Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Cooking, & Recipes, #79
If One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
... this article will top out at over 11,000 words. My friend Bill (billybuc) writes such inspiring introductions to his Mailbag each week. I know I could never thumb-wrestle him and win in that category, so I'll cheat and toss in a few recent pics from my (finally!) springtime garden as an introduction to today's Mailbox. Spring is my favorite season. It makes me happy, my spirits are lifted, and I write with a smile on my face.
So, let's open the mailbox.
Why Does My Bread Dough Collapse?
The first question came to me anonymously on my article "How to Make a Perfect Loaf of Bread."
"Why does my dough deflate when it goes into the oven?"
Without knowing more (for example, what type of flour are you using, how long did you knead the dough, etc.) it is difficult to troubleshoot your problem. My guess is that the dough was allowed to proof (rise) for too long.
Think of the raw dough as a balloon that needs to be inflated. The yeast gives off gas which inflates the dough, but it is possible to allow TOO much gas, creating an environment that stretches the gluten strands beyond what they can reasonably support. Be sure to use the two-finger method of testing your proofed dough. If the dough has been allowed to proof for too long (I understand, sometimes life happens), gently punch down the risen dough and start over, allowing it to proof a second time.
Our second question is from Shauna Bowling (Brave Warrior).
How Does Lemon Juice Work As a Substitute for Cream of Tartar?
I knew you could substitute corn syrup for cream of tartar, but had no idea lemon juice is also an option. How does the lemon juice act as a thickener?
Shauna, cream of tartar isn't really a thickener, it's a stabilizer. Cream of tartar is an acid, specifically tartaric acid, a byproduct of wine production, a residue left in the barrels. When added to egg whites, it boosts the strength of the individual air bubbles and slows down their tendency to deflate. When added to simple syrup, it prevents sugar’s natural tendency to re-bond and form crystals.
But in baking, when combined with baking soda, it creates carbon dioxide gas. It's the acid/soda experiment of our middle school days (remember the vinegar + baking soda volcano?).
How to Clean off Gummy Latex Residue
I've got a bit of a sticky question for you. Literally! I have a sapodilla tree here at my house. It has now replaced bananas as my favorite fruit. The problem is the latex gummy goo that is left behind on my knife when I cut it. I know this used to be an ingredient in chewing gum but is there a way to remove the peel without gumming up utensils?
Mary, your question is one of the many reasons that I love writing this weekly column. Just when I think I've seen it all, heard it all, answered it all, someone (often you) comes up with a new challenge.
I learned that the sapodilla tree (Manikara zapota) originated in the Yucatan where it was originally favored for its sap. It's that sap (chicle) that puts the chew in chewing gum. But the Mayans used it not as gum, but to clean their teeth and to act as a filling for dental cavities.
You have found that the trees also produce an incredibly sweet, fuzzy brown (like a kiwi) fruit. Here's what I learned about the tree and its fruits:
- A mature tree produces about 2,000 (8 bushels) of fruit.
- They are evergreen (they don't lose their leaves).
- Sapodillas are saltspray-, wind-, and drought-tolerant.
- They have a lifespan of 100 years or more.
- DON'T EAT THE SEEDS OR SKIN
- The fruits are full of vitamins A and C, low in calories (83 per fruit), and rich in dietary fiber.
- Sapodilla fruit is also a great source of nutrients including potassium, copper, iron, folate, and niacin.
- They are reported to help lower blood pressure
- The fruit must not be picked until it is very ripe (when ripe the latex level is very low)
I wonder if that last item on the list might be part of the problem? It sounds as though the amount of goo goes down when the sugars go up.
I could not locate any information on cleaning up after dissecting sapodilla fruit, but there are several articles online about coping with the latex mess from jackfruit. Could they be the same, or at least have enough similarities that the jackfruit methods might help? How to Clean Stuff suggests using coconut oil to remove the stickiness, and even applying some to the knife and cutting board as a preventative.
If all else fails, watch this video on how to open the fruit without using a knife.
Homemade Potato Chips
You also raised an idea of potatoes. I don't buy stuff as potato chips. I hear tell that baking/frying them and other good things is quite healthy and fun. Mine are burnt or mushy. Bend my ear on this would you.
Eric, you are on the right track. Store-bought potato chips (our friends across the pond call them crisps) are fried in oil and over-salted. They don't really taste like potatoes at all. Yes, we can all do better than that, and yes you can make them at home. Here's what you need to do:
- Use russet potatoes. Not Yukon golds, not white or red or fingerling. Russets only. (They might also be called baking potatoes or Idaho potatoes).
- Don't peel the potatoes.
- Slice them VERY thinly. Each slice must be no more than 1/8-inch in width. If you have patience and a sharp knife you can do this by hand. Cut your potato in half (so that you have a flat surface to place on the cutting board) and then start slicing. Carefully.
Or, you can run them through a food processor with a slicing blade.
Or, you can use a mandoline. No, not the stringed musical instrument. In this case, a mandoline is an adjustable slicer across which you horizontally slide your potatoes. They are extremely sharp and even more dangerous. I have one and it scares me half to death. I do use it on rare occasions but most of the time it hides in the back of my utensil drawer.
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. and line one or more large rimmed baking sheets (I use a 15x10-inch jellyroll pan) with parchment paper.
- Toss the potato slices with olive oil, about 1 tablespoon per large potato.
- Spread in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Season as desired.
Eric, I've read that you can also prepare potato chips in the microwave. Obviously, you are limited to probably 6 to 8 chips per "batch" but they cook pretty quickly—2 1/2 to 4 minutes is the guestimate. Here's a link to the recipe.
How to Dry Meat and Veggies without a Dehydrator
Do you know anything about dehydrating veggies/meat without a dehydrator, for camping or other outdoor activities? How long does it take, best practices, is it possible to dehydrate cooked meat/veggies, etc.?
Hi Rinita, and welcome back. You've been missed. Coincidently, I'm in the midst of writing an article on jerky and dehydrating meats. And I'm happy to tell you that you don't need a dehydrator to preserve your foods. Although it takes a bit longer, you can achieve almost identical results with your oven. Here's how:
- Set your oven to its lowest setting (mine goes down to 170ºF).
- The optimal temperature for dehydrating is 120°F-140°F for fruits and vegetables and 140°F-160°F for meats. This means that you will need to keep your oven door slightly ajar to (1) maintain a lower oven temperature and (2) allow moisture to escape.
- Slice your food (fruit, vegetables, or meat) about 1/4-inch thick.
- Your goal is to work with foods that are all about the same size. If there are great variations from small to large the pieces will not all dry at the same time.
- Use a large, shallow pan. A rimmed cookie sheet or jellyroll pan works great for this!
- Prepare your pan by lining it with parchment paper or paper towels.
- Place a cooling rack (cake rack) on the pan to elevate your food. You want air circulation around all sides.
- If you are drying fruit, it is best to give it a quick soak in a citric acid solution. Use 3 tablespoons of lime or lemon juice to 1 quart of water. This will keep your fruit from browning (apples, pears, and bananas always turn brown when sliced).
- Most foods will take from 6-12 hours to fully dehydrate (depending on moisture content). When dried, remove from the oven and leave to cool and dry fully for 24 hours.
I was not able to find any information on safely dehydrating food that has been cooked.
Last week I announced that we would begin a new series on the topic "Don't Throw That Away." My good Hub Pages friend Flourish Anyway is the genius behind this idea. As she explained it, we will look at
"... leftover things in the kitchen that we’d ordinarily toss out as trash. Are there alternative uses (in or out of the kitchen)? For example, one week consider used coffee grounds, another week consider leftover egg shells, etc."
I LOVE this idea. It totally fits in with my "let nothing go to waste" upbringing. We'll begin with:
It’s Still Alive – Did you know that some of the groceries you brought home today might still be alive? I’m not talking about a lobster, crab, or sack of clams from the fishmonger. Some of the vegetables that are lingering in your produce bin have the potential to give you more than you thought.
- Green onions – This one is ridiculously easy. Cut off the bottom of your green onions, leaving a little of the white part intact. Place in a container of water in a sunny spot. Change the water every other day and you will be rewarded with new green sprouts that you can harvest again and again.
- Cilantro – Take a stem or stems about 4 inches in length. Place in a glass of water with the leaves well above the waterline. Roots should begin to form in about a week. Once you have good root growth you can plant your baby cilantro into a pot.
- Celery – The bottom of your bunch of celery was attached to a tangle of roots not long ago. Simply place it in a bowl with a tiny bit of water in the bottom. Keep the bowl in direct sunlight. In about a week you should see leaves sprouting from the base.
- Lettuce – If you buy whole lettuce (not bagged prewashed) save the bottom (root end) and place it in a bowl of water. Change the water every few days and within 2 weeks you should see new leaves sprouting on top. You won’t be able to regrow an entire head of lettuce, but you’ll have a few more leaves to enjoy.
OK, so these aren't life-altering suggestions, but if you have little children in your house, they might enjoy seeing a new "garden" springing from things that would have otherwise been discarded.
Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.
The alphabetical soups are listed there as well.
Here's a link to that Table of Contents.
If you like this series, you'll love this! Consider it my gift to you.
I hope that we can continue this food journey together. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address: email@example.com.
And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.
© 2019 Linda Lum