Food & Drink

When to bake with pastry weights

Are metal pie weights just a crock? J. Visser

In shape: Pie weights are used when precooking pastry. Photo: Marina Oliphant

In shape: Pie weights are used when precooking pastry. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Thank you for tweeting this one. Nice to have some hipster readers sharing their colourful argot.

Crock, for those unawares, is a disdainful term for ”nonsense” or ”rubbish” as in: “That new Thai Italian tapas joint! What a crock!”

One uses pie weights in blind-baking to precook pastry crusts for tarts and pie shells. The weights stop the pastry from rising away from the tin as it bakes. One blind-bakes a crust when adding a cold filling to the pie or when baking a delicate filling such as an egg custard, which would become rubbery in the time needed to bake the pastry all the way through.

Dried peas and beans are often recommended as pie weights but Susan Hawes, of Melbourne cookware store Scullerymade, says these can insulate the pastry from the heat of the oven.

She recommends using metal pie weights, which transfer the heat to the pastry. A handful of old coins, resting on top of greaseproof paper, also does the trick but is more difficult to handle.

My partner was making a flourless chocolate cake. The recipe said to separate the eggs, whip the whites into a foam, mix the yolks into the batter then fold the whipped whites in. Instead, she was about to whip the yolks and whites together. What difference would it have made? M. Patton

Instead of a nice light cake your partner would have made a very delicious but flat, chewy slice. In a flourless chocolate cake the air trapped in the egg whites expands as it heats in the oven making the cake light.

When whipped, egg whites can increase in size eightfold, as the albumen proteins unfold and bond with one another to create the ”skin” around the tiny bubbles. These proteins don’t bond that well when fat is around. There’s fat in egg yolk. That’s why when whipping eggs you not only make sure there is no yolk in the whites but also that all your utensils are clean.

Remnants of butter or oil in a whisk or bowl will stop the egg whites from forming a foam.

The other day I bought a chicken from a well-known Sydney fruit and vegetable outlet. When I got it home I was about to stuff it, but I could not find the cavity for the stuffing. Much to my horror, I discovered the chicken still had all its entrails in it! Could you please tell me whether this is common and acceptable? S.Woodbury

In the words of my daughter that is ”totally gross”. I spoke to a mate involved with the chook processing business. He said the evisceration of chickens is automated and that, although it is possible a chicken missed having its innards removed by a robotic vacuum, it should never have made it as far as the shop.

You have two choices. Take it back to the shop for a refund (and a humble apology) or callA Current Affair.

I made a meat dish from an Italian cookbook and the recipe called for marsala. The sauce was sickly sweet. Did I do something wrong? G. Speers

Marsala is a wine from Sicily, the island on the tip of Italy’s boot that was ruled by Normans. Slightly lacking in science and maths acumen, the Normans enlisted Arabs and Jews to give their court an air of culture. The Arabs added sugar to sauces made with vinegar and agrodolce was born, the sweetness balanced by the acidity. However, you say your dish was ”sickly sweet”.

I reckon it could be the marsala. The recipe writer was likely thinking you would use dry Italian marsala, called ”secco”. Semisecco marsala has about 40 grams to 100 grams per litre of residual sugar and dolce marsala has more than 100 grams per litre. If you were using Australian marsala, it is more than likely it would have been sweet.

If you make the dish again and can’t find dry marsala, try using oloroso sherry.

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