Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #116
'Tis the season for a small offering of questions. The mailbox was mostly stuffed with Christmas cards and annual letters and that's fine with me. I've a dinner to prepare and a cat to snatch out of the tree.
So, let's get started with today's mailbox. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.
Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.
I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.
To start, I received two questions about biscuits.
Why Were the Biscuits Dry?
There was no milk (for making biscuits) so I used whipping cream. The biscuits were dry and disappointing. Was whipping cream the culprit?
Megan, I don't think whipping cream made sad biscuits; in fact, cream biscuits is a thing in the South. Without seeing what was going on in the kitchen, I can't be certain what went wrong, but here are some things to keep in mind when making biscuits:
- Don't cut the butter (or margarine) into particles that are too small. You want little clumps of butter, not something the consistency of sand. That's why I never use a food processor to cut the butter into the flour.
- Work with cold ingredients and equipment. A chilled bowl and pastry blender are your friends. The butter should be hard (not room temperature). The easiest way to keep the butter cold but in manageable-size pieces is to grate it on the largest holes of a box vegetable grater.
- Measure your flour by carefully spooning into the cup and then leveling with a knife. Don't dip and scoop. Even better, sift the flour directly into the cup. Too much flour can throw off the ratio of flour:fat.
Soft Wheat Flour and Your "Perfect" Biscuits
This question came from Anonymous who took exception to my article on "How to Make Perfect Biscuits."
"Why don't you recommend soft wheat flour such as White Lily or Martha White?"
That is a very good question; my answer (and I throw myself at your feet in repentance) is that White Lily and Martha White are flours available in the South. I'm a Northern girl and they simply aren't available (or well known) where I live. I must confess that my not using them is not an indictment of them. It is due solely to lack of experience. I did a little reading before answering this and found, lo and behold, that the two that you mentioned are recommended for biscuits. Thank you your question; it's a good contribution to the article.
Are Tomatoes Really Fruits?
Here's another one from Anon.
"There's so much confusion about what is a fruit and what is a vegetable. We tend to think of veggies as the stuff of which salads are made, or maybe that fruits are sweet and veggies are savory?"
Anon., I'm about to turn your world upside-down. Yes, the tomato is a fruit; so are pumpkins, cucumbers, eggplant, and even beans. Flavor has nothing to do with it. Fruits are one of six specific parts of a plant:
- Roots anchor the plant in the ground and conduct moisture in the soil to the rest of the organism. Some have roots that swell and allow the plant to survive in the winter (carrots, radishes, etc.) or in the dry summer months (sweet potatoes).
- Stems (or rhizomes) are another part of the circulation system. They move moisture from the roots to the leaves. They tend to be fibrous (think of celery, asparagus spears, broccoli stems).
- Leaves facilitate the process called photosynthesis; they convert sunshine into energy (food) for the plant.
- The flower is the reproductive part of the plant. If you remember your middle school biology class, you are familiar with pollen (from the male) and ovules which when fertilized become fruits.
- Fruit—finally we're at today's topic. The fruit develops once the plant is pollinated and it contains . . .
- Seeds. That's what makes future generations of plants, and what sets fruits apart. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and all those squashes contain seeds so they are fruits.
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.
Here's a link to that Table of Contents.
I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.
Let's do this again next week. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.