Don't Be an Onion Powder Snob!
Fresh onions and garlic are fixtures of our recipes, but Allison Forese of Philadelphia wondered if there is a place in the Milk Street pantry for onion powder and granulated garlic.
These spice cabinet staples have different flavors from their fresh counterparts, and we like
Baking with Other Oils
When baking at Milk Street, we often use alternative oils—such as sesame and olive—to underscore other flavors in a recipe. Diné Enciso of Phoenix recently asked Milk Street Radio if she could amplify the flavor of coconut cake by substituting some coconut oil for the traditionally used butter.
That substitution can be tricky. Though both butter and coconut oil are solid at room temperature, the latter requires higher heat to soften, and that can affect results in baked goods. To see how coconut oil would change taste and texture, we made three versions of a vanilla cake recipe usually made with a blend of butter and canola oil. (The canola oil was a constant in our testing; its ability to stay liquid at room temperature helps ensure a moist crumb.) We made three cakes: one with the usual butter-oil blend; one that used virgin coconut oil (the only grade with coconut flavor) in place of all the butter; and one that replaced only half the butter with virgin coconut oil. Most tasters preferred the rich flavor and texture of the classic recipe. The all-coconut/no-butter version delivered intense coconut flavor but also an oddly firm, dense and dry cake. That’s because after baking and cooling the coconut oil becomes quite firm. Water was also a factor. Butter is 20 percent water, but coconut oil has none. During baking, the water in the butter turns to steam, which helps the cake rise. Replacing half yielded better results, imparting pleasant flavor without significantly altering texture. For more coconut flavor, then, we advise replacing only half the butter in baked goods, and no more than 25 percent of a recipe’s total fat.
How to Dress for Success
A proper vinaigrette— neither too oily nor too acidic—is the difference between a vibrant salad and a pile of wet greens. But Heather DiLeo of Brooklyn, New York, has struggled to find that balance, wondering whether the secret is the ratio of oil to acid, how you mix the two or how you dress the salad.
To determine the best way with vinaigrettes, we made nearly 30 of them. Basic vinaigrettes contain oil, acid, often salt, sugar and black pepper, sometimes an allium, and an emulsifier (such as mustard or honey) to bind the oil and acid. We quickly learned that the emulsifier is key. Conventional wisdom says acid wilts greens, but it’s actually the oil that’s to blame: Oil more readily penetrates the greens’ cells. But when bound to other ingredients by an emulsifier— we used Dijon mustard—the oil penetrates the greens more slowly, keeping them fresher longer. To keep the oil from separating, be sure to remix the vinaigrette just before dressing the salad. We like a 3:1 oil-to- acid ratio, but we also learned that the acidity of vinegar is just as important as its volume. Tasters overwhelmingly preferred relatively low-acid white balsamic vinegar (5.5 percent) over stronger white wine vinegar (7 percent). Also important: order. We got the most even seasoning by dissolving any salt or sugar in the acid before adding the oil. And for vinaigrettes with an allium, that should be added to the acid first, too, to mellow its bite. Finally, we looked at how to dress the greens. We found the best bet was first drizzling the dressing over the greens in a large bowl, then tossing well.