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.
To restaurant watchers, the news isn’t a huge surprise, but here goes: Lorin Zinter is leaving Heyday.
When Zinter, one of the Twin Cities' top front-of-the-house faces, announced last month that he was joining the team behind the reincarnation of two legacy Twin Cities restaurants -- the Forum Cafeteria (re-christened Il Foro, to reflect the modern Italian menu) in downtown Minneapolis, and the Lexington in St. Paul – the new equation left a lingering something’s-gotta-give scent.
“We basically decided that I wasn’t going to spread myself too thin with other projects,” said Zinter. “I talked with my partners [chef Jim Christiansen and business partner Mike Prickett] and we all felt it was in the best interest for me to move on and have someone else step in. It’s all very amicable, there’s no ill will, it was a group decision.”
Details of their partnership agreement haven’t been finalized, but his much has: Stepping into Zinter’s general manager shoes will be Dani Megears, who has been Heyday’s astute wine buyer since the doors opened in April.
“Jim and I have both known Dani for years,” said Zinter. "Jim worked with her at Solera, I worked with her at La Belle Vie, and we both think the world of her.”
Zinter (pictured above, right, with Christiansen on the left, in a Star Tribune file photo) will remain at four-star Heyday through the end of the year.
“I’m sorry to see Lorin go,” said Christiansen. “We have a great relationship and he brings so much to the table. But I’m excited for him.”
In his next role, Zinter will be steering the front-of-the-house operations at the Lex and Il Foro, a potent partnership that also includes Smack Shack partners Josh Thoma and Kevin Fitzgerald, along with former Butcher & the Boar chef Jack Riebel.
Both historic properties will debut “sometime in 2015, and let’s leave it at that,” said Zinter with a laugh, refusing to be nailed down to anything more specific, calendar-wise. “We want to be realistic. You know how these restaurant openings go.”
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.
No surprise there, but at least it's official. The folks at the NYT who do data research asked Google to analyze the recipe searches prior to the holiday and compare the results to searches in the rest of the country.
It's a fascinating report with some unexpected twists, and worth a visit to browse among the states, if you have time to spare before cooking the big meal.
The authors caution that the recipes mentioned are not the most iconic state recipes (which cooks may already know how to cook and have no need to look for). But they are the recipes that pop up as being most searched.
Surprising on the Minnesota list is the number of sweet salads -- which makes me wonder if this recipe has appeared recently on a cooking show. "Snicker Salad" and "Cookie Salad" and "Apple Snicker Salad" are all in the top five recipes and, if you added up their search frequency, would top the number of searches for wild rice casserole.
The most popular recipes listed for each state include reference numbers that reflect how much more popular a search was in one state than in the rest of the country. Wild rice casserole, for example, has 16 times more searches in MInnesota than elsewhere.
In Wisconsin, it's Brownberry stuffing and pistachio fluff that tie for top of its list, followed by beer cheese dip (the Brownberry company roots are in Oconomowoc, Wis.). Snicker apple salad also appears on its list, along with taffy apple salad.
Iowa also has a sweet tooth, with Snicker apple salad and Snicker salad at the top of its list.
South Dakota has Snicker salad at the top of its list, with a whopping 34 times the national average.
UPDATE: To clarify, Google analyzed searches done the week of Thanksgiving for the past 10 years. The story says that the most popular dish for each state was not the focus of the analysis because, given the searches were conducted around Thanksgiving, that would have resulted in "turkey" for all the states. Instead, the researchers "looked for the most distinct" recipe searches, which is reflected in the lists that are part of the report.
Here's the complete list for Minnesota, as reported in Upshot at the NYT, researched by Google.
Wild rice casserole ... .16x
Snicker salad .............13x
Broccoli bacon salad ...11x
Cookie salad ..............11x
Apple Snicker salad ...10x
Scallopped corn ...........7x
Spritz cookies .............6x
French silk pie .............5x
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