Is a sweet treat made of packaged ingredients worth a million dollars? (The more important question may be, "Is this really cooking?")
The public apparently thought so when, for the first time ever, the winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off was determined by those who voted online.
Peanutty Pie Crust Clusters was announced today as the winner, out of the four finalists, which all made heavy use of brand-name products.
Here is the winning recipe and the three finalists (none of the cooks are from Minnesota, or even the Midwest). The brand names have been removed from the recipes as printed here, except where there didn't seem to be an equivalent.
PEANUTTY PIE CRUST CLUSTERS
Makes 30 clusters.
Note: Grand prize winner of 2014 Pillsbury Bake-Off. From Beth Royals of Richmond, Virginia. This appears to be a variation, sort of, of Pearson's Salted Nut Roll.
1 refrigerated pie crust, softened as directed on box
1 bag (12 ounce) white vanilla baking chips (2 cups)
1 tablespoon butter-flavored all-vegetable shortening
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 cup salted cocktail peanuts
2/3 cup toffee bits
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with wax paper.
Unroll pie crust on work surface. With pizza cutter or knife, cut into 16 rows by 16 rows to make small squares. Arrange squares in single layer on large ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove squares from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 5 minutes.
In large microwavable bowl, microwave baking chips, shortening and peanut butter uncovered on High 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring once, until chips can be stirred smooth. Add pie crust squares, peanuts and toffee bits; stir gently until evenly coated. Immediately drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto lined cookie sheets. (If mixture gets too thick, microwave on High 15 seconds; stir.) Refrigerate about 15 minutes or until set. Store covered.
CUBAN-STYLE SANDWICH POCKETS
Makes 6 sandwiches.
Note: From Courtney Sawyer, Bellingham, Wash.
3 tablespoons coarse-grained mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cans refrigerated seamless dough for crescent rolls
8 ounces ground pork
6 slices (3/4 ounce each) cooked ham from deli
6 slices (3/4 ounce each) Swiss cheese
18 dill pickle chips
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray large cookie sheet with no-stick cooking spray.
In small bowl, mix mustard and cumin. Unroll dough sheets on work surface. Cut each sheet into thirds. Press each third into 7 ½ by 4 ½ -inch rectangle. Spread mustard mixture evenly over each rectangle to within 1/2 inch of edges.
Shape pork into 6 (3-inch) squares; place over mustard on each rectangle. Top each pork patty with 1 slice ham, 1 slice cheese and 3 pickle chips. Fold dough over filling; press edges firmly with fork to seal. Prick top of each pocket 3 times with fork. Place pockets 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.
Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown and meat thermometer inserted in center of pockets reads 160 degrees. (It’s easy to substitute crescent dinner rolls for the seamless dough sheet. Just unroll the dough and firmly press perforations to seal),
CHOCOLATE DOUGHNUT POPPERS
Makes 9 doughnut poppers.
Note: From Megan Beimer of Carlsbad, Calif.
1 can refrigerated seamless dough for crescent rolls
5 tablespoons chocolate-flavored hazelnut spread
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons milk
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly sprinkle work surface with flour. Unroll dough on work surface; press to form 12- by 9-inch rectangle. With pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut into 3 rows by 3 rows to make 9 rectangles.
Spoon rounded teaspoonful hazelnut spread onto center of each rectangle. Brush edges of rectangles with melted butter. Bring dough up around filling to cover completely. Pinch edges together to seal; shape into ball. Place seam side down, 2 inches apart, on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix powdered sugar and milk with whisk until smooth and thin enough to glaze. Dip top of each doughnut popper into glaze; place on parchment paper. Let stand about 1 minute or until glaze is set. Place nuts in small bowl. Dip each popper into glaze again, then into nuts. Serve warm.
CREAMY CORN-FILLED SWEET PEPPERS
Note: From Jody Walker of Madison, Miss.
1 bag (11 oz.) Green Giant Steamers frozen honey-roasted sweet corn
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
11 mini-sweet peppers (3 to 4 inches long), cut in half lengthwise leaving stem attached, seeded
1 can refrigerated seamless dough for crescent rolls or 1 can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls (8 rolls)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Microwave corn as directed on bag. Cut open bag; cool 10 minutes.
In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add corn, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and 1/2 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning; mix well. Place cream cheese mixture in large resealable food-storage plastic bag. Cut off 1/2 inch from corner of bag. Squeeze bag to pipe filling into each pepper half.
Unroll dough. (If using crescent roll dough, firmly press perforations to seal.) Press to form 11 by 9inch rectangle. With pizza cutter or knife, cut dough into 22 (9 by 1/2-inch) strips.
Wrap 1 dough strip around each pepper, from stem to tip. Place filling-side up on cookie sheet, tucking in ends of dough under pepper.
Bake 12 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix melted butter and remaining 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Remove peppers from oven; brush with butter mixture. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese evenly over peppers. Serve warm.
For those who won't be among the 2,000 sitting down to dinner on St. Paul's Victoria Street on Sept. 14 for Create: The Community Meal (read the story here), consider re-creating the meal at home with these recipes, adapted from the chefs behind the event.
Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. Adapted from SunnySide Cafe chef/owner James Baker for Create: The Community Meal.
1 tbsp. paprika
1 chicken, cut into pieces
1/4 c. low-salt soy sauce
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
1 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
1/4 c. honey
Rinse chicken in water and pat dry, using paper towels. Rub paprika on chicken. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, ginger, pepper and Old Bay seasoning. Arrange chicken in a non-metallic baking dish (using one that just fits the chicken), pour marinade over chicken, cover and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375. Remove cover from chicken and bake 40 minutes. Remove chicken from oven, brush with honey and bake an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from oven, transfer baking dish to a wire rack to cool chicken for five minutes, and serve.
Serves 8 to 10.
Note: Adapted from Shegitu Kebede, co-owner Flamingo Restaurant in St. Paul. “The Flamingo Restaurant only serves this dish when green beans are in season,” writes Seitu Jones of Create: The Community Meal. “The green beans in the Fosolia for Create: The Community Meal will come from the Hmong American Farmers Association.”
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 1/2 lbs. green beans, halved and ends trimmed
1/2 lb. carrots, peeled and julienned
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large skillet over medium-low heat, slowly saute onions until caramelized. Add green beans, carrots, green pepper, red pepper, jalapeno and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have slightly softened. Season with salt and pepper, transfer vegetables to a platter and serve.
When a restaurant is as firmly entrenched in the city’s dining-out psyche as the Modern Cafe, it’s easy to take it for granted.
But given its influential track record, the restaurant that everyone shorthands to “the Modern” deserves better. Ever since the day in 1994 when Jim and Patty Grell opened their contemporary diner in the home of the beloved Rabatin’s Northeast Cafe, the Modern has played a key role in reviving the neighborhood and the Twin Cities' food-and-drink scene.
Twenty years in the restaurant industry is a milestone worthy of a major celebration, and the Grells are delivering just that, with a series of celebratory dinners taking place every night this week.
From Tuesday through Friday, the kitchen is setting aside its regular menu -- sorry, no pot roast -- and preparing a special six-course dinner. The evenings' dishes have been created by previous Modern chefs, who will also be spending specific evenings back in their old stomping grounds. Here’s the rundown, dish-wise and chef-wise:
* Salmon with sweet corn polenta, yellow tomato puree and puffed farro salad by Phillip Becht of the soon-to-open Victor’s on Water. Becht was at the Modern from 2003 to 2011, and he will be appearing Tuesday.
* Pork and beans, by Mike Phillips of Red Table Meat Co. Philips was at the Modern from 1995 to 1998, and he will be appearing Wednesday.
* Potato gnocchi, with pork confit and brown butter hollandaise by Scott Pampuch of the University of Minnesota. Pampuch was at the Modern from 1996 to 2003, and he will be appearing Thursday.
* Walleye egg rolls with dill and ginger kimchi, by Matt Morgan of the Bachelor Farmer. Morgan was at the Modern from 1994 to 1996, and he will be appearing Friday.
* Creamed corn, with smoked green tomato creme fraiche butter by Ella Wesenberg, who has been the Modern's chef de cuisine since 2009. She will be appearing Saturday.
Price? A very Modern-esque $55. No reservations.
"It has been really fun to get all these chefs together," said Jim Grell, adding that each is going to contribute an amuse-bouche or two on the night they visit. "Mike is going to bring his slicer in, he's got a four-year-old prosciutto," said Grell. "And Matt is set on making Ritz crackers with peanut butter and pickles."
On Saturday, the focus is taking a major turn. "We're going to scrap the entire menu and make fried chicken," said Jim Grell. All of the details haven't been hammered out just yet. "We're still kind of putting it all together," he said. "But it's going to be cheap, and we'll be doing great sides, too."
Grell added that he has one hope for Saturday's festivities. "That the plumbing will back up," he deadpanned. "Like it did on the very first day, 20 years ago. At least this time, I'll know what to do."
Realistically, you could be serving mini-hot-dogs on a stick and they would still be a delight when served in the stunning gardens at the Minnesota Arboretum, which held its Toast and Tastes fundraiser last night under a sunny sky with balmy temperatures.
Nonetheless, those at the gathering had far better dining options -- in fact, the best in many years of the festivities. Here were some of the highlights:
Shrimp chorizo with fennel, from chef Hakan Lundberg of the Minneapolis Club, topped my best-of list. Unexpected (ground up shrimp, shaped), fun (on a stick) and really tasty (I had to grab a second one, just to be sure it was as good as the first!).
A close second: carrot-cured hamachi sashimi with apple and radish from The Rabbit Hole (Midtown Global Market). Served with sparkling lychee kombucha. Wow. Make that two wows.
Duck breast with farro, pickled rhubarb and kohlrabi puree, with a chocolate bouchon on the side filled with passion fruit panna cotta, from chef Scott Graden of the New Scenic Cafe in Duluth.
Housemade roasted andouille sausage with two sauerkrauts on brioche from chef J.D. Fratzke of the Strip Club (St. Paul).
Korean glazed pork belly on-a-stick from chef Scott Pampuch of the University of Minnesota (Arboretum Catering).
And the flowers and greenery, of course.
It seems fitting that a booze mart will be opening in a newspaper building, given the indelible image of hard-drinking journalists with a pint in their desk drawers in such films as “His Girl Friday.”
Except that when Revival Wine Beer and Spirits opens in the classic St. Paul edifice known to many as the Pioneer Building, there will be no journos in the house (the Pioneer Press offices moved a block or so away years ago), and this store will cater to a more upscale crowd than us ink-stained wretches.
The man behind the store, slated to open in mid-May (with a public tasting slated for May 20), is Jeffrey Huff, who started the charming Little Wine Shoppe in St. Anthony Park a few years back. This “shoppe” will not be “little”: 2,200 square feet compared to 300 for his former store. “My walk-in cooler’s almost bigger than the Little Wine Shoppe,” he said with a chuckle.
But it should be just as personal. Huff has been building cabinets to protect his inventory from getting too much light in a space with “massive windows.”
“The space is just amazing,” said Huff. It’s on the second floor of the Pioneer Endicott Building, which dates to 1889 and had been empty for a few years when Richard Pakonen of Pak Properties bought it, largely for residential usage.
Some of the 230 new luxury apartments are already occupied, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art will be taking up the entire first floor. Huff, who will be the first commercial tenant to open, named the store after the building’s architectural style, Romanesque Revival.
Huff said his store will be heavy on craft beers and the emerging artisan distillery world, and that the wine selection will be focused on quality and value. “I know the demographics of who’s down there,” he said. “But I knew the demographic in St. Anthony Park, and that didn’t quantify into selling high-end wines.”
Regardless, he’s excited to be in “an absolutely beautiful space” and has gotten comfortable with its size. “I guess you start small and get bigger. That’s the goal, right?” Huff said. “This is all the bigger I want to be.”
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