all your questions are belong to us

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I’m not going to lie: I have barely cooked in a week. I’ve been having too much fun being busy, catching up with friends, double-booking every evening, shuffling together some hopeful freelance projects, eating out in fantastic place after place after place, and oh, right, there’s the day job thing too! Fear not, this no-cooking spell will probably not last another 12 hours as not only am I itching for a home-cooked meal but I also want to start in on the goodies I have in mind for our nation’s birthday. In the meantime I thought today would be the perfect time to launch something Alex has been nudging me to add to this site for 11 months now: Q&A.

Anyone who has ever emailed me knows that I am either horrible, I mean, downright embarrassing in my tardy or non-existent responses, or flood you with so much information, it’s really a shame I didn’t just share it with everyone. Namely, or at least publicly, I’m hoping to address the latter and start a new segment for answering questions asked over email. But, while I’m flattered that you all think I’m so smaht about kitchen stuff, I’m actually not, and encourage others to chime in with their answers, as well. We’re all in this together, right?

Q: From Adina, who in addition to making me blush with her flowing praise of the “Skyscraper Cake” she made this weekend, asked: “I’d love a post on ‘simple kitchen’ techniques that everyone assumes we dummies in the kitchen know. Like “how do you cut the parchment/wax paper to fit the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan perfectly?”

A: A-ha! I finally sorted this one out myself this winter, when I was on a snowflake-making bender. Grab a square of parchment paper that is at least the size of your round pan (you can double up if you’ll need two), fold, fold, fold until you get in eighths, snip across the ends until you have a piece that matches the size of the underside of your cake pan. You might need to fold and unfold a few times, but I find this far easier, somehow, than outlining the circumference of the pan with a pencil. Mostly because I never have pencils around. Look, I even made you/us a diagram with Microsoft Paint!

Q: Adina, part two: “I followed your recipe to the ‘T’ and had muffin toppage on the cake and had to trim slightly, how come yours looked so pretty?”

A: Amen! Major pet peeve alert: recipes that are not specific about how much you should fill the pan. “Divide batter evenly among twelve muffin cups” or “two loaf pans” doesn’t help me when I so often want make minis instead. Two-thirds to three-quarters is a good rule of thumb for cakes and muffins, but I’ve done this and created one 12-part muffin-mass and, other times, had flat, sad-looking cupcakes that could have used more batter. My two-layer chiffon looked pretty because I lucked out. Just the same, I’m surprised your 9-inch cakes ran over so much… perhaps my egg whites got more deflated than yours did. Anyone else want to wager a guess?

Q: My turn! Every year, my mother-in-law brings us bags and bags of gooseberries from her backyard, and as for what to make with them, your guess is as good as mine. Any inspirations?

[Send your kitchen-related questions to thesmitten at gmail dot com and I’ll round them again real soon.]

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