For me, a former child of the Midwest, the recipes in Amy Thielen's The New Midwestern Table are like culinary flashbacks to being an 8-year-old, so blogging about this recipe feels a lot like sharing a favorite children's book. Writes Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt, "Believing that the best, most iconic dishes are passed down hand to hand, generation to generation, she’s collected 200 recipes that celebrate the regional traditions that waves of immigrants have brought, and still bring, to the American heartland."
Makes 25 small bars
For the base, mix together the flour, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
Add the melted butter and mix thoroughly until you have a soft dough. Break the dough into small pebbles and spread it evenly in the bottom of the lined baking pan, then gently press the dough into the pan in an even layer. Bake until it turns a shake darker, 15 minutes.
Let base cool a bit. Meanwhile, make the chocolate layer: Put the chocolate in the top of a double boiler, or in a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add the peanut butter and heat gently until melted and combined, stirring occasionally.
Pour ½ cup of the warm melted chocolate mixture over the baked base, and spread it out evenly. Refrigerate until set.
Reserve the remaining chocolate mixture on top of the stove while you prepare the maple filling.
For the maple filling, melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the sweetened condensed milk, maple syrup, brown sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer. Boil softly, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until the mixture reaches the firm ball stage, or 245ºF on a candy thermometer. (Gauge the doneness using the cold-water test: Fill a bowl with very cold water and drop about ½ teaspoon of the mixture into it. If it forms a soft ball that you can easily pick up, it’s ready.)
Fill a sink with at least 6 inches of cold water, and set the saucepan into it (making sure not to slosh water into the fudge).
Stir constantly with a sharp-edged wooden spoon, scraping down the sides of the pot, until the mixture starts to turn granular, about 5 minutes. When it starts to look like beach sand and becomes increasingly hard to stir, remove the pan from the water and add the cream cheese. Stir, scraping the sides, until the mixture is smooth and light.
Immediately spread the maple filling in an even layer over the cooled chocolate layer. Scatter the peanuts on top and press them very lightly into the maple filling. Gently heat the remaining chocolate mixture to return it to a liquid state. Drop the chocolate from the side of a rubber spatula onto the maple layer, making wide swipes across the peanuts, taking care to cover them completely.
Return the baking pan to the refrigerator and chill until completely set, about 4 hours. Cut into small bars.
Remember a few weeks ago, when all-bacon San Francisco restaurant Bacon Bacon was forced to close because it smelled too strongly of bacon? Well, if you're like me, and you think that's insane and immediately wanted a bacon restaurant to open in your own neighborhood, then Peter Kaminsky and Marie Rama's new cookbook, Bacon Nation, is for you.
Writes Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt: "In 125 recipes, these resourceful chefs, who believe that 'everything is better with bacon,' demonstrate that it’s a real gastronomic star and that a little bacon can 'turn a dish from blah to beautiful.'"
Now, everybody knows that a BLT has mayonnaise, but we thought there had to be another way, and then a visit to Ted & Honey, a lovely sandwich shop in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood, caused a little lightbulb to shine in the bacon part of our brains: avocado. It has the fat and creaminess of mayo and its own nutty and fresh flavor that makes for an even more healthful BLT—or, as we like to think of it, BLAT. To make up for the vinegar in the mayo, a squeeze of lemon juice adds a bright, tart fruitiness. When only mayo will do for your BLT, we suggest going whole hog (!) and slathering your sandwich with Bacon Aioli (recipe follows).
Combine the avocado, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and hot sauce, if using, in a small bowl and mash the avocado with a fork until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or hot sauce as necessary. Set the avocado spread aside. Rinse the romaine lettuce leaves and pat them dry with paper towels.
Place 2 of the slices of bread on a work surface. Spread each slice with half of the avocado spread. Layer the lettuce, tomato, and bacon over the spread, dividing the ingredients evenly between each sandwich. (If the bacon slices overlap the bread, simply cut or fold them in half to fit within the bread’s edges.) Top each sandwich with the remaining slice of bread, then cut the sandwiches in half and serve immediately.
After cooking with Barbara Kafka's newest cookbook (and our February Cookbook of the Month), cooking columnist Sybil Pratt "can solemnly swear that there really is 'glorious food' without gluten and lactose and without ersatz ingredients."
Kafka's The Intolerant Gourmet is a special-diet cookbook not just for those who are lactose- and gluten-intolerant, but also for those who love to entertain and wish to make great food while accommodating all types of guests.
Clearly, nothing is lost in this scrumptious recipe.
This is evidently based on coq au vin. However, cocks that require long cooking are hard to come by these days, as are hens. Instead this is adapted for a regular chicken. I think that you will find it rich enough to satisfy. Leftover wine or a half bottle should do nicely. Serve with gluten-free noodles, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, or Acorn Squash Puree.
Stir the tomato paste and wine into the pan. The sauce can be made ahead up to this point.
About 30 minutes before serving, add the chicken and bay leaf to the pan. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Stick a knife into the thick part of the chicken to make sure it is done; the juices should run clear. Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are warm. Stir in the parsley and thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste, Stir in the bacon.
The Food52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (the foodie brains behind the Food52 blog) is our January Cookbook of the Month! It is a phenomenal collection of winning recipes from their weekly contests, starring the best of the best in a community of home cooks.
Very cool, and very tasty!
A&M: This pound cake drops the pounds of butter and sugar in favor of oil and maple syrup, creating a springy texture and glistening, shellacked exterior. The oil folded into the batter at the end was a new technique to us; we hold it responsible for the cake’s sweet, crackly crust. Rivka’s choice of Grade B maple syrup means that the maple aroma and flavor are pervasive without being cloying. The end result is moist and flavorful enough on its own, but fresh whipped cream and strawberries never hurt.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and stir just to incorporate. Add the oil and fold gently until the oil is absorbed into the batter. Make sure not to over mix the batter.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet in the oven and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Cut around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Turn the cake out onto the rack, then turn it upright on the rack and cool completely.
Tips and Techniques
Rivka: “The cake is extremely moist; unless eating it just out of the oven, toast your slice to get some contrast between the crust and innards. Really make sure to pull the cake out of the oven right when it’s done. If it stays in longer, it’ll dry out a bit.”
About the Cook
Rivka Friedman is a healthcare consultant and food blogger in Washington, D.C. You can find her recipe for Rhubarb Curd Shortbread on page 367.
Her favorite recipe from a cookbook: “Olive Oil and Sherry Pound Cake from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert.”
Her top cooking tip: “Freeze coffee into ice cubes so that iced coffee doesn’t get diluted as the ice melts.”
Her top entertaining tip: “Homemade pickles—I like a mix of green tomatoes, green beans, and maybe even sour cherries—makes an easy, elegant summer appetizer.”
Here’s her blog: Not Derby Pie.
What the Community Said
Bevi: “I have made this a number of times and always get the same response: delicious! Over Xmas I made the cake for my mom—a dyed-in- the-wool Vermonter. She was so happy.”
vvvanessa: “I have this cooling on the windowsill and even though it just came out of the oven six minutes ago, I couldn’t wait to taste it. It’s great! I love that it isn’t too sweet, and the texture is amazing—so moist and tender! Congrats and thanks for a great recipe!”
Our Cookbook of the Month for September comes from the Loveless Cafe. If you're not as lucky as we are and can't take a drive down Highway 100--or simply want to bring it home for the family—Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe by Alisa Huntsman is a must. Classic Southern desserts belong on every table.
Be sure to check out our front porch interview with Hunstman, then try your hand at this peachy-keen recipe. Yum!
2. In a medium bowl, toss the peaches with the granulated sugar, flour, and pumpkin pie spice.
3. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll out one piece on a lightly floured board or parchment paper into a 10-inch circle. Carefully invert the dough onto one of the lined baking sheets. Scoop 2 cups of the peach filling into a mound in the center of the circle of dough, leaving a 11?2- to 2-inch margin all around. Fold the edges of the dough in toward the center, pleating as necessary; do this all the way around so that the peaches are visible in the middle.
4. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg wash and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the coarse sugar. Repeat with the remaining dough, peach filling, egg wash, and coarse sugar.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling.
The American casserole is back on center stage "with a healthy helping of retro-chic and gourmet flair," thanks to The Casserole Queens Cookbook by Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock! Featured in our September Cooking column, the cookbook by two Austin gals shares recipes for "one-dish wonders" for weeknight cooking.
2. In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the chicken, bell pepper, and shallots, and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, salt, tarragon, and black pepper. Add the milk and cream, and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, peas, carrots, and potatoes and stir until heated thoroughly, about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer the hot chicken mixture to a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. Place the puff pastry over the top of the casserole dish. Brush the edges of the puff pastry with the egg wash and press against the side of the casserole dish, then cut slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape. Brush the top of the puff pastry with egg wash—this will help the puff pastry brown evenly. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve immediately.
Here are two other great ways to make our chicken pot pie:
Make individual pot pies! Portion out the filling into 6-ounce ramekins. Top each ramekin with some puff pastry and freeze. Cook at 425°F for 20 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown. So cute!
Use store-bought pie dough and make empanadas! Using a 3-inch circle pastry cutter, cut 12 circles out of the dough. Place a large spoonful of filling on one half of each circle. Brush the edge of the pastry with egg wash, then fold in half to make a half-moon shape. Press the edges together firmly and crimp with a fork. Put the empanada on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Heartland by Judith Fertig, one of our cookbooks from the August cooking column, celebrates good, down-home American Midwest cooking. Whoever sits at your table -- whether friends, family or just you -- will find bread made from fresh dough to be out-of-this-world. The following recipe is keeping with the spirit of Heartland: a good all-American recipe in half the time, with half the work!
Can bread dough be a pantry staple? Yes, if you consider your refrigerator as “pantry.” With a bowl of this versatile made-ahead dough on hand, you’ll be already halfway to yeasty breads, rolls, and coffee cakes. Busy Heartland farm wives in the early part of the twentieth century had two yeast dough recipes they used regularly. One was for bread and one was for dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, and coffee cakes. This streamlined approach made life easier for them, and it can still make things easier for us today. Plus, there’s also another way to streamline bread baking.
Adding more liquid to a dough eliminates the need to knead. You can simply stir the dough together, keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, and bake when you’re ready. So why not have a baking day, and then wrap and freeze your wares for up to 3 months?
A Danish dough whisk features a mitten-shaped metal mixing end on a wooden handle and makes short work of mixing any dough. Measuring is an important step to assure that your bread turns out right, so follow the directions exactly.
Spoon the flour into a measuring cup, level with a knife or your finger, then dump the flour into a 16-cup mixing bowl.
Add the yeast and salt to the flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon or a Danish dough whisk. Mix the honey, oil, and eggs together in a 4-cup measuring cup. Add enough warm water to reach the 4-cup mark and stir together. Pour the honey mixture into the flour mixture, stir to combine, then beat for 40 strokes, scraping the bottom and the sides of the bowl, until the dough forms a lumpy, sticky mass.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature (72°F) for 2 hours, or until the dough has risen to about 2 inches below the rim of the bowl and has a spongelike appearance.
Use that day in your favorite recipe for sweet bread or rolls, or place the dough, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before baking. If you like, write the date on the plastic wrap so you know the bake-by date for your dough.
We have been excited about Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home (our Cookbook of the Month for August) since May—and one of our editors had some Jeni's ice cream at Hot N Cold the day before the "rapture" (just in case). Making Jeni's delicious ice cream at home takes some careful reading and "a modicum of self-control to keep from becoming a hopeless but happy ice-creamaholic," but it's worth it. The following recipe is for Jeni's signature ice cream flavor.
Danger! This is the dry-burn technique. I don’t add water to the sugar before putting it on the heat, as some chefs do. Caramelizing sugar dry means it goes faster, but you have to watch it more closely and be ready with your cream. Here is an overview of what you are going to do:
Stand over the pan of sugar with a heatproof spatula ready, but do not touch the sugar until there is a full layer of melted and browning liquid sugar on the bottom with a smaller layer of unmelted white sugar on the top. When the edges of the melted sugar begin to darken, use the spatula to bring them into the center to help melt the unmelted sugar. Continue stirring and pushing the sugar around until it is all melted and evenly amber in color—like an old penny. When little bubbles begin to explode with dark smoke, give the sugar another moment and then remove from the heat. Immediately but slowly pour about 14 cup of the cream and corn syrup mixture into the burning-hot sugar. Be careful! It will pop and spit! Stir until it is incorporated, then add a bit more cream and stir, then continue until it is all in.
Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
Mix the cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout.
Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
Bring back to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve.
Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid.
Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.
Reduce the salt in the ice cream to 1/4 teaspoon, then make and freeze the ice cream. Pack it into the storage container, layering it with 1 cup coarsely chopped smoked almonds.
Summer afternoons are perfect for hitting the local farmer's market and perusing fresh veggies, and Barbara Scott-Goodman's Eat Greens -- the Cookbook of the Month in our July cooking column -- is perfect for matching any of 29 vegetables with one of 120 recipes. It's simple cooking for simply delicious, healthy meals.
makes 4 to 6 servings
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the corn, scallions, snap peas, red pepper strips, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, shaking and stirring the skillet, for about 2 minutes. Add the chives, stir, and serve at once.
The books in our July cooking column all have great summer recipes -- but what about soup? This recipe from Eat Greens by Barbara Scott-Goodman and Liz Trovato has a special tartness that makes it summer-friendly. It's the perfect meal to bring to work to enjoy for lunch, especially on a rainy summer day.
Add the broccoli and broth. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes, celery seeds, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to let cool.
Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. This will have to be done in batches. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. (The soup can be made ahead of time and will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for a day.)
Reheat the soup. Cut the remaining apple into small pieces or thin strips. Spoon the soup into soup bowls and garnish each serving with the apples and chives and serve at once.