Dear Barbara: We like to brine our chicken, turkey and other poultry or fish, but not beef like steaks, and roasts. Why is that? It just seems like it would be great, hold moisture, and so on. — Julie from Lodi
Dear Julie: If you were to brine beef, the beef could get mushy because it doesn’t need the extra moisture. However, you do need to salt and pepper the beef before you put it on the grill.
With chicken and poultry that doesn’t have any fats running through it, brining brings the moisture in through osmosis.
There are some people that do brine beef, but it is hard to know just how long you would need to brine it considering that it already contains the moisture that is needed. My opinion would be “don’t!”
Dear Barbara: I don’t bake often, but I had a cookie recipe that I was going to try. It called for all-purpose flour. When I went to buy the flour, there was bleached and unbleached all-purpose flour. I still didn’t know which one to buy! What is the difference between the two and which one should I have purchased. I bought the bleached flour and it seemed fine. — Debbie from Woodbridge
Dear Debbie: The obvious is that the flour is bleached to keep it nice and white, whereas the natural color of wheat flour is slightly yellow. After reading several articles on flour, I learned that chlorine is used to bleach the flour. This method has been FDA approved, but if this bothers you, you may want to consider unbleached flour which is bleached naturally as it ages. Both flours are entirely interchangeable. The main difference between the two is that bleached flour has less protein in it than unbleached flour. Bleached flour is better for pie crusts, cookies, pancakes, and waffles, whereas unbleached flour would be better for yeast breads, Danish pastries, and like products.
If you are really into baking, and do a lot of it, you would probably want to check into specialty flours such as bread flour, pastry flour and cake flour. For most of us, good old all-purpose flour does well enough to keep our family and friends happy!
Dear Barbara: I need some information on whipping cream. I use heavy cream, sugar and a little vanilla in my stand mixer. It just seems like something goes wrong every time I make it. It is either gritty, separates, or is too stiff. I try to watch carefully, but it seems that it happens so suddenly! What can I do to fix this problem? — Del from Lodi
Dear Del: Let’s start with gritty! I have to assume you are using granulated sugar. If you switch the granulated sugar to confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar), it won’t be gritty.
If your whipping cream separates, you have over-beaten it to the point of no return. Starting over is your only option.
If you beat it until it is too stiff and it starts to remind you of butter, you can still save it by carefully folding in a few tablespoons of cream. The important thing is not to beat it again, or you are back to where you were!
A stand mixer is so efficient, especially if you are using the balloon whisk attachment, that it whips the cream before you realize it. Perhaps you should try a hand mixer for whipping cream. I think it would give you much more control over the consistency.
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.