A touch of Terri



July 17, 2015 - 12:00 AM

In reporting for stories in today’s special issue on the Allen County Fair, I had the opportunity to watch Terri Kretzmeier in action as leader of the Prairie Dell 4-H club.
No matter what she does, Kretzmeier is a perfectionist. In my story on the four Wicoff siblings, I made light of some of Kretzmeier’s tips. One was when measuring sugar, to never shake it in an effort to level it off. That action makes it settle, creating more space for more sugar and yielding an inaccurate result, she said. The better way, she said, is to pour too much and level off the excess with a spatula. A piece of wax paper underneath catches the excess.
It may surprise Terri that one of my favorite magazines is “Cook’s Illustrated,” a monthly publication whose recipes come with detailed descriptions as to why their ingredients and methods yield perfect results. I’ve a hunch the magazine’s test cooks would back Terri up on how to measure sugar.
Cook’s Illustrated takes after Consumer’s Reports in that it accepts no advertising. That way it can promote or dismiss products, standing by a goal of excellence, not ad sales.
My husband, Brian, enjoys the magazine as much as I, but from the science perspective.
For instance, a favorite recipe is for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. They are a dark chocolate cookie whose crevasses provide stark relief to a white sugar exterior.
To get the right amount of crinkle, both baking powder and baking soda are used.
The leaveners help the dough rise and spread out, creating small fissures. To get the baking soda to kick into high gear requires an acidic component, which the brown sugar and espresso powder provide.
Two reasons exist for first rolling the dough in granulated sugar before the powdered sugar.
First, it provides a barrier that keeps the more fine-grained confectioner’s sugar from dissolving into the dough.
Second, because sugar is hygroscopic — it absorbs moisture — the outer layer pulls the moisture from the inside, drying out the cookie surface so it is more prone to cracking. Because regular sugar is coarser, its crystalline structure absorbs more. The sugar crystals then dissolve, forming a syrup that rapidly recrystallizes as the moisture burns off in the heat of the oven. The result is a crispy, cracked exterior but soft interior.
And here I thought, double the sugar, double the fun.
For the most part, Brian and I attempt recipes from the sophisticated journal only on weekends. Typically, they are labor-intensive and more often than not I end up spending way more time than expected on a recipe.
That said, they have yet to disappoint and provide interesting reading to boot.

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