- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Q: How do you make peaches in red wine? Are they cooked together? A: They are easy to make and require no cooking. When I was a child, this was a major feature of peach season, especially toward the end, when we had already eaten the peaches in every other conceivable way.

Here’s what you do: Drop some perfectly ripe peaches into boiling water for a few seconds and slip off the skins. Halve, pit and slice the peaches into thin wedges. Fill large wine glasses 3/4 full of peaches and cover with inexpensive red wine.

Chill for several hours. Serve with a fork to spear the peach slices. Then drink the wine, which is exquisitely perfumed by the peaches.

Q: I like to bake brownies, but they sometimes have a more cakey than fudgy texture. Can anything be done to prevent this?

A: Brownies become cakey when the batter is mixed too much. For fudgy brownies, just stir all the ingredients together — especially the flour — without beating. Overbaking also can result in a dry brownie. Make sure you bake the brownies only until they are firm and no longer liquid when pressed in the center with a fingertip.

Q: I like lemon meringue pie and can make it so the crust and filling are just the way I want. But the meringue always disintegrates within an hour of taking the pie out of the oven.

A friend said the egg whites were overbeaten. Is that true?

A: Meringue usually disintegrates when it is overwhipped. Try combining 4 egg whites and 3/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.

Place over a pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the egg whites are hot and the sugar is dissolved. (Test with a fingertip to be sure.) Whip by machine until cooled and risen in volume but still creamy and flexible. Substitute this meringue, and your pie will be perfect.

Q: What’s the secret to making a good marble cake? Mine tastes great but never has distinctly different colors. It all gets muddled together.

A: You are probably mixing the two batters together too much after placing them in the pan. Try it this way: Spread half the light batter in the prepared pan, followed by half the dark batter.

Repeat. Insert a table knife or thin-clad spatula and dig down to the bottom of the pan and up again an inch to the right, as though you were folding egg whites into the batter.

Continue around the pan until you reach the starting point or the end of the pan. That’s all. The two batters will be beautifully marbled together when you cut into the cake.

Q: Why did my baking powder biscuits turn out like rocks? I followed the recipe exactly.

A: Overhandling the dough can toughen delicate biscuits. Also make sure your baking powder isn’t too old. It can lose potency. Baking powder cans carry an expiration date on the bottom. Check your baking powder to see if it’s still fresh.

Q: Everyone’s talking about artisanal breads. Are they just rustic-style breads?

A: Not necessarily. Artisanal breads are made from fresh, often organically grown ingredients and don’t contain dough conditioners or other convenience products used in large-quantity bread making. Also, loaves are formed by hand, not by machine.

Many formulas for artisanal breads use small amounts of yeast and prolonged fermentation to impart flavor to the baked bread. This is an expensive process because it means that the bread takes longer to produce. So it stands to reason that the bakery will produce less bread.

Q: Isn’t artificial vanilla flavor just as good as the real thing? I read that chemically synthesized ethyl vanillin is no different from ethyl vanillin in real vanilla.

A: It is true that there’s no difference between ethyl vanillin made in a laboratory and that extracted from real vanilla.

The difference between artificial vanilla and the real thing is a little more complicated.

Real vanilla has several hundred identifiable flavor components, of which ethyl vanillin is just one.

So artificial vanilla gives you less than .5 percent of the flavor of the real thing.




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