Friday, July 6, 2012

Foodie Faves: Cookwise, by Shirley Corriher

I’m such a geek. I love kitchen/food trivia, especially if it’s helpful. So it was a big day for me when I read about a woman named Shirley Corriher, in the Vanderbilt Alumni Magazine. Yes, we attended the same school, so I feel a special closeness to this woman, even though I’m pretty sure she went to more classes than I did.

Corriher got a B.A. (cum laude) in chemistry from Vandy, then worked as a biochemist in the medical school while her husband went to graduate school. They moved to Atlanta where they started a boys’ school, and Shirley had to learn to do the cooking. From the interview I read, it sounds like she knew almost as little about cooking as I did when I graduated. She eventually divorced, and while scratching around to support herself and her three sons, she won cooking classes at an Atlanta cooking school. But with her chemistry background and strong communication skills (thanks to Vandy’s excellent English department), she soon became the go-to for any oddball food science questions at the school. Perhaps the lesson here is that you may not learn how to cook at Vanderbilt, but you will learn how to ask someone to teach you.

In any case, today, Shirley Corriher is an internationally known food scientist, teacher, and cookbook writer; her book, Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed, is a bestseller and won a James Beard Award for excellence.

So here, for your Friday Fave, is a handful (that would be five) of tidbits from Cookwise:

1. The biggest factor in whipping cream is temperature. So in addition to freezing the bowl and beaters ahead of time (which the Kitchen Goddess has always done), don’t try to whip cream in a hot kitchen. To get whipped cream that holds up in hot weather, try adding a near-melted marshmallow at the end of whipping (one large marshmallow, cut into quarters and microwaved until it’s very soft, per cup of cream). The gelatin in the marshmallow will help keep the whipped cream firm. (p. 455)

2. Not all baking pans work the same. Cakes in dark pans bake faster but create a dark crust; cakes in glass pans bake even faster. Dull pans absorb more heat than shiny aluminum pans. Professional cake bakers prefer heavy, dull aluminum, straight-sided pans. (p. 151)

3. The best way to store lettuce and other tender salad greens is to first soak them in ice water for 10-30 minutes, then (for one-day storage) wrap them in a wet cloth or paper towel, put in a zip-top bag and squeeze out the air before refrigerating. For storing more than one day, use a salad spinner to remove as much surface moisture as possible, then wrap them in a dry paper towel in a zip-top bag and, again, squeeze out the air before refrigerating. Squeezing out the air deprives the leaves of oxygen; they’ll keep several weeks that way. (p. 313)

4. Bread keeps best frozen or at room temperature – not in the refrigerator. The starch in bread changes to a hard, crystalline form at refrigerator temperatures. (p. 93)

5. Making deviled eggs? Start with older eggs (7-10 days), which are easier to peel. To get yolks that are more consistently centered, store the carton – tightly closed – on its side overnight before you cook them. Next best is to store them large end down. (p. 198)

Isn’t this fun?


  1. Another wonderful blog! I actually knew a few of these tidbits, and had NO clue to the rest! I know I will always learn something when I read you...and enjoy the story that surrounds it all.

    Eileen in Atlanta

    1. Thanks so much, Eileen! Shirley is a wonderful source -- I learned a lot just poking around for this post.

  2. This is a great little ode to Corriher! I love her book and wish i had a whole day to read it, while eating strawberries and properly whipped cream! :0