Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #142
Change Your Headline
I wish that I could take credit for this next paragraph, but no I can't. I don't know the original author, but a friend posted in on Facebook today, and it's important, especially now.
Sometimes I just want it to stop. We talk of Covid, protests, looting, brutality, and lose our way. We become convinced that this "new normal" is real life.
But then, I met an 87-year old who talks of living through polio, diptheria, Vietnam, protests, and yet is still enchanted with life. He seemed surprised when I said that 2020 must be especially challenging for him. "No," he said, slowly looking me straight in the eyes. "I learned a long time ago to not see the world through the printed headlines; I see the world through the people that surround me. I see the world with the realization that we love big. Therefore, I just choose to write my own headlines. 'Husband loves wife today.' 'Family drops everything to come to Grandma's bedside."
He patted my hand. "Old man makes a new friend." His words collide with my worries, freeing them from the tether I had been holding tight. They float away. I am left with a renewed spirit.
My headline now reads "Woman overwhelmed by the spirit of kindness and the reminder that our capacity to love is never-ending."
With that, I'm ready to begin. 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.
Glass Pans vs. Metal Pans
"Linda, I thought the flapjack lesson from last week was quite interesting. I wonder how they came to be called flapjacks? They're nothing like pancakes. With regard to your alternate recipe, I'm curious as to why you recommend a metal baking pan over glass. Do tell!"
Shauna, I love this part of my "job." There's actually a science to cooking and baking and the budget analyst in me (what I used to do for actual money) needs/wants precision. Here's why I recommended a metal pan instead of glass.
- Glass is not the best conductor of heat, but once it gets hot, it holds onto that heat. That's why we use glass/ceramic for casseroles, lasagne, etc. (things that we want to stay hot).
- On the other hand, metal, especially aluminum, is great at conducting heat. It heats up quickly. The inverse is also true—it releases heat faster than glass or ceramic.
So why does that matter with the recipe I shared for bar cookies? They are quite thin, mostly sugar (oh yum!) and if baked in glass would continue to bake and bake and bake after you remove them from the oven. The interior might survive, but the edges corners would be rendered tooth-breakingly hard. I hope that helps.
Source: The Kitchn
Recipe for a Bakewell Tart
And, I received another question about last week's article on British flapjacks (which are a bar cookie, not an American pancake).
"Back to your lovely Hub. I like flapjacks, but they are too sweet. The old sugar problem, although I have had them done with honey, I believe. Pret a Manger do a Bakewell Tart, which is about the same size and shape but really nice! Can you make a Bakewell Tart?"
Manatita, when I first read "Bakewell tart" I was absolutely clueless. So I did a Google search and my first hit was a recipe by King Arthur Flour (an American supplier of flours, baking ingredients and mixes, cookbooks, and baked goods). They offered an almond/jam tart. That sounded very like a recipe I had shared on Hub Pages several years ago, but with apricots instead of jam.
That was my mistake. When I wrote back to Manatita, I called it a mere "jam tart", and that is not what King Arthur shared on their website. King Arthur's recipe has a buttery shortbread crust, and yes, it has jam, but in between the two is a frangipane (almond cream). So, my dear friend, check out this link from King Arthur, and also my recipe. I'd love to hear back from you.
How/Why Did Agave Syrup Improve My Bread?
"I've been making my own whole wheat bread for some time now (3 or 4 years) and was disappointed at how fast it goes dry and crumbly. I'm vegan so I don't use egg in the recipe but I do use flax seed. I tried double bagging it, freezing it, buttering the top after baking... nothing helped until I stumbled on it last week. Instead of using sugar, I used agave nectar, a couple of tablespoons, and left all the other ingredients the same. The difference has been amazing. It stays soft and spongy for a week or so which is a great improvement over the next day dry loaf I hated before. Can you tell me why that happened? I wouldn't have thought sugar would have been a drying factor. I'm happy but stumped."
Denise, this is another fun one—there are different types of sugars.
First, a glossary and a little bit of science:
- Sugar is hygroscopic—what does that mean? It seeks out water molecules and, when it finds them, it holds onto them.
- Monosaccharide is a simple (single) sugar
- Disaccharide is a complex (double) sugar
- Sucrose is the scientific name for table sugar. Table sugar is a disaccharide, made up of the simple sugars glucose and fructose.
- Glucose is most often found in the pantry as corn syrup. It inhibits the formation of crystals and so is often used in making candy, in sweetening homemade ice cream, or in any other product that needs a non-grainy texture.
- Fructose is fruit sugar found in many fruits, honey, and agave syrup. It is very sweet, and it attracts moisture even more than sucrose.
So how does all of this relate to Denise’s soft, moist, tender bread? The old recipe contained brown sugar (part glucose and part fructose). When she replaced the brown sugar with agave syrup, she had 100 percent fructose which holds onto moisture even more than table sugar.
Which Salt To Use In Canning (and Why)
"Another great edition and we all appreciate you putting these together. I also have a question pertinent for later toward the canning season: if I’m using 1 cup of salt for a recipe, does it matter if it’s table salt or canning salt or pickling salt? If yes, why? If not, then what’s the difference? It seems some recipes are very specific about salt type but I never understood why."
Greg, I'm glad you asked about salt. Just as with sugar, not all salts are created equal. You asked about table, canning, and pickling salts. Here's the scoop on each one of them (and a few more that you didn't ask about just for fun):
Table salt: This is the standard recipe salt. It’s fine-grained and contains anti-caking agents and (often) iodine. Use it in cooking and baking, where precise measurements and consistent grain and strength are required.
Canning salt and pickling salt (synonymous): This is 100 percent pure salt without anti-caking additives or iodine. Those additives (which you will find in table salt) will make your brine cloudy or murky (not a pretty look). It has fine grains and so dissolves quickly. That is also why canning/pickling salt should not be used in a recipe that recommends table salt. Size matters. We’ll cover that in detail under the segment for Kosher salt, OK?
Rock salt: The huge crystals of this salt make it unsuitable for cooking or baking (they won’t fully dissolve). But that is exactly why rock salt is used for making ice cream or de-icing sidewalks. Note (and this is really important) that industrial-grade rock salt sold at hardware stores (for de-icing) is not food grade.
Crystalline sea salt: This one is a by-product of evaporating seawater, available in fine and coarse grains, prized for its pure flavor. Use in baking (fine grain) or cooking (coarse grain).
Grey Salt: Most comes from Brittany where the clay soil lends a grey tinge. The trace minerals give it a complex flavor. Use as a finishing salt.
Fleur de Sel: Expensive and worth the cost. These crystals, like snowflakes, form on the top of salt flats and achieve a delicate texture from the breezes that blow across them. Use by sprinkling on your finest foods (such as aged steak, heirloom tomatoes, or a salad of baby greens with artisanal oil and aged balsamic vinegar) just before serving. The instant they touch your tongue they explode with flavor--think of them as Nature's pop-rocks.
Kosher Salt: The go-to salt for chefs who appreciate the lack of additives and the coarse grain (to get a “pinch”). Use it to season anything cooked in a saucepan or sauté pan. You won’t need to use as much as table salt. But oh, the controversy!
In the United States, there are two major manufacturers of Kosher salt, Morton and Diamond Crystal. They are not interchangeable, nor can they be used 1:1 in place of table salt. As explained by Taste.com:
"A cup of Morton is nearly twice as salty as Diamond Crystal. Its thin crystals, made by pressing salt granules in high-pressurized rollers, are much denser than those of Diamond Crystal, which uses a patented pan-evaporation process, called the Alberger method, that results in pyramidal crystals. While different brands of fine sea salts and table salts generally have around the same weight by volume, kosher salts do not. “And it’s not only the weight,” says Lalli Music. “Morton is a coarser salt. It takes a little longer to dissolve.” So even at the same weight, it actually performs differently. It’s easier to add too much of the slow-dissolving Morton salt because it may not have fully liquefied when you’ve tasted something."
My friend Kenji of Serious Eats analyzed the various types of salt and weighed them carefully. Here's a table of his findings.
Type of Salt
10 ounces, 280 g
2/3 ounce, 18 g
Morton Kosher Salt
8 ounces, 225 g
1/2 ounce, 14 g
Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
5 ounces, 140 g
1/3 ounce, 9 g
Maldon Sea Salt
4 ounces, 115 g
1/4 ounce, 7 g
Fleur de Sel
8 ounces, 225 g
1/2 ounce, 14 g
What does this mean? For example, if you have a recipe that calls for Morton Kosher salt, and all that you have on hand is table salt, you will need to use half of the amount of salt prescribed. If you use a standard 1:1 substitution your dish will be much too salty!
How Can I Jazz Up My Yogurt?
"I recently read an article about making yogurt at home. Do you have any suggestions to jazz it up with either toppings or flavorings? I don't always want to eat just plain yogurt."
Mary, this is such a fun topic. My husband eats yogurt almost every morning for breakfast. He likes to put a hefty portion of honey-almond granola on top. That's an easy fix, of course, but I'm guessing you are looking for something with fewer calories. I put on my thinking cap and came up with a sampling of sweet and savory options (or am I the only person in the world who doesn't want sweets?)
bananas and maple syrup
honey and walnuts
cornflakes and fresh berries
honey, orange juice and zest, pistachios, crystallized ginger
honey, chopped almonds, apricots
blueberries, sugar, lemon zest
bananas, cinnamon, chopped peanuts
Pine nuts and sundried tomatoes (oil packed)
Basil pesto and Parmesan
Bacon bits and tomato
Black olives and diced avocado
Diced cucumber and fresh dill weed
herbs, sea salt, and fruity olive oil
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.
© 2020 Linda Lum