mom and pop markets. If you have one nearby worth a look. At ours obviously the owner knows a guy because he's got diverted restaurant items. I found a pound package of bakery yeast and our Easter dinner was a filet mignon roast (for the price of a regular pot roast). Oh, and the line was all of three people.

So true!

Hi, I bought a beautiful triple berry pie to support a local bakery. And, it's sour, so sour that no amount of vanilla ice cream could make it palatable. It has a beautiful crust, fresh berries and I don't want to waste it. So, it's in the freezer. Do you have any suggestions as to how we can save it? I mean, other than blending it with two gallons of ice cream that is. Thanks!

There's always a Piecakan 

Hello! I recently purchased some buckwheat flour thinking it was a type of wheat only later to discover it was not, if I have already started my sourdough starter with all purpose flour, can I add buckwheat flour? In addition any buckwheat baking recipes?

Here are a few baking recipes.

Chocolate Chip-Mocha Scones With Cacao Nibs

RECIPE: Chocolate Chip-Mocha Scones With Cacao Nibs

Buckwheat and Fig Thumbprints

RECIPE: Buckwheat and Fig Thumbprints

You might also like this buckwheat primer from one of our former copy editors.

These delicious recipes are the way to go, but I think the buckwheat probably will do better staying away from your sourdough starter. . .

Can "extra" sourdough starter be added to a compost pile? Or just to the soil?

You can absolutely add it to compost. Not sure about going right in the soil -- I mean, I can't imagine it's going to hurt much of anything, but if you've got a compost pile that's better.

Thanks for the article on the shelf life of condiments. What about store bought kimchi? I had assumed that would last a while as it was fermented, but when I checked the sell by date on my jar, I was surprised to see it was considered long past the due date. Does it change if you drain the brine for use in a recipe?

Kimchi lasts indefinitely! But, the older it gets, the funkier it gets, so maybe instead of putting super old kimchi into a grilled cheese or eat it straight out of a jar, you might want to make kimchi jigae with it (a stew-soup --> a stoup!) sort of thing?

Happy Wednesday! Like everyone else on Planet Earth, I've began growing a starter. It's been about 2 weeks of regular feedings, and it's certainly alive. My question is, when do I know when it's "ready" to start baking with? At what point will it start lending the sourdough flavor to my bakes?

For those who would like to do this, check out Cathy Barrow's piece on how to get going: How to make your own sourdough starter for bread, pancakes, waffles and more


Drop a tablespoon of starter in a bowl of water. Does it float? You're ready. Happy baking.

hi, no matter what I do my pork chops are hard and rubbery. what tips do you have to make them tender and juicy. thanks.

We've all been there! I like to sear the chops in a hot skillet, then remove them, build a sauce or glaze and add the chops back into the pan to finish cooking by poaching them, so they don't dry out. If you're using an instant-read thermometer, don't let the chops get over 140-145 degrees before removing them from the pan -- the temperature will rise a bit while they rest so they end up just right. Check out Becky's guide to thick and thin chops here.

Apple Cider Glazed Pork Chops

RECIPE: Apple Cider Glazed Pork Chops

Last two times, the store was out of AP flour. All they had left was gluten free flour. I skipped it last time, but I'm almost out -- do I need to know anything if I sub in GF flour. (This would probably be more for cookies and pastries than bread, if it matters.)

Our family has a lot of favorite Washington Post recipes, many of which haven't been mentioned in awhile, so I wanted to share. Thank you for all you do. Stay healthy all! The first one was from when we still ate fish, the rest are vegetarian. All hits with the entire family:

Tomato and Smoked Salmon Pasta

Green Pancakes With Lime Butter

Red Whole Wheat Penne

30-Minute Red Lentil Soup

Korean Soft Tofu Stew

Roasted Chickpea and Broccoli Burritos

Walnut Tacos

Gingery Tofu Sliders

Cheese and Egg "Meatballs" in Tomato Sauce

Chocolate Benne Wafers

Wow! What a list. Thanks for sharing!

Hi all,

We had a great chat today. Everyone is still baking up a storm. So many great questions about bread. We got to as many as we could.

If we didn't get to your question this week about bread or anything else, please come back next Wednesday at noon for our regular weekly chat.

We'll do our best to get to it them.

Thanks again for joining us today.

In This Chat
Ann Maloney
Ann Maloney is the Food team recipes editor.
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and author of "Cool Beans." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Eliza McGraw
Eliza McGraw is the author of "Here Comes Exterminator!" as well as two academic books. She wrote about her sourdough starter for The Washington Post.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining.
Kari Sonde
Kari Sonde is the Food editorial aide.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer at the Post.
Olga Massov
Massov is a Food team assignment editor.
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