Food writer Tamar Haspel recently joined The Washington Post staff to answer questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: My son made a German cheesecake recipe that uses ricotta cheese and has a graham cracker crumb crust on the bottom. He sprayed the muffin tin with cooking oil spray before baking, but the cheesecakes stuck to the muffin tin on the sides and also the bottom crust. How do we prevent sticking the next time?
A: First, do you mean he made individual little cakes in the wells of a muffin tin? Was there graham cracker crust on the sides too? Or was it a single pan?
In general, sometimes the cake is so chilled that it sticks. You can let the cake sit in its pan in an inch of hot tap water (if it’s a springform pan be sure to first wrap the bottom and sides of the pan tightly with plastic or foil so there’s no leakage), or wrap a very warm, damp towel around the sides and bottom of the pan or muffin tin for a few minutes.
For a cheesecake, I’d also run a table knife just inside all the way around at least once, to make sure there is some separation between cake and pan.
No matter what kind of cake I bake these days, I find myself lining the bottom of the pan with a parchment paper circle — it makes things easier. But remember to peel it off! — Bonnie S. Benwick
Q: I frequently order main dish salads at restaurants, especially Caesar salad, which I don’t know how to make. My partner says this is a waste of money because we’re paying as much for a few pennies’ worth of lettuce — maybe with some slivers of meat — as we would for a big slab of expensive steak. Do you agree?
A: Of course not! There are plenty of salads out there for which the chefs are putting lots of time and attention, but even if they don’t, if it’s something that you appreciate and enjoy, it’s the perfect use of your money. — Joe Yonan
Q: I tried to clarify chicken stock with egg whites following Julia Child’s instructions. The result was still not clear and tasted sort of toasty, definitely different from the usual. Thoughts or suggestions for next time?
A: Next time you start from scratch, don’t bring the liquids to a full boil. If you use a whole chicken, go ahead and remove all the skin and fat that’s easy to pull off. I would also rinse the bird inside and out, carefully and under a small stream of running water in the sink, before putting it in the pot. — B.S.B.
Q: With the warm weather finally arriving, I made an Thai-inspired cold noodle salad. The flavor was great but my noodles ended up soggy really quickly. My dressing is coconut milk-based (with soy sauce, red thai curry, etc.) and I used broken up long rice noodles. Should I add more fat to the dressing? Use different noodles?
A: Rice noodles can indeed absorb a lot of liquid, and I think they’re best consumed immediately. I’d switch to udon or soba. — J.Y.
Q: Will my sandwich go bad if I don’t eat it until it’s been out of the fridge for three hours? This has to do with bringing food on a plane — specifically a chicken sandwich. If it matters, I could use mayo from a little packet.
A: I would eat a sandwich under those storage conditions, but I don’t feel comfortable saying “Yeah go for it!” because technically you probably shouldn’t. — Kara Elder
A: And here’s the fun food safety fact of the day: mayo doesn’t accelerate spoilage, it actually retards it (because of the vinegar in it). Blows your mind, doesn’t it? — Tamar Haspel