Marrow Spoon: Recipes That Have Bones to Pick

Times Staff Writer

Question: Can you help me find a resource that handles marrow spoons? These are used to scoop out the marrow from bones. I have recipes calling for them, but no one knows what I am referring to.

Answer: Geary's, 351 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, carries the spoons in its silver department.

Q: How can you tell whether a raw egg is fresh without breaking it?

A: Howard Hillman, in his book "Kitchen Science" (Houghton Mifflin: 1981), suggests placing "the suspect egg in at least several inches of water in a bowl or pot. If your egg sinks and lies on its side, you have a fresh egg. If it sinks but stands partially or fully erect on its tapered end, your egg is over the hill, though technically still edible. If it floats, you are looking at a rotten egg, more suitable for a garbage heap than a stomach.

"The egg acquires buoyancy as it ages because, while its yolk and albumen (egg white) are gradually losing moisture to the outside world through the porous shell, the size of its air pocket is increasing."

Q: What is the difference between almond paste and almond butter?

A: According to the California Almond Growers Exchange: "Almond paste is made with raw almonds and has a 15% moisture content, whereas almond butter is made with roasted almonds and has a low moisture content. The dominant flavor in butter is roasted almonds, while almond extract flavor is dominant in paste."

Q: What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder?

A: The chemical name for baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. In their book "How Cooking Works" (Macmillan: 1981), Sylvia Rosenthal and Fran Shinagel explain that, used alone, baking soda has no leavening properties, but in recipes containing an acid ingredient such as sour milk, buttermilk or molasses, "it neutralizes the acid ingredient and produces a tender crumb."

Rosenthal and Shinagel explain that although there are three major kinds of baking powders, "all contain an acid and an alkaline material. They react with one another in the presence of the liquid ingredients in the batter, generating carbon dioxide, which takes the form of tiny bubbles in the dough. The bubbles dilate in the heat of the oven, expanding the batter, which is then set by the heat to form a light-textured crumb that comes out of the oven as cake."

Almost all recipes today are developed using double-acting baking powder, so called because it starts its work in the cold dough and finishes it when the dough comes in contact with the heat from the hot oven. The other, lesser-used types are tartrate baking powders and phosphate baking powders, say Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, in "Joy of Cooking" (Bobbs-Merrill: 1986).

There is no substitute for baking soda, but it is available in the baking section of any supermarket. In an emergency, baking powder may be produced by mixing one-quarter teaspoon baking soda and one-half teaspoon cream of tartar for each teaspoon of baking powder called for in the recipe. This must be freshly mixed since it does not store well.

In response to the March 26 You Asked About . . . column regarding keeping bottom pie crusts from being soggy, F. Singleton of San Diego writes: "To ensure having a non-soggy crust when making pumpkin, custard and other pies baked in the crust, the crust may be baked for five to seven minutes before adding the filling. This has been a 'non-fail' with me."

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