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I'm scared of...

I often see posts that reveal the poster is "scared" of cooking/ making a particular food item. I definitely have my own "fears" too. I'm not talking about unusual foods that most of us would be nervous about cooking (e.g. rack of camel, foraged mushroom stew (yum!), ant egg omelet, etc.), but rather about somewhat "normal" foods that we are, for some odd reason, frightened to try -- what are yours?

Mine are:

*Making my own yogurt (hoping my Indian mother-in-law will help me overcome this fear next time she visits

* Shellfish (I'm always so scared that I will undercook them, since I've just recently started cooking with them and, growing up in the Upper Midwest, I never watched my mother make them ,either). I've mastered the mussel, but just about anything else sends me into nervous fits that end up in hours of online recipe searches ;)

* Custards. They never turn out, and I'm always afraid I didn't bake them long enough to kill any possible bacteria, etc. Do I need some sort of thermometer for this?

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  1. Recipes using gelatin scare me. Even though I've successfully made lots of fussy recipes and am a good cook, I have had a few bad experiences with it and avoid it like the plague now.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Transplant_DK

        I concur on the gelatin, I had an epic failure of panna cotta because of the gelatin. I don't have the same problem with agar agar though.

      2. "Shellfish (I'm always so scared that I will undercook them"

        Its pretty hard to undercook shellfish. Its really easy to overcook them though!

        1 Reply
        1. re: twyst

          Any kind of shellfish is cooked when the flesh is opaque, and most fish as well. The mussel is actually about the trickiest, since first you have to throw away the ones that are open, and the the ones that won't!

        2. I'm still scared of pie crusts. I'm sure I will get over as soon as I make a few. Even though I am trying to learn baking, I keep putting crusts off.

          11 Replies
          1. re: Hank Hanover

            I was until I took a class. Night and day difference when you have someone right there showing you how it should look and feel and how yours is/isn't right. It did far more for me than reading and reading and watching videos and shows.

            1. re: Hank Hanover

              don't worry so much. pie crusts are easier than you think. If you screw it up, crumble it back to pea-size, and start over.

              1. re: Chowrin

                I agree. And if the crust isn't as great as you'd like, no one will care. A homemade pie is very rare these days. If I can make pie crust, you can make pie crust. After about the 3rd or 4th crust, you'll feel much more confident.

                1. re: sueatmo

                  to top a homemade pie, try one with fresh-frozen sour cherries.

                  1. re: sueatmo

                    "And if the crust isn't as great as you'd like, no one will care."

                    :-)) Yes, I will care.

                    What I want is a nice crisp bottom crust - working on it.

                    1. re: Rella

                      My pie crusts have bottom crusts that stay crispy for at least 3-4 days. No gummy white stuff. Trick is to coat the bottom (top of the bottom crust, actually) to shield it from the fruit juices. I generally use melted white chocolate - just brush on a very thin layer. Completely seals the crust. You can also use egg whites, but the seal is not as complete.

                      1. re: sbp

                        Sounds perfect. I will be trying if I can find some white chocolate made without lecithin.

                        http://www.compassionatecooks.com/wor...

                        "The majority of lecithin used in chocolate manufacture is derived from soybeans..."

                        If not, I will be trying egg whites brushed on.
                        Thank you.

                      2. re: Rella

                        My grandmother baked her "pies" in a 9 x 13 Pyrex pan at 500 degrees. She also actually greased the pan before putting the pie dough in it. The bottom was very brown and crisp, but the inside of the bottom crust was gooey with fruit juices and sugar and the combination of brown crisp/soft fruity was delicious! I have not been able to replicate it yet, but I am trying.

                  2. re: Hank Hanover

                    I would recommend, Hank, a recipe using both shortening and butter. The crust turns out soooo flaky, it is forgiving and comes together easily. If I can do it, anyone can !!

                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                      I made many, many unsuccessful pie crusts until I got a food scale and used a recipe by weight. Also I just melt the butter and then chill the dough. I think flakiness is overrated.

                    2. Fish in general. Scary. Cook it wrong and die. Okay, not for real but real enough that I don't want to mess. Also, it's expensive (depending on the type and sales etc.) so if I over cook it I've wasted money. Some day I'll experiment but for right now fish is a no show.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Aabacus

                        You are not alone, Aabacus. 90% of Americans only eat fish in restaurants!

                        It's really not much different from cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts, just doesn't take quite as long.

                        As someone above mentioned in relation to pie crust making, taking a class would rid you of most if not all of those fears. I've been teaching fish cookery for close to 30 years, and I still love seeing the "AHA!" moment in folks' eyes when they realize it's not rocket science. I included a basic fish cooking section in my book, too, for those folks too scared to attempt fish.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          So true. I did a fish cookery course a few months ago and it's really not as mysterious as it seems!

                        2. re: Aabacus

                          Cooking fish is actually easier than cooking meat. Try cooking fish in pouches with some lemon butter and vegetables. The fish steams with the other ingredients in the oven and prevents it from drying out. Look up the times online for the particular variety of fish you want to use. This is probably the easiest way of doing it.

                          1. re: MVNYC

                            I really really really want to cook fish at home and I know I can get the technique down. I'm sure I can even get good fish at my local store. I'm just certain that I'm going to be the guy that get's the one kind of fish that you never cook with aluminum and end up in the hospital emergency room with half my face swolen. Or it'll be the one with just enough mercury to put me over my limit and I'll end up running down the street with my pants on my head singing Teenage Wasteland and drinking Zima from a Flintsones jelly jar through a Krazy Straw.

                            1. re: Aabacus

                              You stand a much better chance of choking to death on a Brussels sprout. Fish is easy - don't worry so much. Sushi is raw, and "hardly" anyone dies from it.

                        3. pie crust
                          using my broiler
                          anything that uses yeast

                          21 Replies
                          1. re: CeeBee

                            second the yeast - with reason - it defies me again and again, and yes I use purified spring water and a thermometer for the warm water and calibrate my oven and put the dough in a warm, draft-free place!

                            1. re: bayoucook

                              I bake yeast breads nearly every week, and I'm not nearly so fussy! Even make excellent flaky piecrust and biscuits. However, if it lives in water, I'm nervous. Can't swallow shellfish, salmon, other fish (except that not-really-fish-like-deep-fried-bits).

                              1. re: pine time

                                I wasn't fussy until I kept failing and failing. I use my KA with the dough hook, I guess it rises fine. I bake the rolls and they're hard and horrible, every time. Every Thanksgiving at my house, the family and guests have a yeast roll throwing contest off the upper deck, whoever is closest to the bayou wins a bottle of wine. But in my dreams, one year they will eat them and not toss them! Really!

                                1. re: bayoucook

                                  "hard and horrible" -- okay, we can start with that!
                                  1) Is this too crusty on the outside? That indicates a milk or egg glaze, which will help to keep it soft.
                                  2) Is the crumb too dense on the inside?
                                  3) Have you let the rolls proof enough (till doubled) before you bake?
                                  4) Do they rise in the oven?

                                  ... disc: I don't make rolls, but I do know the basic problems with things.

                                  You also might want to consider butter&eggs in the dough -- they'll be richer and moister that way. I'd only recommend doing that after you've got the basic French Bread recipe right...

                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                    Yes, they are hard and dense, kind of chewy for the couple of seconds anyone would bite into one. They're proofed and they rise well. They brown beautifully in the oven. They *look* good. That's it. They are inedible. I'm scared because I should be, but I haven't given up. Is there a tender roll recipe without yeast that still has that tangy taste? ......Thanksgiving is not far away.....

                                    1. re: bayoucook

                                      1) I'd suggest kneading more, and letting them rise more.
                                      Are they hard and dense like a good bread, or like a whole-wheat "crummy thing"?
                                      I'd suggest trying a Parker House recipe -- or challah. I think both of those should get you something more tender and rich.

                                      1. re: Chowrin

                                        More dense, not crummy. I use my KA with dough hook and follow directions. Thanks for the advice, I'm looking for other recipes now.....

                                        1. re: bayoucook

                                          Have you tried the no knead breads, either Bittman's or Artisan Bread in 5 minutes? They're pretty fail proof, no kneading, no worrying about the window pane test, just let it sit.

                                          1. re: bayoucook

                                            okay, then if you're making a good bread, you're ready to try parker house, or something else more complicated. Making a good bread is the most essential thing to start with.

                                        2. re: bayoucook

                                          Bayoucook,

                                          I would recommend a bread class but if you can't take one get someone to teach you! All those rules about yeast temp, spring water, and draft free - are a joke I flaunt those rules all the time and my family fights over my bread - I would also recommend going to sour doughs - they are incredibly forgiving breads.....

                                          1. re: Leofric

                                            They're also my favorites! Another misconception: thought sourdoughs were even harder to do. Okay, changing my tactics as of this weekend. Will report back. Or will when the starter is ready.....thanks for stretching my brain.

                                            1. re: Leofric

                                              I also have two books on no-knead bread plus the CI version, none of which I've tried. I make my own pizza dough and flatbreads with no problem, just wanted to learn to make a soft roll for holidays.

                                              1. re: bayoucook

                                                You need a recipe that uses milk, butter and maybe a few eggs to make soft rolls because a lean dough like French bread will make baseballs if formed into rolls.

                                                1. re: Kelli2006

                                                  not that baseballs are bad. they just want a burger on 'em, or somethin'

                                                2. re: bayoucook

                                                  Longer rises are your best friend as yeast breads go. If you can make pizza dough, you can make rolls! For very easy ones, give these a try:

                                                  http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/201...

                                                  Adding milk, eggs and butter is more forgiving because you're starting out w/ good flavor.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    Will do that one Sunday - thanks so much!

                                          2. re: bayoucook

                                            Try Artisan Bread in 5! I think about 99% of bread problems are not enough gluten development/rising.

                                        3. re: bayoucook

                                          is it not rising? How is your kneading? (sounds weird, but does it really feel like your earlobe before you let it rise?)

                                        4. re: CeeBee

                                          People are unnecessary afraid of baking with yeast and Ive never understood why. I never use water/milk over 95°F because there is no need to do so and I'm usually in the 85° range and seldom even use a thermometer because I can tell by touch when the liquid is correct. I know that a lot of recipes call for it but you NEVER EVER put salt in the liquid that contains the bloomed yeast. salt goes in the dry ingredients and then the yeast water is added to it because salted water will inhibit or even kill the yeast if added directly to it. Rising times are always approximate and if you can let it rise longer you will be rewarded with better bread.

                                          Ive never understood the fear of pie crust but Ive been baking pies since I have been able to see over the counter on a stepstool. You must measure everything carefully but I don't bother with grams or even a scale at home. Mix the dough as little as possible to it forms a mass and then refrigerate it for 1-2 hours before working with it. Don't overwork it and don't try to roll it too thin or you will create a mess. I like marble but working on a piece of parchment is almost as good.

                                          I'll happily teach anyone to bake if they could teach me to make edible Asian(Chinese, Thai and Cambodian food ) and Indian food at home.

                                          Chef June is correct about fish. if you can cook a chicken breast you can cook fish.

                                          1. re: Kelli2006

                                            If you were in the Seattle area, I would happily take you up on your offer but since that isn't possible, here's a really good Indian cooking website that you can refer to: http://www.indiacurry.com/

                                            It's not a pretty website and there are no pictures. Also sometimes it feels like there is too much information crammed in there (history of the recipes, glossary, explanation of technique etc.) but everything I've tried so far has been really good. Also since the website is meant for a US target audience, most recipes are easy to follow with American names of spices and ingredients. And who knows, since you're new to Indian cooking, you might actually appreciate all the extra information about the technique & ingredients.. good luck!

                                            1. re: Kelli2006

                                              I'm still working on Chinese myself, and I have yet to attempt Cambodian, but this website ( www.thaitable.com ) helped me a lot with Thai. The recipes are simple and clearly laid out and helped me figure out a lot of the basic cooking techniques. I also love that you can search for recipes by ingredient.