Seylou Bakery & Mill founder and baker Jonathan Bethony and food writers Tamar Haspel, Simran Sethi and Cathy Barrow recently joined the Post Food staff to answer questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat. Recipes whose names are capitalized can be found in our Recipe Finder at washingtonpost.com/recipes.
Q: I have a couple of recipes involving white chocolate, but I can’t find a good white chocolate bar in a regular supermarket. Any recommendations for brands that are relatively easy to find? Ordering them online is also an option, but I prefer not to spend a fortune for an artisanal bar.
A: Try Valrhona or Ghirardelli. If they aren’t available, look for bars with as few ingredients as possible (such as extra fats). You want to taste the white chocolate, not fillers.
- Simran Sethi
Q: Is it possible to make 100 percent whole-grain sourdough breads that have only a mild sour taste? I am a passionate home baker milling my own flour from locally grown heirloom wheat, and taming the sour is an ongoing challenge.
A: The more often you refresh your sourdough, the milder it becomes. Make sure when refreshing often (say every four hours) that the levain is fully fermenting or else you will lose the balance and potency of the microorganisms that are leavening your bread.
- Jonathan Bethony
Q: Resting comfortably in my freezer is a lovely carcass from a 22-pound turkey. I want to try my hand at making stock and am overwhelmed by the various ingredients and methods I’m finding online. Ideally, I’d like to use my slow cooker.
A: I make stock with just the bones and scraps in a pot; cover with water and boil. That way, it’s just stock-flavored and can be adapted for any recipe. I use the pressure cooker (two stints at 50 minutes each, to really break it down), but a slow cooker works fine, too. Let it go all day. You will be so glad you did the next time you make a soup or stew!
- Tamar Haspel
Q: I make couscous and vegetables about once a week and coat it with some combination of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, molasses, tahini and sesame oil. It’s really good, but I feel like I’m in a rut. What else can I use to coat it to change things up?
A: Try pomegranate or date molasses, and spice things up with za’atar or sumac. Or you could stir in a quick pesto and/or roasted grape tomatoes, some grilled slices of avocado, some sliced hearts of palm. Or skip the molasses route and go togarashi or furikake (Japanese spice blends), with a toasted sesame oil and maybe a little fish sauce or julienne of nori. Or shredded celery root or fennel, with lemon juice and olive oil and parsley.
- Bonnie S. Benwick
Q: When baking cookies, how do you decide whether to use parchment paper, a silicone mat or a bare pan?
A: Option C is no longer valid for me—and my baking sheets are in better shape because of it. I only have one silicone liner, and I tend to use that for meringue-type cookies. So parchment is my go-to—the pre-cut sheets are worth it, and they’re generally good for reuse a few times.
Q: I love green curry paste. Recently, I found green curry powder in a spice shop and bought it on an impulse. Do you use the powder the same way you use the paste, or do you reconstitute it into a paste first? If it has to be reconstituted, how? Any suggestions would be welcome.
A: Making it into a paste is the way to go, I think. Depending on the recipe, you can whisk together one tablespoon with equal parts water and oil; or use a citrus juice like lime instead of the water, or maybe even fish sauce.
Q: I love the spices and overall flavor of gingerbread but not the molasses notes. Are there any conditions under which a maple syrup or honey substitute would NOT work (meaning is there something about the chemistry or consistency of molasses that I need to adjust for)?
A: I’m not sure about the chemistry of the substitutions. It’s worth trying and reporting back. But my favorite gingerbread recipe comes from Edna Lewis’s “The Taste of Country Cooking” and uses sorghum syrup.
- Joe Yonan
Q: I am making goose for a small dinner party, and I’m thinking of having sweet and sour red cabbage and mashed potatoes with goose cracklings. Do I need another vegetable or a starter? If so, what? It seems like a pretty heavy meal. What should I do about dessert?
A: Goose is a very hearty meal, indeed, so a bright green, crunchy, acidic salad is a nice counterpoint. Keep the starters light—nuts and olives—and end with something airy like Berry Pavlova With Passion Fruit Sauce. For goose inspiration, check out the recipe for Braised Goose With Root Vegetables and Gremolata.
- Cathy Barrow
Q: My cholesterol is creeping up and I’d like to find a way to incorporate oats into my regular diet. The problem is, I don’t love warm oatmeal in the morning. Do you have any other suggestions? Got a great granola recipe or any other way to get the daily dose?
A: Try Dorie Greenspan’s Cocoa Crunch Fruit and Nut Granola or Maple Olive Oil Pecan Granola. Also, you might try Apple Cider Muesli. It’s soft but not as boring as oatmeal texture-wise. (And you can eat it cold or room temperature.)
- Kara Elder