* * * Listen to this Audio Bite! * * *
Shirley O. Corriher’s new book Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking is food chemistry for the common folk. To me, it is like a wizard’s book of spells. This tome contains 200 recipes for cookies, breads, cakes, icing, and tarts both savory and sweet. Corriher breaks it all down in simple language (Imagine a food scientist aunt giving you advice.) and then offers example recipes. Like a teacher, she lays out what each recipe shows.
Corriher is a kind of food detective. She helps everyone from chefs to large corporations troubleshoot their recipes. She has a B.A. in chemistry from Vanderbilt University, and was once a research biochemist.
Corriher spoke to me from Atlanta to answer some questions from Miami Dish readers.
Here are some of her answers:
Christina asked: Does chilling cookie dough make a difference?
“The time in the refrigerator does a number of things. Number one, it distributes the moisture more evenly and number two, it allows the starch and the proteins time to fully hydrate, fully absorb liquid. And actually, famous cookie bakers like Ruth Wakefield—in her book, The Tollhouse Cookbook, she says ‘We always make the cookies – the chocolate chip cookies – the night before and allow them to stand in the refrigerator.’
Now this would definitely help make your cookies not as runny, spread out as much, because this would give more time for the starch and the proteins to fully absorb liquid and make the batter a little bit thicker.”
On the Miami Dish Facebook page, Alicia asked: Do you really have to sift flour? Why?
“I don’t believe in sifting. I don’t think you get a good blend when you sift. See, if a cake has holes in it, it means that you have not distributed the baking powder evenly with the flour, but sifting doesn’t really do it.
I’ve done some experiments with dark spice that weighed about the same as baking powder, and even after sifting three times, there’s still some white streaks where it’s not evenly blended, and some dark streaks where it’s not evenly blended.
I believe in beating. Beat the daylights out of the flour and the baking powder and the salt! Even with your hand beater, or with a fork, just beat vigorously and you get a much better blending than you get with sifting. I think it’s much easier too.
To find out what makes cookies chewy versus crunchy and whether you have to actually cool cookies on a rack, listen to my extended interview with Shirley Corriher here.
You can ask your baking questions of Shirley Corriher at the Miami Book Fair International this weekend. She will be speaking with Linda Gassenheimer (Meals in Minutes for People with Diabetes) and Nino Pernetti (Caffe Abracci Cookbook).
When: Sunday, November 16 at 11 am
Where: Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus, 300 N.E. Second Avenue, Room 7174/75
How much: $5 admission to Miami Book Fair International