- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Q: Every time I bake a cheesecake it sinks in the middle. I don’t understand why this is happening because I make sure a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean before I remove the cake from the oven.

A: Your cheesecake is sinking because it is overbaked. Most cheesecakes should have centers, about an inch in diameter, that are still liquid when they are removed from the oven. The heat retained by the cake will finish baking the center, and the top won’t sink from overbaking.

Q: I love to make baking-powder biscuits, but I can’t find self-rising flour where I live. What can I substitute?

A: Self-rising flour has salt and baking powder added to it. And the typical Southern brands for making biscuits tend to have a lower protein content than regular all-purpose flour. To make self-rising flour, add a teaspoon of baking powder and a teaspoon of salt to every cup of bleached all-purpose flour. To make a close approximation of the Southern flour, use 3/4 cup bleached all-purpose flour and cup cake flour.

Q: My local bakery makes a strawberry shortcake with sponge cake layers. Is that the correct way to make it?

A: Traditional strawberry shortcakes are made with a sweet, rich version of a baking-powder biscuit, buttered and filled with strawberries and cream while still warm. This is perfect for the family table but not easy to make for retail sale. Many bakeries bake a light cake and fill it with whipped cream and strawberries.

When these cakes are well made, they’re very good, but strawberry shortcake they’re not.

Q: I have a great recipe for a lemon pound cake with icing, but it’s difficult to get the icing to cover the whole cake. What am I doing wrong?

A: Probably nothing. Maybe you should make half again the amount of the icing next time, and you’ll probably get much better results covering the cake.

Q: My brownies often turn out dry, yet whenever I eat a brownie that someone else has made, it’s always moist and fudgy. I’ve even tried recipes from friends who make good brownies, but mine are always the same.

A: I think you need to bake the brownies less. A perfectly baked pan of brownies is slightly puffed, crusted on the top and still soft but no longer liquid in the center when lightly pressed with a fingertip.

A toothpick inserted into the baked brownies will emerge with some wet batter clinging to it. Bake brownies for a shorter period, and I guarantee they will be better.

Q: The other day I baked small tartlets that were made with a sweet dough and an almond filling topped with fruit.

The fruit and filling were baked through, but when I unmolded the tartlets, the bottom crusts were still sticky. Could I have done something to prevent this?

A: Yes, place the miniature tart pans on a thin jellyroll pan or cookie sheet. Also, bake the tartlets on the lowest level of the oven where the bottom heat is strongest. These things will help encourage the bottom crusts to bake through.

Q: Are mulberries and blackberries the same thing? They look similar.

A: Mulberries grow on small trees and only fruit once every spring. They are a deep purple color like blackberries but are slightly smaller, sweeter and have no prominent seeds. Blackberries grow in thickets — tangled masses of thorny bushes — and fruit over a fairly long season, depending on the variety.


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