Today's snowstorm knocked out my plan to drop by Mel-O-Glaze or Mojo Monkey Donuts -- just a few of the doughnut-makers featured in today's Taste rundown on don't-miss doughnuts -- to pick up some deep-fried goodies for my colleagues. Sorry, guys.
I mean, driving any more than I have to when the roads are this bad? Forget it. I don't want to even drive to the end of our alley. But pulling out our heavy-duty Staub cast-iron pot and engaging in a little a.m. deep frying? Why not?
By some miracle, we had all the ingredients for making old-fashioned sour cream doughnuts, and for reasons unknown, I remembered that I had a doughnut cutter in our kitchen's tool drawer. Talk about your rainy- (OK, snowy-) day good fortune.
I've only made doughnuts once before, at a remote lake cabin, on a similarly precipitation-ruined day, and here's what I'd forgotten about the process: it's really easy.
My results may not be on the same level as the marvelous cake doughnuts at A Baker's Wife's, or the Lynn on Bryant, but in a snowstorm-ed pinch, they'll do just fine. Better than fine, actually; they're moist and cakey, and have a pleasant crusty outer shell. And they came together in a snap.
I'm left with just two concerns. First, how am I going to properly dispose of 24 ounces of vegetable oil?
But my greater worry is wondering how many of these cute little doughnuts (and doughnut holes, which I tossed in sugar and cinnamon a few moments after they came out of the pan) will actually make it all the way to the office? After all, with winter storms like this one, it's wise to keep an emergency rations kit in the car.
OLD-FASHIONED SOUR CREAM DOUGHNUTS
Makes 6 to 10 doughnuts.
From "Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home" by Lara Ferroni (Sasquatch Books, $16.95).
1 1/4 c. flour, plus extra for rolling out dough
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/3 c. superfine sugar
1/4 c. sour cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter (or vegetable shortening), at room temperature
Vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted to remove any lumps
3 to 4 tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
To prepare doughnuts: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and reserve. In a medium bowl, whisk sugar, sour cream, egg and butter (or shortening) until smooth. Add flour mixture, a little at a time, until a solid dough forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for 15 to 20 minutes.
On a lightly floured work surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough to about 1/2 inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter, cut out doughnuts (and doughnut holes), re-rolling and re-cutting any scrap dough.
In a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat, add at least 2 inches of oil and heat until a deep-fat thermometer registers 360 degrees. Using a metal spatula, carefully place doughnuts in oil. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until light golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and doughnut holes. Let cool just slightly before glazing.
To prepare glaze: Place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and slowly stir in milk and vanilla extract, a little at a time, to make a smooth, pourable glaze. Dip doughnuts in glaze and transfer to a wire rack until glaze sets.
Pass the bicarb: It was bipartisan cookoff time in Washington, D.C., today, when Sen. Al Franken hosted fellow Minnesotans Sen. Amy Klobuchar and representatives Collin Peterson, Betty McCollum, Michele Bachmann, Keith Ellison, Tim Walz, Rick Nolan and Erik Paulsen for his third-annual "Hotdish- Off" (photo provided by Sen. Franken's office).
The winner? Walz and his "Hermann the German Hotdish." Find the recipe below.
Several recipes have promise. On paper, anyway. This is hotdish, after all.
The most compelling recipe is McCollum's, which is essentially a beer-braised pot roast served over savory drop biscuits. What's not to like, right? She's clearly the Barefoot Contessa of the Minnesota congressional delegation, although the recipe doesn't seem to exude an essential hotdish essence.
I'm also intrigued by Walz's winning recipe, in part because it would have never occurred to my Lutheran mother to incorporate bratwurst or beer into one of her hotdishes.
Both Klobuchar's "Hormel 'I Can't Believe It's Not SPAM' Pepperoni PIzza Hotdish" and Bachmann's "Southwest Metro Hotdish," so named for its taco seasoning and salsa and its amusing nod to the geography of congresswoman's re-formatted Sixth Distrct, also have a certain appeal. But bear in mind that I grew up in a household where a favorite hotdish was an alchemy of canned sweet corn, cream of mushroom soup, ground hamburger and Tater Tots. Next to that, these two sound downright exotic.
A major appeal of Franken's "Willmar Stew" comes from what it doesn't contain, namely a salty, glopped-up can of cream-of-something soup. Paulsen's easy-to-prepare "Taco Hotdish" doesn't have the nuance -- and I can't believe that I just invoked that word when referring to hotdish -- of Bachmann's version, but for the time-pressed, it doesn't sound half bad.
It's tough to generate enthusiam for Ellison's "Juicy Lucy Hotdish" -- although kudos to the congressman for attempting to link to a culinary icon from his Minneapolis district -- in part because I don't know if I can embrace toasted hamburger buns as a key hotdish building block.
Because venison isn't readily available, I'm probably not going to be preparing Nolan's "'Real Deal' Ranger Hotdish" any time soon, a shame. And I'm truly bored by Peterson's six-ingredient "Easter Ham and Cheese Hotdish."
The competition's most telling element was how most of the contestants, politicians to the core, were careful to incorporate famously made-in-Minnesota ingredients into their recipes.
Ever the locavore, Rep. Nolan proved the most enthusiastic on this front, calling for venison that the congressman harvested and processed himself, wild rice he had hand-picked, maple syrup tapped and boiled on the Nolan family farm, bacon from a Pierz, Minn., processor and cream from, yes, Land O' Lakes. I'm exhausted just reading about it, although it sounds delicious.
Were the pols following the example of those Pillsbury supermarket check-out stand cookbooks, the ones with recipes that call for "Pillsbury's Best Flour" rather than "all-purpose flour"?
I ask because Klobuchar includes shout-outs to Hormel and Kemps (let it be known that she specifically and rather sacrilegiously specifies New York-based Ronzoni pasta, and not Minnesota's own Creamette!), Franken takes a shine to Jennie-O and Bachmann spotlights Green Giant.
Judges were fellow Minnesotans and former Reps. Vin Weber and Gerry Sikorski. Franken and former Rep. Chip Cravaack were last year's winners, and the 2011 crown belonged to Klobuchar, who took the title with the best vote-getting name, ever: "Taconite Tater-Tot Hotdish."
Find the other eight 2013 recipes here.
REP. TIM WALZ'S HERMANN THE GERMAN HOTDISH
Serves 6 to 8.
1 20-oz. package of brats
1 bottle Schell's beer
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. garlic powder
Butter for casserole
1 c. freshly chopped celery
1 10.75 oz. can cream of Cheddar soup
1 10.75 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. milk
1 c. grated Cheddar cheese, plus extra for garnish
1 28-oz. package Tater Tots
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place brats in a Dutch oven and fill with water to cover. Add beer, onion and garlic powder. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 minutes. Remove brats from water and let cool.
Butter bottom and sides of an oven-proof casserole. In a large bowl, combine celery, cream of Cheddar soup, cream of mushroom soup, milk and Cheddar cheese. Chop brats into bite-size pieces and add to soup mixture. Pour mixture into prepared casserole, top with tator tots and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle top with Cheddar cheese and return to oven to bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Beth Dooley's absorbing article on cornbread in this week's Taste reminded me of a favorite recipe.
It's for scones -- although they're billed as "cakes" -- and it's from a cookbook by Los Angeles baking titan Nancy Silverton. The easy-to-prepare formula calls upon the complementary flavors of cornmeal and rosemary -- such a harmonious flavor combination -- and the end result gracefully skirts the line between sweet and savory. Try them, you'll love them.
The recipe's source, Silverton's "Pastries from the La Brea Bakery," belongs on every baker's kitchen bookshelf. If for no other reason, buy it for the bran muffin recipe to end all bran muffin recipes, or for the page-turning chapter that Silverton lovingly devotes to doughnuts.
Oh, and that cornmeal from Riverbend Farm (pictured, above) that Beth wrote about? It's amazing, truly one of the region's great farmstead products. After test-driving this golden, fragrant reminder of late summer -- when I opened the package and that corn perfume hit my nostrils, my mind immediately flew to August -- I'll never bake with shelf-stable cornmeal, ever again.
Makes 12 scones.
Note: Author Nancy Silverton suggests using extra-large eggs. From "Pastries from the La Brea Bakery" (Villard Books, $35).
3 3/4 c. unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for shaping dough
1 3/4 c. yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp. plus 1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 c. light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. mild-flavored honey, such as clover
1/2 c. plus 2 tsp. heavy cream, plus extra for brushing tops of scones
24 small tufts of fresh rosemary for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade (or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment), combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, chopped rosemary and brown sugar and process (or mix) on low until incorporated. Add butter and pulse on and off a few times (or mix on low), until mixture is pale yellow and the consistency of fine meal.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in eggs, honey and cream and whisk together the liquids. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour. On a lightly floured work surface, turn out dough and knead a few times to gather it together into a ball. Roll or pat dough into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut out scones, cutting as closely as possible and keeping trimmings intact.
Gather scraps, pat and press the pieces back together and cut out remaining dough. Place scones 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with cream and poke 2 small tufts of rosemary into the center of each.
Bake until slightly browned and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before transferring scones to a wire rack to cool.
In this week's live chat, a participant who calls herself "popovergirl" (a woman after my own heart) chimed in during a thread on the late, great Ediner.
"I have a recipe for Ediner brownies somewhere...." she wrote. Later that day, she generously forwarded it in an email.
"I don't think I've ever made them, but my friend Beth has," she wrote. "[It's] from a weird charity cookbook she had called 'Food for Show, Food on the Go!'"
Then she added a link; she had discovered a copy of the book for sale on Amazon.
Anyway, I baked them this morning. They're pretty swell. Not that I'm surprised, because in its heyday, the Ediner really had it going on.
The restaurant -- a retro-bathed tribute to short-order cooking, done up to resemble a railroad dining car and originally located in the Galleria -- was founded in 1982 by Susan and Jack Seltz. The concept (a diner, in Edina; get it?) quickly blossomed into a mini-chain with six locations, with additional outlets in Roseville, Minnetonka, Uptown Minneapolis, Detroit and Toronto.
Unfortunately, the growth was short-lived (after the Seltzes sold the company, it went through three different ownerships), and when the Calhoun Square location sputtered to a close in 1992, only the original Ediner in the Galleria remained standing; it shut down in 1995. But it was fun while it lasted, right? (The Galleria location has been home to Big Bowl for nearly 15 years, and the Calhoun Square location is now the site of Republic).
As for the recipe, it's one of many bonuses found inside our live chats. We conduct them on Thursdays from noon to 1 p.m. (the next one is Feb. 21st). Find them at startribune.com/taste, and the transcripts are archived here.
EDINER SUPER BROWNIES
Adapted from "Food for Show Food on the Go" by the Mt. Sinai Hospital Auxillary (1983).
Makes 12 to 24 bars.
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. (10 2/3 tbsp., or 1 stick plus 2 2/3 tbsp.) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
5 oz. unsweetened chocolate, broken into pieces
2 c. granulated sugar
4 eggs slightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, broken into pieces
1/3 c. (5 1/3 tbsp.) unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. hot coffee
To prepare brownies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and reserve. In a double boiler over gently simmering water, melt butter and chocolate and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and cool about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, using a rubber spatula, stir together butter-chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until well-combined. Stir in flour and mix and until well-combined. Stir in nuts.
Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with a rubber spatula.
Bake until center has just set, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer pan to a wire rack to completely.
To prepare icing: In a double boiler over gently simmering water, melt butter and chocolate and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat, add powdered sugar and coffee and whisk until smooth. Let cool slightly before spreading evenly on cooled brownies. Allow icing to set before cutting brownies.
The cake that wowed readers of the Taste section last year around Valentine's Day impressed those in charge at Williams-Sonoma, too.
Now the cake is available from Williams-Sonoma for those more inclined to buy it ready-made ($99.95), prepared by Platine Bakery of Los Angeles and shipped frozen. The cake also got a shout-out in People magazine (see left).
Want to check out the cake in person? This weekend Ross will be at the Williams-Sonoma stores at the Mall of America (Saturday, 1 to 3 p.m.) and the Galleria (Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m.). No samples, but plenty of visuals.
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