Asian Recipes

Asian Recipes Blog

The Unrivaled Practical Guide for Asian Cooking

Is it safe to refreeze a food?

Yes, if the food is not dangerously contaminated at the time of refreezing and is handled properly afterward. The only detrimental effect will be the one normally associated with freezing, a loss in texture and flavor - and it may be amplified.

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06:40:37 on 11/30/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are certain methods better than others for thawing meat?

Two primary aims when thawing are to minimize damage caused by the ice crystals melting in the meat and to avoid bacterial contamination as the meat's temperature rises. However, the cook faces what seems to be a contradiction. On the one hand, rapid thawing causes more of the meat's juices to be lost and more deterioration in texture. On the other, rapid thawing - if done properly - reduces the threat of bacterial contamination.

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07:17:35 on 11/29/07 by Webmaster - Quick Cooking Tips -

Are there some foods that are less suitable for freezing?

As people who have sprinkled salt on icy sidewalks know, salt lowers the freezing point of water. So if a prepared food has been presalted (most have), the food will not freeze as well as it would if unsalted and will thus have a shorter minimum freezer storage life.

Fat does not freeze as well as protein or carbohydrate and consequently has a shorter freezer storage life than its two companion nutrients. The implication is clear: If you plan to freeze a cut of meat for a long period, you would probably be wise to trim off all or most of its excess fat before freezing it. Since salt pork and bacon are both fatty and salty, their freezing properties are poor.

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04:52:46 on 11/28/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are certain freezing methods better than others?

The key to maintaining a food's quality is speedy freezing. The faster the food is frozen, the smaller the ice crystals that are formed in and around its cells. These tiny crystals do not cause as much tearing as the larger ones formed by slow freezing. The food's texture therefore will suffer less damage. Another related benefit is that the food - particularly meat - will not lose as much of its juices during thawing because its cell walls remain relatively intact.

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07:06:43 on 11/27/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does freezing diminish the quality of food?

The answer is an undeniable yes. When the frozen food thaws, some of its stored water seeps out of its cells, and consequently the cells lose their plumpness and the food its firmness. The water loss is caused by the creation of ice crystals and the loss of osmotic capability.

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11:02:31 on 11/26/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the temperature danger zone for bacterial growth in foods?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, most bacteria thrive at temperatures between 60o and 125oF. The growth of microorganisms will be prolific unless other precautionary steps, such as marinating, have been taken to make the food unfavorable to bacterial growth.

It is important to note that we use the phrase "most bacteria". There exist certain cryophilic (cold-loving) bacteria and other microorganisms that can do nicely at temperatures below 60oF. Likewise, our world has thermophilic (heat-loving) microorganisms that flourish at temperatures above 125oF. For these reasons, more cautious experts place the danger zone between 40o and 140oF - and some expand the temperature range even further.

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13:09:18 on 11/25/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should a baking pan be at least one and a half inches clear of the oven walls and any other pans?

When the width of a river decreases, the speed of its current increases. The same phenomenon occurs with currents in your oven, except that, in this case, the flowing substance is air rather than water. If there is a narrow gap between a pan and an oven wall or another pan, the air currents that flow upward through it will move faster than those that flow upward through less restricted areas of your oven. And since a faster-moving hot air current cooks food faster than one that moves more slowly, uneven baking results.

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14:24:54 on 11/24/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does food bake more quickly in a glass container than in a metal one?

Yes, This is because the transparency of glass allows radiant heat to pass directly through it, absorbing comparatively little of that energy in the process. Cooks using a recipe based on figures for a dark-surfaced pan and baking in one made of ovenproof glass must either shorten the baking period or lower the oven temperature by 10oF. When the recipe is designed for a shiny pan and you use a Pyrex container, decrease the temperature 25oF.

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16:42:54 on 11/23/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are black baking pans usually superior to the shiny variety?

A dull, dark, or black surface absorbs more of the radiant energy coming from the oven walls than a bright, shiny, or white surface, which reflects much of it. A black pan (carbon steel, for instance) will therefore become hotter and transmit heat more quickly than an otherwise identical uncoated stainless steel or aluminum pan in the same oven. This phenomenon explains why white suits and dresses are popular in hot, sunny weather.

On the average, a shiny pan is 15oF cooler in a 350oF oven than its black equivalent, and that 15oF can make a crucial difference. Because the shiny pan's temperature is lower, you must either extend the cooking time or increase the baking temperature. Neither of those two alternatives is totally satisfactory. No matter what the cooking temperature or how long the cooking time, chances are that either the exposed crust will receive too much heat or the crust that lines the pan will absorb too little heat.

Shiny bakeware is not all that bad. It can be beneficial at times. Some delicate cookies require a very hot oven but are apt to burn on the bottom when baked on a dark, dull cookie sheet. A glistening cookie sheet, on the other hand, reduces the heat reaching the cookies' undersides.

If you do bake with a shiny pan, it pays to use a scouring pad to keep its surfaces free of dark stains. When you bake with a stained pan, the portion of the food resting on a black blotch may burn by the time the food on a bright area is properly baked.

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15:46:44 on 11/22/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do different baked goods require different baking temperatures?

Ideally, these foods should be baked at a high temperature (in the 425o to 450oF range) so that the expanding internal gases can adequately increase the volume of the dough or batter before the coagulating protein sets the food's structure. Because of their small size, most biscuits can be successfully baked in or near that temperature range. However, a lower temperature (about 400oF) is necessary for baking bread loaves because the higher temperature would burn the outside of the bread before the heat could reach and bake the inside. Well-sugared breads must be baked at an even lower temperature (325o to 375oF) because the sugar would caramelize too much at a higher temperature and blacken the crust.

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14:13:17 on 11/21/07 by Webmaster - Quick Cooking Tips -

Why do cakes develop unwanted domes?

The cake probably has too much flour. If the batter were thinner, all its liquid molecules would have more time to circulate before the batter near the pan's edges set. Once that occurs, the amount of heat transferred to the liquid center is reduced because the molecules near the pan's edges are no longer in motion. Therefore, the center takes longer to solidify, giving it extra time to rise, creating the doom effect.

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12:45:43 on 11/20/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to prevent nuts and dried fruits from settling to the bottom of a batter during baking?

Sprinkle them with flour before mixing them into the batter or dough. The coating absorbs some of the surface oil and water that exudes from these ingredients during baking and therefore reduces their tendency to slip downward through the batter or dough.

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13:29:35 on 11/19/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should we slightly underblend pancake batter and then let it rest for an hour or two before using it?

If you mix pancake batter too energetically or for too long, you overdevelop the gluten in the flour and your pancakes will be tougher than necessary. Excess blending can also cause the premature formation, and escape, of the carbon dioxide that you need for leavening the pancakes.

A much better strategy is to stop mixing the ingredients just before all the tiny lumps of flour dissolve and then let the process automatically complete itself as the batter sits undisturbed in your refrigerator. The cold refrigerator temperature not only retards bacterial attack and growth but impedes gluten development and hinders the yeast or baking powder activity.

A smooth batter produces more than just desirable texture. It also helps to brown your morning masterpieces more evenly because a greater area of the bottom surface will rest flat on the hot griddle.

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16:53:44 on 11/18/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What bread-baking steps produce a soft crush and a hard crust?

For a soft crust, brush butter (or other fat) over the top of the bread before it is baked or while it is in the oven. Reason is so that the fat retards the drying out of the exposed surface. For a hard crust, brush the top of the baked goods with cold water, either before placing it in the oven or while it is baking. Alternatively, create a steamy baking environment by placing a pan of water in the bottom of the oven.

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13:11:10 on 11/17/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is solid animal fat superior to butter for making biscuits and cookies?

A biscuit or cookie made with butter is undesirably squatter than one made with a solid animal fat such as lard. Reason is because butter melts before the oven's heat can set a biscuit or cookie mixture, which allows the cooking item to spread. Solid animal fat does not prematurely render, resulting in taller and more visually inviting biscuits and cookies. Moreover, solid animal fat better aerates the cooking mixture, making the biscuit or cookie lighter and fluffier. Yet another advantage of solid animal fat over butter is the ease with which the former is incorporated into the flour before the liquid ingredient is added.

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14:35:35 on 11/16/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What does a fat contribute to bread?

Should a baker want to give a bread a softer and smoother texture, fat can help because it retards gluten development. (The greased gluten strands have a more difficult time latching on to each other and therefore are less effective in forming a structural network). A fat also adds flavor, richness, nutrients, calories, and if it is butter or lard, then saturated fatty acids. Butter and margarine also lend color.

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05:02:09 on 11/15/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the function of egg in a yeast bread?

Eggs are not required in yeast bread making, though they do bestow color, flavor, nutrients, increased volume, and an overall richness. However, for baked goods such as popovers, egg yolks are essential. Without the support given by heat-coagulated egg protein, these baking specialties could not maintain their steamed and puffed up shapes.

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14:12:42 on 11/14/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How does the choice of liquid affect the dough?

Bread made with water has a chewier texture and crisper crust than one made with milk. However, milk helps produce a more delicate texture and, because of its protein and sugar (lactose) content, a deeper-hued crust. Adding milk, potato water, or beer furnishes the yeast with hearty food and the diner with added nutrients, calories, and flavor.

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09:30:38 on 11/13/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is sifting flour necessary?

Unless the recipe says to sift, it is usually wiser not to. Reason is because most modern baking recipes are based on the measured volume of the unsifted flour, partly because the flour sold today is not as compacted as it was in our grandparents' day. But even if the flour of yesteryear didn't need sifting for lightness, it probably would have been best to sift it anyway to remove insects and other impurities.

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05:37:35 on 11/12/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does all-purpose flour vary regionally?

The major national flour processors use different blending formulas to take into account regional baking preferences. Since a southerner tends to bake more biscuits and the northerner more bread, the southern formula has a larger proportion of soft wheat and the northern formula has a higher proportion of hard wheat. This means that a recipe in a national publication calling for all-purpose flour may yield different results in different regions of the country.

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04:00:53 on 11/11/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do many serious home bakers prefer hard and soft flours over all-purpose flour?

All-purpose flour is a blend of hand and soft wheat flours. Each of these flours is ideal for specific tasks. Hard wheat (sometimes called baker's) flour is perfect for bread making because of its high gluten content, a substance that provides structure for the expanding dough.

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12:26:28 on 11/10/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What are the pros and cons of whole wheat versus white wheat flour?

Whole wheat flour contains all the edible parts of the wheat berry: the starchy endosperm, the nutritious germ (embryo), and the outer bran layer. To produce white flour, the miller removes most or all of the germ and bran. White wheat flour has three principal advantages over whole wheat flour.

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07:40:17 on 11/09/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do we need to vary the amount of flour used?

The flour you use today may have either more or less moisture than was in the supply you used yesterday, last week, or last year. Flour tends to lose moisture the longer it is stored. Also, moisture content usually varies with the brand of flour and the season, and a flour will pick up moisture if you knead it on a humid day.

For these reasons, you must sometimes make adjustments in the amount of flour (or liquid) you use in order to keep the dough or batter's flour-liquid ratio in proper balance. If your flour has more than an average amount of moisture, use more flour. If it is on the dry side, use less.

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12:59:40 on 11/08/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How do air and steam leaven baked goods?

When heat builds up the pressure of the air trapped within the tiny air pockets in the dough or batter, the pockets expand and therefore so do the baked goods. Dough or batter inflating pressure is also generated when heat converts some of the food's water content into steam. Popovers and cream puffs are prime illustrations of this process.

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13:07:34 on 11/07/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can I make my own baking powder?

Yes. The standard home recipe for making the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of commercial baking powder is 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, and - if you plan to store your supply - 1/4 teaspoon of cornstarch. The cornstarch absorbs moisture in the air and therefore prevents a premature chemical reaction between the acid and alkali. When using homemade baking powder, work quickly, because the carbon dioxide gas is released more quickly and at a lower temperature than is the case with the commercial double-acting powders.

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10:46:44 on 11/06/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does baking powder lose its potency over a period of time?

Yes. Moist kitchen air - which enters the baking powder canister each time you open it - dramatically lowers a baking powder's potency. As the below experiment demonstrates. Always test your baking powder's potency before using it by mixing a little of it into a little water. The fresher the baking powder, the more actively this mixture will bubble. If the chemical reaction is weak or does not occur, your baking powder will not properly raise whatever you are planning to bake.

Baking Powder Potency Experiment
Setup two 8-ounce measuring cups (or glass bowls). Call them A and B. Open a new can of baking powder. Transfer 1 teaspoon of it into cup A. Promptly close the can. Then cover cup A with several layers of very damp paper toweling (it should not touch the powder). Six hours later reopen the can and transfer 1 teaspoon of its powder into cup B. Into each cup, stir in a half-cup of cold tap water. Which produces the most bubbles and, therefore, is more potent?

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05:31:24 on 11/05/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How does yeast leaven bread?

When the yeast cells feast on the sugar (or the starch that a yeast enzyme has converted into glucose, a simple sugar), a chemical reaction takes place. The sugar ferments and most of it converts into alcohol and carbon dioxide. As with baked goods made with baking powder, the carbon dioxide - along with trapped expanding air and steam - leavens the bread.

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00:22:00 on 11/04/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is yeast?

Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is made up of minute one-cell fungi that rapidly multiply if given their favorite foods (sugar or starch) in a moist environment. Its ideal temperature for growth is 110o to 115oF, though for bread-leavening purposes, 80o to 95oF yields the best product.

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00:20:00 on 11/03/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should an oil fire never be put out with water?

Some of the water droplets will find their way into the hot oil and instantly convert to steam. The built-up pressure will burst the entrapped pockets of steam, splattering the burning oil and endangering the cook and house alike. Smother the flames with a tight-fitting lid or a sheet of foil wrap (kept handy for such an emergency). If the grease fire has spread outside the pan, suffocate it with baking soda or the foam of a fire extinguisher that is formulated for an oil fire, if you have one.

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01:40:52 on 11/02/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What are flash and fire points?

Even higher than the smoke point are two other critical points: flash and fire. An oil reaches its flash point (about 600oF for most oils) when tiny wisps of the fire begin to leap from its surface. If the oil is then heated to its fire point (which averages slightly under 700oF for most varieties), its surface will be a blazing inferno.

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12:02:22 on 11/01/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -