Q: Can you share a method to make a fast and economical lemon curd?
Augustine, via email
A: I found making lemon curd in a microwave is quick and inexpensive.
Ingredients Lbs. Ozs. Metric
Sugar, granulated 1 pint 450 g
Eggs, whole 6 180 g
Lemon juice, fresh 1 pint 450 g
Butter, unsalted 8 225 g
Lemon zest 2 60 g
Total appr. wt. 3 pints 1.365 kg
Method: In a large, microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth and thoroughly combined. Next, whisk in lemon juice, butter and lemon zest. Cook in the microwave on full power at 1-minute intervals, stirring after each minute. The process will take 3 to 5 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave. You will know the lemon curd is done cooking when it coats the back of a metal spoon. Remove from the microwave, cool and use as needed.
Q: We use a lot of honey as a replacement for granulated sugar, but it’s difficult to remove from containers when we’re weighing it. Do you have any tips? D.G., Monterey, Calif.
A: When weighing honey, coat the container with nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil before adding the honey. The honey will slide right out.
Q: How can I add an almond flavor to pastry cream?
B.M., Albuquerque, N.M.
A: Using your favorite pastry cream, measure equal parts of pastry cream and almond paste. Cream the almond paste and gradually whip in the pastry cream until well blended. Use as desired.
Q: We have difficulties removing the cake rings from our refrigerated or frozen cakes. Do you know any tricks that make this task easier?
Louis, via email
A: Heat the cake ring with a propane torch for a few seconds, then pull the ring straight up. Cakes glazed with chocolate or gelee have a tendency to stick to the side of the ring; if this should occur, use a knife to help release the cake from the ring without damaging the cake.
Q: What is a good coffee-to-batter ratio to use when making coffee genoise?
M.C., Lewes, Del.
A: Instant coffee used in a batter will give you a nice coffee flavored cake. I use 1 oz. (30 g) of instant coffee per 5 lbs. (2.25 kg) of batter, added after whipping.
Q: How much bran can we add to our formula and what effect does it have on the dough?
M.R., Bismarck, N.D.
A: Dough with added bran retains more water and needs more kneading time. The bread normally has less volume because bran is not elastic or extensible as other flours. The color is darker because of the carotenes and xanthophylls–pigments in the bran. Therefore, bran should be used between 5 and 20 percent in a formula based on the total flour weight.
Q: We have experienced sugar crystals forming on the side of the bowl while cooking sugar. Is there a way to eliminate the formation of these crystals?
S.M., Red Bank, N.J.
A: Use a copper pot (poêlon) when cooking sugar, and frequently wipe down the sides of the pot with a clean pastry brush dipped in water to prevent crystals from forming. It will take several passes with the brush, but will solve the sugar crystal problem.
Q: How can we offer warm cookies throughout the day?
C.M., Rockford, Ill.
A: Baking smaller batches throughout the day will help you achieve your goal. I recommend you invest in a small commercial food/bread warmer, in which you can store the cookies for short periods of time to keep them warm.
Q: Can you provide some directions for handling phyllo dough? The dough dries out faster then we can handle it.
R.P., Salem, Mass.
A: Most commercial phyllo packaging features good directions for handling the dough. I also recommend keeping the package closed when thawing, usually overnight in the refrigerator. Bring the packaged phyllo to room temperature before opening and unrolling the dough. Cover the unrolled phyllo with a sheet of parchment paper covered with a damp towel to keep it moist. The keys to working with phyllo are to be organized and work quickly.
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.
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.