We're announcing the winner -- and four delicious finalists -- in our 11th-annual Taste Holiday Cookie Contest in Thursday's Taste (you can get a sneak-peek here on Wednesday afternoon).
In the meantime, another holiday cookie contest – this time in Cook’s Country magazine – has yielded a Minnesota winner.
She’s Karen Cope of Minneapolis, and her recipe, Dulce de Leche and Cinnamon Sandwich Cookies (pictured, above in a Cook's Country photo), presides over five other highly bake-able finalists, including Black Cherry-Chocolate Linzertorte Cookies, Pretzel-Potato Chip Cookies with Caramel Frosting and Hazelnut Espresso Truffle Cookies. Cope won $1,000 for her efforts, along with a brush with fame, although it sounds as if she's no stranger to the baking spotlight.
“Recently, Cope has gone from strength to strength in the kitchen,” wrote the magazine’s editors. “She told us that four other items that she baked won blue ribbons of the Minnesota State Fair this past summer.”
DULCE DE LECHE AND CINNAMON SANDWICH COOKIES
Makes about 2 dozen sandwich cookies.
Note: Dulce de lece (or cajeta, pictured, above) is a South American caramel made with sugar slowly cooked with cow’s milk or goat’s milk and can be found in the international or baking aisles of the supermarket.
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground anise
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar, plus ½ c. for rolling cookies
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground anise
1 ½ c. dulce de leche
To prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and anise.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions until just combined, scraping down bowl as needed.
In a shallow dish, combine cinnamon and remaining ½ cup sugar and set aside. Working with 2 teaspoons dough at a time, roll into balls and space them 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until edges are firm, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes, place cookies in cinnamon sugar and turn to coat evenly. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.
To prepare filling: In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in cinnamon and anise and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in dulce de lece. Spread 1 ½ teaspoons filling on bottoms (flat sides) of half of cookies. Top with flat sides of remaining cookies to form sandwiches. Cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.
My Thanksgiving wish? A better photograph of the magnificent turkey that I've been making for the past six years.
If I posted the one that I snapped from my (not-so-great) Android smartphone from Thanksgiving 2012, no one would continue reading this post. Not pretty. And I'm usually so busy getting dinner ready that it doesn't occur to me to stop for a moment and snap a food-porn image for Facebook posterity.
Instead, I'll run the image from the cover of Saveur magazine, November 2007, which featured a you-can't-believe-how-amazing-this-is recipe for the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey. Wait, doesn't that sound like a food magazine cover blurb: "THE ULTIMATE THANKSGIVING TURKEY'?
Truth to tell, that's exactly what it is. Naturally, it's the handiwork of Lynne Rossetto Kasper, the gilded-voiced center of The Splendid Table universe. Her recipe (find it here) goes to considerable pains to insert flavor -- in this case, the tail end of apple season -- into turkey, which, if we are honest with ourselves, is not exactly the most flavorful of animal proteins.
Most of that autumn apple goodness materializes via an overnight brine, one that's composed of pureed apples and apple cider. Rossetto Kasper balances the fruit's sweetness with plenty of garlic and chile powder, then finishes with fragrant basil. A third nod to apples comes in the form of apple brandy, a building block for a remarkably robust gravy.
Prior to embracing the Lynne Rossetto Kasper Path to Thanksgiving Enlightenment, I'd never brined a turkey. Now I can't imagine our Thanksgiving turkey any other way. This is one sublimely juicy bird, and the various complementary notes sneak into each bite in a nuanced chorus of whispers rather than shouts.
Another bonus: This is one great-looking Thanksgiving table centerpiece, glowing with a crisp, deeply browned, caramelized skin (photo, above, from Saveur and photographer Landon Nordeman). My suggestion is that you show it off to your guests (what cook doesn't like to hear oohs and aahs?) before carving it, if a tableside knife show isn't part of your itinerary.
The multi-step recipe may seem daunting at first. But persevere. It's detailed, yes. But complicated? No. Just make sure you read it carefully, several times, and several days before starting. After going through it once, first-hand, you'll understand its inherent logic and simplicity.
I'll admit that I cheat with the gravy (don't tell Lynne) by dispensing with the whole making-the-broth routine. Although it's not a terribly time consuming step in the process, I prefer to channel my limited time into other cooking tasks.
I buy it. Not from the supermarket, but from Clancey's Meats & Fish in Linden Hills. Not only Clancey's version a far more convenient alternative than preparing it myself, but the deeply flavorful results are better than anything I could hope to make, not only for gravy, but for basting the stuffing.
Another Thanksgiving tradition? Buying our turkey at Clancey's, which owner Kristen Tombers imports from Wild Acres Game Farm in Pequot Lakes, Minn. It's a superior-quality product, and since the turkey is the sun around which the Thanksgiving solar system revolves, the splurge, price-wise, is more than worth the investment.
One last suggestion: While you're preparing this awe-inspiring turkey on Thursday, tune into "Turkey Confidential," Rossetto Kasper's annual live (and entertaining) Thanksgiving Q&A, with guests Michael Pollan, Mario Batali, Ted Allen, Alexandra Guarnaschelli and Pati Jinich. Catch it from 10 a.m. to noon on Minnesota Public Radio. In the Twin Cities, find it on KNOW, 91.1 FM, or listen to the program's live-stream.
An unplanned event required showing up with a few dozen cookies. When I spied a jar of blood orange marmalade in the back of the cupboard, I immediately knew what I'd be baking.
I ran across this recipe six years ago when Neiman Marcus published "Neiman Marcus Taste," a follow-up to it popular "Neiman Marcus Cookbook." You may remember the latter title. It's the one that published the store's famous chocolate chip cookie recipe.
I've probably prepared Orange Marmalade Cookies a dozen times, and they never fail to impress. The fruity marmalade adds an unexpectedly tangy bite and probably accounts for the cookies' chewy, super-moist texture. Fresh juices and zest keep the icing - laid on thick, of course -- from becoming too sugary sweet. They're pretty, too, especially when the weather turns cold and citrus becomes an automatic mood-brightener. Who doesn't cheer up when they frosting flecked with colorful and fragrant orange and lemon zest?
Another attraction, at least for this history buff, is that the recipe originates with the pioneering Helen Corbitt. She was recruited to run the store's Zodiac Room restaurant in 1955, shortly after it opened inside the store's downtown Dallas flagship, and she wielded enormous influence on the way in-store restaurants evolved and matured.
Department store restaurants forged happy memories for generations of American shoppers (the Oak Grill at Dayton's and the Fountain Room at Young-Quinlan in downtown Minneapolis are two local examples), and Corbitt's creative work made Neiman Marcus a leader in this field. She expanded her influence beyond Dallas by writing more than a half-dozen cookbooks (I have three Corbitt titles in my kitchen library), retiring from the store in 1969 but remaining an active consulting presence well into the mid-1970s. She died in 1978.
"She changed the face of retail dining in America by setting new and higher standards," wrote Kevin Garvin in "Neiman Marcus Cookbook." "Her impact in Texas and the wider food world was so great that many people in Dallas and beyond still mentioned her with admiration and affection."
James Beard referred to her in one of his cookbooks as "the queen of the ladies' lunch," and Stanley Marcus, the store's chairman, introduced her as the "Balenciaga of food."
While these cookies aren't exactly the equivalent of a Parisian couturier's work, they do exude a bit of glamour. Well, more than your basic Snickerdoodle, anyway. Would you expect anything less from Neiman Marcus?
At the event, the cookies were a hit, as always. I snuck one from the table and as I enjoyed its bright citrus bite, two thoughts came to mine: I'm going to have to remember to use the icing to jazz up a simple sugar cookie (we have a doozy of a recipe that's coming out on Dec. 5th in our 11th-annual Taste Holiday Cookie Contest). And I've always thought this cookie would be delicious with lime marmalade and a lime zest/lemon zest icing. Next time.
ORANGE MARMALADE COOKIES
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
Note: From "Neiman Marcus Taste: Timeless American Recipes" by Kevin Garvin with John Harrisson (Clarkson Potter).
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. orange marmalade
2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 c. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 c. powdered sugar, divided
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
To prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soad and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and mix until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until combined. Add marmalade and mix until combined. Using a teaspoon, drop dough, spacing cookies 2 inches apart, on prepared baking sheets (if dough is too sticky, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour). Bake until cookies are light brown in color, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare icing: In a small bowl, combine orange zest, lemon zest, orange juice and lemon juice. In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low, add 1 cup powdered sugar and mix until creamy. Add remaining 2 cups powdered sugar, salt and zest-juice mixture and mix until smooth. Spead icing over cooled cookies.
Minnesota did not send the largest number of competitors to the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off, held earlier this week in Las Vegas. That distinction is held by two states -- Texas and Pennsylvania, with 10 cooks each.
Among the Bake-Off's 100 finalists were four Minnesotans (the million-dollar winner was Glori Spriggs of Henderson, Nev., for her Loaded Potato Pinwheels). Here are their recipes:
ON THE GO BREAKFAST COOKIES
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
Note: From Beverly Batty of Forest Lake.
1 package Pillsbury Big Deluxe refrigerated oatmeal raisin cookies
1/2 c. Pillsbury Creamy Supreme Coconut Pecan Frosting
1/2 c. quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
1/4 c. flaxseed
1 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped '
2 tbsp. sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Let cookie dough stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, combine cookie dough, frosting, oats, flaxseed, walnuts, cranberries and coconut and mix until thoroughly combined.Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake until edges are light golden brown, about 12 to 16 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
MINI ITALIAN SHEPHERD'S PIES
Makes 36 appetizers.
Note: From Sonya Goergen of Moorhead.
1 box (9 oz) Green Giant® frozen chopped spinach, divided
1 lb, extra lean (at least 90%) ground beef
1/2 c. finely chopped onion
1 c. marinara sauce
1 box Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
1 package (24 oz) refrigerated mashed potatoes (about 2 1/2 c.)
2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 36 mini-muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray. In a microwave oven, cook frozen spinach to thaw, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from oven and squeeze spinach dry with paper towels. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, brown ground beef, breaking up large pieces, until meat is no longer pink, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in onion and cook 3 to 4 minutes until tender. Drain pan of oil. Stir in marinara sauce and half of the spinach.
Meanwhile, unroll pie crusts. Using 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter, cut 18 rounds from each crust, rerolling dough if necessary. Press each round in bottom and up side of muffin cups. Spoon rounded tablespoon meat mixture in each cup.
In a microwave oven, cook mashed potatoes as directed on package, about 2 to 3 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix potatoes, remaining spinach, cheese, salt and pepper until well blended. Top each cup with a rounded tablespoon of potato mixture. Bake until potatoes are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cups to loosen pies. Serve warm.
SEEDS AND CHOCOLATE PASTRY WEDGES
Note: From Vicki Mager of Bloomington.
1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
2 1/4 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 c. dried currants
1/4 c. roasted unsalted sunflower nuts
1/4 c. roasted salted hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/4 c. Jif Chocolate Flavored Hazelnut Spread
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unroll pie crust on an ungreased baking sheet. Pinch outside edge of crust to form a 1/4-inch rim. Prick dough several times with fork. In small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over crust. In medium bowl, mix currants, sunflowers nuts and pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle mixture over crust. Press mixture firmly into crust. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and bake until edges are light golden brown, about 3 to 6 minutes longer. Remove from oven and immediately cut into 12 wedges. Do not separate wedges. Spoon chocolate hazelnut spread into decorating bag or 1-quart resealable food storage plastic bag; seal bag. Cut off tiny corner of bag; squeeze bag to drizzle spread over seeds. Cool completely.
ORANGE CARDAMOM BLUEBERRY CROSTATA
Note: From Cathy Wiechert of Mound.
1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
1/2 c. Smucker's Orchard's Finest Pacific Grove Orange Marmalade Medley
2 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
2 c. fresh blueberries
1 egg yolk
1 to 2 tbsp. coarse white sparkling sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a 15x-10-inch baking pan with sides with parchment paper. Unroll pie crust in prepared pan. In medium bowl, mix preserves, flour and cardamom. Carefully fold in blueberries. Spoon mixture over crust to within 2 inches of edge. Fold edge of crust over filling, pleating crust as necessary. In small bowl, beat egg yolk with two teaspoons water. Lightly brush crust edge with egg mixture; sprinkle with sugar. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly, 17 to 23 minutes. Remove from oven and cool at least 30 minutes before serving.
There it was, perched on a rack at the checkout at Whole Foods, taunting me: the latest issue of Cook's Country magazine.
The first shocker was that the food-porn image on the cover -- which grabbed this sweet-seeker's attention all the way from the cheese counter -- wasn't a turkey. When it comes to American food magazines and the month of November, not featuring a Thanksgiving turkey is the equivalent of slapping Zack Galifianakis on the cover of Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue.
Three cheers to the person or persons on the magazine's masthead responsible for skipping the path to chestnut stuffing nirvana and instead treating readers to a drool-inducing portrayal of a knife spreading thick cream cheese icing over a pan of spiraled cinnamon buns. I know my response was embarrassingly predictable: I immediately went in search of instant yeast, cream cheese and cinnamon.
Within little more than an hour -- no exaggeration -- this was the view inside my oven:
The dough -- super-powered by far more instant yeast used in conventional recipes, and boosted by a second leavening agent, quick-acting baking powder -- came together in a snap, just a bowl and a spoon followed by a few easy minutes of kneading.
The recipe's genius is its 30-minute proofing time. Cinnamon bun recipes that I've used in the past require a minimum of three hours for the dough to rise, in two 90-minute periods. Not here, which means that homemade cinnamon buns can be a relatively spontaneous breakfast decision. (A side benefit: You can't imagine the cinnamon-yeast scent that sneaks out of the oven and perfumes the kitchen).
Are they as habit-forming as the buns my grandmother Hedvig made when I was a kid? I wish I could say yes, but no, they're not. The quick-rise dough doesn't achieve the rich puffiness that comes with more carefully proofed breads. However, as a substitute for those tubes of cottony refrigerated dough (even the not-so-bad version from Immaculate), there's absolutely no comparison. They're also far superior to any supermarket bakery cinnamon bun that I've encountered. No doubt about it, this recipe belongs in the repertoire of every cabin baker. Certainly ever weekend baker. Next time we have company, I know what I'll be serving for breakfast.
Following true America's Test Kitchen form, author Diane Unger tinkered over successive batches until she reached this ideal formula. Find her recipe here.
Sometimes I find the ATK recipe format to be a bit confusing (Wait, who am I kidding? If I'd followed my own advice and read the recipe -- twice -- before I started, I probably wouldn't have screwed up and forced to start over). Partly for my own edification, I've re-written the recipe (below) to fit the format we use for Taste.
Three notes: I found that Unger's recipe yielded way too much glaze (although, really, can you ever have too much glaze?). Still, the next time I pull out this recipe, I'll probably cut the amount of glaze in half. One of the recipe's most endearing qualities is the buns' intense cinnamon bite. Rather than defaulting to cinnamon that has been lingering in a tiny plastic McCormick jar in the cupboard for the past two years, growing weaker by the day, I highly recommend going to the bulk spices department at your local natural foods co-op or Whole Foods Market, where the cinnamon will be fresher than its supermarket counterpart, with a far more intense flavor and scent. It's economical, too, allowing you to buy what you need and nothing more.
QUICKER CINNAMON BUNS
Makes 8 buns.
Note: From Cook's Country magazine, which offers the following tips. The recipe requires a total of 10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) melted butter, so it's easiest to melt it all at once. Unger suggests using a dark baking pan, which will yield a much more deeply golden brown roll. If using a light-colored baking pan, increase heat to 375 degrees and adjust the baking time to 29 to 32 minutes.
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Butter for pan
1 1/4 c. whole milk, at room temperature, divided
4 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 tbsp. (6 tsp.) granulated sugar, divided
2 3/4 c. flour, plus extra for kneading dough
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp, salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, and divided
3 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp. whole milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
1 c. powdered sugar, sifted
To prepare filling: In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir in melted butter and vanilla extract until mixture resembles wet sand. Set aside.
To prepare dough: Grease a dark 9-inch round cake pan, line with parchment paper and grease parchment. Heat 1/4 cup milk in a small bowl in a microwave oven to 110 degrees (about 10 to 20 seconds). Stir in yeast and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and let sit until mixture is bubbly, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and remaining 5 teaspoons granulated sugar. Stir in 2 tablespoons melted butter, yeast mixture and remaining 1 cup milk until dough forms (dough will be sticky). Transfer dough to a well-floured work surface and knead until a smooth ball forms, about 2 minutes.
Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 12x9-inch rectangle, with the long side parallel to the counter edge. Brush dough all over with 2 tablespoons butter, leaving a 1/2-inch border on the far long edge. Sprinkle dough evenly with filling, then press filling firmly into dough. Using a bench scraper or spatula, if necessary, loosen dough from the work surface. Roll dough away from you into a tight log and pinch seam to seal.
Roll log seam side down and cut into 8 equal pieces. Stand buns on end and gently re-form ends that were pinched during cutting. Place 1 bun in center of prepared pan and others around perimeter of pan, seams facing in. Brush tops of buns with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cover buns loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Discard plastic and bake buns until edges are well browned, 23 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and, using a paring knife, loosen buns from side of pan. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Invert a large plate over pan. Using potholders, flip plate and pan upside down; remove pan and parchment. Reinvert buns onto a wire rack, set wire rack inside a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and let cool for 5 minutes.
To prepare glaze: In a large bowl, whisk together cream cheese, butter, milk, vanilla extract and salt until smooth. Whisk in powdered sugar until smooth. Using a spatula, spread glaze evenly over tops of buns. Serve warm.
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