There are probably 200 cookbooks in my kitchen library, which means that there are plenty that rarely get pulled off the shelf. But "The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook" gets all kinds of use, year-round.
Which is why it's very happy news indeed to learn that the book's author, Seattle chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas (pictured, above, in an image by photographer Ed Anderson) will be in Minneapolis on Friday April 3 at Macy's in downtown Minneapolis (700 Nicollet Mall, lower level), starting at noon.
Macy's is offering a pretty sweet deal: Spend at least $35 in the store's housewares department on Friday, and in return you'll receive a free copy of Douglas' book (a $35 value), which means access to its wealth of instant-classic recipes for cookies, breads, scones, cakes, pies, tarts, sandwiches and soups. Macy's will also toss in a $10 gift card.
(The event, a cooking demonstration and book signing, is free, but it's best to call for a reservation: 800-329-8667).
When the book was released in October 2012, I spoke with Douglas, a powerhouse behind 18 diverse Seattle food-and-drink establishments and a multiple James Beard Foundation award-winner. Here's that interview, followed by two of my favorite recipes from "Dahlia." I've prepared both more times than I can recall.
Q Dahlia Lounge had been around for more than a decade when you opened Dahlia Bakery. Why a bakery?
A We had moved the restaurant across the street and up half a block, and we had an extra 150 square feet of space. There's a restaurant in Manhattan called Balthazar, and next to it is Balthazar Bakery. It's tiny, and it's very charming to have that little retail outlet to sell the house desserts and breads. That was my inspiration. It seemed like fun. We also love to show our effort. We make everything that we sell. That distinguishes us from the Sysco-supplied restaurants, the ones that only pretend to do good work. We may not be the best bread bakers or the best pastry cooks, but no one out-efforts us.
Q Is it safe to say that triple coconut-cream pie saved your first restaurant, the Dahlia Lounge?
A I wouldn't say it saved us -- the lobster potstickers probably did that. But the pie got the most attention in the media. People would stop me on the street and tell me how much they loved it. It really put us on the map.
Q Where did the idea for it come from?
A My grandma was a great pie baker, and I had them all the time when I was growing up, so I challenged Shelley [Lance, Douglas' co-author and original pastry chef] to make several desserts like it. I'm not sure we even thought twice about it. It was just a great pie, you know? But it took on a life of its own and became a standard. Now we sell it in all of the restaurants, even if it's not on the menu. At Lola [Douglas' Greek-inspired restaurant] it's the No. 1-selling dessert, and it's not on the menu. People would ask, "Could I have a slice of that pie?" and because we're in the customer service business, we'd run it from across the street. Now we just keep them in the back.
Q Since this is your fourth cookbook, you are obviously not a believer in the proprietary nature of recipes. True?
A That's such a short-term thing. We're in the hospitality business, and whatever you can do to engage the customer and make him or her remember you, that's what's important. Besides, if you give the recipe to 10 bakers, you'll get 10 different pies, that's just the way of the world. Recipes are up for grabs and generally at the whim and the talent level of the person making it. We make 150 pies a day, so we're consistent. But I will say this: Every time you make a recipe it gets better, because it gets dialed into your personality.
Q Is there one particular dish that everyone should know how to bake?
A Berry crisp, absolutely. Every time you make a fruit crisp for me, you are my favorite person in the world. It's something delicious and warm, right out of the oven. I mean, what more could anyone want? And all you're doing is taking the best fruit of the season, putting a crumb topping on it and putting it in the oven. Mastering one recipe is better than mastering too many. Learn something and own it, and you'll feel so much better about it. You'll have more confidence if you've made it five times, and that confidence adds so much fun to cooking.
Q Can you recommend a tool that all bakers should have in their kitchen?
A It's really fun to have a convection oven, even it if it's a little convection toaster oven. It really changes the way you bake. My biggest thing is measurements. I don't get along with them very well. I don't have time for them, which is why I'm not a baker. But measurements are important in baking. So I'd say, get a scale. Good baking cookbooks offer weight measurements in recipes, and you'll become a more consistent baker if you weigh ingredients.
Q That tomato soup is fantastic. Is it your mom's recipe?
A It's inspired by it. She would open up a can of Campbell's most of the time [laughs]. But who doesn't love a good tomato soup? We sell 10 gallons of it a day. It's not full of cream, and a touch of cayenne puts a little heat at the back of your throat. I like that.
Q What makes those molasses-ginger cookies so irresistible?
A It's the ingredients. Most people are so used to getting crap when they go to the grocery store that they have no idea what real ingredients are, and how good real ingredients are. I don't mean to pick on Costco -- they're friends of mine -- but how do you have a non-dairy whipped topping on a coconut cream pie? Why would you want to eat that? When people get the real deal in their mouth, holy cow, it's a revelation.
TOM'S TASTY TOMATO SOUP WITH BROWN BUTTER CROUTONS
Note: "When I was a kid and my mom made tomato soup, she would cut buttered toast into squares and float them on top of each bowl," writes Tom Douglas in "The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook." "My twist on Mom's toast is to make brown butter croutons."
• 4-in. chunk (4 slices) rustic bread
• 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
• 3 garlic cloves, smashed with side of a knife and peeled
• 5 c. (two 28-oz. cans) canned whole tomatoes in juice
• 1 c. water
• 2/3 c. heavy cream
• 2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
• 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
• 1/4 tsp. celery seed
• 1/4 tsp. dried oregano (or 1/2 tsp. freshly chopped oregano)
• 1 tbsp. sugar
To prepare croutons: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a serrated knife, cut off and discard bread crusts, and cut bread into 3/4 - to 1-inch cubes.
In a small pan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter and cook, stirring often, until butter is golden brown and aromatic, about 3 minutes after butter melts. Remove from heat.
Place bread cubes in a medium bowl and pour butter over them, tossing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss again. Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until croutons are toasted and golden, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from oven.
To prepare soup: In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, water, cream, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, celery seed, oregano and sugar. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove soup from heat and puree in batches in blender. Return soup to pot and reheat to a simmer, seasoning to taste with more salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and serve hot, garnished with croutons.
OLD-FASHIONED MOLASSES COOKIES WITH FRESH GINGER
Makes about 4 dozen small cookies.
Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. From "The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook."
• 2 c. flour
• 2 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
• 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 3/4 c. (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 11/2 c. sugar, divided
• 1 egg
• 1/4 c. molasses
• 2 tsp. peeled and freshly grated ginger
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, molasses and ginger and mix until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour before shaping cookies.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup sugar on a plate.
Make 3/4 -inch balls of dough and roll them in sugar. Place 2 to 3 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Using palm of your hand, press balls of dough flat.
Bake until golden brown and set around the edges but still slightly soft in the center, 7 to 8 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time (if you have 2 pans of cookies in the oven at the same time, also switch them between racks).
Remove from oven, cool cookies on baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring them to a metal rack.