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TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Fun Recipe For April Fool’s Day, Like Mashed Potato Donuts

Because it’s April 1st, you may think that it’s a joke. But these Mashed Potato Donuts are real, and really good.

The recipe was developed by Jeremy Spector of Wonder City Coffee & Donut Bar at The Brindle Room in New York City. It was sent to us bythe Idaho Potato Commission.

If you don’t want the salted caramel glaze (top photo), simply garnish the donuts with cinnamon sugar (bottom photo).

Here’s another Mashed Potato Donut recipe from King Arthur Flour.

TIP: This doughnut dough can be refrigerated overnight. Equally good doughnuts will result from making the dough and frying the donuts the next day as frying the same day.

 
RECIPE: MASHED POTATO DONUTS

Ingredients For 24 Donuts

  • 2-1/2 Idaho potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • 1-1/3 cup sugar
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons fat (like Crisco)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3-1/2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Oil for frying
  •  
    Ingredients For 2 Cups Salted Caramel Glaze

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  •  

    Mashed Potato Donuts

    Mashed Potato Donuts

    Top: Mashed Potato Donuts, photo courtesy IdahoPotato.com. Bottom: Mashed Potato Donuts from TasteOfHome.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. BOIL the potatoes, drain and mash in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar, then the orange zest. Set aside.

    2. STEEP the milk, cloves, nutmeg and fat over low heat in a small pot. Strain and discard the cloves.

    3. WHISK the eggs; very slowly whisk in the steeped milk. Pour into the potato mixture and stir to combine. Sift in the dry flour, baking powder and salt and gently stir to just combine. Rest for 1 hour.

    4. MAKE the salted caramel glaze while the dough rests. In a small pan over medium heat, melt the sugar, stirring constantly until it turns golden brown. In a separate pan, bring the cream to a simmer. Slowly pour the cream into the sugar until combined. Whisk in the salt. Cool to room temperature and set aside.

    5. HEAT the oil to 360°F. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll to 1/3-inch thickness.

    6. CUT the doughnuts and fry them in the oil for 4 minutes, turning once. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to paper towels to drain. Drizzle with the salted caramel glaze and serve.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Peter Pan Simply Ground Peanut Butter

    Peter Pan Peanut Butter

    Peter Pan’s Simply Ground is part creamy, part crunchy. Photo courtesy Mastercook.com.

     

    Something great has happened in the world of peanut butter. Peter Pan has introduced all natural Peter Pan Simply Ground Peanut Butter.

    What’s new about that, you ask? While there’s plenty of all-natural peanut butter on store shelves, Simply Ground is delightfully ground.

    Its unique texture lies between creamy and crunchy, reminiscent of finely home-grouund PB. It spreads easily and evenly and is universally useful for everything from sandwiches and soups to baking.

    There are two varieties, Original and Honey Roast, the latter with a touch of real honey. There’s not a big flavor difference; eating the peanut butter straight from the spoon is a nuanced experience. The main difference is 3g sugar per serving versus 6g sugar per serving.

    It’s a winner! National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day is April 2nd, so head to the nearest store.

    FOOD TRIVIA: Peanut butter was developed by a physician to provide a protein food to people who lost their teeth and could no longer chew meat. Here’s the history of peanut butter

     
    RECIPE 1: KING OF MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH

    This recipe is from Chef Spike Mendelsohn, owner of D.C. restaurant Béarnaise, a Top Chef contestant and consulting chef for Peter Pan Simply Ground.

    Ingredients For 4 Sandwiches

  • 8 slices country bread
  • 1/2 cup Peter Pan Simply Ground Original Peanut Butter
  • ¾ cup banana slices
  • 8 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cooked
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 4 teaspoons butter
  •  
    For The Topping

  • 1 cup blackberry preserves
  • 1 tablespoon water
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the blackberry topping: Combine the preserves and water in a pot add heat, stirring, until smooth. Serve on the side

    2. SPREAD the bread with peanut Butter; fill with bananas and bacon to make 4 sandwiches. Press the edges of sandwiches together to seal.

    3. HEAT a large skillet, add the butter and melt over medium heat.

    4. WHISK the egg, cinnamon and milk in bowl until well blended. Add the sandwiches, one at a time, turning to evenly moisten the bread.

    5. ADD the sandwiches to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

    ABOUT THE MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH

    A Monte Cristo is a fried ham or turkey sandwich with cheese. It’s an American variation of the French Croque Monsieur sandwich.

    Traditionally, the sandwich is dipped in batter and deep fried, but there are regional variations. In some regions of the U.S. it’s just grilled; in others, French toast is used as a base, with cheese melted under a broiler.

    In this version, the sandwich is fried like French Toast.

    Monte Cristo sandwiches originated in southern California; the earliest reference is printed on a 1941 menu from Gordon’s restaurant in Los Angeles and a recipe was published in the 1949 The Brown Derby Cookbook. The sandwich became very popular in the 1950s-1970s.

    Check out the different sandwich types in our Sandwich Glossary.

     

    Peanut Butter Monte Cristo Sandwich

    Peanut Butter Wraps

    Top: Spike Mendelsohn’s re-interpretation of the Monte Cristo Sandwich. Photo courtesy Peter Pan. Bottom: PB&J Lettuce Wraps. Photo courtesy CoffeeandQuinoa.com.

     

    RECIPE 2: PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY LETTUCE WRAPS

    The recipe is adapted from Crofter’s Organic.
     
    Ingredients For 2 Servings, 4 Wraps

  • 4 spring roll wrappers
  • Boston lettuce or romaine leaves
  • 4 spring roll wrappers
  • Peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
  • Mango or apricot fruit spread
  • Optional: 1/4 cup lightly crushed peanuts—raw, roasted, honey or spicy
  • Optional: peanut dipping sauce (recipe)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the spring roll wrappers by softening in hot water, one at a time to avoid sticking.

    2. SPREAD a teaspoon of peanut butter over each, followed by a teaspoon of fruit spread. Sprinkle the optional crushed nuts over the fruit spread.

    3. WRAP the lettuce over the spring roll wrappers. Cut if desired and serve.

      

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    RECIPE: Lemon Bundt Cake With Cream Cheese

    What’s better than a bundt cake? A bundt cake you can make in one bowl, made richer with cream cheese.

    This recipe from Betty Crocker starts with a boxed cake mix. While our mother would turn up her nose at the idea of a boxed mix, there’s nothing wrong with a plain boxed mix. It saves time by mixing the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder.

    While the recipes re tweaked to add antimicrobial agents like alpha tocopherol for longer shelf life; distilled monoglycerides as emulsifiers; maltodextrin, sodium stearoyl lactylate, xanthan gum and cellulose gum for batter viscosity; dicalcium sulfate as a calcium supplement. While you can read plenty on smaller websites about why you should avoid additives, they’re derived from natural ingredients and FDA-approved. The choice is yours.

    Where we draw the line is with artificial flavors. They simply don’t taste as good as the real deal. That’s why this yellow cake mix, to which fresh-squeezed lemon juice is added, will taste so much better than a lemon cake mix with artificial flavors.

    The recipe requires 10 minutes of prep time 2 hr 20 min Total Time 12

    RECIPE: Lemon Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze

     
    RECIPE: LEMON CREAM CHEESE BUNDT CAKE

    Ingredients For The Cake (12 Servings)

  • 1 box Betty Crocker SuperMoist yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel (from 2 large lemons)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
  • 3 eggs
  •  
    Ingredients For The Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
  •  

    lemon-bundt-cake-glaze-bettycrocker-230r

    Microplane Zesting Lemons

    Top: A rich Lemon Bundt Cake made in the elegant Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Heritage Bundt Pan. Photo and recipe courtesy Betty Crocker. Bottom: It’s easy to zest citrus with a Microplane (it also grates Parmesan cheese in a snap).

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Generously spray a 10- or 12-cup Bundt or fluted tube cake pan.

    2. BEAT the cake ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed for about 1 minute, scraping the bowl constantly. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 more minutes. Pour the batter into the pan.

    3. BAKE for 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan; then turn the cake out upside down onto a cooling rack or heatproof plate, removing the pan. Cool completely for 1 hour. Place the cake on a serving plate.

    4. MAKE the glaze: In medium bowl, beat the powdered sugar and lemon juice with a whisk, a little at a time, until a thick glaze forms. (You may not need all the juice.) Pour the glaze evenly over cake. Store the cake loosely covered until ready to serve.
     
     
    FOOD FUN: The History Of The Bundt Cake.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Herb Salad

    Herb Salad

    An herb salad hits the spot. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Even if you’re not in the practice of serving a large green salad with dinner, a small herb salad is an easy way to have a few greens that don’t need a heavy dressing. It goes well with any protein.
     
    This recipe was developed by Chef Eric Dantis for THE NIBBLE. You can substitute parsley for the cilantro, dill for the chives, pear or other fruit for the apple.

    RECIPE: HERB SALAD

    Ingredients For The Salad

  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • ½ bunch basil
  • ½ bunch chives
  • ½ bunch arugula
  • ¼ bunch mint
  • 1 Fuji or Granny Smith apple
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Optional: jalapeño
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Ingredients For The Dressing

  • Juice of 1 or 2 limes or lemons
  • Good-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PICK the leaves* from the cilantro and mint; rinse and dry along with the arugula leaves and reserve in a medium-size bowl.

    2. SLICE or tear the basil into thick strips and slice the chives into 1-inch spears. Add them to the bowl with the herbs.

    3. SLICE the apple and jalapeño into matchsticks and place them in a separate medium-sized bowl. To prevent oxidation, squeeze enough orange juice to coat the apple slices, but not to soak them.

    4. MAKE the dressing: Mix the lime or lemon juice with 1-½ to 2 times the amount of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    5. SERVE: Combine all ingredients except the dressing in a serving bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the dressing 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and toss the salad and repeat until you are satisfied with amount of dressing.
     
    _______________________
    *If you really love cilantro, note that the stems have more flavor than the leaves.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Mussels At Home

    One of our favorite bistro foods is Moules Marinières (mool marin-yair), Sailor-Style Mussels. The mussels are steamed in a flavorful broth, to which they add their briny juice.

    We recently had a pot of the classic dish at Restaurant Dominique in Greenwich Village—a handsome room with big windows facing charming West Village streets.

    We not only ate every mussel; we scraped the pot for every last bit of the divine broth. We can’t wait to go back for more mussels…and everything else on the classic bistro menu.

    There’s also a mussels restaurant in New York City that serves 21 different variations, from the classic (white wine broth with garlic, shallot, parsley) to cuisine-specific riffs.

    We’ve tried everything from Indian Moules (cinnamon, curry, garlic, star anise, white wine) to Mexican Moules (calamari, chipotle in adobo, chorizo, posoles), even Meatball Moules (meatballs, tomato, onion, garlic, pesto, Parmesan cheese).

    During our most recent mussels foray, we however, we were reminded of how cramped and noisy the restaurant is; not to mention that one needs to book a table days in advance. The next day we came across the following recipe from Chef Eric LeVine, for our favorite Moules Marinières: Thai curry with coconut milk and lemongrass.

    We were hit with a blinding revelation of the obvious: We can make this at home in short order. Mussels are $4 a pound, compared with a $25 restaurant serving.

    If you don’t like Thai flavors, find a recipe for what you do like. Here’s one for classic Moules Marinières, plus how to buy and clean mussels.

    Steamed mussels are low in calories and gluten free.

    RECIPE: MOULES MARINIÈRES (STEAMED MUSSELS)
    IN THAI CURRY BROTH

    Ingredients For 4 First Courses Or 2 Mains

  • 8 sprigs cilantro, separate leaves and stems and roughly chop both
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 small shallots, sliced thin
  • ½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon zest plus 1 tbsp. juice from 1 lime
  • Kosher salt
  • 15 can (15 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus more to taste
  •  

    Raw Mussels

    Steamed Mussels

    Mussels In Coconut Curry Broth

    Top: Wild mussels from Good Eggs. Center: Into the pot (Le Creuset). Bottom: Voilà, let’s eat! (Photo chef Eric LeVine.)

  • 2 pounds fresh mussels (ours were from Prince Edward Island), scrubbed with beards removed
  • 1 small Thai or Serrano chile, thinly sliced
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cilantro stems, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 shallot shallot, the coriander seed, chili flakes, lime zest and a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Grind into a smooth paste.

    2. SCOOP 2 tablespoons of thick cream from the top of the coconut milk into a large saucepan. Add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic, shallots and ground paste plus the green curry paste. Cook for 4 minutes.

    3. ADD the remaining coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook about 3 minutes. Taste and season as desired,

    4. ADD the mussels, first discarding any that are cracked or already opened. Stir, cover and cook, shaking the pan until mussels open. Stir in the chopped cilantro, sliced chile and lime juice.

    5. DISCARD any mussels that haven’t opened in the pot. Divide the contents, including the broth, among two or four bowls.

      

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    RECIPE: Creamed Spinach Without The Cream

    March 26th is National Spinach Day, honoring the most iron-rich vegetable, the reason Popeye was strong to the finish. Many people name Creamed Spinach as their favorite way to enjoy the vegetable—along with a juicy steak. It’s a steakhouse staple.

    To help tone down the richness a bit, some steakhouses are making their Creamed Spinach without cream. Chicken stock, flour and butter are substituted for the heavy cream or cream cheese.

    Executive Chef Eddie Advilyi from Angus Club Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan is one of the steakhouse chefs turning out Creamless Creamed Spinach (we’ve also had the dish at Benjamin Steakhouse). Chef Eddie shares his recipe with us:

    RECIPE: CREAMLESS CREAMED SPINACH

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound chopped spinach
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base*
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (substitute black pepper)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup of melted butter
  •  
    _________________________________
    *Chicken base is a highly concentrated stock available in powder or cube form.

     
    Preparation

    1. BOIL or steam the chopped spinach and drain well.

    2. ADD the other ingredients. Mix until it becomes creamy, about 5 minutes.
     
     
    MORE WAYS TO ENJOY SPINACH

  • Pxali, Georgian spinach dip with walnuts
  • Savory Spinach Bread Pudding
  • Spanakoita, Greek spinach pie
  • Spinach & Artichoke Dip
  • Spinach & Grapefruit Salad
  • 13 Ways To Use Spinach Dip
  • Warm Spinach Mascarpone Dip
  •  

    Creamless Creamed Spinach

    Ribeye, Creamed Spinach

    Fresh Spinach

    Top: Creamless Creamed Spinach at Benjamin Steakhouse. Center: Ribeye steak with Creamless Creamed Spinach at Angus Club Steakhouse. Bottom: Fresh spinach from Good Eggs.

     
    THE HISTORY OF SPINACH

    Spinach (Spinacia oleracea), is native to central and western Asia (think ancient Persia). It is a member of the botanical family Amaranthaceae, which also includes amaranth, beet, chard, lamb’s quarters (mache) and quinoa, plus numerous flowering house and garden plants.

    At some point, spinach was introduced to India and subsequently to Nepal. It arrived in China around 647 C.E., where it was known as “Persian vegetable.”

    It became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean, and in 827 was brought to Italy by the Saracens. It arrived in Spain by the latter part of the 12th century, and in Germany by the 13th century.

    Spinach first appeared in England and France in the 14th century and quickly became popular because it could be harvested in early spring, when other vegetables were scarce.

    Spinach was supposedly the favorite vegetable of Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589), wife of King Henry II of France. Dishes served on a bed of spinach are known as “Florentine” after her birthplace, Florence. Florentine dishes are sometimes served with Mornay sauce, a béchamel sauce with cheese (usually Gruyère and Parmesan).

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bake Some Cornbread

    Scallion Cornbread

    Cornbread Toast

    Top: Scallion cornbread from Good Eggs. Bottom: Cream Chipped Beef On Toast from RecipeTips.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

    We love, love, love cornbread, a specialty of the South that’s hard to find in the Northeast, where we live. Sometimes you’ll get some at a barbecue restaurant or with a dish of chili; but otherwise, you have to bake your own.

    That’s not a problem. We make four loaves at once and freeze three of them. If you avoid gluten, you can find a recipe that’s all cornmeal.

    You don’t need a plate of barbecue or grits and eggs to enjoy its pleasures. Serve cornbread anytime:

  • At breakfast or lunch
  • With soups and salads
  • As a snack
  • In the dinner bread basket
  • Toast a slice for a twist on Eggs Benedict, grilled cheese or tuna melts
  • Make a modern version of Creamed Chipped Beef On Toast by substituting your favorite protein for the dried beef and your sauce of choice for the cream sauce
  •  
    Cornbread doesn’t last 48 hours in our home; but if you have cornbread that is drying out, make toast or:

  • Cornbread croutons
  • Cornbread bread pudding
  • Dressing/stuffing
  •  
    Some cornbread recipes are so sweet, they taste like corn muffins. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if you try to avoid unnecessary added sugar, take a look at this recipe from Good Eggs. It uses only one tablespoon of sugar.

    It also layers extra flavors: scallion, jalapeño, cotija cheese. The heat of the chile bits brings the already-wonderful sweet corn and butter flavors to a new height.

    We also added corn kernels; the texture adds delight.

     

    RECIPE: QUESO FRESCO & SCALLION CORNBREAD

    This recipe, baked in a skillet (you can substitute a round cake pan), requires 15 minutes active time and 30 minutes baking time.

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1¾ cup buttermilk (substitute whole milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar)
  • 3 eggs, beaten with a fork
  • 6 tablespoon ghee (substitute butter)
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño (red chiles give bright specks of color; remove seeds and white membrane for less heat)
  • Garnish: 1-1/2 cups queso fresco cheese, crumbled (substitute feta, paneer, ricotta salata)
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and greens chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (half a lime)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup corn kernels
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°. Using clean hands or a rubber spatula, spread one tablespoon of ghee all over the bottom and sides of an 8-10” cast iron skillet. Fit the bottom of the skillet with a disk of parchment paper by tracing the shape of the skillet on parchment with a pencil and cutting out the circle.

    2. COMBINE the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together to blend. Add the milk to the dry mixture and mix well with a fork.

    3. MELT the remaining 4 tablespoons of ghee and add it to the batter. Finish by adding the eggs, 1¼ cup of crumbled cheese and most of the scallions, the optional jalapeño and corn. Mix the batter until all of the ingredients are well-combined.

    4. GENTLY POUR the batter into the skillet and bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Garnish with the remaining queso fresco, lime and scallions and serve.
     
    THE HISTORY OF CORNBREAD

    Corn is native to Mesoamerica, and was used to make flatbread (tortillas) by the Mayas, Aztecs and other cultures. They did not have leavening and didn’t bake loaves of bread. Americans of European descent used cornmeal to make hoecakes and porridge like Indian pudding.

    They also had no skillets or baking pans before contact with Europeans. The tortillas were fried on hot rocks. Berries, nuts and sunflower seeds could be added.

     

    Ghee

    Corn Tortillas

    Cornbread

    Top: Ghee is clarified butter: The solids have been skimmed off melted butter so the butter doesn’t burn (photo courtesy Ten Speed Press). Center: Tortillas: the original corn bread (photo courtesy Anson Mills). Bottom: Modern cornbread is often baked in baking pans and cut into squares (photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board).

     
    Settlers made their version in iron skillets. In the absence of a skillet—not easy to find on the frontier—hoe cakes (hoecakes) were baked on a garden hoe held or wedged up against an open fire. They were eaten with soups or stews.

    The most basic hoecake was made with cornmeal, fat, water and a pinch of salt. It was made in a skillet without leavening resulting in dense corn pancakes. As ingredients and disposable income became more plentiful, butter, buttermilk, eggs, milk, molasses and sugar were incorporated into recipes. Wheat flour was added to lighten the taste and density of breads made only with cornmeal. [Source]

    By the 1840s, chemical leavenings such as pearlash (potassium carbonate) and saleratus (potassium bicarbonate) were generally available to American cooks. In 1843, British chemist Alfred Bird invented baking powder (sodium bicarbonate). Modern commercial yeast was not available until the late 1800s, and the granulated active dry yeast we use today was invented during World War II by Fleischmann’s.

    Finally, all the elements were in place to make modern cornbread. However, as a result of America’s modern taste for sugar and more sugar, most modern cornbread recipes are sweeter than those used by prior generations.
     
    WHAT IS GHEE?

    Ghee is similar* to clarified butter: It is butter that is melted and strained of its solids. It returns to a soft solid at room temperature.

    Ghee has less moisture than butter, and for that reason is preferred in some recipes. It is also valuable when you want to pan fry in butter. By removing the milk solids, ghee has a much higher smoke point.

    But if you’re making cake or cookies, you don’t want to use ghee: The buttery flavor largely comes from the milk solids, and the flavor will milder and less buttery.

    Ghee is shelf stable (no refrigeration required). It lasts a good while on the shelf, and a very, very long time in the fridge. When you make it, you can make a double batch and stick the extra in the fridge. Or, give it to a friend who cooks: It will be greatly appreciated.

    Here’s more about ghee.
     
    __________________________________
    *Traditional ghee is made from butter churned from cultured milk, somewhat different from European clarified butter. A few Indian dishes call for using both ghee and sweet butter.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easter Egg Dessert Pizza Or Fruit Platter

    fruit-pizza-easter-egg-sugarhero-230

    This Easter egg “dessert pizza” is glazed fruit atop baked cookie dough. Photo courtesy Elizabeth LaBau | Sugar Hero.

     

    Pastry chef Elizabeth LaBau of the blog SugarHero.com decided back in 2013 to create an egg-shaped dessert “pizza” for Easter: a cookie dough base topped with glazed fruit.

    Looks delicious, doesn’t it? Here’s the recipe.

    We always bake a cake with Easter decorations, and also serve a fruit salad. So three years ago, we adapted the “pizza” idea to a fruit platter.

  • Year 1: We took a tray and piped royal icing in an Easter egg shape, a border to contain the fruit. You could arrange the fruit without one, but as guests serve themselves, the border keeps the shape of the egg (not to mention, it keeps the grapes from rolling away).
  • Year 2: We had an inspiration to go back to the original recipe’s cookie dough, but use it raw to build the border. Unless you have a very steady hand, it’s much easier to shape strips of cookie dough into an egg than to pipe the shape. We used a tube of egg-free sugar cookie dough. Some people nibbled on the dough, some didn’t.
  • Year 3: We used chocolate chip cookie dough. Not surprisingly, most of it was nibbled up.
  •  

  • Year 4: This year, we’re using cream cheese frosting for the border. It’s easier to pipe and tweak (fix the shape) than royal icing. A recipe is below.
  •  
    Truth to tell, even with three years of practice, Ms. LaBau’s work is still far lovelier than ours. But we never claimed to be a professional pastry chef—just a professional pastry eater.

    RECIPE: CREAM CHEESE FROSTiNG

    Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup strawberry jam, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  •  
    Note: To frost a cake, you need a larger amount of icing. For vanilla cream cheese frosting, combine: 16 ounces cream cheese, 2 sticks (1 cup) softened butter, 1-1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar (sifted after measuring) and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract.
     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients and place in a piping bag and pipe an Easter egg shape.

    2. TIP: If you don’t want to pipe freehand, cut an egg shape from foil or parchment and use it as a guide. The trick is to fold the foil in half and cut half an Easter egg, so the halves will be perfectly symmetrical when you unfold it.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Chocolate Covered Raisins

    March 24th is National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day, honoring a confection that dates well before the introduction of Raisinets in 1927.

    You need only three ingredients to make chocolate-covered raisins: raisins, chocolate and coconut oil. The oil thins the chocolate so it adheres better.

    We loved this suggestion from TheRoadNotProcessed.com: Add a bit of spice to elevate the recipe.

    You can coat the raisins in dark, milk or white chocolate using chocolate chips. But the better the chocolate quality, the tastier the results. We chop up a Lindt bar.

    Look for jumbo raisins you can find. You can substitute jumbo sultanas (golden raisins) as well.

     
    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE COVERED RAISINS

    Ingredients For 1-1/2 Cups

  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bar
  • 1/2 tbsp virgin* coconut oil (substitute vegetable shortening)
  • Optional: 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or cloves (if you like heat, add chipotle)
  • 1 cup jumbo raisins
  •  
    ____________________________
    *Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, like vegetable oil. Virgin coconut oil is fresh-pressed, unrefined coconut oil—superior to refined coconut oil. Here’s more about coconut oil.

     

    National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day

    Jumbo Sultanas

    Top: Homemade Raisinets. Photo courtesy TheRoadNotProcessed.com. Bottom: Jumbo sultanas, golden raisins. Photo courtesy CandyMax

     
    Preparation

    1. MELT the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler or microwave for 30-seconds, then at 10-second intervals as needed, taking care not to scorch it. Stir well with a whisk, adding the optional spice(s).

    2. ADD half the raisins and mix well to coat them all; then add the rest of the raisins and do the same. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Harden in the refrigerator and break up the hardened pieces. For faster hardening, use the freezer (they’ll be ready in 5-10 minutes).

    6. BREAK up the hardened pieces into individual pieces or raisin clusters. Refrigerate any leftovers.
     
    THE HISTORY OF RAISINETS

    Raisinets, raisins in chocolate shell, is a movie theater staple and the third-largest selling candy in U.S. history.

    To make the candy, raisins are coated with oil and spun in a hot drum with milk chocolate or dark chocolate. They’re then polished to a shine.

    Raisinets are the earliest brand of chocolate-covered raisins on record, introduced by the Blumenthal Brothers Chocolate Company of Philadelphia in 1927 (the brand was acquired by Nestlé in 1984).

    The Blumenthals did not originate the concept. Hard chocolate was invented in 1847, enabling confectioners to develop all types of chocolate candies (the history of chocolate), including chocolate-dipped fresh and dried fruits.

      

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    RECIPE: Double Coconut Easter Layer Cake

    Coconut Easter Layer Cake

    Easter Layer Cake

    Top: A classic Easter cake with coconut “grass” and Easter eggs. Bottom: You can tint the batter different colors for a surprise. Photo courtesy Reynolds Kitchens.

     

    Coconut cake has become an Easter tradition. Adults and children alike are tickled pink by the green coconut “grass” and Easter egg candies.

    This recipe from Reynolds Kitchens is “double coconut,” made with coconut layers as well a coconut frosting.

    RECIPE: DOUBLE COCONUT EASTER LAYER CAKE

    Ingredients
     
    For the Cake

  • 3-1/4 cups of flour
  • 1-/34 cups of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1 cup of room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1-1/4 cups of canned coconut milk
  • 8 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon of coconut extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of sweetened shredded coconut
  • Optional: food color
  •  
    For the Frosting

  • 12 ounces of softened creamed cheese
  • 1 pound of room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons of coconut extract
  • 1 pound of sifted powdered sugar
  • 4 cups of sweetened shredded coconut
  • Green food coloring
  • Garnishes: small Easter egg candies
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment.

    2. WHISK together the egg whites and shredded coconut in a separate bowl. Add in the coconut extract and then the egg whites and shredded coconut mixture in 3 batches into the butter-sugar mixture.

    3a. MIX the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl and add into the creamed butter-sugar mixture, while alternating with the coconut milk but beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Be sure to stop and scrape the sides of the bowl often.

    3b. If you want to tint the layers, divide the batter into thirds and tint two of the three with a different pastel color.

    4. DISTRIBUTE the cake batter evenly into 3 cake pans. Bake the cake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and firm in the center. Cool the cake pans on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes.

    5. WHIP the butter and cream cheese in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Mix in the coconut extract and powdered sugar until completely blended.

    6. TOSS together in a slider storage bag 1-1/2 cups of the shredded coconut and 4 to 6 drops of green food coloring, until the coconut becomes green. Frost the cooled coconut cake in layers with a small amount of frosting. After each layer has been frosted, sprinkle on ½ cup of shredded coconut and press into the frosting before adding on the next layer of cake.

    7. FROST the entire outside and top of the cake and use the remaining shredded white coconut to coat the outside of the cake.

    8. FINISH the top of the layered coconut cake by sprinkling on the green coconut shreds, but take care to not get any of the shreds around the outside. Garnish the top of the cake with assorted Easter egg candy and chocolate.

     

    LAKER CAKE BAKING TIPS

    These tips for creating the perfect layer cake are from Reynolds Kitchens:

  • Start by carefully reading the recipe. Baking is scientific, and requires ingredient precision to achieve the best results. For example, if you combine all your ingredients and later realize your eggs needed to be beaten separately, your cake could come out mealy.
  • Cool the layers upside-down. When the layers are done baking (a toothpick can be inserted and removed cleanly), flip them upside down onto a cooling rack so the cake tops are flat. Otherwise, your cakes may cool with a rounded top, which must be leveled with a long serrated knife.
  • Use applesauce to lighten the calories. Substitute plain applesauce evenly for vegetable oil in the recipe. The applesauce will maintain the cake’s moisture and flavor but will decrease the unwanted fat and calories.
  •  
    FROSTING TIPS

     

    Cake Icing

    Icing a cake is easier on a pedestal. Photo courtesy SugarSweetBakery.

  • Allow the cake to cool entirely prior to frosting. A warm cake will cause the frosting to melt into a messy, thin layer on top and virtually no frosting on the sides.
  • Use a generous amount of frosting between layers and ensure that it is evenly distributed. If you are filling with custard, fruit purée or jam, first create a barrier of frosting around the top rim of the layer, to keep the filling from spilling out of the cake.
  • Place the cake on its pedestal prior to frosting. First use 4 to 5 pieces of wax paper to completely covering the pedestal, allowing some to hang over the pedestal sides. Frost the cake and remove the wax paper.
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