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A&E >  Food

How much sugar can you cut and still have a yummy pie?

No-Bake Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake. Because pie recipes don’t require sugar for structure, it’s generally OK to cut back on of the sugar.  (Scott Suchman for the Washington Post)
No-Bake Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake. Because pie recipes don’t require sugar for structure, it’s generally OK to cut back on of the sugar. (Scott Suchman for the Washington Post)
The Washington Post

Washington Post

Every week, Aaron Hutcherson and Becky Krystal answer questions and provide practical cooking advice in a chat with readers. Aaron and Becky write and test recipes for Voraciously, The Washington Post’s team dedicated to helping you cook with confidence. Recently they were joined by Recipes Editor Ann Maloney, Joy “the Baker” Wilson, and Food and Dining Editor Joe Yonan. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.

Q. Any suggestions on how to make pies with low sugar for relatives on a low-sugar diet?

A. The great thing about pies is that they don’t rely on sugar for structure like other baked goods, making them a great dessert to adapt to a lower sugar diet. I find that you can easily reduce the sugar in the filling by up to half for a fruit pie. For a pumpkin pie, we rely on the sugar to enhance the flavor of the rather bland pumpkin so I’d say you can reduce the sugar by a quarter and still have a delicious pie. Also consider subbing a portion of the sugar with something like Truvia Baking Blend.

- Joy Wilson

A. And it is definitely worth alerting guests before you make any unexpected swaps.

- Becky Krystal

Q. Are there any 1/2 pie pans out there that you would recommend? Due to numbers, we will end up tossing part of a pie. Or, have you taken a calzone like approach and just folded the crust over? If so, any advice on avoiding a soggy bottom crust and an overdone top crust? And it must have two crusts, so a crisp, buckle, Betty … are not options.

A. Oh, please don’t toss part of a pie! At the very least, wrap and freeze for another day or share with friends, family or co-workers. There are no half-pie pans per se, but you could use mini tart pans, which would be pretty and elegant and would let you scale down a recipe.

- B.K.

Q. If a recipe calls for fine cornmeal but all I have is a coarser grind, can I just run it through my blender the way I do with sugar when I need superfine?

A. I’ve never tried that before, but that sounds like a great idea! Either a blender or food processor should do the trick. Or if you’re OK with whatever recipe you’re making having a coarser texture, you could just make the swap without grinding it at all.

- Aaron Hutcherson

Q. I’ve run across interesting recipes recently that call for cooking or soaking in “heavily salted water” or in one bizarre reference, “water that tastes of the sea.” I’m a land lubber from Kansas so, no idea what the sea tastes like. Can you shed some light on a general ratio of salt to water that would satisfy the term “heavily salted”?

A: This can be a matter of personal taste, but a general guideline for generously salted water that tastes like the sea would be something like: 1 to 2 tablespoons of fine sea salt or 2 to 3 tablespoons of Diamond Crystal kosher salt in 4 quarts of water for 1 pound of pasta. You can add 1 tablespoon, stir it in and taste a tiny bit. If it tastes salty, you are probably fine.

- Ann Maloney

Q. I recently roasted seeds (separately) from kabocha, butternut and stripetti squash. Only the butternut squash seeds came out crunchy and done but not too hard. The stripetti seeds were popping in the oven. How do I know if I undercooked or overcooked the seeds? How do I tell when they are ready?

A. I’ve had my best results with these when I first boil them in salt water for up to 15 minutes, which also helps separate them from the pulp, and then pat dry and roast until they’re lightly browned and crisp.

- Joe Yonan

Q. I bought Trader Joe’s baked tofu, teriyaki flavor, in a whim. What should I do with it?

A. I love to have this around to put into salads and on top of grain bowls. It’s also fantastic to cube and throw into fried rice!

- J.Y.

Q. We have several packages of chopped walnuts and slivered almonds (commercially packaged). They show “best by” dates from May to October of this year. They’re safe to use in granola, right?

A. I would not be worried about safety. The worst that could happen is they’ve gone rancid, which you would smell or taste right away. So go ahead and try before you bake with them.

- B.K.

Q. It seems like everyone who ever cooked a turkey I ate (family, friends, restaurants) ended up with mostly flabby skin because they learned that covering (usually) the breast with foil kept the meat from drying out. I love crisp skin so this saddens me. Is there a way to roast the turkey without foil and without drying out the meat?

A. My recommendation is to spatchcock the turkey. The turkey cooks more quickly this way and there’s no need to cover with foil. Another cause of flabby skin is basting, which isn’t necessary at all.

- A.H.

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