Reader Bill writes in with three interesting questions. In order, they are:
1) Why does cream last so long in the fridge? It smells and tastes fine weeks after its expiration date. Am I crazy for using it?
2) I have a chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipe that doesn’t spread enough, the opposite of what people usually complain about with cookies. How do I get more, ahem, spread? More butter, more sugar? I’ve already tried cooler and hotter temps with little effect.
3) I reread your Neopolitan pizza piece and wondered whether you dock your pizza dough at some point. When I’ve made pizza I get too many giant bubbles that ruin the texture of the crust. I’ve skulked around several pizza sites and some dock, some don’t. What’s your opinion?
As they used to say on the old game shows, I’ll take the first part first. Bill, the big reason heavy cream stays fresh so long is that most of the time it’s been ultra-pasteurized and that kills off far more of the bacteria that normal pasteurization. A lot of milk isn’t ultra-pasteurized simply because high heat effects the flavor so dramatically. Since most people — and I emphasize most people — don’t drink cream straight from the carton, dairies typically worry less about the flavor of cream and focus instead on shelf life. Even once it’s been opened, the few bugs that are left after the full heat treatment have a hard time gaining much traction at sub-40 temperatures. Another factor is that the most of the yeasts and bacteria that typically inhabit milk don’t feed on fat, and cream is over 35% fat. So if it looks fine and smells fine, use it. And don’t worry about any large clots or clumps you may see. Those are normal for heavy cream even when it’s very fresh.
Regarding the chocolate chip cookies, try adding an extra egg yolk and maybe another tablespoon or two of butter. That should do the trick. Also make sure the batter is at room temperature when you portion it out.
Last thing, for the pizza dough, try cutting down your proofing time, since overly large bubbles are absolutely a sign that the dough has been over-proofed. If that’s not possible for whatever reason, docking is definitely a legal maneuver. I myself rarely pop bubbles unless they’re truly gargantuan and are displacing the toppings. To me they’re part of the aesthetic. Thanks for the questions!