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Have a question, query, or quagmire you’d like Renee and David to answer? Click that red button to the right, or click on this link to leave us a recorded message. Press and talk away and maybe you’ll be featured on the show!

We interrupt this regularly scheduled podcast that usually brings you exclusive access to cookbook authors, restaurant chefs, food entrepreneurs, and culinary luminaries of all sorts to clear up some common cooking conundrums that we’ve been asked over and over again in recent weeks. (Seems like a lot of us are spending more time in the kitchen lately!) And as we know that new questions are always arising, we intend to do this again, dear readers and listeners, so kindly share your most vexing questions with us in a comment below and we’ll do our best to address them in an upcoming episode. Until then, be safe, eat well, and love hard on those who are at your table.


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Have a cooking question, query, or quagmire you’d like Renee and David to answer? Click that big-mouth button to the right to leave us a recorded message. Just enter your name and email address, press record, and talk away. We’ll definitely get back to you. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be featured on the show!


Renee Schettler: Hello, David.

David: Hello, Renee. How are you?

Renee: I’m well, thank you. And you?

David: I’m doing well. This is a special and different kind of podcast today, isn’t it?

Renee: Very different.

David: Yes. We put out a call to our readers and listeners for us to answer your questions, calm your qualms, and fix your quagmires. And boy did we get a lot of them, right, Renee?

Renee: We did. That’s a lot of alliteration, too.

David: Yes, yes, that’s true. We’re going to answer just about 10 or so today, but keep the questions coming. We love them. And in the future, you may actually be on the show with us. But for today, Adam, our engineer/producer/couples therapist–

Deep Therapist: David, how’s that make you feel?

David:…will be asking them for you in absentia. Hey. Adam.

Renee: Hey, Adam.

Adam Clairmont: Hey, guys. So after all these years and what is it? 22?

David: Yeah, it’s 22. Twenty-two. Yeah.

Adam: All right, so 22 years. In 22 years, what have you learned about people and their questions?

David: Oh, lots of things.

Renee: Starting with never assume people know what you mean.

David: Yeah, and always start from a blank slate, like a tabula rasa. And I’ll tell you this story. This is way before you ever joined, Renee. Years ago this woman wrote me and she said, “I have creamed the butter and sugar. They’re in the bowl and I’ve poured all the cream in. What do I do?”

Renee: Oh.

David: Right? Now that makes sense. Cream the butter and sugar. Of course, there was no cream in the ingredients list. And this other one I thought was very interesting. A person wrote in and said, “I’ve separated the eggs, so I have them in two spots on the counter. What do I do with them?”

An illustration of four socially distancing eggs.
: Dusida

Renee: Oh, social distancing.

Paranoid Egg: Hey you, get away from me!

David: With our eggs, right? And another person wrote in and said, “I only have salted butter. How do I get the salt out of the butter?”

Renee: Oh, that dear sweet soul.

David: Right. And the thing is you just have to assume people have no knowledge of cooking when they ask questions and you have to start that basic. So that’s what I think I have learned. So we always try to teach people from the basics up.

Renee: Absolutely. Meet everyone where they’re at.

David: Exactly.

Renee: Now Adam, I know you have a question of your own to ask, right?

Adam: Yes. And with me, you don’t have to assume. I’ll just tell you. I know zero. Nothing.

Renee: I love not having to assume anything.

David: So tell away. What is it?

A jar of sourdough starter with cheesecloth on top, secured by a rubber band.
: Ewelina Banaszak

How can I keep my sourdough starter going?

Adam: All right. What I’m having trouble with is my starter after about day four or so, seems to keep sizzling out.

David: Oh okay.

Adam: The first couple of days I’m seeing it rise. See plenty of bubbles. It looks good. And then it just sort of stops. And this is, I want to say three or four attempts, and after seven to 10 days or so, it’s still, it just sort of stops after day four. So what do I got to do here?

David: Even after day four and you are changing and adding new flour and new water, it’s not going anywhere?

Adam: Yeah, it’s been the same every time.

David: Wow. How much starter are you leaving in?

Adam: This last time I’ve been leaving in about 20 grams. I have previously left in up to about 50 grams.

David: Okay. Now, I recently have changed my formula for starter. I use 10 to 20 grams of starter and then I add 50 grams of whole-grain rye, 50 grams of all purpose, and then a hundred grams of water. Because what you’re doing is you’re giving that little bit of starter a huge, hug-ass buffet of food to eat on. If you add too much starter, they don’t have a lot to eat on and to munch on. So that’s what I do. But if you’re reaching your peak at four days, why don’t you try baking off a loaf when it reaches the peak on the fourth day? Because that’s when it’s its strongest and see what happens and then use some of that dough as a starter.

Adam: All right.

Renee: Interesting.

David: See what happens. Let me know. Let me know in the next episode of Talking With My Mouth Full, Bread Edition.

Four images of foods that are made with leftover sourdough starter: crackers, pretzels, cake, toast

What can you do with discarded sourdough starter?

Adam: There is another related sourdough starter question. This is from Elizabeth and she would like to know what can you do with the discarded starter?

David: Adam, you add them to pancakes, right?

Adam: Yeah, I have. They’re delicious.

Renee: There’s a ton of recipes out there for what to do with them. We don’t have them on our site, but over at King Arthur Flour, and we trust their recipes, they’ve got all kinds of ideas for discarded starter recipes like sourdough english muffins, crackers, even chocolate cake.

David: Yeah, sourdough pretzels, sourdough popovers. There are tons of them. Yeah, so you can use the starter in many ways.

Fake Legalease Announcer: This is in no way a paid promotion for King Arthur. We don’t know Mr. Arthur or his wife Guinevere or their unusually close friend Lancelot. We just like the King Arthur family. They’re fun and smart and mill good flour.

Two slices of New York style pizza on paper plates with a cheese shaker and napkins beside the pizza.
: Evan Sung

Baking stone vs. baking steel?

Adam: All right, so one last bread-related question. Peter asks, “These dialogues are common on Facebook, but I would like to hear it from a master. Baking stone or steel?

Renee: Do not call him master!!!!

David: Oh, Peter, Peter, Peter, I like you very much, Peter. To be honest with you, I have never tried a baking steel, but I am very curious. And I’ve done some research and it seems, and if we’re using pizza as an example, that pizza does cook a bit faster on a steel. But…a steel is significantly more expensive than a stone, but on the plus side it won’t break if you drop it. Now your floor will certainly feel it, but you’re not going to be breaking your steel. And supposedly steel will cook pizza more evenly through the whole crust and the bottom, which is a good thing. And I like the fact that you can zap it really hard with the broiler, then turn the heat down and bake bread or bake pizza on it. So I do like that. So my verdict is [drum roll]…I’m buying a steel and we’ll get back to you on that, Peter. Thank god it’s tax deductible too because I could just hear The One screaming, “Why did you need another cooking toy?” But I’m going to buy one.

Renee: And for those of us who can’t afford a baking steel, for years, I’ve used my cast-iron skillet flipped upside down in the oven in place of a baking stone. Right? For pizzas, flatbreads, bread. It’s all good.

David: Yeah, how big is your cast iron?

Renee: I believe the biggest one I have is 12 inch.

David: Okay. So that’s not sizeable, I guess.

Renee: It’s slightly smaller loaves.

David: Yeah. The only issue for that for me is smaller loaves. Like with pizza, it’s a very small personal, very intimate pizza, which will be too small for me.

Renee: No comment.

A nonstick skillet filled with scrambled eggs topped with chopped chives
: Jonathan Lovekin

Why do my scrambled eggs turn green?

Adam: All right, so next question, and this is from Roberta. Roberta asks, “How do I keep my scrambled eggs from turning green when I have them as part of a buffet?”

David: Green? Have you ever heard of that, Renee?

Renee: Yeah, I have actually. Eggs turn green because sulfur in the yolk reacts with iron. So I wonder if she’s cooking and or serving them in a cast iron skillet.

David: That’s a good point. Well, what should she do then to avoid the green, besides not serving in a cast iron skillet?

Renee: There’s a few things. You can use stainless steel equipment and utensils as well, tongs or spoons. You can whisk a little bit of acid into the eggs, typically about a quarter teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, or even vinegar would work for every 18 or so eggs. And then you just don’t want to hold the same eggs over heat for more than an hour.

David: That makes sense.

Renee: Yeah.

Cubes of pork belly confit on a white serving platter.
: Deborah Jones

Can I use salt pork in place of pork belly?

Adam: All right, great. So Claire wants to know, “Can I use salt pork instead of pork belly if I rinse and soak it?”

David: I’ll take this one. And I think first we have to define things. Pork belly is just that. It’s the belly of the pig underneath and it’s where bacon comes from. Now, salt pork can be pork belly or it can be pork side or even fatback. And nowadays, for whatever reason, it’s usually fatback. And so there’s a lot less meat and it’s great for flavoring a pot of let’s say baked beans or green beans or anything with collards or even kale for my Portuguese friends out there. And of course in New England, we love it in our clam chowder. You can also put it in potato dishes. But Claire, if you’re thinking of using it as a substitute, let’s say for pork belly in a braised Asian pork belly dish, I think it’s too salty. I think it’s used really for seasoning, not so much for as the main protein slash fat.

Renee: Yeah. Way too salty.

David: Yeah.

Homemade pasta dough in 5 colors, plain, squid ink, spinach, beet, and saffron on a white background.
: Ryland Peters & Small

How can I make colored pasta?

Adam: All right, there you go. Here’s a question from Victoria who asks what ingredients can she use to make multicolored pasta? And she mentions that she’s used spinach to create green. Very cool. And she wants to know any other suggestions or quantities, directions, et cetera.

Renee: Okay. I’ve got this one. One of our most popular recipes on the site, has been for years is our homemade pasta. And it includes variations. We use beet juice for red pasta, saffron for yellow, kind of goldenish hue, squid ink for black, which is really cool. You can actually use cocoa for chocolate pasta if you believe that. And if you add a little tomato paste, it’ll come up with an orange-ish recipe. Now that’s all in our homemade pasta dough recipe on our site. We actually have another homemade pasta recipe on the site for red wine pasta. And it gives you an excuse to open a bottle of wine and sip while you’re rolling out the pasta, which is not a bad thing.

David: Yeah. “Honey, where’d all that wine go? Oh, it’s in the pasta, sweetheart.”

An angel food cake slathered in white chocolate frosting on a white cake stand on a white background

Why do my brownie batters and buttercreams break?

Adam: All right, so next up comes all the way from Canada. This is from Amanda in Canada and she would like to know why do her brownie batter and buttercream break?

David: Oh, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda. It’s most likely temperature related. So I’ll take buttercream. If it looks curdled like cottage cheese, it’s too cold. So what you can do is run the outside of the bowl under warm water and then put it back on, the mixer and beat it a bit. And if it’s still a little cottage cheesy, then repeat with warming the water and then beating and repeat, warming the water and beating until it all comes together. Now if it’s too soupy, and that can happen if it’s too warm, you need to cool down the buttercream. You can place it in the fridge or you can place it in the freezer for a bit and then take it out and beat it and then keep on going back and forth from the freezer or refrigerator to the mixer and eventually it’ll all come together perfect, smooth, and gorgeous.

Renee: The brownie is actually a temperature thing, too. You want to make certain to have all your ingredients at room temperature and that means leave the butter out overnight. Unless it’s the middle of August, you’ll be perfectly fine. You want to warm up cold eggs a little bit, too, and you can do that super fast just by placing them in a bowl, running some warm water over them, letting them sit for a few minutes. And then you want to be certain to not over beat the batter. One of the recipes on our sites, our best brownies recipe, we constantly have people telling us they didn’t turn out quite as spectacular as the last time and whenever we ask them more questions, it always comes back to they beat them too long. They beat and beat and beat. Usually no more than a minute.

Adam: All right. David and Renee, it’s the last question of the episode.

David: Wow. I feel like I’ve been on trial this whole time. “Yes, your honor. I am guilty. I’m guilty as charged.”

Renee: Yeah, he probably is.

Adam: Well, let me tell you, this is a really good question. This comes from Jack.

David: Okay. Hi, Jack.

Adam: Jack would like to know, I would like to know, everyone would probably like to know…

Renee: Oh boy.

Glamour WomanHow can I get people to wash the dishes!

Adam: Yeah. How can you get your loved ones, your significant others, there’s a lot of people quarantining right now and there’s a lot of people in the house, how do you get everyone to help out with the endless stream of dishes?

David: That’s easy. Threaten divorce or murder. That’s all.

Renee: That’s so passive-aggressive, David.

David: Yeah, but that’s so me. But think about it. You threaten divorce, you threaten murder, people will snap to it.

Arguing Couple: It’s your turn. No, your turn.

Woman: Got it.

Renee: Adam, thanks again for being our stand-in inquisitor for all of our readers’ questions, qualms, and quagmires.

Adam: Anytime and you’re welcome. This was definitely a lot of fun.

Bugs Bunny: And well now, well let’s see what other culinary cuties I can concoct.

David: And so Renee, turning to you, it’s that time again. What is on the specials board for next week?

Renee: Well next week we have a couple of big happenings going on. First of all, Tuesday we have Cinco de Mayo.

David: Oh that’s right! With all the social distancing, I forgot entirely.

Renee: Right? Although I have to say I have a little hesitation. Cinco de Mayo is more of an Americanized holiday, but it is an excuse to have tacos. We have more than 50 Cinco de Mayo recipes on our site for you and we also have a slide show of margaritas. Choose your poison. We also have Mother’s Day coming up, and so all you dads listening out there, your kids at home now, there’s not going to be any gift for mom coming home with them from the teacher.

David: And there’s no excuse for not having done something. You’re home, too.

Renee: So you’ve got about seven days left to figure out what recipe you’re making.

David: That’s right.

Renee: We’ve got an entire slideshow for you of simple but sophisticated. Guarantee you’re going to find something. We also have easy cheese omelets, we have cocktail recipes, we’ve got dessert recipes mom will make, all that good stuff. Now, holidays aside, we know all of you guys are locked up there with your pets so we have a homemade dog treats recipe.

David: Yes!!!!! Finally, we’re getting one on the site.

Renee: I thought you were a cat person?

David: Well, I’m hoping that, well, I’m a PET person, and I’m hoping at some point we’ll do kitty kibble. I’m hoping.

Cream being poured from a pitcher into a highball glass for a white Russian cocktail.
: Brent Hofackereber

Renee: I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that. Okay. So we also have, I think people are cleaning out their liquor cabinets because we’ve been seeing a lot of people searching for white Russian.

David: Oh, lord. Ours is empty.

Renee: Well, for those who do have some Kahlua left, we’ve got the perfect recipe to put it to good use. And then last, we have the most perfect chocolate souffle recipe. It’s simple and it’s almost fail-proof. We had people take it out of the oven, bring it to the table, no wobbling, no collapsing. Definitely impressive. It’s from America’s Test Kitchen.

David: I’m really glad we have the mother’s day recipes up because I’m actually going to visit mama Leite after three or four weeks of not seeing her. So I’m really excited to maybe make her something to eat.

Renee: That’s sweet of you.

David: What can I say? Sweet’s my middle name.

David: This podcast is produced by Overit Studios and our producer is the pinch-hitter questioned Adam Clairmont.

You can reach Adam and Overit Studios at overitstudios.com. And remember to subscribe to Talking With My Mouth Full on your favorite platform, and listen to us wherever you go.

David: Chow.

Renee: Chow

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. David, if you want to test a baking steel so The One doesn’t find out, you can ship it to ME & I’ll test it. You can have the tax deduction. 🙂