- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Q: I want to make a recipe for coconut macaroons, but it calls for unsweetened coconut, and I can’t find any at the supermarket. Can you recommend a source?

A: Unsweetened coconut is available at many health-food stores.

Q: Why did my yellow cake layers rise to a point in the center? It was difficult to stack them to make the finished cake, so I trimmed them. Is there any way to avoid this waste in the future?

A: Cake layers that dome in the center frequently have too much flour in proportion to the other ingredients in the recipe. Try measuring the flour by gently spooning it into a dry-measure cup instead of scooping up with the cup, and you should get better results next time.

Q: I have a devil’s-food-cake recipe that I’ve always been hesitant to try because it calls for adding a cup of boiling water to the batter at the end. Is this a real recipe?

A: Yes, absolutely. Devil’s-food-cake batters often have a hot liquid such as boiling water or hot coffee added during mixing or at the end. Your recipe is a classic.

Q: What is mascarpone cheese? Is there a substitute?

A: Mascarpone is a rich Italian cream cheese made by heating cream and lightly coagulating it with an acid. There really isn’t a 100 percent substitute, although cream cheese is similar. These days, both imported and domestic brands of mascarpone are widely available in supermarkets.

Q: Every time I make a lemon meringue pie, the meringue winds up an island floating on top of the filling. What am I doing wrong?

A: When you place the whipped meringue on top of the pie, make sure it touches and adheres to the inside edge of the crust all around. This should anchor the meringue and prevent it from floating free.

Q: I made some chocolate truffles recently, but they didn’t turn out well. The recipe called for semisweet chocolate, so I used 1-ounce squares of semisweet chocolate. Should I have tried a different chocolate?

A: Semisweet chocolate in 1-ounce squares is fine for general baking, especially when the chocolate is combined with other ingredients, such as sugar, eggs, butter and flour. When you make truffles, however, the flavor of the chocolate is less diluted, so you need to use a premium chocolate. Look for this in the candy aisle, rather than in the baking aisle. There are many brands of domestic and imported premium chocolate available in most stores.

Q: I like to bake white bread in loaf pans, but every recipe I try turns out too sweet. Can I reduce the sugar without adjusting anything else in the recipe?

A: You may reduce the sugar to a minimum, say, 1 tablespoon, and have the bread turn out just as well.

Q: I recently added some rum to a recipe for chocolate ice cream. The taste was good, but the ice cream stayed soft. What should I have done to get the right texture?

A: In ice cream formulas, sugar and alcohol inhibit freezing. This is a good thing up to a point, since we want ice cream to be creamy, not frozen solid like an ice cube. Try increasing the amount of liquid (milk or cream) and slightly decreasing the amount of sugar to compensate for the addition of the rum.


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