Two important introductions today, the first is a contest, a Holiday Cookie Challenge (more about Gourmet’s newly published book below).  And the second is an introduction to a culinary colleague who has begun helping me out, keeping me organized, preventing my brain from exploding all over my computer screen.  Emilia Juocys (pronounced YO-chess, Lithuanian background), graduated from Schoolcraft College’s culinary arts program and proved so valuable in helping Brian Polcyn (her former chef instructor at Schoolcraft) and me with the new Salumi book that I’ve asked her to spend part of her work week helping me.  While Ratio has gone a long way in making me understand the baking kitchen, I’m still a savory guy at heart, but I’m thrilled to introduce Emilia’s love of cookies and her challenge to bakers with this cookie contest. Read On »

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Seventeen years ago, my friend Stephanie began a Burns‘ night celebration, in honor of her Scottish heritage, and we carry it on still, an occasion to gather a group, once all in Cleveland but now half dispersed.  We tour the highlands, as it were, and I address the haggis— “Fair fa your honest soncie face/Great chieftan o’ the puddin race” —thrusting the knife in at the appropriate “warm-reeking” moment.  But Stephanie had arrived as well with her grandmother’s shortbread, and the book from which it comes.  Having coincidentally been making various versions of shortbread for a current project, I was particularly interested in hers. Shortbread is the simplest of preparations, flour, butter and sugar and in that simplicity is its deliciousness.  Also, it couldn’t be easier or faster.  Boxed pancake mix takes longer.  Shortbread to Read On »

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James and I made popovers Sunday morning and sprinkled them with vanilla sugar, and this sugar made the popovers appealing in a surprisingly effective way.  Like fleur de sel on caramel.  It brought the flavors and textures together without overtly calling attention to itself.  When I’d posted a while ago in a recipe to discard the vanilla bean, I got what amounted to a scolding from Shuna, who found it appalling that one could so easily waste an opportunity for the pleasures of vanilla sugar.  She was right to scold. I had never really taken the time to appreciate the wonderful aromatic flavor of sugar but now I always will.  It deserves a place in the spice rack.  That it is born of economy makes it all the more enjoyable. If you’ve just made some Read On »

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“There’s no cream in anglaise sauce,” the beachcomber said.  He spoke with what sounded like genuine disdain. “What do you mean there’s no cream?” said I, waves lapping at my ankles, cold mojito in hand. “There’s no cream.” “How do you know?” The man paused as if this were self-evident.  “Alice told me.” The man was David Lebovitz, for many years a chef at Chez Panisse.  (David just emailed to clarify: Alice did not say cream was verboten, but rather that she liked a very thin Anglaise.) Our conversation did not devolve into a Thomas-said, Alice-said schoolboy spat, though it did make clear that vanilla sauce, crème Anglaise, deserved another post.  I wrote Vanilla Sauce In Black and White last spring (mainly to show off Donna’s awesome B&W photographs that spotlight texture) and I’m told Read On »

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