Chat Leftovers: Let the Holiday Projects Begin

You're getting busy in the kitchen, or at least that's what the queue from this week's What's Cooking indicates. Below, a few leftover questions to whet your whistle as you gear up for those holiday baking and entertaining extravaganzas. Just remember, have fun and don't forget to breathe! And if you've got tips to add to the mix, please do so in the comments area below.

San Jose, Costa Rica: Greetings from rainy, but warm Costa Rica I'd like to try using whole wheat flour in my holiday baking this year. Do I just substitute it entirely or do a mixture of white and wheat flour and by what ratio? Also, I've read a lot about whole wheat pastry flour. Is that what I should use? Gracias!

Hey, Costa Rica. We just had snow yesterday in Washington, so rainy but warm sounds pretty good! Re: your pursuit of more whole wheat flour in the holiday baking lineup: Whole wheat flour (particularly that made from red wheat ) yields a denser result, so I would replace some but not all of the white flour. For starters, try a 50-50 ratio. You may also find that your batters need a wee bit more liquid.

If by chance, you have access to "white wheat flour" (made from white wheat), you can replace one for one, as it yields a lighter, even sweeter result than the red wheat flour most of us are accustomed to. Hope this helps.

Washington, D.C.: I know you've covered this but I can't find it! Am doing a buffet for about 50 people next weekend and am not sure how many ounces of meat and sides per person I should assume. Help!

Sounds like a supper buffet; if not, chime in and let me know. If so, expect your guests to come hungry and ready to chow. On the other hand, this is the holiday season, which means some of your guests will be coming from and headed to other shindigs -- and eating opportunities. I don't think a trough of food is necessary. We all pig out way too much at this time of year, anyway. A friend just e-mailed me overnight, asking me to review her menu for an after-work cocktail gathering at her place, and I noticed there was nary a vegetable mentioned. So I suggested to lighten things up so her guests don't roll home like a big ole Weeble.

I'd also look at your guest list and do a quick scan -- who's a big eater versus who eats like a bird kind of thing. The other question to ask is if you want party leftovers. For meat, general rule of thumb is four to six ounces per person, and for sides, I'd use four ounces per person. Got a calculator to help you with all this catering math? For a party of 50, you need to have at least six choices on your table -- and don't forget the folks who don't eat!

Centreville, Va.: Fruitcake and icing question. I did make the fruitcake featured in your blog. I really liked the cake batter. However, my chief taste critic (mom -- DH doesn't do fruitcake), thought it was too alcohol-y. So I made some royal icing out of powdered egg whites, and will have her taste the iced version of the cake. So, for those who can't/don't like the alcohol, can I make the cake without the mascerated fruit?

The one thing I've learned throughout this fruitcake experiment is that the fruitcake is a highly personal thing. I kind of miss whole raisins in my fruitcake and am a little sad I pulverized all of my macerated fruit, for instance. But I love the perfume every time I open the lid of that tin, and a few weeks later, the cake is still kicking. So, if the cake is too boozy for your mom, go easy on the booze. I would still use some -- but perhaps not macerate it for nearly as long, even just 24 hours. Instead of pouring booze into poked holes after the cake is baked, you could brush a light coating of spirits, which would yield a milder result as well.

Question 2 -- Had tons of icing leftover. How long will that last? It's stored in jars
with plastic wrap on top. I did not use fresh egg whites if that makes a difference.

I'm going to defer to the experts here -- Wilton, the classic cake and confection experts of America, has a terrific Web site, with discussion forums that are worth perusing for this kind of question. I have limited experience with royal icing, but one thing I know is that it dries out quickly, so airtight storage is really key. The savvy gal at suggests placing a damp towel directly on the icing followed by plastic wrap, which will help extend its life for about one week.

Washington readers, stop by and see me tonight at Tabletop in Dupont Circle, for a book signing-holiday shopping jamboree, and I've made chocolate truffles to share! Festivities kick off at 6 p.m., and we'll eat truffles til about 8.

By Kim ODonnel |  December 6, 2007; 9:39 AM ET Chat Leftovers
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I made our fruit cake 3-4 weeks ago and we did a sample taste this weekend, and woo-hoo, it would bowl over a sailor! The alcohol content was so high. Now it still tastes great, but the brandy burned in the throat a bit. I'm wondering if a few more weeks might mellow it out a bit more? Also, do I need to worry about it going moldy in a tin box, rather than in the fridge, or is that the whole point of the alcohol?

Posted by: Karen | December 9, 2007 11:51 AM

I agree on not maccerating the fruit for a month, that was too much for me. And I pulverized the maccerated fruit to practically an alocholly liquid. Thus, there are no fruit pieces, and it forced me to add too much alcohol, because I poured the whole lot in.

Posted by: Karen | December 9, 2007 11:54 AM

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