Ask Ina

Ask Ina

Have a cooking or entertaining question?

From Sydney Baer - Portland, OR

I made your challah - yummmm! The braid was tight going into the oven, but the "seams" of the braid spread upon baking. The original braid was nicely browned, but the "spread" part was cooked, but not browned. What happened?

Ina's Answer:

As the bread rises, the part of the dough that "spreads" will be always be less browned, but be sure to cover all the dough (including the crevices of the braid as much as possible) with the egg wash, and most of the loaf should brown nicely.

From Shawn ONeil - Kennebunkport, Maine

Can I make the French flageolet beans a day ahead? If so what is the best way to reheat without drying them out?

Ina's Answer:

Yes! I would reheat the beans in a pot over low heat on the stove. You may find you need to add a little extra liquid.

From Laura - Todd, NC

Can you make your Tuscan Lemon Chicken using boneless skinless chicken breast? If so, what are the changes And can you cook the breast in the oven instead of on the grill?

Ina's Answer:

I wouldn't recommend using boneless skinless breasts to make the Tuscan Lemon Chicken, but you might like my Lemon Chicken Breasts recipe - it uses boneless skinless breasts and is made in the oven.

From Juliette - New York

I want to halve your recipe for turkey meatloaf. Besides just halving all ingredients, how else would you modify the recipe?

Ina's Answer:

I'd halve the ingredients (but still use the whole egg) and cook the meatloaf for the same amount of time.

From Sandy Lauper - Blue Point, NY

What would be a good salad, vegetable or starch to serve with your Beef Bourguignon?

Ina's Answer:

Since the Beef Bourguignon really stands on its own, I might serve a green salad and a piece of Brie as a separate course. I like the recipe for Green Salad Vinaigrette in my book, Barefoot in Paris.

From Frannie Mendlow - Brooklyn, NY

What brand of shortening do you now use in your pie shells?

Ina's Answer:

I use Crisco shortening.

From Marianne Weichselbaum - Boston, MA

Where can I buy the everyday silverware that you use?

Ina's Answer:

My everyday silverware is silver plate, called "Baguette," and I bought it at Dean and Deluca in New York City.

From Linda Tylka - Florida

Can you freeze the Apple Pie Bars?

Ina's Answer:

No, I would not recommend freezing the Apple Pie Bars. They are best served fresh.

From Pennie - Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Should I sift flour before or after measuring?

Ina's Answer:

Traditionally, sifting flour is done to standardize the amount of flour in each cup. However, I find if you use a spoon to lighten the flour before you measure it, you will also end up with a standardized amount of flour. I actually sift the flour after measuring it to combine it with the other dry ingredients, but that's technically not necessary.

From Linda Young - San Francisco Bay Area

I have many of your recipes but not a ratatouille recipe. Do you have one?

Ina's Answer:

Yes! I have a recipe for Roasted Ratatouille with Polenta in my new book, Cooking for Jeffrey. I hope you enjoy it!

From Ann Callahan - New York, New York

How far in advance should I remove your Frozen Key Lime Pie from the freezer before serving?

Ina's Answer:

Good question! I take the pie out of freezer fifteen minutes before serving.

From Delma A. Sassano - Pittsburgh, PA

How do you recommend storing your granola recipe? Does it need to be refrigerated?

Ina's Answer:

I would recommend storing the granola in plastic containers at room temperature, for up to 1 week.

From Jodie Weaver - Valrico, FL

Can creme brûlée be made a few days ahead of time and frozen then torched just prior to serving?

Ina's Answer:

Yes! The custard can definitely be made ahead. I would make the custard, wrap each creme brûlée individually, and then add these sugar and brûlée the tops just before serving.

From Leslie - Milford, CT

Can I make ahead and freeze your Lemon Bars?

Ina's Answer:

No, I would not recommend freezing my Lemon Bar recipe. They're always best the day they're made.

From Linda Watson - Charlotte, NC

What kind of blender do you recommend?

Ina's Answer:

I use a Waring Pro blender.

From Ann Amy - Henderson, NV

In a baking recipe or any recipe for that matter, can I halve the ingredients? I understand that the vessel should be smaller and the time decreased but will the recipe come out the same?

Ina's Answer:

Actually, halving or doubling the ingredients in baking can actually be very difficult. The only thing you can do is try the recipe, make adjustments, and try it again.

From Barb Bennett - Asheville, North Carolina

Can I make your Roasted Vegetable Lasagna in advance and freeze it? If so, would modifications to the recipe be needed?

Ina's Answer:

Yes you can. Assemble the lasagna, wrap it very well, and defrost it overnight in the refrigerator and the bake it.

From Judy Lovic - Williamsburg, VA

I am having trouble making the croutons for your Panzanella recipe - the bread keeps burning. I tried lowering the heat on the stove, but should they be cooked in the oven?

Ina's Answer:

If the croutons are burning without browning properly, you might need to add more oil to the pan.

From Mary Cook Blanshard - Dallas, TX

When I make whipped cream for dessert and want to do it ahead of serving, I whip it and put it into the refrigerator; however, when I take it out to serve the top portion looks the same but the underside have reverted to liquid......what am I doing wrong?

Ina's Answer:

You're not doing anything wrong! That's what happens to whipped cream when it sits. If you go to my book Make It Ahead, there's a recipe for Make It Ahead Whipped Cream - the trick is to add a little bit of creme fraiche to stabilize the cream.

From Pat Englund - Houston, TX

Would you recommend keeping muffin batter in the refrigerator overnight?

Ina's Answer:

No problem. Mix the batter, cover the bowl with plastic warp and refrigerate it overnight. The next morning, scoop the batter and bake the muffins!

From Michele Huertas - Alamo, California

You said you use "Italian Cocoa Powder." What kind do you use?

Ina's Answer:

I use Pernigotti, which is available at Williams-Sonoma.

From Cheryl - Portland, OR

My question is about ice cream scoops. I'm not a great baker and my cookies are different sizes; my cupcakes and muffins are flat or way over the rim. I see that scoops are either numbered or marked by oz's and I have a collection that have no markings. What size is best and how do I tell what size my scoops are?

Ina's Answer:

To make sure that my baked goods are uniform in size, I use a standard 2 1/4" rounded scoop for muffins and cupcakes, and a standard 1 3/4" rounded scoop for cookies. I would recommend using a ruler to measure the diameter of your scoops.

From Lisa Guy - Queenstown, Maryland

Today, on Facebook you posted the recipe for Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken from your new cookbook Cooking with Jeffrey. My question is - I bought two half chickens from Whole Foods, can I use those instead of a whole chicken that has been spatchcocked?

Ina's Answer:

While I've never tried making the recipe with two half chickens, I don't see why it wouldn't work!

From Martha - Portland, OR

I am trying to make meals for my daughter to serve and eat after she has her baby. I'm thinking frozen complete main dish and I wanted to make your Parker's Beef Stew. Does it freeze well?

Ina's Answer:

Yes, it freezes beautifully. I fill quart containers and freeze the stew for up to 4-6 months.