Q: We have recently added a few savory bakery items, but are in unfamiliar territory with some of the equipment needed. How do we choose the best chef’s knife?
Elena, via email
A: Knives are a piece of art, so take your time when buying one. Don’t be afraid to try different models and manufacturers, but stay away from “cheap” knives. Try knives with weights between 6 and 11.25 ozs. (170 to 320 g). Handle shapes, length of handle and how the knife is balanced also are important.
Q: How do we achieve a brittle, meringue-like surface on a brownie? Our brownies have a matte appearance.
Lucy, via email
A: The delicate, crisp crust results from not only blending beaten eggs into melted chocolate, but vigorously beating them, creating a meringuey effect when baked. If you want more of a matte finish and a less-brittle brownie, don’t beat the ingredients, just blend them.
Q: Is powdered pectin interchangeable with liquid pectin?
Alida, via email
A: No, they are not interchangeable, and you should use only the type called for in your formula. The liquid version is always added after boiling, while most types of powdered are added to the raw fruit or juice at the beginning of the production process.
Q: We bought a large quantity of paprika a few months ago, and it has lost most of its color. Is this normal?
S.W., Hamburg N.Y.
A: Paprika is light sensitive and needs to be protected against direct exposure to sunlight and fluorescent lights. It should be stored in a cool, dry place that is no warmer than 68°F (20°C) and a relative humidity under 60 percent. If possible, cold storage, 32°F to 45°F (0°C to 7°C), is best. At temperatures of 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C), paprika will lose about 1 percent of its color every 10 days. At higher temperatures, color loss is more rapid. In cold storage, however, paprika’s color loss is reduced to one-half percent every 10 days and can be stored with minimal color loss for six months.
Q: Baby blue and pinkish eggs are the new craze in our town. Are these natural or have they been colored?
P.Y., Sheboygan, Wis.
A: The Cuckoo Maran hen lays deep cocoa-colored eggs, the Plymouth Rock hen lays pinkish ones and the Ameraucana and Araucana hens lay a range from pale celadon to rich baby blue eggs. Much research has been done on the nutritional benefit on these eggs, but I like them for their appearance, especially when used as a whole hard-boiled egg.
Dr. Klaus Tenbergen is certified as a Master Baker in Germany, South Africa and the United States. He is currently an assistant professor at California State University in Fresno, directing the Culinology® program, which blends culinary arts and the science of food. For more information about Culinology®, or to submit a question, contact Dr. Tenbergen at email@example.com.