- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Q: My New Year’s resolution is to bake bread every week. I have had failures in the past, though. Do you have any advice for the novice bread baker?

A: First of all, buy an instant-read thermometer. Many fail at bread making because they dissolve the yeast in water that’s too hot, and the yeast dies immediately. Also, use the thermometer to test the temperature of the baked loaf, which should be higher than 190 degrees. This method is more reliable than tapping on the loaf to determine doneness.

Q: My aunt makes a wonderful lemon chess pie with a custard filling. What does the name come from?

A: Chess may be a corruption of “cheese.” In the past, especially in England, where such pies originated, the term cheese was used to describe many coagulated or set foods, not only those made from milk.

Q: I want to make some orange marmalade, but I can’t find Seville oranges.

Can I substitute ordinary oranges?

A: No. Seville oranges, used for marmalade, are a special variety of bitter oranges that are only in season for a short time at the beginning of the year. Mail-order sources for sweet oranges may point you in the right direction. They are grown in Florida, Arizona and Texas, among other places.

Q: Are brioche and challah the same thing?

A: Brioche is a buttery French pastry made with lots of eggs.

Challah, the ritual Jewish Sabbath bread, is similar but is always made with oil, rather than butter. It is nondairy so that it may be served with a meat meal.

Q: I make white pan bread a few times a month, and I usually get good results. Sometimes the loaves just don’t rise as high as they do other times, though. What could be the problem?

A: If the dough rises well after mixing, the loaves should rise well in the pan and in the oven. If you cut the initial rising time short, the dough will not rise as well after it is shaped into loaves or while it is baking.

Q: What’s the best way to salvage a cracked cheesecake?

A: Try spreading a thin layer of sweetened whipped cream on top and shaking some cocoa or cookie crumbs on the whipped-cream surface. This will cover the cracks, and no one will be the wiser.


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