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Oct 28, 2016
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By the Book

By the Book: Butter & Scotch by Allison Kave and Keavy Landreth

Friday, October 21st, 2016




Though not explicitly a breakfast cookbook, Butter & Scotch knows its way around a brunch menu. The owners of the Brooklyn bar and bakery built their shop around two favorite things: cocktails and baked goods. Their Saturday brunch menu focuses on that most delicious of savory breakfast treats: biscuits.

Biscuits and gravy is a Midwest favorite, and the Brooklynites do the dish credit with this simple, comforting recipe. Two sticks of butter and a generous pour of heavy cream create a rich biscuit with a tender crumb, and apple cider vinegar adds a pleasant tang reminiscent of buttermilk without the extra trip to the grocery store.

You’ll be tempted to pour off the pool of fat that renders as you brown the sausage – don’t. Instead, gleefully add a tablespoon of butter or bacon fat and stir in the flour to make a roux for white gravy as thick as warm peanut butter. Dollop this atop the crumbly biscuits and dive in – then head back to bed and sleep it off.

Skill level: Medium. A home baker can tackle most of these recipes, but the home bartender should prepare to work for those cocktails.
Other recipes to try: Smoked trout Benedict, Magic Buns, Watchamacallthat Pie
The Verdict: Though the apple Dutch baby is a showstopper, this no-nonsense biscuits and gravy recipe stole our Midwestern hearts.


Biscuits & Gravy
4 servings

1 lb. (455 g.) loose sweet Italian Sausage
1 Tbsp. bacon fat or butter
¼ cup (30 g.) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups (480 ml.) whole milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Brooklyn biscuits

• In a saucepan over medium-high heat, brown the sausage until it’s fully cooked. Add the bacon fat or butter and flour and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula, making sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom. After 30 seconds, add the milk. Stir, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the saucepan, then bring the gravy to a boil and let it simmer until the moisture thickens to the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
• Split the biscuits in half and lay them open-faced onto plates. Spoon the gravy on top and serve.

Brooklyn Biscuits
8 to 10 biscuits

2½ cups heavy cream
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
4½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, chopped into ½-inch pieces

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
• In a small bowl, mix together the cream and vinegar and set aside.
• In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and baking soda and mix on low. Add the butter and mix on medium-low speed until the butter is broken down to small, pea-size pieces. Turn the mixer back to low and slowly add the cream and vinegar mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix, or the biscuits will be tough.
• Pour the dough onto a floured surface and pat it down until it’s about 2 inches thick. Use a 3-inch cookie or biscuit cutter to cut out 8 rounds. Arrange the rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pat together the scraps and cut out more rounds if possible; you should be able to get another biscuit or two. Be gentle so the biscuits don’t get tough. Discard any remaining scraps.
• Bake the biscuits for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Remove them to a wire rack, then serve warm. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Reprinted with permission from Abrams Publishing

By the Book: America’s Best Breakfasts by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman

Thursday, October 13th, 2016



Authors Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman tapped into their network of culinary friends and chefs across the U.S. to discover some of the country’s best breakfasts. Each region gets its due (shoutouts to Prasino and Half & Half, who represented St. Louis), and I headed to Miami to make chef Ingrid Hoffmann’s Colombian pan de yuca.

Tapioca flour comes from the starchy roots of the yuca plant (also known as cassava), which is found in South and Central America. This superfine powder is easy to find in the specialty aisle of most grocery stores. The instructions were simple; mix everything together and knead to combine. The rich yuca buns came out soft, golden and very cheesy. Unfortunately upon cooling, they deflated into flat discs and the cheese and tapioca flour created a gelatinous core, the texture of which some people found off-putting. Next time, I’ll add more baking powder so they puff up more.

The accompanying oatmeal “smoothie” was a bit of a misnomer. A smoothie implies that fruit comes to the party, but with just oatmeal, milk, cinnamon and vanilla, this “smoothie” was akin to a oatmeal cookie batter milkshake. After that soupy mess, I doubt I’ll eat oatmeal any time soon.

Skill level: Easy – there’s nothing too crazy here, and the book goes well beyond the traditional bacon and eggs.
Other recipes to try: Kimchi pancakes, tortilla de papas
The verdict: The smoothie dampened the experience, so Big Bad Breakfast takes the win this week.




Yuca Buns
10 buns

1 cup tapioca starch (also known as tapioca flour), plus extra for kneading
1 tsp. baking powder
1¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup heavy cream, plus more as needed
2 cups finely grated Oaxaca cheese or other fresh white cheese, such as mozzarella
2 large egg yolks

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the tapioca starch, baking powder and salt. Stir in the cheese, egg yolks and cream. Once the dough forms a ball, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your hands, knead the dough until smooth and not sticky. Add extra cream a tablespoon at a time if necessary to make the dough supple.
• Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and shape them into balls. Arrange them 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake until pale golden, tender, and soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal (Avena) Breakfast Smoothies
4 servings

6 cups milk, plus more if needed
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 Tbsp. sugar, or more to taste
Pinch of cinnamon, or more to taste
1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

• In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and oats to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to prevent the oatmeal from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, until the oatmeal is thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the sugar and cinnamon to taste, and cool slightly, 10 to 15 minutes.
• Refrigerate the oatmeal in a sealed container for at least 2 hours or overnight. Transfer the oatmeal to a blender, add the vanilla (if using), and puree until smooth, adding more milk for a thinner shake or ice cubes to chill further. Serve cold.

Reprinted with permission from Clarkson Potter Publishers

By the Book: Big Bad Breakfast by John Currence

Thursday, October 6th, 2016



Big Bad Breakfast sounded like a fun cookbook, and author John Currence has the credentials to back up his recipes. He won a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: South in 2009, and he is the chef-owner of several restaurants in Oxford, Mississippi, including (of course) Big Bad Breakfast.

I chose to make his German pancake. Like its Dutch baby cousin, it’s baked rather than cooked on the stovetop, producing a gloriously puffy breakfast treat that elicits oohs and ahs when it hits the table. Currence’s version fills a simple batter with apples and butter, then pours into an oven-proof skillet atop even more butter, apples and dark brown sugar, creating a sticky caramelized base.

The pancake puffed up as promised, but it took much longer than the recommended 12 to 14 minutes. After nearly 20 minutes, the top still had not browned as I’d hoped, so I helped it along with the broiler. Though it wasn’t quite the voluminous showstopper I’d hoped for, it tasted wonderful when finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a splash of maple syrup. I’d definitely make this again.

Skill level: Moderate. There are some recipes in here that require more time and more obscure ingredients.
Other recipes to try: Sauteed trout, soft scrambled eggs, chanterelle mushrooms, Louisiana crabcake Benedict
The verdict: Check back next week when Big Bad Breakfast takes on the next breakfast challenger.




German Pancake
1 to 2 servings

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup buttermilk
6 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
¼ cup clarified butter or your preferred cooking fat
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
Confectioners’ sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice, for sprinkling

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• In a bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and whisk together until smooth. Whisk in the melted butter, then stir in half of the apple.
• Warm an 8-inch cast-iron skillet (or nonstick skillet) over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the clarified butter, then place the remaining apple slices around the bottom of the skillet and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Pour the batter evenly over the top and slide the skillet into the oven. Bake until the top of the pancake is golden brown, puffy and firm to the touch, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice, and serve immediately, preferably directly from the pan.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

By the Book: À la Grecque, Our Greek Table by Pam Talimanidis

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016



Thus far in our By the Book challenge, the selected Greek cookbooks have produced delicious Mediterranean dishes, but they were surprisingly lax in their instruction. À la Grecque had its confusing moments, but considering the vagaries of the previous cookbooks, it was downright educational.

This recipe called for saffron, which I always regarded as an unnecessary luxury in my kitchen. But once I bit the bullet and purchased a half-gram from Penzey’s (only $9), I learned a little goes a long way. A wee pinch turned the onion-based sauce a lovely golden hue – and I still have plenty of those delicate red threads to make paella.

Once browned, it only took 20 minutes of braising for the chicken to cook through. The meat fell from the bone when I served it the next day; though to be fair, a rest overnight likely contributed to that tenderness. A quick note: This dish must be served over a base of rice or couscous, which will absorb the salty, schmaltzy sauce.

Skill level: Easy. Most dishes require 10 ingredients or less, and nothing is too difficult to track down.
This book is for: Semi-skilled home cooks who want a taste of Greece without leaving home
Other recipes to try: Mussels with rice and dill, slow-cooked beef with braised eggplant
The verdict: While last week’s lamb shanks were downright decadent, olives and lemon zest brightened up this multidimensional chicken dish. À La Grecque takes the win.




Braised Chicken with Green Olives, Lemon and Saffron
4 servings

1 lemon
1 1.6 kg. (3½ lb.) free-range chicken
125 ml (4 oz.) extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
20 threads saffron*
200 g. (7 oz.) green olives, pitted and sliced
500 ml (17 oz.) chicken stock
Freshly ground black pepper

• Use a vegetable peeler to peel fine strips of zest from the lemon. Slice the zest into thin julienne strips. Place them in a small saucepan and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Add a teaspoon of salt and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain well and reserve the zest.
• Joint the chicken into thighs, drumsticks and wings and cut each breast in half, keeping it on the bone.
• Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or casserole dish. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and fry the chicken pieces in batches over a high heat until the skin is crisp and golden. As each batch is browned, transfer to a bowl. If the chicken has a lot of fat, drain some of it away.
• Add the onions to the pan and saute for a few minutes until they begin to soften and turn a light golden brown. Add the garlic, saffron and olives and stir. Return the browned chicken pieces to the pan and add the reserved lemon zest and chicken stock.
• Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and bring to the boil. Lower the temperature and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve with couscous or Saffron Pilaf.

*Saffron can be found at Penzey’s Spices

Reprinted with permission from Hardie Grant Books

By the Book: “The Islands of Greece” by Rebecca Seal

Friday, September 30th, 2016



The Islands of Greece: Recipes from Across the Greek Seas is a travelogue of recipes collected by Rebecca Seal. The book offers a wide range of dishes with varying degrees of difficulty and indulgence. Torn between frying cheese in philo dough and making a salad, I opted for Volcanic Lamb with Egg and Lemon Sauce – solely because of the name.

The recipe was incredibly simple and clear, but lacked a few necessary details and had some practical problems. It instructed me to soften onions gently in a wide pan (Over what heat? Until translucent?), then increase the heat (to what?) and brown the lamb. I ended up removing the onions mid-lamb searing so the onions wouldn’t burn. I also used a lot more than five tablespoons water to deglaze the pan. Otherwise, the recipe went off without a hitch. Don’t be afraid to place a Dutch oven full of lamb in the oven without even a little wine to bask in; the shanks produced their own braising liquid of pure savory, fatty goodness. This hands-off recipe produced the richest dish I’ve ever made with a show-stopping silky egg sauce, a pop of fresh thyme and extremely little effort.

Skill level: Intermediate. The recipes are simple, but require some cooking common sense.
This book is for: Cooks who want a culinary tour of Greece from their home kitchens.
Other recipes to try: Cheese pies from Alonissos, chickpea fritters, chicken baked in yoghurt
The Verdict: The Kokkari steak was a tender treat, but it couldn’t beat the miles-deep richness of these roasted lamb shanks.




Volcanic Lamb with Egg & Lemon Sauce
4 servings

1 sliced onion
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 lamb shanks, weighing 300 g. to 400 g. (10.5 to 14 oz. each)
6 sprigs thyme, plus more to serve
salt and freshly ground black pepper
400 g. (14 oz.) baby new potatoes, in their skins
A little butter

1 egg
Juices from the lamb
1 Tbsp. lemon juice, or to taste

• Preheat oven to 140 degrees Celsius (275 degrees Fahrenheit, Gas 1).
• For the lamb, soften the onion gently in a wide pan with the olive oil. Increase the heat and add the lamb, browning the shanks thoroughly on all sides. Deglaze the pan with 4 to 5 tablespoons water, scraping up any bits that have stuck. Tip the whole lot into an ovenproof dish with a tight-fitting lid and add the thyme, salt and pepper. Place the lid on the dish and put into the oven. Cook 3 hours, or until the meat is falling from the bone.
• Just before the lamb comes out of the oven, boil the new potatoes in salted water until just tender. Drain and dry on paper towels then saute gently in the butter over a medium-low heat, until lightly browned all over.
• When the lamb is cooked, spoon off most of the juices from the dish, leaving just enough so the meat doesn’t dry out. Keep it somewhere warm, with the lid on.
• Make the sauce. Beat the egg until creamy. Very slowly drizzle in the hot pan juices, whisking constantly to ensure the egg doesn’t cook and make the sauce lumpy, then add the lemon juice. Pour it all into a clean pan and warm over a very, very gentle heat, but do not bring anywhere close to boiling. If you feel there isn’t enough sauce, add a little stock or even water. You can also add more lemon juice, to taste. Remove from the heat and serve with the lamb, onions and potatoes, scattered with a few thyme leaves.


Reprinted with permission from Hardie Grand Books

By the Book: Cyprus: A Culinary Journey by Marianne Salentin-Träger

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016



I picked up Cyprus: A Culinary Journey by Marianne Salentin-Träger, and I was immediately blown away by the photography. Even though not technically a Greek cookbook – the island of Cyprus is further east, off the coast of Turkey – the recipes are definitely of influenced by Greek cuisine.

Despite beautiful photos, the recipe for Meatballs with Oven Chips required less illustration and more instruction. Since there was no temperature guidance or size suggestions to prepare the meatballs, I ruined the first two batches over too high heat, burning the outside and leaving the interiors raw. I finally settled on medium-low heat, which resulted in tender, flavorful insides and crisp exteriors. Likewise, I kicked the heat up to 400 degrees to cook the potato wedges after nearly 45 minutes at 340 degrees (the only temperature indicated in the recipe) produced soft, baked wedges, not crisp chips.

While the end result tasted wonderful, a third of the recipe ended up in the trash thanks to vague instruction. Unless you have experience making meatballs or other Greek dishes, skip this book.

Skill level: Intermediate to advanced with poor recipe instruction.
This book is for: Adventurous, experienced cooks looking for a taste of Cyprus
Other recipes to try: Baklava rolls with walnuts, Oven Omelette, Banana Cake
The verdict: Last week’s rib-eye takes the win.




Meatballs with Oven Chips
A recipe by Franz Keller
4 servings

600 g. (about 1 1/3 lbs.) raw lean beef from the haunch, freshly ground at the butcher’s (ground round)
4 shallots
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
2 medium organic eggs
2 Tbsp. olive oil
5 to 6 Tbsp. breadcrumbs, softened with a little milk
3 leaves of wild sage
Salt, pepper
A few drops chile oil

Serve with 20 leaves wild sage
8 medium potatoes (deep-fried or oven-baked)
Olive oil (not virgin)

• Mix the ground beef with the other ingredients, and season with salt and pepper. Form into meatballs and fry in olive oil until done.
• Peel the potatoes and cut into wedges. Deep-fry the wedges in normal (not native) olive oil over a medium heat, like chips. Deep-fry the remaining sage leaves in oil, too.
• Alternatively (and easier than deep-frying), put the potato wedges on a baking tray, sprinkle with some olive oil, season with salt and bake until crispy in a fan-assisted oven at 170 degrees Celsius (340 degrees Fahrenheit) for approximately 25 to 30 minutes.
• Serve the meatballs with the potato wedges and sage. Sprinkle everything with freshly ground sea salt!


Recipe printed with permission from C&C Publishing

By the Book: Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors by Erik Cosselmon and Janet Fletcher

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016



Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors is compilation of dishes from the titular restaurant located in San Francisco. While it was filled with fresh salads and sides, I was after a winning entree.

Most of the meat and fish dishes in the book overwhelmed. Preparing whole fish on a Monday night was out of the question. Proteins lean heavily toward lamb and rabbit, which makes sense for a Greek restaurant, but I don’t eat either. Many require grilling over charcoal, which I don’t have. I settled on a rib-eye. The recipe required only a simple rub, a few minutes on a grill (or in my case, a cast-iron skillet) and a douse in the restaurant’s Kokkari Dressing.

Rich rib-eye is always a winner, but the dressing was the standout here. This lemony, herbaceous, garlicky vinaigrette complimented the meat, cutting through the fatty steak. I normally baste my steaks in butter, but this vinaigrette offered the same rich finishing touch.

Skill level: Intermediate. Recipes are a little complex but doable.
This book is for: People who want light, fresh fare and are willing to work for it.
Other recipes to try: Kokkari Potatoes and Grilled Whole Fish with Kokkari Dressing
The Verdict: Check back soon when Kokkari takes on the next challenger.





Grilled Rib-eye with Kokkari Dressing
4 servings

2 20-oz. bone-in rib-eye steaks, preferably dry-aged, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. Steak Rub (recipe follows)
Kokkari Dressing (recipe follows)
4 lemon halves, each wrapped in cheesecloth

• Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to high. Season each steak on both sides with the steak rub, using a total of ½ tablespoon per steak. Massage the seasoning into the steaks well on both sides.
• Grill the steaks on both sides to desired doneness, about 7½ minutes total for medium-rare. Watch for flare-ups from dripping fat, moving the meat away from the heat until the flames die down, if needed. Transfer to a platter, drizzle the steaks with dressing, and serve at once with the lemon.

Steak Rub

½ cup sea salt
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

• In a food processor, combine all the ingredients and process until the herbs are completely pulverized and the mixture feels like moist sand. You can use the rub immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. For longer keeping, spread the freshly made mixture on a baking sheet and leave it at room temperature until it is completely dried out, a day or more, depending on humidity. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

Kokkari Dressing
Makes ½ cup

6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. capers, rinsed and minced
2 tsp. minced shallot
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ tsp. chopped fresh oregano
¼ tsp. dried wild Greek oregano, crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

• In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, capers, shallot, garlic, parsley and fresh oregano. Add the dried oregano and whisk in salt and pepper to taste.

Reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books

By the Book: Ms. American Pie by Beth M. Howard

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016




Full disclosure: I didn’t like this cookbook. In the introduction, author Beth Howard claims she’s not a big fan of recipes. This was evident in her instruction: no mention of preheating an oven, inexact time estimates and her insistence that chilling dough before rolling is an unnecessary time suck. More experienced home cooks can handle these vague instructions, but Howard touts this book as a guide for those afraid to bake pies at home.

All that said, this messy BLT pie was delicious: A half-shortening, half-butter crust filled with local tomatoes, a full pound of Geisert Farms bacon, Marcoot Jersey Creamery cheese and fresh backyard basil, topped with more cheese and mayo. I nixed the optional lettuce garnish, since I’d just pick off the warm wilted iceberg anyway.

However, as I was patching up holes in my warm crust on a humid August afternoon, I grumbled at how much easier it would have been with chilled dough. When the finished filling soaked through the bottom of the pie, I knew a thicker crust could stand up to so much liquid. Sometimes those “fussy pie rules” make the difference between great and phenomenal.

Skill level: Intermediate. Explore all the fillings available, but stick to your favorite pie crust recipe.
This book is for: Experienced pie bakers looking for new ideas
Other recipes to try: Pulled-pork hand pies, Atlantic Beach Pie, Shaker Orange
The verdict: Despite poor instruction, quality ingredients took this pie to the top.



Blind-Baked Crust (recipe follows)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 large tomatoes (Romas are OK), sliced and de-seeded but not peeled
½ to 1 lb. bacon (or more if you love it), fried till crisp, drained and chopped
½ cup chopped fresh basil
3 green onions (i.e. scallions) thinly sliced
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
¾ cup Parmesan cheese
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup mayonnaise

Shredded lettuce (optional)

• Prepare the Blind Baked Crust: Before baking, poke the bottom of the crust with a fork, then sprinkle Parmesan on the bottom and baked uncovered at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
• Prepare the Filling: In the pre-baked pie crust, layer the tomatoes, fried bacon pieces, basil, green onions, garlic powder, oregano, red pepper and ½ cup Parmesan.
• In a small bowl, mix the cheddar and mayo, then spread over top of pie.
• Sprinkle remaining Parmesan on top.
• Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
• Remove foil and bake an additional 30 minutes.
• Serve warm or cold. For the real BLT experience, top with shredded lettuce.


Basic Pie Dough (For a Single-Crust Pie)

¼ cup (½ stick) butter, chilled and cut into large chunks
¼ cup vegetable shortening, chilled
1 ¼ cups flour, plus at least ¼ extra for rolling
Dash of salt
Ice water (fill a ½ cup but only use enough to moisten dough)

• In a deep, large bowl, work the butter and shortening into the flour and salt with your hands until you have almond- and pea-sized lumps of butter.
• Then, drizzling in ice water a little at a time, “toss” the water around with your fingers spread, as if the flour were a salad and your hand were the salad tongs. Don’t spend a lot of time mixing the dough, just focus on getting it moistened. Translation: With each addition of water, toss about four times and then STOP, add more water, and repeat.
• When the dough holds together on its own (and with enough water it will), do a “squeeze test.” If it falls apart, you need to add more water. If it is soggy and sticky, you might need to sprinkle flour onto it until the wetness is balanced out. The key is to not overwork the dough! It takes very little time and you’ll be tempted to keep touching it, but don’t!
• Now divide the dough into two balls (or three, if your pie dishes are smaller) and form each into a disk shape.
• Sprinkle flour under and on top of your dough to keep it from sticking to your rolling surface. Roll to a thinness where the dough seems almost transparent.
• Measure the size of the dough by holding your pie plate above it. It’s big enough if you have enough extra width to compensate for the depth and width of your dish, plus 1 to 2 inches overhang.
• Slowly and gently – SERIOUSLY TAKE YOUR TIME! – lift the dough off the rolling surface, nudging flour under with the scraper as you lift, and fold the dough back. When you are sure your dough is 100 percent free and clear from the surface, bring your pie dish close to it and then drag your dough over to your dish. (Holding the folded edge will give you a better grip and keep your dough from tearing.
• Place the folded edge halfway across your dish, allowing the dough of the covered half to drape over the side. Slowly and carefully unfold the dough until it lies full across the pie dish.
• Life the edges and let gravity ease the dough down to sit snuggly in the dish, using the light touch of a finger if you need to push any remaining air space out of the corners as you go.
• Trim excess dough to about 1 inch from the dish edge (I use scissors), leaving ample dough to make crimped, fluted edges.


Blind-Baked Crust

• Prepare Basic Pie Dough recipe for a single-crust pie, then roll and crimp the edges.
• Prick the bottom and sides of the pie crust with a fork.
• Lay a large piece of foil over the top and fill with pie weights (or beans, rice, coins, chains, screws – anything to weight down the crust to keep it from puffing up or shrinking.)
• Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
• Remove the weights and foil, turn oven down to 375 degrees, and continue baking for another 5 minutes or more, to brown the bottom of the crust.

Note: The weights hold the crust in place as it bakes, keeping it from shrinking as the moisture evaporates. If it does shrink, it, it will rattle around in your pie dish, and thought it will be smaller than you had hoped, it will still taste good.


Reprinted with permission from MBI Publishing 


By the Book: Theo Chocolate by Debra Music and Joe Whinney

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016



I have fond memories of baking cookies with my mother and my grandmother when I was a little girl. We made the basics: oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and chocolate chip – all excellent cookies, but sometimes I want something more decadent. Gooey Double-Chocolate Mocha cookies from Theo Chocolate: Recipes and Sweet Secrets from Seattle’s Favorite Chocolate Maker seemed to fit the bill.

I’m gluten-intolerant, and since these only called for cup flour, I thought I could safely use a gluten-free flour blend. I wanted a pure chocolate cookie, so I left out the ground coffee, which the introduction declared optional. While the cookies were deeply chocolaty, they also spread into thin, flat disks during baking. The recipe said they would be “very fragile,” but the accompanying photo showed thick, fudgy cookies, not the delicate wafers I created.

While the cookie were rich, they were not enough to win this round. I’ll definitely try this recipe again, though, altering my gluten-free flour ratio to try and make them more substantial.

Skill level: More advanced techniques require an intermediate ability in the kitchen.
This book is for: Chocolate lovers, of course
Other recipes to try: Preston Hill Bakery chocolate bread, almond-olive oil sable cookies with chocolate, Chocolate (Factory) Eton Mess, Tallulah’s warm chocolate pudding cake
The Verdict: The pie bars from Sweeter off the Vine came together better than my deflated chocolate cookies.




Gooey Double-Chocolate Mocha Cookies
2 dozen cookies

10 oz. Theo 70-percent dark chocolate, chopped, divided
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
⅓ cup (1½ oz.) all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. finely ground Fair Trade coffee beans
2 eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup (5½ oz.) sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)

• Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
• Melt 7 ounces of the chocolate with the butter in a double boiler (see instructions below) and set aside to cool slightly.
• Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together in a small bowl, stir in the coffee and set the bowl aside.
• In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a bowl with a whisk by hand), whip the eggs and sugar together on medium speed until very thick and pale, 3 to 4 minutes (about 8 minutes by hand). Add the vanilla and mix well. Fold in the cooled chocolate mixture, then the dry ingredients, and finally the remaining 3 ounce chopped chocolate and the walnuts.
• Use 2 spoons or a small cookie scoop to drop rounded tablespoons of batter 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until they’re puffed, shiny and cracked, 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheet. They will be very fragile.

Melting Chocolate in a Double Boiler
• Heat a couple inches of water in a saucepan over low heat. Put the chopped chocolate in a stainless steel or glass bowl large enough to sit securely in the saucepan without touching the water. When the water comes to a simmer, turn off the heat and let the chocolate begin to melt. Stir the chocolate often, and when about two-thirds of it has melted, remove the bowl from the saucepan and dry the bottom of the bowl very well. Continue to stir the chocolate until it has melted completely.

Reprinted with permission from Sasquatch Books


By the Book: Sweeter Off the Vine by Yossi Arefi

Thursday, August 11th, 2016



Sweeter Off the Vine: Fruit Desserts for Every Season won me over with its meticulous organization and moody, saturated glamour shots of fruit. It seemed like the perfect choice for this time of year, when it’s possible to mark the weeks off a calendar by what’s available at the farmers market.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the farmers market for this recipe. Timing didn’t allow, so instead I started with disappointing peaches (for which there is no excuse this time of year), the wrong brown sugar, whole-wheat pastry flour instead of whole-wheat flour and a pantry unexpectedly devoid of rolled oats, requiring a last-minute grocery run. What’s the opposite of mise en place? Don’t answer that.

With such a preamble, it’s no surprise I wasn’t thrilled with these pie bars. The crisp topping needed significantly more butter to hold it together, and the filling could have done with more fruit. However, I’m wary to blame this all on the recipe since I estimated my fruit weights and eyeballed the required ½ cup butter. The whole idea is great – as someone who likes piecrust more than filling, this hits my dessert sweet spot – and there’s a potential here that made me want to try again. Though my version leaned toward dull, this should have complex flavors (warm baking spices, sweet fruit and nutty brown butter and oats) and textures (chewy crust, giving fruit and crunchy topping). On the other hand, with two different crusts and double bake times, next time, maybe I’ll just simplify and make a cobbler.

Difficulty: Intermediate. Nothing is technically difficult, but there are a lot of steps to keep track of.
This book is for: Fruit lovers and farmers market shoppers
Other recipes to try: Caramelized apple fritters, apricot and berry galette with saffron sugar, cherry and rhubarb slab pie
Verdict: Despite not entirely living up to their potential, these pie bars were still more interesting than the Home Baked brownies from last week.




Nectarine and Blackberry Pie Bars
Makes about 24 bars

Whole Wheat Crisp Topping (see recipe below)

¾ cup (170 g.) unsalted butter
1 cup (125 g.) all purpose flour
1 cup (130 g.) whole wheat flour
⅓ cup (60 g.) firmly packed light brown sugar
¾ tsp. salt

1¼ lb. (560 g.) nectarines (about 4 medium)
½ vanilla bean, or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup (50 g.) sugar (less if the fruit is particularly sweet)
½ tsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
Pinch salt
1¼ cup (200 g.) blackberries

• Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or a quarter-sheet pan with aluminum foil. Lightly grease the foil.
• To make the crust: Melt the butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the foam subsides, the milk solids turn light brown, and the butter has a warm and nutty fragrance, about five minutes. Remove the butter to a heat-safe container and let it cool to room temperature.
• In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar and salt. Pour in the cooled butter and stir gently until a ball forms. Pat the dough evenly into the prepared pan. Bake the crust until light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.
• To make the filling: Pit and coarsely chop the nectarines. Use the tip of a knife to slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds; reserve the pod for another use. Add the sugar, vanilla seeds and lemon zest to a large bowl and use your fingers to rub the vanilla seeds and zest into the sugar. Stir in the spices, flour and salt. Add the nectarines and blackberries to the sugar mixture and toss gently to combine. Pour over the partially cooled crust. Sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the top.
• Bake the bars until the topping is golden brown and the fruit begins to release its juices, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

Whole Wheat Crisp Topping
Makes about 3½ cups (390 g.), enough for one large crisp or two pies

½ cup (65 g.) whole wheat or rye flour
½ cup (62.5 g.) all purpose flour
½ cup (45 g.) old-fashioned oats
½ cup (100 g.) firmly packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
½ cup (115 g.) unsalted butter, softened but cool

• Combine all of the ingredients except for the butter in a medium bowl and give a quick stir to combine, making sure to break up any lumps of brown sugar. Add the butter and use your fingertips to mix everything together until crumbs form. Use the mixture immediately, or store in a ziptop bag in the freezer for up to 1 month. You can use the crisp topping straight from the freezer; just add a couple of extra minutes to the baking time of your crisp or pie.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

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