Chances are, the least used ingredient in your pantry is that little tin or bottle of cream of tartar. Maybe you don t even have the old-fashioned spice that is most often used to stabilize meringue for a lemon meringue pie.
Cream of tartar is the potassium salt of tartaric acid that s left on the inside of wine casks once grapes have fermented.
It is used to stabilize and add volume to beaten egg whites in angel food cake, meringues for pie, and meringue cookies. It also lends a creamier consistency to candy and frosting.
It can be used in baking, too. If you run out of baking powder, make your own: Combine teaspoon cream of tartar with teaspoon baking soda and teaspoon cornstarch to yield 1 teaspoon baking powder.
Cream of tartar can be kept indefinitely if it is stored tightly capped in a cool, dark place.
Pear Walnut Crumb Cake made with cream of tartar is perfect for Valentine s Day call it coffee cake or dessert.
For the Topping:
1 cups finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
For the Pear Cake:
2 large, ripe pears
1 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 8-ounce container sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Combine topping ingredients to make coarse crumbs.
Peel, core, and coarsely chop pears; set aside. Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large mixer bowl at high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and sour cream to batter; beat at low speed until combined. Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until combined; stir in pears. Spoon into prepared pan. Sprinkle with topping mixture.
Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until cake pulls away from sides of pan and topping is browned.
Yield: 24 2-by-2-inch squares
Martha White and Lodge Cast Iron are sponsoring the ninth annual National Cornbread Cook-off as part of the National Cornbread Festival held April 23 in South Pittsburg, Tenn. Ten finalists will compete for the first prize of $4,000 and a stainless steel gas range.
Submit an original main-dish recipe prepared with Martha White Cornbread Mix and cooked in Lodge Cast Iron cookware. Contest rules are available online at www.marthawhite.com. Email entries to email@example.com or mail to National Cornbread Cook-Off 2005, 209 7th Ave. North, Nashville, TN 37219. Deadline for entering is Feb. 28.
Katzinger s found that chocolate tasting was so popular it had to schedule a second event. Katzinger s Best Ever Chocolate Tasting will be at 6:30 p.m. March 3 at 475 South Third St., Columbus. The tasting is $15.95 per person. Reservations are required by calling 614-228-3354.
Tasters will sample and compare several chocolates of milk, semi-sweet, bittersweet, and white varieties, and will learn to distinguish an excellent chocolate from a mediocre one.
Arizona-bound travelers can find cooking schools in unexpected places. One of America s authorities on Mexican cuisine, Jane Butel of the Santa Fe-based Jane Butel Southwestern Cooking School, will team with the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess to present a series of weekend cooking school packages this spring at the resort s La Hacienda Restaurant.
The Jane Butel Satellite Cooking School Package will feature a reception and dinner on Friday, daily continental breakfast, two six-hour cooking sessions on Saturday and Sunday led by Jane Butel, lunches, and accommodations at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Cost is $1,650 per person. Dates offered are: Feb. 18-20, April 15-17, and April 29-May 1. Information:www.janebutel.com or 800-472-8229.