Flip it Around!

Having trouble cooking your favorite foods?  Let’s turn it around!

If you have a conventional oven, it probably has hot spots and cool spots – places that cook more quickly or slowly.  For casseroles or large roasts that are slow-cooked for hours, this doesn’t make much difference, but for other dishes, such as roasting potato wedges or baking cookies, you may find that the food on one side is cooked through while the other side is mushy … or almost raw.  Turn your pan around halfway through for even cooking.

If you make bread in a loaf pan, did you know the best way to cool it is on its side?  Think about bread in a pan: it expands upwards, which means that this is the weakest part of its structure.  Turning the loaf on its side (once removed from the pan, of course) puts gravity on its side.

When rolling out dough with a rolling pin, periodically lift it and give it a quarter turn.  This helps in two ways. First, since we’re all right or left handed, we roll harder on one side, making the dough thinner on that side.  Two, that little lift will give you an early warning if you need more flour underneath. There’s nothing worse than rolling out a huge cookie sheet, pushing your cutter in … and everything sticks.

Finally, when cooking meat, be sure to sear it on all sides.  With thin pieces of meat such as chicken breasts or steaks, this usually means top and bottom, but when working with big roasts for braises, you might want to turn it on the other sides, too.  Start with the “presentation side” – this is a fancy culinary term for “face up.” Since your oil is clean and free of debris when you begin cooking, starting with the presentation side gives you the prettiest golden glow for when it hits the plate.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (outer yellow skin of one lemon)
2 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk

Lemon Glaze:

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour, or spray with a non stick vegetable/flour spray, the bottom and sides of a loaf pan (8 x 4 x 2 1/2 inch) (20 x 10 x 7 cm). Line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment or wax paper.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and poppy seeds. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until softened (about 1-2 minutes). Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture (in three additions) and milk (in two additions) alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Mix only until combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, in a small microwaveable bowl, stir the sugar with the lemon juice. Place in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds or just until sugar has dissolved. (Alternately, you can heat the ingredients together in a small saucepan on the stove.)

When the bread is done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Immediately brush the top of the bread with the hot lemon glaze. Cool the loaf in the pan for about 20-30 minutes then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack. This bread is best when stored overnight to allow the glaze to be absorbed into the bread and to allow the flavors to mingle.