Q: I have a problem freezing my freshly-baked fruit pies. How can I prevent them from getting watery when they thaw?
A: Judith Choate, author of "The Great American Pie Book," recommends freezing fruit pies only if unbaked. If preparing a pie that calls for a pre-baked filling, such as a berry filling, let that cool before placing the unbaked pie in a plastic bag and sealing. Otherwise, for such pies as apple or pear pie, prepare entire pie up to baking point. Some frozen unbaked pies can actually be baked while still frozen. Freezing a pre-baked fruit pie and then reheating it will produce a soggy pie.
Q: If I am using self-rising flour, do I need to add baking powder when my recipe calls for all-purpose flour plus baking powder?
A: When baking, always use the specific flours and leavening ingredients called for in a recipe, since baking requires more precision in ingredients than other cooking methods. Otherwise you risk getting less-than-desirable results and spending a lot of time and ingredients in testing.
Q: What is Basmati rice and how is it different from regular white rice?
A: Basmati is a long-grained white rice that has a nutlike and perfumeyflavor and aroma. Basmati has been grown in the Himalayan foothills for thousands of years and now is also grown in the United States. It differs from regular rice by its aging process, which decreases the moisture and gives it the fragrant character.
Q: What causes the white to develop on chocolate, and is it still OK to use?
A: The white surface streaks and blotches (called bloom) will appear on chocolate when it is stored at too warm a temperature. The white streaks are caused when the cocoa butter rises to the surface. The chocolate is usable but may have an altered and drier character. Chocolate should be well-wrapped and stored in a cool dry place (60-70 degrees).
Q: Why do most angel food cake recipes call for cooling the cake upside down balanced on the neck of a bottle?
A: This procedure is recommended to thoroughly set the cake while it cools -- in other words, to prevent its collapse. Angel food cake has a delicate structure, based only on air and steam, and the egg-white rising is very important as well as retaining that height while it cools.
Send your questions to: What's Cooking, c/o Food & Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Although personal replies are not possible, questions of general interest will be answered ion this column.