Part of the fun of travel is learning about the food of the region. Often we think we must go abroad to learn about new foods, but each area of the United States has regional specialties that are commonly dished up but may be very intriguing to outsiders.
When I travel, I often look for local places to eat where the menu reflects cuisine of the region. You can glean much information by talking to local chefs or producers. Lately I have been exploring the South and have turned up some real culinary treasures and have been entertained by colorful personalities as well.
Learning new things is what makes life interesting. Regardless of whether you have cooked for years or are a novice in the kitchen, when it comes to cooking, there are always questions that arise. Let’s look at them now.
Q. I have made pies my entire life with great success. Recently, I have been having trouble with my meringue. After I whip it up, it falls. Any ideas of what I might be doing wrong? I use egg whites and sugar, that’s all.
A. Usually, if the egg whites whip up properly with lots of volume, the sugar is added and beaten until it is dissolved and the meringue is glossy, the meringue is stable. The sugar acts as a stabilizer. Are you adding the correct amount of sugar? The common ratio is 2 tablespoons sugar for each egg white. Egg whites at room temperature will give you a higher volume than cold egg whites. Also, 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar added to the egg whites before whipping will create a more stable meringue.
Q. Please tell me what cream of tartar is. Where I can find it?
A. Cream of tartar is a white powder that is an acid used to help stabilize and give volume to beaten egg whites and prevent crystallization in confections and other uses. It is a natural byproduct produced from wine-making. You can find cream of tartar in the spice section of the supermarket.
Q. What is cake flour? How is it different from regular flour? Can I substitute regular flour for cake flour?
A. Cake flour is very fine and has less protein than all-purpose flour. Some cake recipes specify cake flour because it produces a very light cake with a fine crumb and tender texture. Cakes such as angel food cakes or other light cakes are best if made with cake flour. Sturdy, denser cakes may be made with all-purpose flour with good results. I think it best to use the kind of flour the recipe designates. However, if you must make a substitution, the common rule is for each cup of cake flour, use 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour but remove 2 level tablespoons.
Q. My recipe calls for 1 pound powdered sugar. But how many cups is that?
A. About 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar make a pound.