QUESTION: Are paper towels a sanitary product for wrapping food such as veggies, or cooking in the microwave? Lucille, Winnipeg
ANSWER: How you store and cook food such as fruit and vegetables will have a major impact on their taste and texture. Certain veggies such as asparagus, beets, horseradish, parsnips, artichokes, herbs and lettuce can be stored in either dry or damp paper towels (depending on the vegetable) without unsanitary consequences. However, in my view a clean dishtowel does the same trick and is less expensive and more environmentally friendly. When using paper towels in the microwave, choose solid white paper towels, avoid paper towels with imprinted color designs.
QUESTION: I have a keen interest in cake decorating but find I have a hard time icing and decorating cakes without incorporating all kinds of crumbs into the icing. Any suggestions for a more professional look? Bruno, Winnipeg
ANSWER: Refrigerate the cake for at least a day before attempting cake decorating and icing. Although the outside of the cake may feel cool, the middle of the cake will stay warm for hours. After the cake cools, turn it upside down on a cake board (you will have less crumbs this way). To avoid crumbs all together put a thin layer of icing on the cake. Once you have covered the cake with a thin layer of frosting, you can cover that layer with a normal layer of icing. Make sure the icing is smooth and even. Dip your metal icing spatula in cold water and go over the icing, this will smooth the icing beautifully.
Icing consistency is key in cake decorating. The icing should be quite stiff, if it is too stiff to work with you can always thin it out.
To start with, choose the tip you will be using. Hold the pastry bag with the hole down and place the tip inside, as far as possible. You should use about a cup of icing in the bag at a time, and start it out in a bowl, that way you can thin the icing with a little milk if you need to, before you put it in the icing bag. The icing should be thin enough to go through the tip, but thick enough to make the designs you choose. If you are still a novice at cake decorating, practice making the decorations on waxed paper before you attempt to put them on the cake.
QUESTION: I noticed in one of your columns a question about how to keep a bathtub clean. We keep a spray bottle beside the bathtub (containing water with a squirt of dish soap). After each bathtub use, we spray the sides of the tub, scrub with a bathroom sponge and rinse. This has kept our tub sparkling and ring free for years.
Now for my question: I have a large copper tray (hammered finish). The tray was left in the sink with water overnight and now the finish is milky looking. Do you have a solution for this? Would the ketchup trick work? I don't mind if the protective finish all comes off, so that I have to clean the copper regularly. Thank you for your help.
ANSWER: Thank you for the dish soap comment JoAnne!
While the ketchup method works you will require a lot of it and the job can get messy. Instead fill a large bucket or basin with white vinegar. Sprinkle a liberal amount of salt into the vinegar. Soak the tray for 10 minutes and polish. Repeat if necessary. Dry and coat with mineral or baby oil to minimize future tarnish. WD-40 also works well for cleaning copper.
I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming. Missed a column? Can't remember a solution? Need a speaker for an upcoming event? Check out my brand new videos/blog/website: reena.ca!
Fabulous Tip from Reader
I always soak my baking sheets and broiler trays and other pots and pans in dishwasher detergent. I usually use the powder, but recently I've been using the liquid to clean my oven exterior (it's easier to apply). My method is to wash all the dishes first, and then soak the pans in the sink with hot water and detergent, usually overnight. The next morning swish... the pans look brand new. No scrubbing. Thanks for the tip on cleaning windows; I'm going to try it. (I've never used rubbing alcohol in water before). Barbara