Add a slice of soft bread to a package of rock-hard brown sugar. Close the
bag tightly, and in a few hours the sugar will be soft again.
Wrap in a plastic bag and store in refrigerator in a coffee can with a snap-on-lid.
Use two or three pieces of dried fruit, such as peaches or prunes, to keep
brown sugar soft. Just place the fruit in the bottom of a plastic container
or jar and pour the sugar over the fruit.
Put a lettuce leaf in the container with the lumpy brown sugar, and the
lumps will be gone tomorrow.
To soften hard brown sugar, put brown sugar and a cup of water side by side
in a covered pan. Place in the oven on low heat for a while.
To coat a mold evenly with caramel, keep the mold in very hot water while
you prepare the caramel. Pour the melted sugar immediately into the mold and
swirl it around. A 4-cup mold can be coated with 1/2 cup sugar mixed with 2
tablespoons of water. The mixture must be watched and stirred gently but constantly.
The more brown the mixture, the stronger the flavor. It must be watched carefully
Chocolate melts more easily if it is grated or chopped before melting. High
temperature will cause chocolate to be dry and grainy.
Semisweet chocolate morsels and semisweet chocolate squares can be used
interchangeably when a recipe calls for this type chocolate melted.
To melt chocolate smoothly and easily, wrap the solid chocolate in foil
and place in an oven set to 300 degrees F for about 10 minutes. When it is melted,
simply scrape into your mixture.
Melt white chocolate over very hot water, never boiling or even simmering.
White chocolate will scorch at a lower temperature than bittersweet chocolate.
If chocolate you are melting overcooks and becomes hard and "dull"
looking, put the pan on very low heat and beat in one tablespoon of shortening
at a time until you have restored the shiny, smooth look of perfectly melted
Always keep chocolate at room temperature to prevent it from splintering
and flying around when chopped; cold chocolate is too hard to cut and the knife
may slip and cut you. To chop chocolate in a food processor, chill the chocolate
slightly and pulse it just until chopped.
Sometimes a grayish color develops on chocolate. This is called "bloom,"
and it is a sign that the cocoa butter has risen to the surface. Flavor and
quality will not be lessened, and the grayish color, or bloom, will disappear
when the chocolate is melted.
To shave chocolate, carefully draw a vegetable peeler across the side of
a chilled bar of chocolate.
When you can't find lemon leaves to use as a base for making chocolate
leaves, the safe substitutes are rose, magnolia, and gardenia leaves. They're
all nontoxic. Allow a bit of each stem to remain uncoated with chocolate for
easier peeling later.
It takes very little liquid to thin to spreading consistency for icing.
Add the liquid 1 teaspoonful at a time; otherwise you may need more sugar to
thicken it again.
If you plan to unmold a baked custard, beat the eggs only slightly before
you add them to the liquid. This will keep the custard firm when baked. Too
much beating produces a light, porous custard.
A knife inserted near the center of custard will come out clean when custard
is done. Remember, overcooked custards have watery textures.
If you want to unmold the custard, such as custard for a creme brulee, bake
the custard in a metal container. The metal cools more quickly than glass and
will release more easily.
The blades of your mixer won't clog when creaming cold shortening if
they are placed in hot water for a few minutes before using.
Graham Cracker Crumbs
Put graham crackers into a blender, a small amount at a time. Turn the blender
on and off (pulse) and the pieces will move down into the blades. If you don't
use a blender, put the crackers in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.
You can use the plastic bag as a container to add the butter and sugar to make
crumbs for a graham cracker crust, then toss the bag out when you are finished.
Granulated White Sugar
To soften granulated white sugar that has hardened in the paper bag in which
it was packaged, heat your oven to about 250 degrees F, then turn it off and
put the bag of sugar in on a cookie sheet. Check after a few minutes. As soon
as the bag begins to get warm, the sugar should start softening.
To prevent sugar from hardening, store it in a sealed plastic bag with a
slice of bread.
Melt marshmallow creme in the microwave. Half of a 7 ounce jar will melt
in 35 to 40 seconds on HIGH. Stir to blend.
To remove shortening from a measuring cup quickly, run hot water over it
and pour off immediately.
Pour pudding right into foil cups placed in a muffin tin. You'll have
pre-measured servings and, best of all, no cleanup.
Make instant pudding in the blender. It's easier to pour into serving
Spray the bottom and sides of your pan with vegetable spray or coat with
margarine beforehand. It will keep the pudding from sticking and save lots of
elbow grease at clean-up time.
To keep a soft surface on puddings thickened with cornstarch, such as packaged
pudding mixes, simply press a piece of plastic wrap down on the top of the cooked
pudding before it cools. This prevents the "skin" from forming on
If you don't have a rolling pin, use a cold bottle of soda pop or a
wine bottle filled with ice water.
Put the dough in the freezer or refrigerator until chilled. This way the
pastry dough will not stick to the rolling pin.
Get a professional high hat look by running your thumb around the inside
of the dish below the rim before putting it in the oven. A high hat will rise
in the center.
The trick to producing a wonderful souffl is to cool the white sauce mixture
before adding it to the beaten egg whites. Cook the sauce then remove it from
the heat and add the egg yolks. Mix all together well and then let it cool well.
Then add it to the beaten egg whites.
To ensure the highest soufflé, do not overdo folding the egg whites into
the sauce mixture. Too much mixing will break down the protein molecules of
the egg whites and allow the captured air to escape.
If a recipe calls for "superfine" sugar, put regular granulated
sugar in the blender and pulse several times until the sugar granules have reduced
in size slightly.