Notes from Cook's Illustrated issue number ninety-seven

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Notes from Cook's Illustrated issue #97 (March and April 2009):

  • Vinegar lasts indefinitely.  If vinegar forms cloudy, slimy sediment, it's just a "harmless cellulose" produced by vinegar bacteria.  Just filter out the sediment with a strainer/coffee filter.
  • Draw lines in ground beef by pressing into it with your finger before freezing.  That makes it easier to break off pieces to thaw separately instead of thawing the whole block.
  • Freeze butter in a zipper-lock bag and thaw sticks as needed to prevent it from going rancid or picking up flavors in the fridge.
  • Crystallized honey can be melted in 160°F water.
  • Bay leaves, flours with heavy germ content such as whole wheat (airtight container), cornmeal (airtight container), nuts, seeds, and yeast stay fresher in the freezer.
  • Flour should be stored in airtight container to protect it from humidity.
  • Vanilla extract does not go bad (even after 10 years).
  • Pasteurized (most common type) soy sauce does not need to be refrigerated.
  • Keep eggs in carton, which holds in moisture, protects against odors, and is cooler than the egg tray on the refrigerator door.
  • Bread
    • Bread flour produces tougher, chewier bread.  All purpose flour produces softer, springier bread.
    • More water in bread dough turns into steam and makes holes.
    • As the ratio of sponge to dough increases, the bread goes from bland to tasty to "boozy-tasting"
    • As the temperature of the room increases while fermenting the sponge, the bread goes from bland to good to sour and poorly leavened
    • More kneading leads to tougher bread
    • Less kneading leads to loaves that spread out instead of rising
    • Turning allows for more gluten development without toughening?
    • Adding milk (replace 1/4 cup water with 1/4 cup milk) weakens gluten (via a protein fragment called glutathione), which prevents oversized holes from forming in bread
    • Form loaves on parchment paper and slide the parchment onto baking surface
    • Spraying loaves with water in the first minutes of baking will produce a crisper crust and loaves that rise a bit higher
  • Imitation vanilla tastes as good as real vanilla in cooked foods (greater than about 280-300°F), because the non-vanillin flavor/aroma compounds in real vanilla cook off around that temperature. Real vanilla tastes different only if it does not get cooked.
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