Columnist Dorie Greenspan recently answered reader questions online. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: The recipe for your cappuccino madeleines calls for whisking together the sugar and eggs “energetically.” Does it make a difference if a handheld electric beater is used or should it be strictly whisked by hand?
A: Feel free to use an electric beater for the egg and sugar mixture. I’m lazy when it comes to washing up, so I try to keep it simple by using a whisk.
No matter what you use, you want to whisk (beat) enough to have the mixture turn pale and thicken a bit.
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Q: Do you recommend a particular brand or type of madeleine pan?
A: My favorite madeleine pan is nonstick.
Q: How long do madeleines last once made? I’d like to mail them.
A: Sadly, madeleines don’t ship well, because they stale quickly. But once stale, they are good for dunking into coffee or tea.
Q: I’ve heard that some use the spice mace instead of nutmeg in recipes for enhanced flavor. I’ve done this with cookie recipes and liked the results. Do you use mace in place of nutmeg? Are there specific recipes that work with this substitution?
A: Mace is such a lovely spice and you don’t see it used often. It’s the lacy outer coating of the nutmeg and its flavor is like nutmeg, but more delicate.
You can find whole mace (labeled as mace blades), but the easiest way to buy it is ground. It’s good in a mix of spices for pumpkin pie and often found in Indian dishes. I think it could be nice in egg and rice dishes.
Q: Is it best to level a cake and then freeze it? Or freeze it, let it defrost a little and then level?
A: You’ll find it easier to cut the cake when you freeze it first – fewer crumbs and a better chance of shaving off irregularities.
Q: What savory snacks would you recommend to pair with pinot noir? I’ve made gougeres with comte and your Parmesan galettes – would either of both of these work well?
A: Yes to both. I’d put out some nuts roasted with rosemary and perhaps something with salmon, such as gravlax or salmon rillettes.
Q: Whenever I make a 9-by-13-inch cake, the corners don’t rise the way the center does - any suggestions?
A: Since things bake from the outside in, it sounds as though your edges are baking and setting too far in advance of the rest of the cake. I’d check the oven temperature with a thermometer. You could also try putting the cake pan on a baking sheet to help even out the heat. Another thing might be to slow down the baking – try lowering the oven temperature by 25 degrees.
Q: What are some desserts that freeze well?
A: Most butter cakes freeze well; so do Bundt cakes and cheesecakes.