Archive for November, 2010

3 Fancy cookies. 10 minutes. No kidding!

Pie crust windmillsSome delectable cookies take days to make. And I love every minute of it. But when you’re crafting your cookies with kids there’s just no way to hold their interest through multiple steps of mixing, rolling, filling, dipping (well at least around my house, the last time I tried the cookies ended up paper thin thanks to my 7-year-old’s hearty rolling skills).

Still, I like making cookies with my bakers-in-training. I stumbled on a solution by accident (thank you coupon circular!). Pie crusts. Unlike pre-made sugar cookie dough that can spread and leave carefully constructed raspberry cookie volcanoes deflated, pie crusts withstand little fingers’ various designs. Added bonus: The dough comes rolled for you!

Here are just three ideas to make fancy cookies with pie crusts. And yes, you can make these in the time it takes your oven to heat up to 375 degrees (okay, maybe mine is slower than most).

Ingredients to have on hand

Pre-packaged pie crusts

Jam, I used apricot and raspberry

powdered sugar

sliced apples

cinnamon and sugar


Ready to make cookies?

•The Windmill

(Pictured above.) I drummed up the idea for this one from my 9-year-old’s origami book. Start by cutting a 1 1/2 to 2″ square with the pie dough. You make four slits almost to middle, starting from the corner working toward the center. Slather about one teaspoon jam (any flavor), starting from the middle working out. Fold one corner toward the inside and repeat with each corner tip. (I found a helpful tutorial with paper). Press the tips in the center and top with a chocolate chip, dried cherry or whatever else you have on hand. Bake for about 10 minutes or until just browned.

Apricot kolaches•Kolaches

Sure, these aren’t authentic, but I can make 3 dozen of them in under 20 minutes (not including baking time:) and they taste almost as good as the real thing. For the kolaches, use a pizza cutter to make 1-inch strips in the pie dough. Cut again, to make 1-inch pieces. Add about a half teaspoon of jam to the center of the square and fold two corners toward the middle and leave the other two open. You can brush the folded sides with egg yolk and then sprinkle with raw sugar. Or, after you’ve baked the cookies, give ‘em a dip in some powdered sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes.


Mini turnovers•Mini Apple Turnovers

My 7-year-old had so much fun with these! With a 1 1/2″ biscuit cutter (you could also use a drinking glass) I had her make circles in the dough. A 9-inch pie crust will make about 10 circles. I had a bowl of thin-cut apple slices on hand that I’d squeezed with a bit of lemon. On one half of the circle, she placed a piece of apple (she cut them to fit using a kitchen knife). Then she folded the dough over the apple and sealed the two ends together (you might want to use a little water to make the seal stick). Then she dipped the turnover in melted butter and then her favorite, cinnamon and sugar. Alternatively, you can brush the dough with egg yolk and then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Or go without dipping altogether!

We’re still inventing ways to make cookies out of pie crusts–it’s a lot of fun. Looking for more ideas? Check out these Creative Holiday Cookies. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates.

And congrats to the winner of the King Arthur $60 gift certificate. Happy baking to Darcy B!

Your turn–what cookies are you making this holiday season?

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Japanese Pork Tonkatsu

tonkatsu

Photo credit: taekwonweirdo

In every culture there seems to be some version of breaded, fried meat. In Italy, there’s veal parmigiana; in Mexico, steak doused with bread crumbs is called milanesa; in Germany, cooks use crumbs from dried Kaiser rolls to make wiener schnitzel; I suppose chicken-fried steak could count as America’s contribution to this category. In Japan, thin slices of pork are battered with panko crumbs then fried to create tonkatsu.

Last November, a friend invited me over to a pre-Thanksgiving meal where she was teaching how to cook a traditional roasted turkey, stuffing and, of course, pumpkin pie to friends of hers from Japan. Her friends knew as many English words as I knew Japanese, which amounted to two—‘thank you’ (arigato) and ‘hello’ (konnichiwa).  But once we started rolling out pie crusts, we found a common language, food. (It helped that my friend was fluent in both Japanese and English.)

As a thank-you for the afternoon of all things Thanksgiving, my friend and I were invited over for some Japanese instruction a month later. Of all the things we cooked and sampled that day (I don’t think I’ll ever have a taste for mochi balls, but the sweet bean paste was tasty), the pork tonkatsu became a favorite for our family.

You make tonkatsu as you might other breaded meats, with a few key differences. Thin slices of pork are dredged in flour, then whisked eggs, then panko bread crumbs. Using the right bread crumbs is key—panko crumbs are not only crustless, but they’re lighter than American bread crumbs, making for a crispier coating. You can find panko in the Asian food aisle of just about any area grocery store.

Serve the tonkatsu over steamed white rice and veggies. Traditionally, there’s also a ketchup-like sauce served alongside. While it’s known as ‘Tonkatsu sauce’ my Japanese foodie friends call it ‘Bull-dog’ because that’s one of the more popular brands in Japan. While some grocers carry Bull-dog, you might have to go to an Asian grocery store to track it down. It’s worth making the trip—the combination of the sweet/sour Bull-dog sauce, crisp-fried pork and rice makes for a meal my kids ask for again and again.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes + 20-30 minutes cooking

Serving: 5 + leftovers

Ingredients

1.5-2 pound pork loin

3 eggs

½ Tablespoon soy sauce

1 cup flour

1 bag panko bread crumbs (usually around 7.4 ounces)

Oil for frying

Directions

  1. In three shallow dishes or plates, prepare the following (I find pie plates work nicely). One dish with 1 cup flour. Whisk the eggs with soy sauce and pour into a separate plate. On the final plate place half the bag of panko crumbs.
  2. On a cutting board, slice the pork loin into small pieces, about ¼” thick.
  3. On a clean cutting board lay a couple pieces of pork between two sheets of plastic wrap. Gently pound the meat until the slice becomes slightly thinner. Repeat with the remaining meat slices.
  4. Working with one pork slice at a time, dredge the piece in flour, then lightly tap off excess, then dip it into the egg mixture and finally the panko. Place the battered meat slice onto a baking sheet.
  5. Repeat with the remaining slices of pork.
  6. Pour oil up to ½ an inch in a cooking pan. Heat to medium-high heat (test using a crumb of panko—it should start to sizzle when place in the oil).
  7. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  8. Gently place 2 or 3 battered pork slices into the prepared oil, fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove the meat from the oil onto a cookie sheet fitted with a wire rack to drain off excess oil.
  9. Place in the warm oven while you fry the rest of the meat slices. Cut into long strips and serve over rice (this also makes for excellent leftovers—if you have any!).
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Where to find deals on pricey ingredients

Grapeseed oilTrying out new recipes can carry a real price tag. Sometimes, I substitute other ingredients if I know I’m not likely to use them again (sorry lemongrass), but other times I really try to hunt down the complete list. That’s why there’s fish sauce, Gruyere cheese, and concentrated pesto paste hanging out in my fridge.

So if you’ve been looking for deals on some otherwise pricey ingredients, here’s where you might have some luck:

•Ingredient: Extra virgin olive oil

Where to find it: Costco

Scoop: It may not be imported from Italy, but for about the same price as a small flask anywhere else, I can buy a 2-quart jug at Costco. I save the pricier imported varieties to drizzle over meals that call for it (like on top of focaccia). But in most vinaigrettes, I’m using the less pricey brand.

•Ingredient: Cool cheeses

Where to find it: Trader Joe’s

Scoop: Fontina cheese can make a meal, with its smooth consistency and tangy flavor that’s slightly stronger than mozzarella (but note that it won’t make your sauces, like alfredo, stringy). At Trader Joe’s it’s around $2 a pound, cheaper than I’ve found it anywhere else. They carry a full array of cheeses at prices low enough that you can justify trying something new.

•Ingredient: Grapeseed oil

Where to find it: Marshall’s

Scoop: Prized for its high smoking threshold and its mild flavor, you might find grapeseed oil turning up in more recipes. But it’s a pricey ingredient–unless, that is, you find it a discount store. Check at Marshall’s for this specialty oil (and others!).

•Ingredient: Ghirardelli chocolate chips

Where to find it: Cost Plus World Market

Scoop: Okay, so this isn’t an exotic ingredient or anything, but if you’re looking for the 60% cacoa variety of the big chips, you won’t find it at the grocery store. I know, I’ve tried. The only place I’ve found it so far is at Cost Plus World Market (other than at Costco seasonally). Around the holidays the chips go on sale, pair that with frequent coupons they dole out with their Rewards Program–it’s free to join–and I can get my favorite chocolate, in a 30-ounce bag, for less than if I bought a grocery store brand.

•Ingredient: Tortillas, dried chilies, panko crumbs

Where to find it: Ethnic grocery stores

Sccop: Google  ‘ethnic grocers’ in your area. When I need to find fresh tortillas for enchiladas, I make a trek to a Mexican grocers. Ditto when I need specialty items for Japanese, Chinese, Middle Eastern, or Thai fare. Usually, the cost for ingredients is sometimes as much as half what I’d pay at the grocery store. And usually, I find other ingredients that inspire me to try more new recipes.

Now it’s your turn–where do you find deals on ingredients for recipes that you want to try–and you don’t want to spend too much?

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Making Thanksgiving Fun for Kids

Trouble board gameTrouble. Sorry. Whoonu. Don’t worry–I’m not expecting any problems on Thanksgiving, other than maybe a little indigestion. These are the games I’m going to bring over to a friend’s house where we’re spending the day.

See, sometimes Thanksgiving can seem like more of a grown-up holiday. So this year I’m trying to look for ways to keep my kids involved (and to win at least a round or two of Uno—seriously, when did my 7 year-old become such a card master?!).

Plus I’m really looking forward to spending some time with my girls without having to worry about homework getting done, being late for basketball practice, or even keeping up with my email.

Here’s what I’m planning so far–I’d love to hear your ideas too!

Board games.

Classics like Checkers and Monopoly can be fun, but since we’ll be with friends, I’m bringing along games that encourage conversation.

  • Whoonu lets players rank items on cards according to how much they like them. You rank “macaroni and cheese” above “petting zoos”? Cue: Whoonu?
  • Apples to Apples Junior is another favorite, giggle-inducing, didn’t-know-that-about-you game. Players take turns being the “judge.” The judge puts down a green apple card that has a word on it, say “dangerous,” and from the other players’ stash of 5 cards, they put down what they think best matches. The judge then picks the winner–and at least at our house–has to justify why she chose “doing the dishes” over “pirates” as the best match with “dangerous.”
  • For more board games your family might enjoy, click through this round-up of games from Parents.com. I’ve been checking out their site as part of the Motherboard team.

Napkin animals.

My 9-year-old has become an origami machine. She’s already filled two shoe boxes (and we’re talking winter boot boxes here!) full of paper-fashioned frogs and snakes dragons. I asked if she wouldn’t mind trying out some of her skills with napkins and her eyes went two shades brighter blue. She went and grabbed her origami book and read the Table of Contents asking what requests I had. So along with bringing rolls, a dessert, and some games, we’re bringing napkin animals.

Baking art.

Lately, when I’m making batches of goodies to give to friends, I save a little dough for my kids. I just let them create whatever shape comes to mind. Last week my 9 year-old crafted a volcano sugar cookie oozing with raspberry jam lava. And before that my 7 year-old built snowmen out of coconut truffle dough, complete with M&M eyes. So along with making one regular batch of dinner rolls, I’m going to let my three kids roll out the second batch. My guess is some will end up crescent shaped, some frogs (a current fascination) and others snakes–because it’s just fun to roll the dough out with two hands and then add a couple raisins for eyes.

Do you remember anything fun that you did as a child at Thanksgiving to make it memorable? Are you planning on doing anything different this year to keep your kids involved?

*Reminder: If you haven’t already, make sure to enter the King Arthur $60 Giveaway. The deadline for the contest is next Monday.

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Chef Q&A: Joseph George of Grand Traverse Resort & Spa

Chef Joseph George

Chef Joseph George

I’m still pondering some Thanksgiving tweaks for this year. What about a little pumpkin in the potatoes? I recently spoke with Chef Joseph George, executive chef at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme, Michigan who shared some foodie insights as well as a recipe or two.

What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?

At home you can always find different types of cheeses like brie, chevre and baby bell which I love eat with rustic breads from local bakeries. I also drink lots of orange juice with eggs, deli meats for sandwiches and cereals.

Your favorite meal to make or serve?

My favorite meal to make is braised short ribs. The there are several cooking techniques involved, which I love, from marinating to searing, to braising to proper cooling so the meat stays moist. You can make this dish multidimensional by pairing it up with several different types of sides.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a chef like you it must be something spectacular?

I have a sweet tooth. When I indulge, I go for the chocolates in life. I enjoy a rich smooth chocolate infused with different flavors in a truffle or a bon bon. It is quite a treat so I love to analyze it, is it smooth, is it flavorful, is it tempered correctly and the list goes on.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?

One of my worst cooking mistakes happened when I was 19 trying to force my knife through an onion. The knife was dull, slipped and I cut myself pretty bad.  Needless to say, I am a big advocate of sharp knives from then on out since most injuries occur with dull knives, not sharp ones.

There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?

My favorite is a new one I just discovered this year and that is the honey cream line from Sleeping Bear Farms. It is a richer form of honey that they produce plain, with lemon or cherry. Great product for home and for a professional kitchen.

What do you suggest for first-timers to Grand Traverse Resort & Spa? What menu item should they make sure to try?

When staying at the hotel or a local going out to dine I highly recommend eating breakfast in Sweetwater bistro and ordering my favorite salmon Benedict. For dinner I would go right to the top of the tower in Aerie Restaurant and Lounge to try the Tuna Tartaki appetizer followed by the Maytag Encrusted Filet.

Yield:  6 servings

Spiced Sirloin:
6 Sirloin Steaks
1 c. quatre espice – (equal parts ground: ginger, cinnamon, white pepper, nutmeg, clove)
2 T. bacon fat
Salt

Pat dry all steaks.  Season steaks with salt, rub generously with quatre espice.  In a large sauté pan, sear both sides of steaks in bacon fat until dark brown.  Roast in oven on roasting rack for 10-12 minutes (medium steak), more or less for different temperatures.

Pumpkin Potato Gratin:

1 quart heavy cream
1 16oz. can pumpkin puree
8 peeled Idaho potatoes
1 T. nutmeg mixed with 1 T. cinnamon
Salt and pepper
1 pound grated parmesan Reggiano

Grease a 9×13 baking pan.  In a small container, mix pumpkin puree, cream and cinnamon mixture.  On a mandolin, slice potatoes very thin, layer potato, cream mixture, salt and pepper then parmesan.  Continue again until pan is full to the top.  Bake covered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes (or until soft all the way through), bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes until golden brown.  Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before cutting.

Mushroom Braised Swiss Chard:

8 stalks Swiss chard – julienned
4 pints button mushrooms – sliced
3 peeled shallots – diced
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 head garlic cut in half
Salt and pepper
12 oz. white wine
½ pound butter
Juice of 2 lemons

In a medium rondo pan, place mushrooms, shallots, thyme, garlic, wine, butter and lemon cook on medium heat covered for approx. 15 minutes.  The mushrooms should release a good amount of liquid, at this time, add the Swiss chard and simmer for 5-7 minutes covered.  Strain and serve.

Assembly:
Cut potato gratin into squares, place over braised Swiss chard/mushroom mixture.  Slice sirloin next to potatoes, cover again with Swiss chard and more mushrooms.  Garnish with fried onions, shaved Reggiano or fresh vegetables.

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Pumpkin potato gratin & mushroom swiss chard from Chef Joseph George

From Chef Joseph George, the executive chef at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme, Michigan.

Pumpkin Potato Gratin & Mushroom Braised Swiss Chard

Recipe
Pumpkin Potato Gratin
Ingredients
1 quart heavy cream
1 16oz. can pumpkin puree
8 peeled Idaho potatoes
1 T. nutmeg mixed with 1 T. cinnamon
Salt and pepper
1 pound grated parmesan Reggiano
Directions

Grease a 9×13 baking pan.  In a small container, mix pumpkin puree, cream and cinnamon mixture.  On a mandolin, slice potatoes very thin, layer potato, cream mixture, salt and pepper then parmesan.  Continue again until pan is full to the top.  Bake covered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes (or until soft all the way through), bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes until golden brown.  Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before cutting.

Mushroom Braised Swiss Chard
Ingredients
8 stalks Swiss chard – julienned
4 pints button mushrooms – sliced
3 peeled shallots – diced
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 head garlic cut in half
Salt and pepper
12 oz. white wine
½ pound butter
Juice of 2 lemons

Directions
In a medium rondo pan, place mushrooms, shallots, thyme, garlic, wine, butter and lemon cook on medium heat covered for approx. 15 minutes.  The mushrooms should release a good amount of liquid, at this time, add the Swiss chard and simmer for 5-7 minutes covered.  Strain and serve.

Assembly

Cut potato gratin into squares, place over braised Swiss chard/mushroom mixture.  Garnish with fried onions, shaved Reggiano or fresh vegetables.

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Rich Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake

Raspberry chocolate cheesecake

Wanna slice?

Growing up, we never had pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Ever. Our holiday dessert was usually a tart with a mosaic of macadamia nuts, pecans and chocolate chips. I’m not sure how pumpkin pie got taken out of our holiday mix, but I liked that our family didn’t have the usual spread of stuffing and cranberry sauce.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I fully realized the appeal of traditional favorites–and that I was the only one who thought that buttered egg noodles with poppy seeds was Thanksgiving staple. Who knows how certain family food traditions get started!

We now have a holiday tradition for ending our turkey-day meal with cheesecake, chocolate raspberry cheesecake. I’ve included the recipe below, but I don’t want to make you nervous about trying this because the directions go on and on. See, I want you to have the best, crack-free, dense cheesecake possible so I’ve included ever little trick along the way.

Remember, making a good cheesecake is all about patience, not talent (this is from someone who’s never mastered souffles). Even better, cheesecakes are best made a day or two ahead, meaning you won’t have to figure out how to have enough oven space for your turkey, rolls, and, of course, green bean casserole.

Pssst: Don’t forget the $60 King Arthur Giveaway going on now until November 29th.

Recipe

Ingredients
Crust
9 ounces chocolate wafers
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Cheesecake
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chips are fine
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup raspberry jam
2 packages cream cheese
*Make sure the cheese is at room temperature
¾ cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions
For the crust: In a food processor, grind up the chocolate wafers (I also add just a touch of salt). I use Pepperidge Farms chocolate goldfish as the base for my crust—they’re not overly sweet like Oreos with cream filling. Add the melted butter to the crushed cookies. Here’s the tricky part. You’ll need a 9-inch springform pan. Surround the outside of the pan with aluminum foil (I’ll explain more on this later.) Cut a round piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom part of the pan. Spray the pan with cooking spray then insert the paper and spray again. Press the cookie crumbs into the pan and half way up the sides with your fingers (I’ve tried this with spoons, but frankly fingers are best). Put the crust into the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Yes, beat for ALL 7 minutes

Yes, beat for ALL 7 minutes

For the filling: Preheat the over to 325 degrees. In a large, glass measuring bowl, melt the chocolate and the heavy cream together in the microwave. Melt the two slowly. I usually start at half the power level for around two minutes. When the chips start to lose their shape, I finish the melting process by stirring the mixture vigorously. Add the jam to the chocolate mixture, stir and let it cool about 10 minutes.

In another large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and the sugar. As I noted in the directions, it’s key to have the cream cheese at room temperature. (Eggs, too!) Beat the sugar and cream cheese for at least 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Now, add the vanilla and the chocolate-raspberry mixture. Beat all the ingredients together for at least 5 minutes (I set a timer).

Constructing a waterbath

Constructing a waterbath

Here’s another tricky part—creating a water bath for your cheesecake. water bath keeps your cheesecake dense and smooth instead of dry. You’ll need a large, glass baking dish. I wish I had a larger one, but my biggest is 9×11” so I have to improvise. (I also add a larger, cookie baking pan under the casserole dish to make it easier to get it into and out of the oven.) make several aluminum balls and place them in the center of the baking dish because the casserole dish isn’t wide enough. Next, gently press the springform pan into the casserole dish. Pour the cheesecake filling into the crust, making surethat your aluminum balls stay in place and keep your pan level. Add about a half an inch of water to the bottom of the casserole dish (not into your cheesecake!). Carefully put the whole contraption into the preheated oven.

Make sure the foil comes all the way up

Make sure the foil comes all the way up

Bake for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours or until the cheesecake just jiggles in the center. Once the cheesecake is set, turn off

Place your pan/s carefully in the oven

Place your pan/s carefully in the oven

the oven and leave the door open. Wait one hour and then remove the cheesecake. Carefully pull it out of the water bath. Gently release the springform mechanism, but don’t remove it. Use a butter knife to separate the crust from the pan (this will ensure that the top doesn’t crack). Put your cheesecake into the fridge for at least one day before serving.

If you’re taking this dessert to a party, make sure you cut it at home in thin slices—there’s nothing worse than your cheesecake getting hacked to pieces in the rush to serve dessert. Make your job—or your host’s—easier by cutting it beforehand. If I’m serving the cheesecake at home, I put one slice on the plate, add a dollop of fresh whipped cream and then sprinkle with cocoa. If I have fresh raspberries or mangos, I’ll add a few of those too. Enjoy!

Note: I’ve had this recipe for years, it comes from an old recipe book called 365 Great Chocolate Desserts by Natalie Haughton

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Reinventing Thanksgiving Classics–King Arthur Giveaway

Butter crescent rolls

Pretty cresecent rolls, but how to tweak?

From simple tweaks like orange-zested cranberry relish to curiosities like turducken (you know, the chicken stuffed into a duck tucked inside a turkey creation invention that peaked in popularity a few years ago), there’s been a trend toward mixing up classic Thanksgiving fare.

I like it.

Seems like reworking dishes is the tradition—I mean, someone thought, “Hey, I bet these yams would taste better with marshmallows on them.” And now in kitchens everywhere come November 25th there’s grandmother’s lonely yam dish on the corner of the buffet, untouched.

Or, there’s the brilliant baker who thought to throw some crisp-friend onions on top of the green beans. Bless her!

So what tweaks are you planning this year?

I’ve been thumbing through ideas at the Mixing Bowl, a cooking forum sponsored by Better Homes Gardens. I found this recipe for the green bean bake using one of my favorite ingredients, bacon. And a whole group discussion dedicated to stuffing.

Basil roll

I wish I could have gotten a better photo--but check out the buttery basil roll

Here’s what I’m thinking:

-Instead of just my regular dinner rolls, I’m adding fresh herbs into the roll for parsley and basil-infused crescents. They’re beautiful and make the buttery rolls stand out more on the buffet spread.

-Mashed potatoes—how about in lilac? I’m stocking up on purple potatoes to whip up with plenty of real butter. I’m saving the pumpkin for cookies and making a chocolate-raspberry truffle cheesecake for dessert (recipe to come Thursday:).

-Forget iceberg or even romaine lettuce, what about a Southern-style inspired kumquat salad? That sounds good too.

Now I want to help you get baking this season so I’m offering my own giveaway

A $60 Gift Certificate to King Arthur Flour (my favorite baking company)

To enter:

leave a comment below with your Thanksgiving tweak

To increase your chances of winning:

  • “like” MyKidsEatSquid on Facebook
  • follow MyKidsEatSquid on Twitter
  • subscribe to MyKidsEatSquid (you can use the email box, if you prefer–top left:)
  • announce the giveaway on your blog and leave a comment with the link here

Each time you comment, subscribe, like and follow, I’ll add another entry with your name on it. Contest ends, November 29th midnight EST. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on November 30th.

Looking for more chances to win this holiday season? Check out this list of recipe contests. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates.

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Buttery Crescents with/without Fresh Herbs

Basil roll

I wish I could have gotten a better photo--but check out the buttery basil roll

These rolls come together quickly and turn out a soft, dense dough. While these rolls are usually foolproof, I have had a few mishaps (they still tasted good, but they weren’t quite as presentable). On the second rising, the rolls should only go for 30 minutes—no more or the rolls get too airy. You should bake these until they’re just golden brown. The bottoms can burn if you let them go too long.

Ingredients

Prep time: 45 minutes + 1.5 hours rising/baking

Yield: 16 rolls

½ cup milk

1 stick butter or margarine

1/3 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 package yeast (or 2 ¼ teaspoons)

½ cup warm water

1 egg

31/2-4 cups flour

Fresh basil or parsley (optional)

Butter crescent rolls

Pretty cresecent rolls, but how to tweak?

Directions

  • Place the warm water in a measuring cup and whisk in the yeast. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes and check that some bubbles appear on the surface (meaning the yeast is active).
  • Over medium-high heat, bring the milk to a gentle simmer in a small saucepan. As soon as bubbles appear, move the pan off of the heat and add the butter, salt, and sugar. Whisk until smooth and melted in. Cool to room temperature.
  • Add the yeast mixture to the buttered milk in a large mixing bowl. Using a handheld mixer to combine the ingredients, add the flour in 1 cup increments. The dough should start holding together after 3 cups. Stir in ½ to 1 cup more until the dough begins to pull away from the bowl.
  • Sprinkle flour on a cutting board and place the dough ball onto the board. With floured hands, knead the dough until it becomes a smooth ball.
  • Clean out the mixing bowl using warm water, then coat with cooking spray. Place the dough into the bowl and cover loosely with a lightly dampened cloth.
  • Place in a warm place for 1 hour to rise. The dough won’t rise significantly.
  • Divide the dough in two.
  • On a floured work surface, knead one dough ball until smooth. Roll out to a 8 to 9-inch circle.
  • Using a pizza cutter, slash into 8 equal pieces as you would a pizza.
  • Place a washed and dried basil or parsley leaf on each slice.
  • Starting from the long end, roll the dough towards the small end. Tuck the sides toward the middle to form the crescent shape.
  • Place the formed dough onto a baking pan lightly coated with spray. Cover the roll with the slightly moist kitchen cloth.
  • Repeat the process with the remaining dough slices and then with the other dough ball.
  • Let the formed dough rise again for 30 minutes. DO NOT allow the dough to go over that time.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place the pan in the oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until just browned. You can also whisk an egg, add 1 teaspoon water, and then coat each roll with the glaze before baking to give each roll a shiny appearance.
  • You can make these ahead—but doubling the recipe, that’s a no-go. I just make one batch and then another if I need extras. To make these rolls ahead of time bake them until they’re just firm and then let them cool on the pan (you can then freeze them and put them right on the pan when you’re ready for the final baking). Once you’re ready to reheat them, preheat the oven and then brush them with melted butter (for a richer flavor) or with an egg that has been whisked with a teaspoon of water (for a shiny roll).
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Bierberg Bakery in German Village, Columbus



Open only two months out of the year, Bierberg Bakery has been on my list of “must see” culinary enclaves for nearly three years. I heard it mentioned in passing when I was working on a story about visiting Columbus, Ohio, over the holidays. A Google search turned up a handful of entries, with not much more detail than “try the cookies.” No website. I tried an email address. No response. I tried calling. Nothing.

How does a bakery survive with virtually no advertising—not even a working phone number—and it opens October 20th and closes New Year’s Day? (I learned later that the magic phone number is only answered during those two months.) Over the past weekend, I was able to get my questions answered and even sample a few cookies.

Helen Bierberg Walsh seemed more comfortable working as we talked. With a pastry bag in hand, pressing out hazelnut cookies onto a parchment lined seemingly football-field-sized pan. She explained that her grandmother, Theresa Bierberg, had started the bakery in 1913 to support her family (her husband had fallen ill after a stroke). Before immigrating to Columbus, Theresa had trained as a baker in Germany. Helen recalls that her grandmother had told her children she had “made a cake for the Kaiser,” which would be the equivalent of the president of the United States requesting a sweet from your bakery.

Helen’s father, Gustav (or “Gus”) took over the bakery from his mother—Theresa’s other son became a Catholic priest. The bakery moved from its original location to 729 South Fifth Street in the German Village section of Columbus in 1971. Since then, for two months out of the year, Helen continues her family’s tradition of making holiday cookies for those who know where to find her.

I sampled the Wilhelm cookies that you’ll see Johanna making in the video above. The bars have raspberry filling tucked between two layers of thin pound cake, topped with marzipan and then dunked in chocolate. After trying just one, my Christmas list came to mind and I thought of all the people who would be receiving a specially wrapped box of Bierberg confections for the holidays. I asked Helen whether she shipped cookies and she said, “Sure. But it has to be ordered before December 10th.” I figured this was because the cookies wouldn’t arrive in time for Christmas if they were ordered after that.

“No,” Helen explained. “After that it just gets too crowded at the post office.”

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