Dear Barbara: I was making homemade soup and at the last minute I thought I would add some cream. I didn’t because I was afraid it would curdle and ruin the whole pot. Can you add cold cream to hot soup? — Jackie from Lockeford
Dear Jackie: That depends on the cream. It needs to have a high fat content in order not to curdle. Heavy cream or whipping cream would be fine. Fat-free half-and-half or low-fat milk would most likely curdle.
You need to be careful even with the cream. If you started the soup with broth, stock or water, I would wait until the end to add the cream. You can warm the cream, or “temper” it, which is what I do. Take about half a cup of the hot broth and slowly add your cream to that, stirring constantly. Then you can pour the cream mixture back into the soup and it should be fine.
If you are making an Asian soup that calls for unsweetened coconut milk, you can add it straight in, since it isn’t actually milk as we know it. Coconut milk, of course, is not dairy. It is, however, very versatile and works just like cream in many dishes. You can boil it and it won’t curdle. It does have a slight sweet taste, and you can taste a mild coconut flavor, but a lot of that can be overcome by using different spices.
Dear Barbara: I’ve started making pizza at home. I buy the pizza crust, and add my own sauce and whatever is in the fridge! Saves money and the kids love it because they can pick their own toppings. The problem we are having is that the crust is never crispy. Actually, it almost seems a bit soggy. Do you have any ideas of what I can do to crisp up the crust a bit? — Becky from Lodi
Dear Becky: I have a few suggestions that might help. Of course, pizza parlors have ovens that are hotter than what people have at home, but raise the temperature in your oven so it is very hot (about 475 degrees).
You may want to invest in a pizza stone for your oven. I know “Pampered Chef” used to carry them. Also try Lodi Cooks on School Street. I wouldn’t buy one online, because they are too heavy and the shipping would be high.
Be sure to follow the directions that come with the stone. If you roll the dough too thick, it will be more bread-like and not crispy. Try rolling the dough thinner.
If you are using a pre-baked crust, you can get most with a choice of thin or regular. Most people don’t realize how much steam is created by the dough and the toppings. If you leave it on a non-porous surface, the steam is going to go to the bottom, but there is nowhere for it to escape, so you wind up with a soggy crust. It needs to be on something porous.
If you don’t have anything, you can get foil pizza pans very inexpensively and take something very sharp and poke it full of holes from the top so you won’t have sharp edges on the holes. Put the cooked pizza on the foil pan as soon as it comes from the oven, and then set the whole thing on a cooling rack so air can circulate and the steam can escape.
Good luck with your pizza making!
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. If you have a cooking question, send it to Barbara Spitzer at email@example.com. Please include your first name and city.