Just when the Star Tribune's Taste Holiday Cookie Contest was putting the spotlight on Twin Cities bakers, another Minneapolis cookie maker was stepping into cookie fame and fortune.
She's Karen Cope, and her formula for Chocolate Croissant Cookies was named the winner in Cook's Country magazine's annual Christmas cookie contest. Along with seeing her name -- and her recipe -- in the magazine, Cope was also awarded $1,000. Congratulations!
CHOCOLATE CROISSANT COOKIES
Makes 20 cookies.
Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. From Cook’s Country magazine and contest winner Karen Cope of Minneapolis. “While Hershey’s isn’t the test kitchen’s favorite milk chocolate (that would be Dove Silky Smooth Milk Chocolate), it is essential in this recipe,” notes the magazine. “Why? Because these cookies were engineered to work with three-rectangle blocks of the iconic milk chocolate. Place one chocolate rectangle in the center of each 4-by-2-inch piece of dough, fold the edges over, and bake seam side down.”
1 c. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
6 (1.55-oz.) Hershey’s milk chocolate bars, divided
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 tbsp. white sanding sugar
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, cream cheese and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 2 additions, scraping down sides of bowl and mixing until just incorporated. Form dough into a 6-inch disk. Wrap disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Break 5 chocolate bars crosswise along their 3 seams to yield 4 rectangles (you should have 20 pieces in total). On a lightly floured work surface using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 20-by-8-inch rectangle. Cut dough into 20 4-by-2 rectangles. Working with 1 dough rectangle at a time, place 1 chocolate piece crosswise across dough (so chocolate hangs over edges). Fold dough around chocolate. Repeat with remaining 19 pieces of dough and chocolate and place cookies, seam side down, 1 ½ inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Brush tops with egg and sprinkle with sanding sugar.
Bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Break remaining chocolate bar into pieces, place in a bowl and melt in a microwave oven, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute. Using a spoon, drizzle melted chocolate over tops of cookies. Let chocolate set for at least 30 minutes before serving.
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.
In a Q&A with Stephanie Meyer, author of the recently released "Twin Cities Chef's Table," I asked if there was a recipe in the book that she was happiest to have for her own kitchen (I was pleased to see the dill pickle fried chicken from chef Beth Fisher at Wise Acre Eatery, and the Crusher Cookies from Sun Street Breads baker/co-owner Solveig Tofte). Her immediate response: the chicken liver mousse with pickled blueberries from chef Erick Harcey at Victory 44.
Including the recipe in the story's print edition wasn't possible, so I'm including it here (the photo is by Meyer). Enjoy.
CHICKEN LIVER MOUSSE
Makes 6 4-oz. servings.
Splash of olive oil
4 shallots, minced
4 strips bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 thyme sprigs
1 lb. cleaned chicken livers
1/4 c. bourbon
3/4 lb. (3 sticks) plus 6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3/4 c. heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
In a medium skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add shallots, bacon, garlic and thyme and sauté, stirring frequently, until caramelized, about 15 minutes.
Add chicken livers and sauté, stirring a few times, until livers are cooked halfway through, about 5 minutes. Carefully add bourbon (noting that it is flammable) and cooked until almost dry, about 5 minutes.
Discard thyme sprigs and transfer mixture to a blender. With blender on low speed, slowly add 3/4 pound (3 sticks) butter, a few tablespoons at a time. When fully incorporated, add cream and mix until incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Press mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and transfer to 4-ounce jars or ramekins and cool to room temperature.
Melt remaining 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter and top each jar or ramekin with 1/4-inch melted butter. Cover and chill until cold.
Serve with crackers and pickled blueberries (see Recipe). Can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Makes about 4 cups.
1 c. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. sugar
1 3/4 tbsp. salt
2 thyme sprigs
1 qt. (4 c.) fresh blueberries
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine vinegar, sugar, salt and thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Stir in blueberries and shallots, then set aside to cool completely before serving.
When Black Friday 2014 dawned grey and cold in Minnesota, my mind immediately went to carbs (and that's despite a personal-best level of consumption of stuffing and mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving), which meant that I automatically wanted to drive to Rye Deli and order a big-old platter of the kitchen's awesome challah French toast. Then I remembered: Rye closed earlier this year. Then I went back to bed.
What a coincidence: Today is also, get this, National French Toast Day. In honor of this momentous occasion, I reprint, for those who missed it, the glorious make-at-home version of Rye's recipe (pictured above, taken a few days before the restaurant closed in March). I highly recommend it. And Happy National French Toast Day!
RYE DELI CHALLAH FRENCH TOAST
Note: Adapted from Rye Deli.
2 tbsp. sugar
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. whole milk
1 loaf challah, cut in 1-in. thick slices
Powdered sugar for serving
Unsalted butter for griddle, and for serving
Maple syrup for serving
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and egg yolks. Add sugar, vanilla extract, salt, cream and milk, and whisk to combine.
Add bread slices, one at a time, to the egg mixture, turning them until they are thoroughly saturated but not falling apart, about 1 minute.
In a griddle or skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Add as many custard-soaked slices of bread as the pan will allow without crowding, and cook until the underside is golden brown. Turn the bread and cook until the second side is golden brown. Repeat with remaining bread, melting additional butter before cooking remaining slices as needed. Serve immediately, or keep warm in a 200-degree oven. Garnish with powdered sugar and serve with room-temperature butter and maple syrup.
How great is this? What just might be one of the Twin Cities' tiniest commercial kitchens is now the realm of one of the area's most influential chefs. Yep, that's Ken Goff -- the former longtime chef at the Dakota Restaurant & Jazz Club -- leading the cooking at the Bryant-Lake Bowl.
“As I’ve gotten older, I appreciate a truly great restaurant experience because I have a better understanding of what went into making something wonderful,” said Goff in a statement (that's Goff, above, in a 2013 Star Tribune file photo).
Since leaving the Dakota in 2005, Goff has been teaching a new generation of culinary professionals at Le Cordon Bleu in Mendota Heights.
Goff, one of Minnesota’s first chefs to emphasize local sourcing, has a resume that reads like a fantastic walk through late 20th-century Twin Cities dining, peppered with storied names such as La Tortue, 510 Groveland, the Loring Cafe, Faegre’s and Nigel’s before his two-decade tenure at the helm at the Dakota.
Here's an indication of the length of Goff's impressive career: His first mention in the Strib’s archives is a 1987 three-star review of Faegre’s, by my former colleague Jeremy Iggers. There are of course several dozen subsequent mentions. One that stands out is from a 1990 Taste feature because it includes a recipe that Goff made famous during his Dakota years, for brie-apple soup. Doesn't that feel like a perfect fit for today's cool and rainy weather?
MINNESOTA BRIE AND APPLE SOUP
Makes 3 to 4 quarts.
3/4 c. chopped onions
1/2 c. finely sliced leeks
1 1/2 lb. tart apples, peeled and cored
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 quarts whipping cream
6 small red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-in. dice
1 whole branch fresh rosemary
1 lb. domestic Brie cheese, cut into pieces
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Apple and rosemary, for garnish
In a large pot over medium heat, stew onions, leeks and apples until onions are well softened. Add chicken stock, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil and cook until onions are completely tender.
Remove bay leaves.
In a separate heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat, cook cream, potatoes and rosemary until potatoes are completely softened. Remove rosemary. Combine contents of both pots and carefully puree in a blender a batch at a time, adding cheese bit by bit. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve garnished with a very thinly sliced apple and a sprig of fresh rosemary.
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