Recipe Recap: Favorite Holiday Sweets

By Lena Hanson, CGNE communications manager

We see so many great recipes come through our feeds, and try to share as many as we can with our friends, but started to think there had to be a better way. Every now and then, we are able capture some of our favorite recipes from our members and other local influences in the New England culinary scene and share them right here.

The holiday season is upon us once again. And in so many kitchens, that means the ovens are on and the cookbooks are out. Some people rely on family recipes that they wish to share with their loved ones, and  others go out of their way to try something new and unexpected. So if you’re looking for some extra holiday spirit in your kitchen, we’re sure one of the recipes below will come in handy.

What holiday treats do you enjoy the most? Please share your favorites with us in the comments below!

Warm Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

It wasn’t enough for P.K. to tempt us with her delightful Dark Chocolate Biscotti at our Annual Holiday Cookie Swap, but now she comes up with this decadence? Pumpkin, caramel, and bourbon all in the same dish? Pretty sure she has no trouble finding taste-testers.

Recipe: Warm Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce
Photo from: P.K. Newby, The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen

Dark Chocolate Cookies a-la Holiday

Some people don’t really bake for themselves, but instead with the sole intention of bring some joy to others. In those cases, it’s not uncommon for one to turn to a classic recipe source like our friend Janet did — only she added her own special holiday twist to make these cookies just a bit more special.

Recipe: Dark Chocolate a-la Holiday
Photo from: Janet Kalandranis, Food Beautiful

Eggnog Cookies

Eggnog in a cookie form? This may just be nirvana of the holiday sweets variety for some.

Recipe: Eggnog Cookies
Photo from: Karen Covey, Gourmet Recipes for One

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites

Everyone has some sort of treat that may defined their childhood holidays. Michelle dresses hers up just a bit with some extra red and green for a festive flair.

Recipe: Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites
Photo from: Michelle Collins, The Economical Eater

Festive Lemon Sugar Cookies with Cinnamon

Featuring healthy spices, whole wheat flour, and a lower fat content, these cookies are proof that not all holiday treats need to feel like they are an overindulgence.

Recipe: Festive Lemon Sugar Cookies with Cinnamon
Photo from: Lipi, Spices for Life MD

Looking for more holiday cookie recipes? Take a peek at all the recipes that were swapped between our members and friends at our Annual Holiday Cookie Swap!

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DIY Recap: How to Make Chocolate with Taza

by Marshall Bright, CGNE youth member

When I was a kid, my favorite part of Mr. Rogers were the segments when we got to visit a factory and see how things were made, so when I heard about the opportunity to go to a DIY event where we got to visit a real-live chocolate factory, I knew I had to go.

Touring the Taza Chocolate factory was a dream come true for both the Mr. Roger’s fan and food nerd in me. Located in Somerville, MA, Taza offers daily tours led by their super-knowledgeable guides. Taza makes Mexican-style organic, fair-trade chocolate, which is a far cry from the milky, super-sweet stuff sold at grocery store counters.

We began the tour learning about what chocolate beans get up to before arriving in Somerville. Our guide explained how the cacao beans are harvested, and how Taza works directly with farmers to get the best quality beans possible in their chocolate. We also learned what makes Mexican-style chocolate so different from what Americans typically eat. Mexican chocolate is stone-ground and typically sold in rounds. No milk is ever added, instead, just coarsely-ground cane sugar. With much more of a crunch and complexity than many European-style chocolates, Mexican-style chocolate is most often used in Latin America to melt into drinks much more comparable to coffee than hot chocolate.

Next we got to see where the beans are roasted. Roasting brings out a lot of the nuttiness in chocolate, and is a vital part of the process. This was also the step in the tour where we got to don our super-stylish hair nets. In the roasting room we got to try chocolate nibs, which is the shelled and roasted product halfway between cocoa beans and chocolate. Biting into it was a lot like sneaking a bite of the baker’s chocolate your mom had in the pantry when you were a kid. I knew no sugar was added, yet I was still taken aback by how bitter it tasted. We were then handed chocolate-covered nibs–much better.

Next, we got to see where the chocolate is wrapped and packaged. One thing that makes Taza unique is that, in one location, the chocolate is made from beans to bar. Many chocolate companies will start with “chocolate product,” not cacao beans. The “bean to bar” method is just one way that Taza ensures the highest quality ingredients go into their chocolate.

Photo by Finn of Eyes Wide Stomach: http://eyeswidestomach.wordpress.com/

Our last stop was getting to see the cacao beans turn from bitter nibs to sweet, rich chocolate. The chocolate is stone-ground by hand-carved wheels. These wheels were made by Taza founder Alex Whitmore, who fell in love with Mexican-style chocolate while traveling in Oaxaca. The hand-carved stones can only be made by master carvers and the tradition is typically handed down through family members. These stones, however, are carved right here in Somerville. He earned the title of master carver after apprenticing in Oaxaca for a year after his revelatory experience tasting Mexican chocolate.

After grinding the nibs and sugar, flavors are added like cinnamon, or salt and pepper. Surprisingly, that’s it–no waxes, gums, or preservatives (but you don’t have to worry about Taza going bad on you, it has a shelf life up to a year). Next, the mixture is plopped into molds (this was my favorite part) by a donut machine to make either circular or bar-shaped chocolate. The chocolate then goes to the packaging room where it is wrapped up and shipped out of the factory… or eaten up by hungry tour groups before it ever gets a chance to leave.

We ended the tour at the gift shop, sampling chocolate and grilling our ever-knowledgeable and gracious guide with more chocolate trivia. I was impressed they knew everything from the nitty gritty of fair trade certification to chocolate throughout history (I was a history major, I had to ask!). We even got to sample some drinking chocolate, a mix of the regular Mexican chocolate and chocolate seasoned with peppers for a kick.

We all left happy and full of free samples, having learned something about science, history, culture, social justice, and food. All in all, a highly successful way to spend a Wednesday afternoon.


Interested in joining us for a future DIY event? Visit the CGNE website to learn about future events.

Election Day Cake

by Lynn Paikowski MD, CGNE member

Photo credit: The Culinary Institute of America

With election season upon us, we recognize that there existed culinary traditions associated with this time. In New England of the 18th and 19th centuries, Election Day was a great holiday, ranking second only to Thanksgiving. Naturally, such a big event called for special foods.

The women (who couldn’t vote) stayed at home and baked special yeast-raised, fruited “Election Cakes” while the men trekked to the polls, sometimes having to travel great distances to cast their ballots. The rich, moist cakes, similar to Italian panettone or German stollen, were served with punch or eggnog at get-togethers when the hungry voters returned. Women of the hosting towns, where the voting places were, would also bake these cakes to serve to visiting voters. An early evening supper was another event of the day. This might include sausage, fried apples, potatoes and milk gravy, and ”Rye’ n Injun” bread, a steamed bread made from rye and cornmeal, similar to Boston brown bread.

Election Cake is thought to have originated in Hartford. In “American Cookery”, the first cookbook published in America (circa 1800), the writer Amelia Simmons mentions a Hartford Election Cake. “The Yankee Magazine Cookbook” says the cake was …”sold outside the polling place, like a one-cake bake sale, to help sustain voters”.

In honor of the women of early New England, who did their part to help keep our democratic traditions alive even though they could not vote themselves, we present a recipe for Election Cake, to help us start an Election Day tradition of our own.

Election Cake

  • 4 to 4 ½ cups unsifted flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mace
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup softened butter
  • 1 ½ cups very hot tap water
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups raisins
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup chopped citron
  1. In a large bowl thoroughly mix 1 ¾ cups flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, mace, and yeast. Add butter.
  2. Gradually add hot tap water to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally.
  3. Add eggs and ¾ cups flour, or enough to make a thick batter. Beat at high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Add raisins, pecans, citron, and enough flour to make a stiff batter. Stir until well combined.
  4. Turn into greased 10-inch tube pan. Cover: let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ hours. Bake at 375 about 45 minutes, or until done. Remove from pan and cool on rack.

Happy Election Day!

DIY Recap: How to Brew Beer

By Paul Masters, CGNE youth member

Recently, Amy and I had the pleasure of visiting the Cambridge Brewing Company with other beer-minded folks under the auspices of the Culinary Guild of New England. If you haven’t heard of the Culinary Guild before, you should absolutely check out their website and events. If you’re interested in craft beer, you’re probably interested in other awesome foods/beverages, and if that’s true, these folks are for you! Not to mention that, if you’ve been dying to meet the intrepid drinkers on this blog, we’ll be at a Guild-hosted event at Taza Chocolate in Somerville on November 1. Register now to save your space!

Anyway, enough of this shameless plugging. At the CBC we sat down with Lead Brewer Jay Sullivan to sample beer and talk about the process of making it. As it turns out, brewing beer is a complex process involving a lot of science. Water, yeast, malt, and hops have to be carefully held in balance, and a brewer has to know and understand the effect that each has on the flavor profile of their beer. Of course, there are many, many, types of malt barley, hops, and yeasts to choose from. The character of the beer you brew depends on which of these you choose, so things can get pretty complicated.

At the CBC they brew all their beer in-house, using lots of fresh ingredients (I recently tried a delicious creation using heirloom pumpkins and a healthy hop-profile called White Widow), and as a result they get to create a lot of excellent brews with unique flavor profiles. The talk was informative and tasty, and I highly recommend you head down to the brew-pub to grab a sampler paddle of your own.

On Paul & Amy on Beer, we’ve tended to focus mostly on the product we receive from great local brewers like the CBC, rather than on the process they use to get our (very important) beer to our favorite local beer stores (Like my personal favorite, The Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont, MA). Every so often though, it is important to recognize how difficult and time intensive brewing beer right can be, and how hard it is to stay innovative in a market increasingly full of really, really delicious beer.

And that’s where we come in. As Amy and I continue to pour through our local beer scene, we raise a glass to the breweries (like the CBC) that make a blog like this, not just possible, but necessary. Go to your local brewer!

An interview with WGBH event panelist Dan Souza

By Amy Scheuerman, CGNE vice president

Dan Souza is an Associate Editor for Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. Dan was the Test Kitchen Experiment Editor for The Science of Good Cooking and will be a star in the upcoming season of America’s Test Kitchen TV. We interviewed Dan to learn more about The Science of Good Cooking, his experiments with David Pogue and the NOVA team for Can I Eat That and how he went from being an English teacher in Hungary to studying the science of the perfect Thanksgiving turkey.


Amy: How did you first get interested in cooking?

Dan: I was interested in cooking from a young age, which I think most people are who get into this world. I didn’t get interested in cooking professionally until I went and tried teaching English in Hungary and I was quite poor at it. And one of my adult students was the chef at the local restaurant – and this was a village of like 1500 people, so this is a restaurant in the truest sense of the term – but was more making really old school Hungarian food for large groups of people. I was looking for something I’d really enjoy and I started cooking there on the weekends and fell in love with it and thought it was the best thing ever. We’d get like whole sides of beef from like the father of the bride for a wedding dinner and turn it into beef stew and goulash and all these things. So I started paying way more attention to that and didn’t have to worry about the fact that I was horrible at teaching.

Amy: Did you just abandon the kids?

Dan: Ha! No I actually started working cooking more into the lessons, which made me like teaching more.

Amy: Where did you attend culinary school and get your cooking chops?

Dan: When I came back from Hungary, I’d gone to school for business and communications and wanted to do something with that. So I worked in advertising as a copywriter. During that time I kept thinking “I kinda want to cook,” but it took me two years or so to convince myself that I could go make salads for a living and it would be okay. I finally did that. I was doing some freelance ad work with Dante and I just asked them if I could cook for them on weekends. They threw me into it, I screwed up a ton, they let me keep doing it, amazingly. And eventually the chef said to me, “If you want to do this, you’re kinda old in the grand scheme of restaurant cooking, so you might want to go to culinary school soon.” So I went to the CIA in Hyde Park and got an Associates there.

Amy: Did your interest in cooking science lead you to ATK, or did ATK increase your interest in cooking science?

Dan: There were times in culinary school that I wanted to know more and I turned to Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, which I think is pretty common. I tried to look for answers on things and try to understand the whys. But I definitely came to science through food. I’m really a writer and a cook first. The science helped me to better understand the cooking. It really came to a head here [at America’s Test Kitchen] when I was really looking for ways to make recipes better or more functional.

Amy: What was the topic for the NOVA special?

Dan: Making the perfect turkey. We talked a lot about brining and salting. We did some stuffing. Talked about staling bread versus drying it out and what that does to the final texture. I know what I did was smash a lot of burgers with David Pogue to show the value of grinding your own meat.

Amy: When was it filmed?

Dan: We filmed in April.

Amy: So is it weird to be making a giant Thanksgiving feast in spring?

Dan: You know, it isn’t really for us, just because we work on a time table that’s so offset. We’re never really doing things at the right time, like holiday cookies in summer. I think that for most people it could be weird, but we’re very used to it at this point. Like grilling when you don’t want to be grilling so readers can do it in the summer. By the time Thanksgiving actually rolls around you don’t even want it because you’ve had it so many times.

Amy: What’s your favorite part of testing recipes and cooking techniques in the ATK kitchen?

Dan: We do two kinds of testing. One is more step-by-step. We always try this and then that and then that. The other is that we do some really out of the box stuff where we just see what happens. It’s those kinds of discoveries that I really like. And I like trying things that you read in Modernist Cuisine that’s kind of a chefy, high-end book, but then we tweak it in the kitchen so it’s something home cooks can use.

Amy: You were also very involved in the new Science of Good Cooking book, right?

Dan: Nods

Amy: What was your favorite experiment from that book?

Dan: There’s one that I really liked…discussing the effect of glutamic acid and glutamates on our sense of savory or umami and talking about these newly identified group of flavor boosters called free nucleotides and they work in synergy with each other.

So what we did was we got pure samples of MSG and free nucleotides and added them to water. We added MSG to one and free nucleotides to another and a combination of the two to another. And the water is remarkably savory, which is kind of weird because it’s water and it’s savory. The combination one there’s synergy there and it’s really noticeable and really cool. And if you look at cuisine this relationship is everywhere. And foods that are rich in glutamates and paired with foods that are rich in free nucleotides.

Amy: I’ve never heard of free nucleotides, can you give me an example?

Dan: If you look at Caesar salad. In caesar salad dressing you have anchovies, which have a lot of free nucleotides (and a little bit of glutamic acid), and then the Parmesan cheese has a lot of glutamates, so that combination together is really savory and good. If you look at even like a cheeseburger, the beef has a lot of free nucleotides and the cheese has glutamic acid which is another combination we love and you see that repeated over and over.

Amy: What experiment gave you results you really didn’t expect?

Dan: There’s some really surprising stuff in the book and when you first encounter it you’re like “whoa!” We had an experiment where we had four boneless, skinless chicken breasts and four different marinades. They were pretty standard: one was soy sauce based, one was red wine, one was garlic and parm and one was yogurt based. So we marinated them for 18 hours, which is a really long time for a marinade, but we wanted to make sure it had time to penetrate. Then we cooked them and carved off the outer 3 millimeters of all of them. We cut them into cubes and had people try them and people couldn’t tell the difference.

Amy: Everyone who buys a ticket to the screening of the NOVA special will receive a copy of the Science of Good Cooking. What is the one recipe you think everyone should make from the book?

Dan: It depends on if you have a sweet tooth or not but I feel like the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies are a must. They’re so good, they’re what the Tollhouse cookie always wanted to be. And there are a few tricks in there terms of how we boost the flavor and perfect the texture. Cookies are really complicated even though they seem so simple, so there’s a lot of good science in there.

Amy: What are 3 ingredients you can’t live without?

Dan: What would go into a vinaigrette basically: salt, oil, and acid. More specifically Kosher salt, olive oil, and lemon juice. You can make so many things good with those ingredients. I think the best things on our world are essentially vinaigrettes.

Amy: A piece of equipment you think every cook should own?

Dan: I feel like the easy answer is a good knife. I’m going to say that beyond a good knife is a good cutting board. Which most people don’t have. A cutting board that is big enough and a good material.

Amy: Who or what inspires your cooking?

Dan: Two different things. What I do here: the curiosity and the scientific process because I find it really interesting. Cooking in general would be the childhood memories. Trying to make things more and more delicious.

Amy: What’s your favorite comfort food?

Dan: Noodle soups are the most comforting thing out there. Any big hot bowl of soup, like miso soup or ramen.


Want to meet Dan in person? He’ll be one of our panelists at the Culinary Guild’s event: Cooking Science with WGBH. This exclusive event, open to Culinary Guild members and their guests only, is just $60. Ticket price includes a copy of The Science of Good Cooking. A book signing will be held after the panel discussion. Register now to save your spot!

Real Winners Get Chocolate

By Lena Hanson, CGNE communications manager
 

 

Congratulations to Brittany Shutts! Brittany won a Taza Chocolate Mexicano Sampler by tweeting about our upcoming tour of the Taza Chocolate factory in Somerville.

We hope you enjoy the chocolate, Brittany!

Just because the sampler has been won doesn’t mean the fun is over. There are still 10 spots left for our tour and tasting with Taza. Sign up now to hold your spot (it’s only $15!).

DIY: How to Make Chocolate

By Lena Hanson, CGNE communications manager

Learn all about how chocolate is made with Taza Chocolate and the Culinary Guild of New England. Plus, tweet us for a chance to win a sampler of delicious Mexican-style chocolate. Details below.


Chocolate. You love it, you eat it, you give it as gifts…but do you know how it’s made? Why is one chocolate smooth while other is crumbly? Why is some more mild and some more acidic?

On Thursday, November 1 at 5:30pm, we will be touring the Taza Chocolate factory in Somerville, MA to learn more about chocolate and how it’s made. We’ll learn about Taza as a business as well as what makes their Mexican-style chocolate so different and special. And, not to be forgotten, we’ll taste samples of their chocolates and a special Mexian-style hot chocolate.

Don’t miss this great event!

Want to win your own Taza Chocolate Sampler? Here’s how:


Details
1 entry per person. Tweets must be completed by 5:00p.m. on Sunday, 10/21/2012 for a chance to win. 1 person will be chosen at random as a winner of a Taza Chocolate Mexicano Sampler worth $20 and containing eight 1.5oz Chocolate Mexicano discs, one each of Cacao Puro, Chipotle Chili, Cinnamon,Ginger, Guajillo Chili, Orange, Salt & Pepper, and Vanilla Bean.