all your questions are belong to us

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!

how to cut a circle

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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57 comments on all your questions are belong to us

  1. Jessica

    mmm… fresh gooseberries- I wish we had a pick-your-own place for them in Massachusetts.
    I’ve never cooked with them- they don’t last long enough in my house :)
    … but let us know if you do use them in your cooking- I’d love to read about it!!


    This was my favorite fruit to photograph at the Greenmarket in Union Sq. 2 weeks ago! (yes, I woke up at 6 am on the day of the Mermaid Day Parade. eek.)

    Gooseberries are best after you’ve made a puree with them. Although I would agree that treating them like berries for shortcake, crisps, buckles, and cobblers (just to name a few. heh) is a great idea, although they might not stay together under the pressure of he heat.

    Of course you can also make fresh purees and make the famous gooseberry fool. Or pass the coulis and get a base for a coctail, gelee, or a, dare I say, gazpacho?! They often need a bit of sugar to balance the tartness. And I think they’d be lovely paired with soft, feminine, aromatic herbs like verbena, rose geranium and basil. Or even rosemary.

    I can see a white peach pannacotta or bavarian with gooseberries and gooseberry coulis in my head. or layers of gelee, cream, sorbet, whole berries, ice cream in a parfait glass.

    and lastly– that light vanilla cake I sent you? Perfect with that and maybe an infused pastry cream…. mmmmmmmm.

    Now I’m really hungry.
    Time to see what’s in season in Portland!

  3. What the fluff is a Gooseberry?

    Mmmmm? What are you making for the fourth? We got the new grill installed yesterday–it took 3 hours! But I will have you know that Creepy Uncle Steve carried the 140 lb grill up TWO flights of stairs BY HIMSELF (Tim flaked)! I am so impressed.
    Gail takes credit for taking him shopping in NJ and getting him so pissed off that morning that he had the extra anger energy to plow the beast to the roof. aha ah aha h aha

  4. deb

    Joc — That’s goddamned hilarious. Actually, I was such a hungover pissant yesterday, Alex probably could have done the same, esp. if there was some tri-tip in it for him. I’m thinking of a big-ass potato salad, some of the coleslaw I made for Amy’s (or another recipe I’m testing) and something involving baked fruit.

  5. I second all the sweet suggestions – but they actually also work really well as a chutney/compote style thing alongside pork chops for example – sorta like some people use rhubarb compote as a condiment. I don’t have an exact recipe, but if you make a compote, boiling the gooseberries with a little less sugar than you would if you were to use it for a dessert, I think you might be onto something… Can’t wait to see more Q&A posts!

  6. Hey again! So glad to see you’re heading to Napa! I was there a few years ago for a writers’ conference, and the vineyards are gorgeous.

    Also, thanks for the beautiful gooseberry pics! I’m actually using one as my desktop background right now! ^_^b

  7. Jelena

    Once you mentioned gooseberries I whipped out my trust “How to be a Domestic Goddess” and Nigella has a recipe for “Gooseberry-Cream Crumble”. I can send it to you if you like.

  8. Pie? Gooseberry Pie? Is that in some book or nursery rhyme? It’s the first thing that popped into my head. I’ve never actually seen a gooseberry. They’re cute!

  9. I remember the first time I saw Gooseberries. They reminded me of mini watermelons or hairy grapes :) I’ve only ever eaten them raw…they’re quite yummy that way. I’ve seen them at the store as jelly mixes in with kiwi. I think they’d go great in a wine and berry gelatin (I have a great recipe here: ) Just add the gooseberries, or add only gooseberries, or change all the fruit out – it’s a great base recipe for a yummy homemade Jello!

  10. Anja

    Gooseberry reminds me very much of my childhood. Here in eastern Germany almost everyone who has a garden also has some bushes of gooseberries. We usually make some kind of pie out of it (with yeast dough & meringue topping). I can send you the recipe if you like. Another option is compote or cook them together with some kiwis for a soft fruit jelly (with some sugar and bind with some starch).

  11. Natalie

    I have no idea what to do with gooseberries other than eat them, but my boyfriend and I bought a package of them a few weeks ago because we wanted to know what they were like, haha. Since then I’ve been looking for some good recipes for the future…they didn’t tast too bad!

  12. Katy_Belle

    Gooseberry Jam!!

    Gooseberry fool is good too. Cook the berries down a bit with sugar to taste untill they pop and release their juices. Cool the mixture and fold into whipped cream so you get swirley bits of fruit in the cream. Top with crushed meringues and more berries, or you can even fold those in too!

  13. AngAk

    If you let them sit in your refrigerator for awhile, they will ripen and turn a lovely deep red and get sweeter. Makes a fine jam. I remember my Mom sitting with a bowl of gooseberries and picking off those pesky stems with nail clippers.

  14. I literally JUST sat down after popping a hopefully incredible Devil’s Food Cake in the oven and was going to do a search for the proper way to cut 9 inch circles when I thought I would stop by here first. Next time I will know. Thank you!

  15. LyB

    I just have to say it, I love the diagram! So cute! Also, the color of those gooseberries is incredible, they’re like jewels, you could almost make a necklace out of them ;)

  16. Samphire

    Gooseberry and elderflower fool…tis pure bliss me hearties…You can use elderflower cordial, or ever infuse real elderflowers in season, but actually now that I think on it, there aren’t so many hedgerows in NY, so maybe cordial is the way to play. Any fool recipe will work, cream, sugar and pureed fruit, and sieve your puree, that way you don’t need to bother topping and tailing (huge intergalactic yawn).

  17. Am I the only person here to get the “all your base are belong to me” reference? The title makes me think you should do something engrish with your gooseberries: a gooseberry fool with spongecake, gooseberry gelée, whipped cream and red azuki beans (David’s Perfect Scoop has a recipe for the beans) and maybe a gooseberry kiwi sorbet thrown in there for good measure. The dark red and the pale green would make a gorgeous color combination.

  18. I have no idea what you do with gooseberries, never having had them, but man are they gorgeous – they make me think of tiny, translucent watermelons.

  19. When I read this post I thought two things:

    1) Gooseberry Jam and
    2) Look at your diagram, you are so cute!

    I’ve never had a gooseberry but it sort of reminds me of longenberry jam from Ikea, I don’t know why, but it does. I didn’t search very hard, but did find a gooseberry jam recipe and Zarah Maria touched on something in her post: the jam recipes link adds that substituting gooseberries in rhubarb recipes are excellent. So, if you have a good rhubarb crisp recipe, you might want to try a gooseberry crisp out. Here’s the link:

    I’ve been trying to gather a “tips’ page but as soon as I start, I feel silly because I’m not an expert. You claim you’re not that cooking smart but I disagree and I feel like we all need to learn that we have some great tricks to share with each other. Your musings are great, your answers are wonderful!

  20. Cooking tips are my specialty, as my culinary training and lifetime of cooking has garnered me many, many either totally useful or hopelessly useless bits of info that are dying to be shared. I think that with the cake issue, it’s possible the leavening was better and caused it to balloon higher, or the aforementioned egg white inflation was different. Oven temps can also have an effect on the rising of a cake. At any rate, it’s not a bad thing when you can effectively slice off the top, drop it onto a plate and nibble away at it. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of baking a cake!

  21. I remember a dessert I ate in England some 25 years ago: sponge pudding (sponge cake batter cooked in a pudding bassin in a water bath so there is no crust), with custard an goosbery sauce: the quintecence of british dessert!

  22. Yum!
    My grandmother always made gooseberry porridge for me when I was little. She never used enough sugar for my taste, so I’d drown it in sugar and cream, and then it was mm, mm, good.

  23. Asha

    We make pickles with one type and eat the other one just like that. The second type will be bigger and more juicy and sweeter. The first type can also be eaten raw,(with salt as it has stronger taste).

  24. BAGS and BAGS of gooseberries?!?!? Holy cow. I second making gooseberry fool (softly whipped cream, sugared gooseberries, yum) or gooseberry jam (the German in you will rejoice). Or, if you’re REALLY stumped, you can always drop them off with me ::))))))

  25. deepa

    first, i LOVE your title. now the ‘song” is stuck in my head.

    second, amazing amazing pictures. i am totally coveting your camera.

    thats it – i have nothing constructive to add:)

  26. courtney

    I have had the cake problem before, in that the outer edge was cooking quicker that the inner edge, so it would shrink when the center would rise. What I do know, is wrap damp paper towels in aluminum foil, and then wrap that around the cake pan. Perfectly evenly baked cakes, no crispy edges, no underbaked center, and practically perfectly level cakes that are as tall as the cake pan!

    Woo Hoo!

  27. Nan

    As a child I grew up with my two favorite pies from my mother..I still love and make a simple rhubarb..I love the sweet tart mix…and I was whining that I have not seen a fresh gooseberry in years..and canned ones just do onot make the grade..thank you for reminding me that I was once 6..and now I am going to go out of my way to find a fresh gooseberry!

  28. Jelena

    I just remembered that Nigella also has ice cream involving gooseberries. She’s really good when it comes to obscure-ish fruits.

  29. Brian Woodward

    Ok try Clafoutis with just topped and tailed Goozgogs (it’s a term from Liverpool) and use a shortcrust blind baked base, I’ve just put down some cordial to try as I do loads of Elderflower and Blackcurrant, and check out Jostaberries and cross between Goozgogs and Blackcurrants, oooh yes!

  30. OK – I have been trying to invent some kind of device to cut the parchment paper, but you just ruined that dream for me with your cool diagram! Very cool!

  31. I love your diagram!

    I totally agree that sometimes it’s just luck that you get a perfectly risen cake/muffins/cupcakes! Mine tend to be flat or overflow until this certain time I baked 2 batches for my friend’s order. I didn’t even know what exactly I did different but since then, my cupcakes seem to dome up quite nicely.

    I was blog hopping and I just saw this over at Cook and Eat. Maybe you can try it!

  32. Megan

    I’ll add to the chorus singing for pie, my mother’s favorite (now a diabetic, she can no longer eat it. So, really, perhaps you’ll feel happy to know that you’ll be eating it in her stead. Kind of like a gooseberry pie sponsor.)

  33. Jezzie

    I work in a pizza shop, and we have a pre-made thin crust dough which must be trimmed to fit any pan smaller than a large.Loing story short, they set the pan on the round and trim around with a pizza cutter. Thought I’d offer it up as a suggestion on the waxed paper issue.

  34. meg

    it’s already been mentioned, but jam or jelly made from gooseberries is absolutely fantastic, and, if saved until mid-february is basically a time-machine for your mouth back to july and august and summer and the sun.

  35. ok so this is late but hopefully this will help:

    as for cutting parchment paper, I just trace the bottom of the pan and then cut inside the line… OR, my favorite trick, buy a giant package of pre-cut 8″ or 9″ parchment circles from a kitchen supply store! i think you can even get them at craft stores like michael’s or jo-ann when they have baking accessories.

    the muffin tops on cakes: I personally enjoy slicing off the tops and wrapping them in plastic, then foil, and stashing in the freezer for cake-related emergencies, but my blessed mother insists upon straight sided pans, NO GREASE ON THE SIDES, parchment on the bottom, and the secret: old towels, cut into strips the size of the height of the pan, and fastened tightly around the pan with (all metal, natch) safety pins. Wet them before you stick them in the oven, and the batter will heat (and rise) evenly. She also whacks the pan with the batter in it several times on the counter to make any big bubbles come to the top. Hers always come out flat and gorgeous, no trimming required.

  36. Yeah, yeah old post, I know, but it will be July soon, right? right?
    Well, at least July should be a happy thought in NY right now.
    Gooseberries! My dad has three bushes of them – about the size of a sofa each, but ours were dark purple and smaller…
    The big green furry ones make wonderful preserves, jams and so forth – snip both ends, impale a few times so they don’t explode and cook with some water and sugar. How long? depends on how long you want them to keep, the longer they are to be stored, the more time and sugar you need – within reason. 2:1 (sugar : berries) is about as sweet as I’d go… or ask your husband if he likes “kompot” (no, it’s quite unlike compote) but this is probably not what you wanted.

    Bake them into muffins, as you would cranberries.

  37. Agniss

    I’m looking for a recipe for gooseberry and kiwi jam. Trader Joe used to sell g&k jam, but no longer. The Prince of Wales sells it, but I am not in UK (and can’t afford his prices anyway). I have gooseberries and kiwifruit and am longing to make the jam myself.

  38. Madeline

    I know this is super late but my Grandma makes the BEST gooseberry pie! Its pretty simple from what I remember, I think just a crust, gooseberries, tapioca (as a thickener?), and sugar I think that’s it. She also does a lattice top on it. I wish we had gooseberries down here. Id love to make that pie! Its very sweet, tart, and super delicious! If you’d like the recipe I could try and get it for you.

  39. Francheska

    All your questions are belong to us?!? Deb is it possible that you’ve been to 4chan?!? Meme? All your base are belong to us?…hmm

  40. Ramya

    gosh some of my fondest memories from my childhood (blech i make myself sound old… i am 21 and i feel 42, kill me now) are centered around gooseberries. i grew up in india and we tend to make everything into savory dish…. the most delicious fate for these gooseberries is for them to pickle them. indian style. see in india it’s a great salty snack…. salt is key because it helps you retain water, which is pretty handy when you’re in danger of dehydration all year long.

    let’s be real here…. jams, jellies, pies, and other baked goods are just too cliche for you and these gooseberries.

    not quite the pickles we made but somewhat close. we would put a mixture of what i remember to be mostly lemon juice, salt, and cayenne…. also “amla” is the same as gooseberry. we would just eat the pickled gooseberries plain…. but this recipe is for a condiment type of pickle. it’s delicious over some white rice with ghee.

  41. Ramya

    Wow my response was late to this but…. hope this gave you some insight. If you ever want the real deal gooseberry pickle recipe…. let me know and I will try to squelch it out of my mother (who naturally doesn’t believe in recipes).

  42. Aditi

    As a kid, I remember my mom making a sour and sweet “Jam” called “Moravla” – to be eaten empty stomach with glass of water each morning!! Super rich in vitamin C and loads of other stuff. I still get packs of it from my mom each season! I can get a recipe if you want ..

  43. Maria

    This is a very old post. Not sure if you ever heard this one, but this is how some very patient people make gooseberry jam. Unfortunately, you will need you husband’s help to translate. I could not find English version.

    Basically, it consists of taking out the seeds of every single berry and stuffing them with a piece of a nut and then making a jam out of them.

  44. EL

    I made gooseberry and tart cherry syrup, but you need tart cherries for that. it was incredibly good. I saved it for yogurt.