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FAQs

How do you caramelize Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk?

Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk transforms into a very decadent, rich caramel-flavoured milk after a process called "caramelizing". Try one of the methods listed below for perfect results, and remember... never heat in the can. Or you can easily add caramel flavour to your favourite recipes with our Eagle Brand Dulce de Leche Caramel Flavoured Sauce.

  • Shortcut method: Eagle Brand Dulce de Leche Caramel Flavoured Sauce
    For the perfect shortcut to your classic caramel desserts, try Eagle Brand Dulce de Leche Caramel Flavoured Sauce. It is the same consistency as sweetened condensed milk with the added taste of caramel. You can use it the same way you normally would use Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk to make your favourite baking treats.
  • Oven method:
    Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Pour Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk into 8 or 9-inch (20 or 23 cm) pie plate. Cover with foil; place in larger shallow pan. Fill outer pan with hot water. Bake 1-1 1/2 hours* or until thick and light caramel-coloured. Remove foil. Cool and chill. Refrigerate leftovers.
    *Check water level in pan during baking time and refill if necessary.
  • Stovetop method:
    Pour Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk into top of double boiler; cover. Place over boiling water. Over low heat, simmer 1-1 1/2 hours or until thick and light caramel-coloured. Beat until smooth, if desired. Cool and chill. Refrigerate leftovers.
  • Microwave method:
    Pour Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk into 8 cup (2 L) glass measure. Cook, uncovered, at Medium (50%) 4 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Reduce power to Medium Low (30%) and cook, uncovered, 12 to 16 minutes or until thick and light caramel-coloured; stir briskly every 2 minutes until smooth. Cool and chill. Refrigerate leftovers.

Where can I find the recipes that used to be on the tins of regular and low fat Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk?

If you’re looking for any of your favourite recipes that used to be on our labels, you’ll find them on our website in the recipe section.

Regular Eagle Brand:

  • Caramel Cheesecake
  • Cherry Cheese Pie
  • Super Chocolate Fudge
  • Magic Cookie Bar
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Snowy Coconut Macaroons
  • Sugar Pie
  • White Chocolate Truffles

Low Fat Eagle Brand:

  • Chocadamia Delight
  • Choco Banana Magic Bars
  • Easy & Elegant Tiramisu
  • Lemony Crumb Bars
  • Perfect Pecan Pie
  • Strawberries'n Cream
  • Tres Leches
  • Truffle Cheesecake

Can Eagle Brand® recipes be frozen?

We like to make desserts that can be prepared in advance and frozen. Especially around the holidays when it is a very busy time around my house. Here are some freezing tips for your desserts.

  • Use wraps that are moisture proof such as freezer bags or air tight containers.
  • We do not recommend freezing anything with a cream/custard filling, icing or frosting, fresh fruit or chocolate glaze. It is best to make these types of desserts the same day or a day ahead and enjoy them immediately.
  • For best results, freeze only fully baked cakes, cheesecakes, pies and tarts. Decorate with frosting, cream, fruit or chocolate, after thawing.
  • Confections such as our truffles and fudge are freezer-friendly. Place them in a freezer bag or airtight container and pop into the freezer.
  • It is best to eat all your frozen goodies within 6-8 weeks after freezing.

I opened a can of Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk and it was very thick and a light caramel colour. Is it still okay to use?

Absolutely! Changes in colour and texture occur naturally in sweetened condensed milk over time, and have no effect on its performance in recipes. Simply stirring the Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk vigorously with a spoon will help make it easier to pour. Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk keeps, unopened and at room temperature for 24 months.

What is the difference between Regular and Low Fat Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk?

Made with partly skimmed milk, Low Fat Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk has only half the fat of the regular version but you get the same smooth, creamy taste... and the good news is you can substitute "luscious" Low Fat Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk in most recipes! It will perform as well as Regular in cheesecakes, pies and tarts, bars, beverages and even ice cream. We do recommend however that you use Regular Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk for any confection recipe like fudge, Sunny Chocolate Easter Eggs, most candies and macaroons, recipes where keeping a shape is important. The best and easiest way to be sure, is to use what's recommended in the Eagle Brand® recipe. We'll give you a choice where there is one, and list only Regular Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk when that's what's recommended.

Eagle Brand® no-bake recipes are my favourites but I'm curious as to how the fillings thicken and set.

The answer is a delicious bit of science... Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk thickens "magically" when its precooked blend of milk and sugar is combined with an acid such as fruit juice (lemon and orange work best) or chocolate. The acids in these ingredients react with the Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk to create creamy fillings without cooking.

Another way no-bake fillings are thickened is by adding gelatin to Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk.

Can I substitute frozen for fresh fruit in my Eagle Brand® recipes?

First, always be sure to read the recipe and use what it suggests. Frozen fruit has a much softer texture than fresh fruit and its colour tends to bleed into other ingredients in a recipe. With this in mind, frozen fruit is perfect for purees and sauces and works well in cheesecakes and frozen desserts. On the other hand, fresh fruit should be used for Eagle Brand® fruit tarts and for garnish.

I love the taste of toasted nuts. Is there an easy way to make them myself in my oven?

Toasted nuts and coconut give foods a pleasant crunchiness, and enhances the food's nutty flavor. To toast, spread the chopped nuts or coconut in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Bake 5 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. The key is to stir them up frequently to prevent burning.

One of your magic cookie bars called for cookie crumbs. I assume these are not ready-to-buy crumbs. What do you suggest?

The best cookies to use to make your own crumbs, are dry ones. For example chocolate or vanilla wafers (with no cream filling), graham crackers or any kind of biscotti. Here's a quick and easy way to make cracker or cookie crumbs; place crackers in a large resealable plastic food storage bag, press out air and seal. Roll a rolling pin over the cracker to crush.

Is there a significant difference between lemon juice and lemon extract? Can one be substituted for the other?

It is best not to substitute lemon juice with lemon extract. The flavour and uses for both of these ingredients is different. Generally, lemon juice is used in a multitude of dishes from sweet to savoury, as well as a flavouring in beverages. Some dishes also rely on the acidity of lemon juice to make them set or firm, such as jam. Lemon extract on the other hand is more commonly used in baking. Its purpose is to add a subtle flavour of lemon without the acidic properties of lemon juice.Since lemon extract is very concentrated, only a few drops are required in recipe preparations.

Many of your recipes call for nuts. What is the best way to store them?

Nuts are best stored in the freezer as they become rancid quickly. There is no need to thaw; use directly from the freezer. To ensure freshness, make sure to taste the nuts before adding them to your recipe.

When I make Blockbuster Bars I'm always left with extra marshmallows. Is there a way to store the marshmallows so they won't get hard and dried out?

To prevent marshmallows from getting hard and stale, seal the opened bag with a twist tie or elastic band then store the bag in the freezer. To revive marshmallows that have become hard, try placing them in a plastic bag with a couple slices of fresh bread. Seal the bag and after a few days the marshmallows will be soft again.

How long can I keep baking soda and baking powder before they won't work in my recipes?

Baking powder (and cream of tartar) will keep indefinitely. Baking soda, on the other hand, does lose its leavening ability over time as moisture reacts with it. Buy only as much baking soda as you think you will use in eight to 12 months. You can test your baking soda by putting a pinch into a pot of boiling water -- if you see a lot of bubbles forming it's still fine to use.

Are shortening, butter and margarine interchangeable in my recipes?

Most of our recipes call for butter which gives your baked goods the best possible flavour and texture. Besides taste, the main difference between butter, margarine and shortening is their water content. Shortening has no water in it, butter has very little, while margarine can contain quite a bit. If you use margarine, be sure it contains at least 80 per cent vegetable oil or fat. Any product with less than that contains additional water and milk solids that can make your baking turn out either soggy or rock hard. For best results, don't substitute one type of fat for another.

What is the difference between sea salt and table salt and what should I use in my recipes?

Most recipes are designed for table salt and you should use it unless the recipe states otherwise. Here's a quick look at the different salts available:

  • Sea salt is evaporated from seawater and comes in both large and small grains. The large grains have to be ground in a mill like peppercorns. Sea salt has more complex flavours and subtle nuances and isn't usually used in dessert baking.
  • Rock salt is not very refined and its crystals are large, dull-gray and irregular-sized. It's not usually eaten but is often sprinkled on ice to make it colder and last longer when making ice cream.
  • Kosher salt is free of additives and its large, irregular crystals taste about half as salty as regular table salt.
  • Table salt is ground refined rock salt. Most brands contain iodine to combat thyroid disease as well as anti-caking materials to prevent clumping.

How do I convert a measurement for chocolate chips into one for chocolate squares?

Chocolate is sold in many different forms (chips, squares, blocks) and it can be tricky determining what the correct substitution is for each. The only completely accurate way to do it is to use a kitchen scale as many professional bakers do. But if you don't have access to a scale here are some chocolate conversions that are commonly used:

  • 175g pkg. of chocolate chips = approximately 1 cup/250 mL
  • 350g pkg. of chocolate chips = approximately 2 cups/500 mL
  • 1 square of chocolate = approximately 1 oz/28.4g
  • 1 cup/250 mL of chocolate chips = approximately 6 squares or 6 oz/170 g

I tried the Chocolate Orange Cheesecake on your web site but I seem to always forget to take the cream cheese out of the fridge in advance. Can I heat it to make it softer to work with?

To soften cream cheese quickly, unwrap 8 ounces (250 g) of cream cheese and place on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on 50% power (MEDIUM) 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until cream cheese is soft.

I want to use fresh coconut in some of my Eagle Brand® recipes but have never bought one before. Any advice?

Most of us know what a coconut looks like, but not many of us have enjoyed its delicious flavour. When you pick your coconut, choose one that is hard, chocolate brown and feels heavy and full of liquid when you shake it. Avoid coconuts with no liquid, cracked shells or wet or mouldy "eyes." Whole coconuts will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month or on the counter for up to two weeks.

To get the "milk" out of the coconut, make a hole in one of the eyes. An ice-pick and hammer or an electric drill (make sure it's clean) work well. Drain the liquid and use it to flavour soups, stir frys and curries. Or try Eagle Brand® "Tres Leches" cake, made with creamy coconut milk.

To get at the meat of the coconut, lay it on a clean tea towel and whack it firmly with a mallet or hammer until it breaks open. Remove the brown husk with a vegetable peeler. Enjoy it as is or shred it in a food processor. Unused coconut can be stored in an airtight plastic container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

I'd like to get a little creative with my cake decorating. Can you give me some tips for decorating with chocolate?

Here are some popular tricks to do with chocolate which make it so easy to impress!

  • Chocolate leaves
    Coat undersides of real leaves lightly with vegetable oil. Melt semi sweet chocolate and coat undersides of leaves thickly with chocolate using small spoon. Chill or freeze until firm, then peel away leaf.
  • Chocolate curls
    With a vegetable peeler or thin, sharp knife, slice across block of sweet milk chocolate or large-size milk chocolate candy bar with long, thin strokes. Chocolate should be at room temperature.
  • Marbling
    To get that great marbling effect in two-tone cheesecakes, drop the second mixture in spoonfuls onto the base mixture. Let settle, then gently swirl a narrow spatula through light and dark mixtures.

Is "Silpat" safe, can it replace parchment paper and can I use it when I'm making Magic Cookie Bars?

Silpat is a silicon-based cookie tray liner that looks very much like a plastic placemat. It works very well and I have never come across any information indicating it is unsafe. It can replace parchment paper when the surface you're lining is flat and of a regular size. But because it isn't designed to go up the sides of a cookie tray you may still want to use parchment paper when you make your Magic Cookie Bars.

I like to make cheesecake, but sometimes I get lumps in them, even when I use gelatin.

To avoid lumps in a cream cheese based recipe, gradually beat Eagle Brand® into beaten cream cheese. To avoid lumpy gelatin mixtures, sprinkle unflavoured gelatin over cold water; let stand 1 minute. Cook and stir over low heat until dissolved.

Should I thaw out a frozen pie before cutting or serving?

Plan to take frozen cakes or pies out of the freezer 10 minutes before serving. This will "take the chill off" so your knife will easily glide right through the dessert. To really say summer, garnish with fresh berries and mint leaves.

I tried your fabulously easy "Magic Lemon Meringue Pie" on the website, but I'm afraid my merinque is falling short. Any tips on making it as foolproof as the filling?

Just a few tips ought to help you top your pies off with a heavenly merinque!

  • Weather affects meringues. When the humidity is high, the sugar in the meringue absorbs moisture from the air, making the meringue gooey and limp. Meringues should be made on sunny dry days.
  • Carefully separate egg whites from yolks (they separate best when cold).
  • Mixing bowls and beaters should be completely grease free. Egg whites should come to room temperature before beating. This increases the volume.
  • Sugar should be added gradually. Continue beating until sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Cool meringue slowly, away from draft to prevent shrinking and weeping.

Here's the recipe for a Meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. (1 mL) cream of tartar
  • 6 Tbsp. (90 mL) sugar

Instructions:

  1. In small bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks before adding sugar.
  2. Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff but not dry. Mixture should be glossy.
  3. Spread meringue, sealing carefully to edge of pastry shell.
  4. Bake in preheated oven 350 F (180 C) for 12 to 15 min. or until golden brown. Cool. Chill thoroughly.

For an 8 or 9-inch (20 or 23 cm) pie.

Recently when I made an Eagle Brand® Cheesecake, the top of it cracked - what did I do wrong?

This is a common problem and fortunately, it's easily solved! Your cheesecake simply got over-baked. Next time, be sure to check your cheesecake 5 to 10 minutes before the end of the recommended baking time. Open the oven door and give the pan a jiggle - if the centre looks just firm, then it's ready.

The cheesecake will set as it cools. Because every oven is different and everyone likes their cheesecake with a different consistency (the longer it cooks, the firmer it gets), you might have to experiment a few times to get it just the way you like it.

Do I really have to use a different measuring cup for my dry and liquid ingredients?

Yes. Baking is all about chemical reactions so you have to be especially careful to use the correct measuring tools if you want to be sure of your results. Liquid ingredients should be measured in a clear glass or plastic liquid measuring cup and amounts should always be checked at eye level. Be sure to get out all the liquid by using a rubber spatula. To make sticky liquids like molasses or honey easier to get out, grease the cup first. For dry ingredients, use standard dry measuring spoons and cups. Spoon dry ingredients into the cup or spoon until just overflowing. Level off with a knife or metal spatula. For brown sugar, pack it firmly into the dry measuring cup and level off. It should hold its shape when turned out of the cup.

I'm looking for a simple streusel topping recipe I can use on pies, cakes or bars?

Here's a delicious streusel (or "crumble") topping recipe that's quick and easy:

  1. Combine 1/2 cup (125 mL) packed light brown sugar and 1/2 cup (125 mL) unsifted flour.
  2. Cut in 1/4 cup (50 mL) butter until crumbly.
  3. Stir in 1/4 (50 mL) chopped nuts if desired.
  4. Spread evenly over pie, cake or bar 10 minutes before the end of the specified cooking time.
  5. Continue to bake the cake, pie or bar for the remaining 10 minutes.

I've just started baking and want to know the basics for storing cookies and bars

These tips will help you keep your cookies tasting fresh! Cool cookies completely on a rack (remove them from the baking sheet as soon as possible to prevent over baking). Then, in an airtight container, arrange unfrosted cookies or bars in single layers separated by a layer of waxed paper. Store treats with frosting or toppings in a single layer. Don't store soft and crisp treats together - the soft ones will get hard and the crisp ones will go soggy. Properly stored cookies and bars will stay fresh at room temperature for up to three days. If you want to keep them longer, package them in freezer bags or airtight containers and freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the container for about 15 minutes before serving.

This is a double request - I'm looking a reliable recipe for both chocolate glaze (not frosting) and a glaze for fruit tarts.

Here are two delectably easy recipes you'll use again and again:

Chocolate Glaze:
This is a perfectly elegant way to top your favourite Eagle Brand® Cheesecake: In a double boiler heat 1/2 cup (125 mL) whipping cream. Add 4 oz (114 g) of bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate until melted. Spoon over cooled dessert.

Apple Cinnamon Glaze:
This is delicious on fruit-topped cheesecakes or fruit tarts and flans: In small saucepan, combine 1/3 cup (75 mL) frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed, 1 tsp (5 mL) cornstarch and 1/4 tsp (1mL) ground cinnamon; mix well. Cook and stir over low heat until thickened and bubbly. Pour gently over cooled dessert.

I'm looking for a fabulous garnish to top off the Eagle Brand® cheesecake I'm planning to serve at an upcoming dinner party... any suggestions?

This is one of my favourite garnish ideas because it's so easy but looks so professional, not to mention festive!

Chocolate Star Garnish:
Place a 1 oz square of semi-sweet or white baking chocolate in a small double boiler. Heat over low heat until melted, stirring occasionally. Spoon mixture into a pastry bag with a narrow tip. Working quickly, pipe the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet in star shapes. Let stand until dry. Carefully peel cooled stars from the paper and use to garnish (see photo).

When I make the Anniversary Cake I always have trouble with the center rising a lot higher than the edges. What can I do to make the cake rise evenly?

A cake rises higher in the center because the outside edges of the cake cook more quickly. To combat this, many professional bakers use something called "Magic Cake Strips," but a folded, heavy linen tea towel will work too. First soak the strip or tea towel in water, squeeze out the excess moisture and then with a large safety pin, pin securely in place around the outside of the pan like a "belt". This keeps the sides of the pan cool longer, so the batter closest to the edges rises at the same rate as the batter in the center and the finished cake is level. The baking strips are available at specialty kitchen shops.

I'm planning to do a lot of holiday baking this year and want to give the delicious results away as gifts. Do you have any packaging ideas?

As they say, "presentation is everything." So whether you're baking for friends and family or for a bake sale, creative pretty packaging makes your creations even more special and tempting. Here are a few of my favourite ways to package up Eagle Brand® treats:

  • Using pinking shears or other decorative-edged scissors, cut the rim off of a colourful, heavy-duty paper plate. Place cookies or bars on the plate and into colourful cello bags (available at bake and bulk food shops). Finish with a co-ordinating ribbon and tag describing the treat (include an ingredients list).
  • Visit a local specialty paper store in your area - interesting gift containers like tubes, envelopes and boxes make great packages for your treats. Just be sure to line them with wax paper before you put in your treats and finish them off with colourful bows and tags.
  • Also be sure to look in your local dollar store for inspiration. A colourful mug filled with truffles might be the perfect way to cheer up a friend. A toy dump truck (washed first) filled with fudge and wrapped in cello would make a great gift for a favourite grandson or nephew.

I want to try my hand at a homemade piecrust. Any suggestions?

These tips will help you get great results from your favourite pastry recipe:

  • The way you prepare the fat ingredients is crucial:
    • shortening should be room temperature
    • butter should be firm, cold and cut into 1/2-inch dice, no smaller
  • Use a pastry cutter or a food processor to "cut" either butter or margarine into the flour until it becomes pea-sized. That way fat particles stay solid in the oven just long enough to produce lots of flaky layers. The fat will melt away too fast if the particles are too small, resulting in fewer flaky layers.
  • As soon as your mixture forms a dough, stop mixing. If you over mix you'll end up with tough pastry.
  • Always chill your dough for up to an hour before you roll it out. And before you bake it, put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes to prevent the crust from shrinking and to help fancy edges hold their shape in the oven.
  • Be sure to roll the dough to the exact thickness called for in the recipe. Use a ruler if you're not sure.
  • Use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to trim dough 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) beyond pie plate edge. Fold under extra dough to form rim. Flute edge as desired.

Here's a basic recipe for a 9-inch crust:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) unsifted flour
  • 1/2 tsp (5 mL) salt
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) shortening or butter
  • 3-4 tbsp (45-60 mL) cold water

Combine flour and salt; cut in shortening or butter until mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Sprinkle with water, 1 tbsp at a time, mixing until dough is just moist enough to hold together. Form dough into ball; place on well-floured surface. Press down into a flat circle about 1/8" (.5cm) thick with smooth edges measuring about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) larger than inverted pie plate. Trim 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) beyond pie plate edge. Fold under; flute edge as desired.

To bake without filling: Prick bottom and sides of pastry shell with a fork. Line with (aluminum foil) parchment paper; fill with dry beans to keep from shrinking. Bake 5 minutes in preheated 450°F (230°C) oven. Remove paper and bake 5 to 7 minutes longer or until golden.

To bake with filling : *Do not prick pastry shell. Fill and bake as directed in recipe.

Is there an easy way to serve my Triple Threat Chocolate Cheesecake without it sticking to the knife and getting messy?

When you serve your cheesecake, keep a glass of warm water handy and dip your knife into it before you slice each piece. Also, don't make the slices too big - not only is cheesecake a deliciously rich dessert but smaller pieces hold their shape better.

I seem to be burning my Thumbprint Cookies even though my oven is set to the correct temperature and I leave them in for the suggested time. What can I do to improve my results?

Be sure your oven temperature is accurate (an oven thermometer is a great help) and always start checking on your baking a few minutes before they are due to come out of the oven. As well, cookies baked on brown (generally non-stick) cookie sheets and/or cookies sheets with sides, are more likely to burn. The key to a good cookie sheet is "flat and shiny". Also, if the sheet is half or less full of cookies it may absorb too much heat, get too hot and burn your cookies. You can solve this by putting an inverted baking pan (or your old cookie sheet) on the empty half.

I saw a cake decorated with what looked like candied flowers and wondered if you could tell me how to do it?

They're called 'sugared' or 'crystallized' flowers and they are one of the most beautiful - and easy - ways to decorate cakes, ice cream and cheesecakes. First choose use only fresh, organic, pesticide-free (very important) violets or pansies and cut stems very short. Gently brush petals clean. Next, froth a little egg white with a fork, and using a very soft paintbrush, gently brush a thin layer of the egg white onto both sides of the flowers. Sprinkle with castor (superfine) sugar. Dry completely on a wire rack for two hours. Now you're ready to decorate with these edible 'jewels' which should be used on the same day as they are made.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for using my microwave to help me when I'm baking?

Here are a few ways I use my microwave to make baking a bit quicker and easier:

  • To soften brown sugar, place in microwave safe container in microwave. Also place 1 cup of water beside it in the microwave. Cook on high for 1 minute.
  • To melt butter or margarine, place in a microwave safe container in the microwave. Cook on high for increments of ten seconds, checking each time. Remove from the microwave when most of the butter or margarine is liquefied and stir until the remaining bits are melted.
  • To soften cream cheese, remove from packaging and place in a microwave safe container. Cook on Medium Low (30 per cent) power for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes for 3oz. (85 g) brick or 3 to 4 minutes for a 8oz. (225 g) brick.
  • To make juicing a lemon or orange easier, microwave it on high for 15 seconds.
  • [See also "How to Carmelize Eagle Brand®"]

Is there one recipe for a crumb crust I can use for all my Eagle Brand® pies?

Absolutely! And here it is:

Crumb Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) graham cracker, chocolate wafer crumbs or crushed shortbread cookies
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) white or brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp (90 mL) butter or margarine, melted

Combine ingredients; mix well. Press firmly on the bottom and up the sides of an 8- or 9-inch plate. To use, bake in preheated 350°F (180°C) for 5-7 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

How do I create candied orange and lemon slices to decorate my citrus desserts?

Candied orange and lemon slices make a colouful garnish for pies, cheesecakes or fruit-flavoured ice cream. Here's my favourite recipe:

Create a simple syrup by combining one cup of water with one cup of granulated sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add a single layer of 1/4-inch (7 mm) orange or lemon slices (each piece of fruit must be submerged). Reduce heat and simmer covered for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and allow the fruit to cool in the syrup. Remove the fruit and place on a wire rack until excess syrup has dripped off and the fruit is dry to the touch. Use immediately as a garnish or store in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper.

My son has asked me a question I hope you can answer: "What is a 'baker's dozen'"?

Since ancient times, wheat and bread have been precious items and bakers were subject to severe penalties for cheating their customers. When British parliament passed a law in 1266 that strictly regulated bread weight, bakers were understandably nervous. Since it was difficult at that time to make loaves a uniform weight, bakers thought it better to be safe than sorry and began adding a thirteenth loaf to each shipment of 12 they sent to shopkeepers - and a "baker's dozen" was born. This freebie assured there would be no shortchanging and, more importantly, no jail time!

I've just started baking and find I often don't have the size of cake pan or cookie sheet indicated in a recipe. Can I substitute a different size pan or sheet without affecting the recipe?

Baking pans come in a wide range of sizes that hold different amounts of batter. This must be taken into account when substituting one pan size for another in a recipe. If you use a larger pan than asked for in a recipe the depth of the batter becomes shallower and therefore the batter will bake much more quickly. Likewise, if you use a smaller pan than asked for in a recipe the depth of the batter becomes deeper and will take longer to bake.

To determine the pan's dimensions always measure inside edge to inside edge of the pan so that you do not include the thickness of the pan in your measurement. To measure the depth, place your ruler straight up from the bottom of the pan.

To determine the pan's volume (how much batter it will hold), pour pre-measured water by the cupful until the pan is filled to the brim.

The only time you should substitute one pan for another is when the batter depth remains the same as in the original recipe. For example, you could substitute a 8 x 8 x 1 1/2 inch square pan (6 cups) for a 8 x 2 inch round pan (6 cups) without changing the baking time or oven temperature stated in the original recipe.

Can you suggest something that will make it easier to get my Anniversary Cake off the platter and onto my guests' plates?

I've got a great tip that will make getting any cake onto the plate a snap. Simply sprinkle your cake plate with a little granulated sugar before you place your cake on it. Then, when you cut it, the slices won't stick.

Last year when I made Treasure Cookies, my first batch turned out perfectly but the second tray didn't come out as well. I want to start my holiday baking again soon, do you have any suggestions for making cookies in large quantities?

Here are a few rules to remember when you're going to be baking multiple batches of cookies:

  • Always use a cool cookie tray. Using a warm tray will cause the batter to spread too quickly and your cookies may be too thin and burn. If you're using only one cookie tray be sure to also wipe off any grease between batches.
  • If you are placing more than one cookie tray in the oven at a time, be sure to switch their positions and rotate the trays to ensure even cooking. While one batch is in the oven, keep the rest of the dough firm by covering it with plastic wrap and putting it in the fridge.
  • It's usually fine to double or triple cookie dough recipes but with confections like fudge, always follow the instructions carefully and make one single batch at a time.
  • Always check on your cookies before they are due to come out as oven temperatures can vary over the course of an afternoon of baking.