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.
With yesterday's snowstorm, a warm and comforting Sunday supper felt just right, and what's more warm and comforting than stuffing?
This is a favorite recipe of mine, adapted from the 2006 edition of Allysa Torey's go-to Sunday supper cookbook. I've made it so many times that my well-worn copy's binding is cracked to automatically open to page 84. Many other pages (the crostini with goat cheese and tomatoes, the lemon-tarragon chicken, the summer squash-sweet corn casserole, the peach crumble) are similarly splotched with food stains and spills. That's always a good sign, right?
I've made a few alterations to the recipe over the years. The major one is adding a few eggs, to bind the stuffing together and give it a richer bite (if you prefer your stuffing egg-free, increase the amount of stock to 2 cups). If I don't have the exact herbs on hand, I'll substitute others, although sage is a must. The chives in my refrigerator were looking pretty desperate, so for last night's iteration I tossed in marjoram and savory, and it was as good as always.
(By the way, Torey calls it dressing, but this Minnesotan prefers stuffing, even though it's not getting anywhere near the cavity of a bird.)
I'll cop to using Jiffy brand muffins. Why not? They're inexpensive (I think I paid 63 cents per package at Lunds, and the recipe requires two boxes), and it mixes up in, well, a jiff. The package's instructions call for an egg and milk; we had some half-and-half in the back of the refrigerator -- it was a miracle that it hadn't reached its expiration date -- and I used that instead of the skim we always keep on hand. Note to self: Always do this.
I didn't have the foresight to bake the muffins on Saturday, so I dried them out a bit by crumbling them on a sheet pan and baking them for 5 minutes at 350 degrees. For bread cubes, I pulled some out of the freezer -- leftovers from Thanksgiving's stuffing-a-thon -- and gave them a nice toasted texture by baking them for 10 minutes, also at 350 degrees.
I didn't do it last night, but sometimes I cut up bits of butter and toss it over the top of the stuffing before it goes in the oven. I usually add more herbs than the recipe calls for, as much as doubling the amount. Oh, and because the stuffing can run a little on the sweet side -- it's the corn muffins -- I occasionally flip the corn muffin/bread cube ratio.
That's the thing with this recipe: It's forgiving. Last night, post-shoveling, we served it with roast chicken, and it was delicious. As always.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Note: To toast pecans, place on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake 10 to 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven, until fragrant and lightly browned. Adapted from "At Home With Magnolia: Classic American recipes by the owner of Magnolia Bakery" by Allysa Torey (Wiley, $29.95).
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 c. (about 1 medium) chopped yellow onion
1 c. chopped celery
1/4 c. freshly chopped chives
1 tbsp. fresh chopped sage
1 tbsp. freshly chopped thyme
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 c. coarsely crumbled corn muffins (about 8 to 12 from your favorite recipe, or from a muffin mix such as Jiffy), left out, uncovered, at least overnight, to dry
2 c. cubed white bread, left out, uncovered, at least overnight, to dry
1 1/2 c. (about 2 medium) peeled, cored and chopped Granny Smith apples
1 c. coarsely chopped pecans (see Note)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c. chicken or turkey stock
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking dish.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add celery and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and stir in chives, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and allow to come to room temperature. Add crumbled corn muffins, cubed bread, apples and pecans and lightly toss. Add eggs and chicken (or turkey) stock and toss until just combined.
Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove aluminum foil, rotate pan and bake until golden brown on top, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
My favorite cranberry relish couldn't be easier: Grind up fresh, uncooked berries in a blender or food processor. Add some sugar and the zest of an orange, lemon or both. Then let it sit for a spell. Fabulous. And beautiful. The berries remind me of jewels. It's a terrific sandwich topper the next day, too. You can find this recipe -- and many others suited for the big day -- in the Taste cookbook, "Come One, Come All/ Easy Entertaining Wtih Seasonal Menus."
EASY CRANBERRY RELISH
Makes about 3 cups.
Note: Every menu needs an easy dish. From "Come One, Come All/ Easy Entertaining With Seasonal Menus," by Lee Svitak Dean.
• 1 (12 oz.) pkg. fresh cranberries
• Zest from 1 orange or 1 lemon (or from both for extra flavor)
In a food processor or blender, coarsely chop the cranberries.
In a large bowl, toss berries and sugar together. Add zest to cranberries; stir. Refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours or overnight to let flavors blend. Stir again before serving.
The Taste section of the Star Tribune has held its annual holiday cookie contest for the past decade, resulting in 10 winning recipes that have pleased bakers and appeared on holiday cookie platters for years.
In celebration of our 10th contest, we thought it would be fun to put the top 10 recipes to the test by having four local experts -- pastry chefs -- offer their thoughts on the recipes.
Steve Horton of Rustica bakery, Adrienne Odom of Parasole Restaurants, Diane Yang of La Belle Vie and Stephanie Schwandt of D'Amico Kitchen, pictured above, did just that as staff photographer Tom Wallace, also pictured, recorded the occasion. Find out which were the top three cookies next week (Nov. 29) in the Taste section, along with the winning recipes from this year's contest.
All the winners and finalists from the past decade will be available in the NEW e-book from the Star Tribune. "The Cookie Book" will be available on amazon.com and iTunes (and more) on Nov. 29 for $2.99.
Does this ever happen to you? A food-porn image leaps off the pages of a magazine and imbeds itself into your cortex. Before you know it, you're scrupulously following the recipe's every word, and each step in the process is raising expectations and appetites. Yet despite your best efforts, the finished product isn't a twin of the one published in the magazine. It's more like a second cousin, from the ugly side of the family.
My latest tragic disconnect between newsstand fantasy and kitchen reality originated with the (phenomenal) new issue of Saveur. To celebrate the magazine's 150th issue, Team Saveur gathered 150 classic recipes, squeezing 101 into print, and diverting the balance to the magazine's website and digital edition. Even a cursory spin through this keeper of an issue reveals an eclectic, never-ending parade of one I-wanna-make-that dish after another.
Leave it to my sweet tooth, which never met a chocolate chip cookie that it didn't totally crush on, to stop dead in its tracks on page 76. And the more I read, the more I liked. What a cool idea: Rather than balling and dropping the dough to form cookies, this recipe, borrowing puff pasty principles, rolls out the dough and layers it. Three layers, to be exact, alternating with several handfuls of chopped bittersweet chocolate. A two-inch biscuit cutter does the rest of the work. What really caught my eye is how the tops of the cookies in the magazine's version appear to have had a puffy outer layer that collapsed, almost like another favorite cookie of mine, the meringue.
Here's how mine turned out. Not bad looking, right? But not quite as stunning as the beauties that emerged from the mighty Saveur test kitchen in midtown Manhattan (which, by the way, is the real-life version of the handsome, lavishly equipped facility that exists in the fantasies of most home cooks).
One possible explanation for the difference in appearance (besides my own baking cluelessness, of course): Saveur's recipe leaves out a finishing touch, or author Sarah Copeland skipped it in the version she sent to Saveur World Headquarters: Just before baking the cookies, Copeland brushes the tops with a beaten egg and sprinkles each cookie with a few grains of fleur de sel (find the details here).
By the way, when it comes to both flavor and texture, this recipe garners nothing but praise. The crackled tops -- a golden, chocolate-pocked cousin to the molasses crinkle -- create an enticingly crunchy outer shell that gives way to a tender, exceedingly rich center. Another welcome touch: The teasingly salty kick, which plays nicely against all that bittersweet chocolate. In the end, I didn't really care that they didn't mirror the magazine's version, because on every other level, they were a phenomenal chocolate chip cookie. The results were so impressive that the spoon-and-drop method now seems like a last-resort alternative.
Here's a peek at the cutting-out-the-dough stage. It's a soft dough, so it's best to work quickly, while the dough remains chilled and relatively firm. The good news is that they're a free-form cookie, so nothing about this process requires an exacting technique.
Ok, I'll admit: The disparity between Saveur's outcome and mine was bugging me, so I baked them again this morning, only this time I included the egg wash.
Glossy tops, yes. But still, nothing that comes close to resembling the image in the magazine. Not that it matters, because Saveur has just handed me my new go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe. Who cares what they look like? These things are amazing.
Oh, and I've decided that I prefer them deeply brown, a la the extraordinary chocolate chip cookies at Rustica. I'm also following the sage advice that Salty Tart baker/owner/quote machine Michelle Gayer doled out at a bread-baking contest last weekend at the Mill City Farmers Market. "Do you guys know that color means flavor?" she said. "Don't be afraid of the brown. Put it back in the oven."
SAVEUR’S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
2 ¼ c. flour, plus extra for rolling dough
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. kosher salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ c. packed dark brown sugar
¾ c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
9 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 egg, beaten (optional)
Sea salt (optional)
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract and beat until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add yolks, two at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, beating until just combined. Transfer dough to a work surface and divide into three equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a 4x6-inch rectangle; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly flour a work surface. Place one dough rectangle on prepared work surface and sprinkle with half the chocolate. Top with another rectangle, sprinkle remaining chocolate and cover with last rectangle. Using a floured rolling pin, flatten stacked rectangles into a 9x6-inch rectangle that is 1 ½ inches thick. Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut out cookies and transfer to prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies 3 inches apart. Gather scraps, reroll into a 1 ½-inch thick disk and cut out more cookies, repeating until no dough remains. (At this point, you can brush the tops of the cookies with a beaten egg, and sprinkle a few grains of sea salt on each cookie). Bake, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are lightly browned and set, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, cool 2 minutes then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
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