By Jill Anderson, Appliance Specialist
So, I have never cooked with a Tagine and it looked like it would be fun to try using it on our Big Green Egg. The Emile Henry Tagines are made of Flame Ceramic and are oven-safe up to 930 degrees F, so we knew it would do just fine on the Big Green Egg.

I chose a chicken recipe, Tagine M'Derbel Beraniya, from a book we sell at Allen & Petersen called "Cooking at the Kasbah", by Kitty Morse. I followed the recipe except when it came to cooking. I put the Tagine in the Big Green Egg for 50 minutes at 350F rather than on the stove top as suggested.
I accidentally stopped monitoring the Egg and forgot to close the Daisy Wheel on the top during the last of the cooking time. I know, I shouldn't just walk away from my cooking, but it got busy at work. Incidentally, with all that airflow, the temperature got up to 500 degrees in my absence. My co worker asked if I had been checking the temperature. Oops.
It was so hot, but because the Tagine acts as a heat diffuser to gently cook food, it was protected and the dish came out great without burning! The lid shape also helps to circulate steam and keep food moist and tender while retaining flavor, so really, it was the perfect vessel for cooking this dish on the Big Green Egg.
The chicken stayed tender and was infused with the flavors of the spices. The recipe also called for the chicken to be served with a thick sauce made with roasted eggplant slices and sundried tomatoes. We were able to roast the eggplant on a piece of tinfoil in the Egg while the Tagine was cooking. It really was fun to see that there is one more way to use the Egg in combination with another cooking method to produce a dish that you wouldn't normally associate with a charcoal cooker!
PS. Thank you Helen from our Kitchen Store for chopping all the onions and helping to remind me to check the Egg...

Ever since our friend sent us this picture...

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of her cast iron pizza on the grill made with the seemingly magical 2 ingredient crust, we knew we had to try it. And what better way to top said crust than with the bounty of an Alaska summer - smoked salmon and fresh greens!  Whether you grill it in cast iron from Lodge or Staub, or bake it on an Emil Henry pizza stone in your oven - it's a sure crowd pleaser!

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Once you have your fish reeled in, prepare the fresh fillets - making sure you have a flexible and SHARP fillet knife for the job!

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Remove any pin bones that may have remained - Chef Lisa loves the Messermeister fish tweezer tool for this fine work.

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Now you're ready to add a touch of smokey flavor to your fish. There are just about as many brines, rubs and techniques out there as there are fish in the sea, but we used Cameron's Stove Top Smoker (also known as "The easiest way to Smoke Salmon").

Using 1 1/2 Tablespoons of alder wood chips in a pile in the middle of the base of the smoker, line the bottom of the drip tray with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup) and set the rack in the drip tray. Lay the salmon fillet, about 3/4 to 1 inch thick, skin side down on the rack. Close the lid and place smoker on preheated burner or open grill (medium heat) for 10 minutes. We're cutting the time short so that the fish gets a smokey flavor without cooking through since we will be finishing the job on the pizza. 25 minutes in the smoker would give you flake-able fillets. Remove from heat and open lid. (original instructions from Camerons Stovetop Smoker Cooking Guide)

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Remove salmon and cut into thin slices with a fillet knife.

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2 INGREDIENT PIZZA DOUGH

1 C Greek yogurt

1 – 1 ½ C self rising flour

(or substitute 1½ C all purpose flour, 1½ tsp of baking powder, and ¾ tsp of salt)

Combine yogurt and flour in a bowl until it comes together in a ball. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 8-10 minutes. If the dough feels too sticky at any point, add flour, a tsp at a time until it becomes smooth without sticking to your hands. Roll dough into an oblong circle and brush with olive oil. Crust is ready to top.

For this recipe we're using a log of chevre, sliced and spread evenly over the crust. Lay Salmon slices over the cheese and sprinkle with your choice of dried herbs. You can also add a drizzle of your favorite flavored oil, whether to add spice with a pepper infused oil, or a lovely citrus hint with just a touch of lemon oil.

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Bake at 450°F in the oven for 10-12 minutes or on a hot grill until crust is browned on the edges. Remove from heat source, sprinkle with fresh greens - like tender arugula, spinach or mixed baby greens from your garden. For even more smokey flavor, add a pinch of Alder Smoked Alaska Sea Salt with some fresh ground pepper. Enjoy!

by Sydnie McKinley, Kitchen Store Specialist

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The KitchenAid spiralizer is a really awesome attachment. Today was my first time using it and it was so much fun. The attachment is extremely easy to use. You just attach the spiralizer to the mixer at the attachment hub.

IMAG0414Then you choose what type of spiral you would like from the plates included: fine spiral, medium spiral, two different types of slicing, and you can also peel with it which is quite handy. After you have chosen which size you would like and set up the corresponding plate, you go ahead and put your veggie or fruit on to the skewer. We used zucchini and carrots, cut into about 4 inch segments. Pull the lever and tighten the plate snugly in front of the item being spiralized. Next, turn on your KitchenAid to about speed 4 and let it do its thing, which is to make quick, lovely spiraled 'noodles' or slices. Once it reaches the end of the cut veggie, you pull of the end nub and do it again!

IMAG0422A simple process with a very special result. Veggie noodles can be used in so many ways.

IMAG0425Steam or boil them and top with sauce, cut into bite-sized segments and serve with a fresh dressing, even roll up in wraps and fresh rolls.

IMAG0427Chef Cheryl added sliced avocado, some feta and a tortilla for a fresh salad wrap that will satisfy your summer cravings for a quick and healthy meal.

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Canning Tips

Between the stories of pressure cooker explosions, cooktop burnout and the risks of spoilage, canning can seem a tricky thing. We searched the web over for answers from experts, manufacturers and scholars that we think put Urban Food Legends in their place.

COOKING SURFACES: First, if you’ve heard you can’t can on a flattop or induction range, it really depends upon the equipment and processes you’re planning to use. It can be done, just maybe not the way you’re used to doing it. Most damage is caused by dismissing manufacturer recommendations for cookware, prolonged burner use or overweighing the cooking surface.

From the extensive archive of the food blog, Food in Jars :

“Many older canners have concave bottoms. When you combine a concave bottom with a flat surface, heat, and water, there is a risk that a seal will form between the canner and the stovetop. You can eliminate the risk of breakage through suction by using a pot with a flat bottom.”

Another blogger at Canning Homemade has this recommendation: “Use a flat bottom canning pot and make sure to measure the largest dimension burner and purchase a canner that is that size or no more than 1" in diameter larger. Always follow the basic information using your particular pot sizes on your glass top from your stoves manual.” One piece that is recommended repeatedly is the “16 qt. Presto Canner which is truly a flat bottom canner. The diameter is 14.8x14.8 which means the flattest portion is the same as the outside.”

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Most manufacturers dedicate an entire page of their Use & Care Manual to encourage proper canning techniques for this very reason.

From GE: “A pressure cooker can be used on an induction cooktop. You can also do canning as well. Try the magnet test (a magnet must stick and hold to the bottom of the pan) on any pressure cooker or canner in question. It is also preferable to size the cooker or canner to the size of the burner.”

From Whirlpool: “Canning can be performed on a glass smooth top cooking surface. When canning for long periods, alternate the use of surface cooking areas or elements between batches. This allows time for the most recently used areas to cool. Center the canner on the largest surface cooking area or element. On electric cooktops, canners should not extend more than ½” beyond the surface cooking area of element. Do not place canner on 2 surface cooking areas or elements at the same time. On ceramic glass models, use only flat-bottomed canners to avoid damage tto the cooktop and elements. For more information, contact your local agricultural extension office**, or refer to published home canning guides. Companies that manufacture home canning products can also offer assistance.”

From Frigidaire: “Home Canning Do’s and Don’ts. Use only qualifying flat bottom canners when home canning. Use a straight–edge to check canner bottom. Use only a completely flat bottom canner with no ridges that radiate from the bottom center when home canning. Heat is spread more evenly when the bottom surface is flat. Make sure the diameter of the canner does not exceed 1 inch beyond the surface element markings or burner. It is recommended to use smaller diameter canners on electric coil and ceramic glass cooktops and to center canners on the burner grated. Start with hot tap water to bring water to boil more quickly. Use the highest heat settings when first bringing the water to a boil. Once boiling is achieved, reduce heat to lowest possible setting to maintain that boil. Use tested recipes and follow instructions carefully. Check with your local Cooperative Agricultural Extension service** or manufacturer of glass jars for the latest canning information. It is best to can small amounts and light loads. Do not leave water bath of pressure canners on high heat for an extended amount of time. Alternate surface units between each batch to allow the units and surrounding surfaces to cool down. Try to avoid canning on the same burner unit all day.”

** Our local resource happens to be the UAF Cooperative Extension which has an extensive library of information for food preservation in Alaksa.

To avoid scratching your cooktop when using large, heavy cookware, heed this note from National Center for Home Preserving: “Even if a manufacturer says a burner/cooktop can be used for canning you should be aware that scratching can occur if the aluminum canner is slid or pulled across the cooktop. This often happens with large, heavy filled canners.”

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TOOLS: There are also many small but handy tools available to make you and the food your preserving, stay safe.

Using a magnetic lid lifter minimizes contact with hot sterile lids, which keeps them clean and keeps your fingers from being burned by the hot water bath.

A coated metal jar lifter allows you to move hot jars safely into and out of a hot water bath. National Center for Home Food Preservation (http://nchfp.uga.edu) suggests, "When moving jars with a jar lifter, make sure the jar lifter is securely positioned below the neck of the jar (below the ring band of the lid). Keep the jar upright at all times. Tilting the jar could cause food to spill into the sealing area of the lid."

"The bubble tool looks like a staircase and has two main functions; to measure headspace (the unfilled space in a canning jar between the top of the food or liquid and the underside of the lid) and eliminate air pockets that form when filling your jars. The correct amount of headspace is essential to allow for food expansion as the jars are heated and for the formation of a strong vacuum seal as jars cool. You can use this tool by resting the stair on the glass rim of the jar for the measurement required by your recipe and then making sure that your food or liquid just touches the bottom of the last "stair". Remember to remove any air bubbles before you do your final measuring as the level of the food will go down after removing those pockets. If you have a recipe that doesn't have a headspace measurement called out, first it may not be a safe recipe for canning, but it also could have been quickly typed and omitted. The rule of thumb for recipes are:

1/4" headspace for Jams, Jellies, Marmalade, Chuntney, Spreads & Butters
1/2" headpace for Pickles, Tomatoes, Fruit
1" headspace for Vegetables (not pickled)
1" - 1 1/2" headspace for Meat, Poultry, and Fish
I would rather many of you learn how to do this with some kind of measuring device before you start eyeballing which at times may be the reason that your jars do not seal. Too much headspace can make it difficult to drive out all the air  during processing and as a result you don't get a ping! Not enough headspace can lead to food pushing up on the lid during processing and getting trapped between the glass and the rubber not allowing it to seal." (From: Canning Homemade)

RECIPES: It may be tempting to omit or substitute ingredients, but to ensure your end product is shelf sage, it's important to stick to a recipe. On a recent Facebook chat Ball Canning Expert, Jessica Piper said, "As long as you follow a tested & approved recipe for safe home food preservation, you should have absolute confidence in yourself! When properly preserved, home canned foods have a shelf life of one year."

General Canning Safety Tips

When you’ve completed your processing, and jars are cooling, you should hear the telltale ‘pop’, indicating your lid has sealed. But who has time to wait around counting pops- although it is a very satisfying sound if you do happen to catch it! So here are some tips for a post-process seal check.

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By Ingrid Gadpaille, Kitchen Store Specialist

After the jars have cooled for 12 -24 hours, check the seal of each one with any of the following methods:

Remove the screw bands and:

  • Press down in the center of the lid; it should not give at all, this is a proper seal.
  • Lift the jar by the lid; hold opposite hand under the jar to catch it if the lid gives! If it doesn’t, it’s properly sealed.
  • Lift the jar and look at it at eye level, if it’s curved downwards in the center, it’s sealed properly.
  • Tap the center of the lid with the back of a spoon; if it makes a ringing tone, it’s properly sealed. If it makes a dull thudding tone, there may be food at the top of the jar touching the lid – check and see by looking inside at eye level and use one of the other methods to confirm a proper seal.

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Mis-sealed jars can be reprocessed. Remove the lid and check the rim of the jar for nicks. If there are nicks, use a new jar and reprocess. The product will not be of the same quality as single process. If you don’t want to reprocess, refrigerate and use within 3 days.

Checking for spoilage

Checking for spoilage is done both before and after the canning process. Make sure that all the food is clean, trimmed and spot free. Once canned and available for use throughout the year, check for spoilage by:

  • looking for leaks or streaks on the outside
  • rising air bubbles in the liquid
  • bad coloring. Very dark content is an indication of spoilage. If the food has some light discoloration it may be from minerals in the water and the contents are still safe. (Do a seal check.)
  • contents are slimy, shriveled or cloudy.
  • the contents are under pressure and burst out when the jar is opened.
  • after the jar is open, look for mold spots that can be blue, green, black or white in color.
  • if the contents smell odd or unnatural, it should be discarded.

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DO NOT TASTE ANYTHING THAT MAY BE SPOILED!!

Proper disposal of spoiled product

If the jar is still sealed, place it in a garbage bag, wrap it tightly around the jar and dispose of it in the trash.

Note: Low acid foods and tomatoes do not show spoilage in the same way that other foods do. If there is any suspicion of spoilage, dispose of it properly!!

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Before gifting, use a label to record what you’ve canned, the date it was sealed and the method used. This will help the receiver know how to properly store and make use of their delicious food gift.

By Beth Brown, Kitchen Store Specialist

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When I think about strawberry shortcake, I instantly think of the “shortcake” style, which is basically like a sweeter version of the biscuit.

DSC_0313My experience with angel food cake growing up was the store-bought variety, which I was never a big fan of, probably because the foam-like sponge reminded me of washing the dishes! But as an adventurous baker, I was curious about homemade angel food cake, and therefore began my investigation.

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Most of the recipes I found were pretty standard; egg whites, superfine sugar, cake flour, salt, vanilla, and cream of tartar. The more research I did, the more apprehensive I became. There are a lot of people in the webisphere who have a love-hate relationship with angel food cake, because the beautiful, light-yet-moist, towering confection produced by their grandmothers is apparently pretty hard to achieve. But I’m a girl who loves a challenge, so I decided to give it a go. Besides, I’d conquered the intimidating French macaron, and I wasn’t going to let angel food cake intimidate me!

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Here’s the recipe I used, via hip2save.com:

1 cup cake flour
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
12 large egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

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First things first, you need an angel food cake pan. Do not grease your pan! I repeat, DO NOT GREASE YOUR PAN! The sides of the pan need to be ungreased so your cake can rise up the sides properly. Most angel food cake pans have a removable bottom, which is vital for removing the cake when it’s done.

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The egg whites need to be at room temperature. I got mine out about two hours before I was going to start baking. Separate the eggs one at a time, because if even a speck of yoke sneaks in, the whites won’t stiffen properly. I used the Oxo egg separator, which has a handy lip that attaches to the side of the bowl.

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Preheat the oven to 235 degrees. Whisk together cake flour and ¾ + 2 tbs of the superfine sugar. (If you don’t have superfine sugar, put your regular sugar into the food processor and pulse until it is superfine.) This mixture should be sifted twice through a flour sifter. Don’t try to cut corners here, people. Sift it twice.

DSC_0206If you don’t have any cake flour, never fear! Combine a scant cup of flour with two teaspoons of corn starch. This lowers the protein content of the flour, making it just like store-bought cake flour.

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Next, start whipping your egg whites. Whites must be whipped to soft peaks. If they get too stiff, the cake won’t have the right texture, so keep a close eye on them! While you whip, add the salt and cream of tartar.

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Once your whites look almost ready, add ¾ cup of the sugar, almond extract, and the vanilla. Once the egg whites are making soft peaks (the peaks should stand for a second, then slowly sink back into the mixture), stop mixing.

Using a flat spatula, slowly fold your dry and wet ingredients together. Be careful not to over-mix, but make sure the flour gets fully incorporated into the whites. I overmixed mine just a bit, and the cake didn’t rise as high as I wanted, so tread lightly.

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Pour the mixture into the pan, and bake for 55 minutes in a 325 degree oven. While your cake is baking, the steam from the egg whites release, which causes the cake to rise. My cake took 35 minutes, (emitting a heavenly smell in the process!) and you can tell when it’s done by pressing your finger gently into the browned top. It should spring back. If it stays sunk down, cook a little longer.

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After you take your cake out of the oven, place it upside down over a bottle. This will keep your cake from flattening while it cools. Let it cool upside down for at least three hours, but preferably overnight. When it’s fully cooled and ready to serve, run a knife or off-set spatula around the edge and inner circle, and then turn your cake upside down to get it out. You’ll probably end up with some texture on the top—don’t worry. That’s what makes it homemade!

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We served our cake with fresh cut strawberries and whipped cream. Prepping the strawberries was extra slick thanks to the Chefn Stem Gem huller. The taste and texture of a homemade angel food cake is WAY better than the store bought! If you like angel food cake, it is definitely worth the trouble it takes to make it. My first attempt turned out delicious, but not flawless. I can’t wait to try it again to perfect my technique.

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DSC_0543 By Beth Brown, Kitchen Store Specialist

I am a huge proponent of ice cream makers. Homemade ice cream is the absolute best! Here’s the trouble: what if you don’t have an ice cream maker, or maybe don’t have room in your freezer for one? Well, if you’re on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen oodles of pins boasting “no churn” style ice cream, which seems to magically appear in beautiful loaf pans.

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We got sucked in, and decided to see what the hype was about. Well, it turns out that not only is no-churn ice cream delicious, it’s easy, and honestly does feel a little like magic.

I looked at several different recipes, and all of them had the same base: two cups of heavy cream and one 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk. That was it.

From there, you can add pretty much anything you want. Knowing the cloyingly sweet taste of sweetened condensed milk, I was highly skeptical how the finished product would taste. But we had to try it!

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We decided to split our first batch into three, and use mini loaf pans for each flavor (because MINI LOAF PANS!). Our second batch was chocolate, and we did a full batch of that (because CHOCOLATE). Here’s what we did:

First, we split the condensed milk evenly into three small bowls.

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Next, we whipped the cream until it made stiff peaks, using the KitchenAid Artisan mixer. While the cream was whipping, we mixed a pinch of salt into each bowl.

DSC_0336For our three flavors, we used Monin syrups—Desert Pear, Passion Fruit, and Salted Caramel. We used about 3 tablespoons of each flavor. (I added an extra half teaspoon of salt to the salted caramel ice cream.)

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Once the cream was whipped up, we divvied it out evenly into the three condensed milk mixtures, and folded them gently together, starting with one small dollop to break up the thickness of the condensed milk mixture, adding more until they were mixed with a uniform color and consistancy.

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After that, we just poured each flavor into a mini loaf pan, covered the tops with parchment paper, and put them in the freezer. We waited overnight to try them, but they should be frozen hard enough after 4-6 hours.

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For the chocolate ice cream, we decided to whip our cream in the Vitamix! It was fun and quick to use the blender, which made short work of the cream.

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For the condensed milk mixture, we added a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of vanilla, and half a cup of dark cocoa powder.

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Once the cream was ready, we did the same technique as before, folding the two mixtures together, placing in a chilled loaf pan, covering with parchment, and letting it hard freeze. Easy, right?

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The next day, we tried the finished product, and we were not disappointed!

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The ice cream froze nicely, and had a delightfully creamy texture, and scooped perfectly into our cones.

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Blueberry AK Pure Sea Salt makes a decadent topping to any scoop, like our salted caramel or even the dark chocolate.

Our four flavors looked beautiful together, and would be perfect for an ice cream party. This is one Pinterest idea that was definitely not a “Pinterest Fail!”

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Try it at home, with any one of our delicious Monin syrup flavors for easy ice cream, with or without the ice cream maker.

 

 

By Cheryl Shaffer, Chef Instructor

 

Hi Food Friends;

How many of us associate memories in our lives with a particular food? Hands up- yes, I see the wheels turning and the corners of your mouth turning up as the ghost of a memory crosses your mind. We all have the ability to close our eyes and allow the whiff of a special holiday meal immediately take us back in time. Perhaps a meal with all of the extended family gathered round the table, a special place you’d get together for a Friday night after school and work are done for the week, Sunday dinners, Monday meatloaf, a visit to Grandma’s kitchen for cookies. For my kids in the later part of their high school years, when times were tight for us, we’d splurge and sit around the table at the sandwich shop at the local gas station, sharing a meal and laughing, catching up on each other’s lives. The location rarely mattered, only that we were together. The cohesive theme through all of the times is the figurative bread we broke together, sharing good food and of ourselves. Moments in time, gone in a flash, but brought back in an instant with the wafting of the scent of fresh bread on the air as you drive past a bakery; the memory of a great pie when a pizza delivery car zooms past you in traffic; the taste of a cookie sample, fresh from the oven when you visit our store.

The neat thing about memories and food, at least for me, is that you don’t have to have an exact replica of the original in order to invoke the memory flood. The smell of yeast alone, not yet combined with sugars, flour, eggs and butter, is enough to lead me to more than half a dozen wonderful visions of family and friends from the past, and the love poured into so many diverse recipes. People who live on only within my heart, people I see regularly, and even those from the realm of books and movies, who touched my life so profoundly- even though perhaps they never took a breath of air- their impact on my life is real to me. One sniff and the floodgates open, the smiles begin.

Today I want to share a recipe I cobbled together from the memories of times I shared cooking with my Mom.

 

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To begin with the tarts, you’ll want to get your shell crust ready first because it requires chilling time in the refrigerator or the freezer. I tripled the recipe in order to make enough shells. These measurements are for a TRIPLED recipe.

 

Tart Shells:

3 ¾ cups all purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon table salt

3 tablespoons sugar

18 tablespoons cold butter – cut it into small pieces

¾ cup vegetable shortening, chilled, cut into small pieces

6 tablespoons vodka – to keep the crust tender and flaky

6 tablespoons iced water

In a large chilled bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt together. Using a pastry tool, cut in the butter and shortening, until all of the flour is coated, and you have small pebbles of dough. You can also do this in a food processor, just use the pulse feature, short bursts, until everything is incorporated, but not over done. Be careful that you don’t over mix because you risk making the gluten fibers too strong with the flour and over heating the butter / shortening will keep the crust from staying tender and flaky. Remember: we’re making a pastry crust, not bread, so we don’t want to overwork our dough.

Next add the vodka and water, and using a non-stick spatula, you’ll want to fold the dough over on itself, and press down. Your dough is going to be super sticky, not like a regular pie crust dough. Have your tart shell mold ready, and put about 2 tablespoons of dough into each mold, or just enough to be able to use a pie tamper to press the dough into the mold and up the sides. Continue until all of your shells are formed. Cover the molds with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator or freezer while you are making the filling.

It’s important not to skip this step because you want your tarts to be cold before you put them into a hot oven, so that the heat will cause the butter / shortening and alcohol to rapidly expand and puff out the flour, trapping little pockets of air, giving you an extra light crust.

Here are a few alternative recipes that make equally delicious crust:

This is my friend, Sybil Robertson's Pastry Recipe.  I would double it, to use for the apple tarts:
4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup lard
1 cup Crisco
1 egg, slightly beaten, in a cup
2 tsp. vinegar
water
Combine dry ingredients and blend in shortening with a pastry blender.  Fill cup with beaten egg, vinegar, and with cold water and mix into the dry ingredients with a fork.  Mold slightly and chill.  Roll out as desired.
And- if you prefer not to use lard, here is a third choice:
2 1/4 cup Crisco shortening (butter flavor)
5 cups flour
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vinegar
cold water
In a bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Blend with a pastry blender until it forms pea sized balls.  Beat egg in a one cup measuring cup.  Add vinegar and fill the cup with cold water.  Pour over the flour mixture and blend to form a ball.  Chill 1-2 hours (or until it can easily be rolled out).
** DO NOT KNEAD TOO MUCH - or the crust will become tough.
This recipe will yield 4-5 pie crusts, depending on pan size, or enough dough to use all the caramel apple filling for tarts.

Now that your tart duty is out of the way, it’s time to get down to the truly fun part of the dessert: making the caramel apple filling. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

 

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Caramel Apple Filling:

6-8  apples, peeled, cored and sliced uniformly, approximately ¼” thick

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 stick butter, divided

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. fresh grated nutmeg (fresh grated tastes so much better than already ground in a jar – you’ll appreciate the flavor and fragrance)

½ tsp. ground ginger

1 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup heavy cream

Wash, core and peel your apples, a variety if you have them, choosing some that aren’t too sweet. I would not recommend Red Delicious, as they don’t hold up well with cooking.

In a large saute pan, (I used a 14” Swiss Diamond for non-stick and ease of clean up), melt half of the butter over medium high heat and add the apple slices. Sprinkle the spices and brown sugar over top and allow them to cook until the apples are softened and the sauce is starting to thicken. This might take about 20 minutes, depending upon how firm your apples were to start.

 

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Once the apples are softened, add the cream and vanilla extract. Now this is the tricky part. You’re going to want your sauce to not be too thin, and be able to set-up in the tart shell like a pie. A lot depends on how your apples cook down. If the sauce appears too thin, you can add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch mixed in 1 tablespoon of cold heavy cream. Add the mixture to the apples while stirring. This step is going to take a couple of minutes, as the cream / cornstarch is brought up to temperature, but should thicken up beautifully.

Once you have your caramel apple mixture cooked, to let it cool for about 20 minutes. Preheat your oven for 350’F. Pull the tart shells out of the refrigerator or freezer, and spoon the cooled mixture into the tarts, about ¾ from the top. Bake in the oven until the tarts are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool and remove from the tart mold. These are great served with ice cream or a little bit of heavy cream poured over the top, with a light grating of nutmeg. Enjoy!

 

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By Beth Brown, Kitchen Store Specialist

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Few things pair with coconut as decadently as chocolate. When you combine this delicious duo into a cupcake, well, you’ve just about reached culinary perfection!

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Coconut has been in the spotlight a lot lately, mainly because of its continuous presence in vegan, dairy-free, or sugar-free recipes. Coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut sugar . . . the possibilities are endless! And because coconut goes well with so many other flavors, sweet or savory, we wind up using it a lot around here.

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For these cupcakes we decided to use our Chicago Metallic Commercial glazed crown muffin pan, which allows you to make 24 cupcakes (or muffins) at once! Additionally, it has a spectacular little lipped edge, which turns ordinary cupcakes into darling, puffy topped treats!

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The pan has a perfect coated finish, making clean up a breeze, especially when combined with Vegalene spray. Guys, this pan was awesome! I didn’t have to worry about batches, or cupcake papers.

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Because we used coconut cream for the batter, instead of coconut milk, it was thick and fudgy. I pretty much wanted to just forgo the baking, grab a spoon, and eat the stuff as pudding. As a side note, homemade cake batters are going to be thicker anyway than cake mix batter. Don’t add more liquid, just because it looks thick! In the case of these cupcakes, the fudgy batter made for moist, dense cupcakes—but not so dense that they didn’t rise perfectly. Yum!

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Besides the pan and the Vegalene, a few other tools made these cupcakes a breeze to whip up. The OXO medium size cookie scoop portioned the perfect amount of batter to fill the wells of the pan 2/3. Once they were baked, we used the mini off-set spatula to get the cupcakes easily out of the pan.

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For our frosting, we decided to try making coconut whipped cream. Sounds perfect, right? Well, the only issue with whipped cream frosting is its notorious wiltiness. After doing a bit of research, we discovered the secret: gelatin! This trick is easy, and gives you whipped cream that will hold its shape for hours. Simply combine a teaspoon of gelatin with 5 teaspoons of water and let it sit. After it has congealed, microwave it for five seconds until it is liquid, but not hot. Once your cream has reached the soft peaks stage, slowly add the liquefied gelatin into the cream, while mixing.

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We used half canned coconut cream and half regular heavy whipping cream. But you could easily use full coconut cream with gelatin and receive the same results. Make sure to sweeten your cream with either powdered sugar or maple syrup. We added some of our favorite Mexican Vanilla for a flavor kick (and because I add this vanilla to pretty much everything. It’s that good).

These cupcakes were a hit—beautiful and delicious. Try the recipe at home. It’s perfect for a party, or just a tasty treat for your family. Or just you. We don’t judge.

Coconut Cream Cupcake Recipe:

Makes 24 Crown Cupcakes

1/2 C butter

3/4 C Sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp coconut extract

1 tsp Mexican Vanilla

1 1/4 C flour

1/3 C cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 C coconut cream

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In the bowl of a KitchenAid mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the butter and sugar and beat at medium speed until fluffy. Mix in eggs, one at a time and extracts until incorporated.

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Combine flour and other dry ingredients and slowly add to butter mixture, alternating with coconut cream. Beat on low after each addition, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl if needed.

Using a portion scoop, fill all cups of Crown Pan pre-sprayed with Vegalene Spray to 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan, cool completely on a wire rack.

Top cupcakes with stabilized coconut whipped cream and toppings of your choice including toasted coconut, chocolate sprinkles, large coconut flakes or coconut chocolate almonds.

 

We always wondered where that phrase came from - and if ever there was a good time to use it, this post is it as Chef Cheryl puts three brands of cookware to the test with a classic dish - er pan - of fried chicken.

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By Cheryl Shaffer, Chef Instructor

Assignment: Choose any product to highlight and become an “expert” in its use, best qualities and areas where another product might be a better choice for a specific function. We’ve used cast iron in my family for as long as I can remember - for everyday cooking as well as camping and at our cabin - so I already knew that my most beloved cookware line is Lodge Cast Iron, especially the frying pans and griddles. One of our heirloom frying pans has been in the family for six generations now. I love the Lodge line, not only because of familiarity, but because it reminds me of the spirit of Alaska and the cast iron cookware that both nourished the founders of our cities, towns and villages, and became a metaphor to their fortitude and grit.

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I come from a family steeped in the traditions of Southern cooking, with an emphasis on the best-fried chicken to ever hit a plate. Well, that’s what I’ve been told by family and customers. My pan of choice has always been a cast iron frying pan, because of the weight of the pan, the dispersal of heat and its ability to keep the oil at an even temperature,  and returning it quickly after the addition of new food. We all know that keeping the oil at a steady heat, not dropping by more than a few degrees, is crucial to even frying and slowing the absorption of oil into the food product. My hypothesis was that the Lodge skillet would hold the heat better than a non-stick pan or even a higher end, multi-layered stainless steel pan, and give a quicker, crisper crust and quick cleanup. I based my hypothesis not only on traditional use of the cast iron frying pans for family use, but also from my experience as a caterer and working in professional kitchens.

The time for the show down between three of our top selling frying pans had come. Would my tried and true friend, the Lodge Cast Iron 14-SK, blow the competition out of the oil, or would I be surprised with a dark horse in our midst? I chose for the competition a Swiss Diamond Classic 5.8 qt. Sauté Pan to represent the non-stick category and the Al-Clad 6 qt. Stainless Fry Pan, to champion the stainless steel pans. The gauntlet had been thrown, let the testing begin...

Grandma Stella’s Southern Fried Chicken

1 family sized package chicken drumsticks (with skin and not boneless)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup cornmeal (I used yellow)

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. Mrs. Dash

1 Tbs. coarse grind black pepper

1 Tbs. cayenne pepper (for the dredge mix)

1 Tbs. cayenne pepper (for seasoning the chicken before dredging)

1 cup cornstarch

1 Tbs. dried parsley

Wesson Cooking Oil – or any comparable oil is fine

2 eggs

½ cup milk

salt and pepper

3 cups milk, or enough to cover chicken in a bowl for soaking chicken 3 hours or overnight

Clean and check over your chicken pieces to ensure they don’t have any little feathers hiding. If you have time, soak the chicken in a bowl with just enough milk to cover the chicken. Discard the milk when ready to prepare the chicken for frying. Rinse the chicken and dry with a paper towel.

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Lay the chicken in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Salt, pepper and sprinkle with cayenne pepper on both sides.

Place all three of the frying pans onto your stove, and add oil to a 1-1/2” depth in each pan. Adjust the heat under the pans to about medium/high, and allow the oil to heat while you coat your chicken pieces.

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In a small bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Set aside. In a second bowl or paper bag, add the cornstarch. Set aside. In a third bowl, or paper bag, add the remaining dry ingredients, and shake or mix well.

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Drop a few pieces of chicken into the bag / bowl with cornstarch and coat it. Shake off the excess. Next, dip the chicken into the egg / milk mixture, then drop it into the bag or bowl of flour coating and shake / toss well to coat. Place the coated pieces back onto the cookie sheet to rest for a few minutes, while you repeat the process until all of the chicken is coated.

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Test your oil temperature, bringing it to 375 degrees F. Your ideal temperature for frying is 350 degrees F, but the oil is going to drop when you first add the chicken, so bring it a little higher than you need to start, and adjust it after you add the chicken. Carefully place the chicken into the pans, ensuring that the pieces do not touch, or they will steam and you won’t develop the desired crunch on the coating. I used a splatter screen on each pan to help reduce the oil popping.

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Watching each pan carefully, I noted that the Lodge pan came up to initial temperature with heating the oil the quickest, followed by the All-Clad. It also caramelized the coating the fastest and most evenly, and brought the chicken to the desired 165 degrees F “done” temperature several minutes before the other two pans, and dropped the oil temperature the least with the addition of new pieces of chicken.

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When the chicken appeared to be finished cooking, I removed it to a wire cooling rack set over a cookie sheet, and checked the internal temperature to ensure it had achieved 165 degrees F close to the bone. As the chicken finished frying, I also separated it into three sections, so that it could be tested for meeting the hypothesis by my panel of seasoned judges, co-workers and customers.

The judgment time arrived, and the following results were noted:

Time to heat oil to temperature: (in order of performance)

Lodge

All-Clad

Swiss Diamond

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Time to cook chicken, over-all:

Lodge

All-Clad

Swiss Diamond

Crispiness of coating on chicken:

Lodge TIED WITH All-Clad

Swiss Diamond

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Evenness of overall cooking – aka: did the chicken look uniformly cooked

All-Clad tied with Lodge

Swiss Diamond

Ease of cleanup

Swiss Diamond

Lodge

All-Clad

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Final thoughts: I was not surprised at all by the performance of the Lodge pan. I was happily impressed with the showing by the All-Clad pan: it exceeded my expectations in all areas, except cleanup. The Swiss Diamond did well, and did give us a good final product, but it took much longer to cook the chicken, which equated to my time and the expense of greater energy use, but it didn’t produce a crunch equal to the Lodge or All-Clad pans, and the browning of the coating was not as even as with the other two pans. Overall, I’d happily encourage customers to purchase any of the cookware, but now I can say with complete authority, which would be their better choice for chicken frying, and be able to back up my word with test kitchen results. Happy Frying!

 

by Cheryl Shaffer, Chef Instructor

Spring has officially arrived on the calendars, and even Mother Nature is trying to give us a sneak peak by reigning in the cold, (at least a little!), and whisking away the ice and darkness of winter. Spring is here. The days are longer, the sun a little brighter, the sky bluer and hopefully, the welcome of Alaskans as we greet each other after a long winter is a friendlier and happy note to your day.

Last week, we explored the joys of deviled eggs to share with our patrons. This week, we’ve made delightful baby animal cookies on a lollipop stick. We started with chicks, then bunnies and ended with ducklings. Credit goes to the website, HowDoesShe.com, for creative ingenuity.

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For the Cheeps: You’ll need a package of round sandwich cookies. We used Golden Oreos, but any type will work. Carefully push a lollipop stick, (the cookie sticks are too thick for this project), then press down on the cookies to secure the stick inside. You’ll want to be gentle, the cookies snap easily, but you can press them back into their cream filling and they worked fine for this project.

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Melt a package of yellow candy melts in a medium sized bowl, in the microwave oven, according to package directions. We found that the initial melting time took about 1.5 minutes, adding bursts of 15 second melt times, to keep the candy at the perfect consistency.   Using a spoon, stir the melts until all of the candy is melted into a nice liquid, and carefully pour the candy over the cookie, until it is completely coated, and allow the excess to drip off. Place the coated cookie onto a sheet of parchment paper. While the coating is still wet, place two candy eyes and half of a Nerd jelly bean candy, cut widthwise, for the beak. Continue with the rest of the cookies. Allow to cookie cool completely. We placed ours on a parchment lined cookie sheet and put them into the freezer for 15 minutes to set the chocolate.  We had a little bit of the yellow candy melt left over. When it was thickened, but not completely hard, we took a small amount and rolled it into a small tube shape, and pressed it against the top of the Cheep’s forehead, like a cockscomb. Once completely cooled, wrap the Cheeps in a cellophane bag and tie it closed with a cheerful ribbon.

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For the Ducklings: Use the same steps as for the Cheeps, but mix ½ bag of yellow melts with ½ bag of marshmallow flavored melts. Coat the cookie lollipops with the mixture, shake off the excess, place the candy eyes and this time, use half an orange Nerd jelly bean, cut lengthwise, for the beak- and we shook yellow sugar sprinkles over the whole cookie. Again, allow them to set on a parchment lined cookie tray. You can speed up the process using the freezer for about 15 minutes, then wrap them in the cellophane wrappers and tie a bow with ribbon.

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For the Bunnies: This time, you’ll use the plain white candy melts to coat the cookie lollipops, shake off the excess and place them on a parchment lined baking tray. You’ll want to place the eyes and the little hard candy bunny head for the nose, while the coating is still wet. Continue until all of your cookies are coated. Now comes the fun. We used a tube of  black gel frosting to draw on the bunny smiles.

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We took sugar wafer cookies, and removed the outer layers of the wafers and actually used the legs/feet of the Gnome cookie cutter that we sell in the store, to shape the bunny ears. Using a pair of tweezers, dip the ears to coat them in white candy, and carefully adhere them to the cookie, just above the eyes. You’ll have to hold each one for a moment, in order for them to stick. Use a little touch-up melt on the end of a toothpick to cover any bare spots from where the tweezers held the ears. You can also add a few whiskers to each side of the nose with a small dip of the coating and a toothpick. When the melt is dry, we used a toothpick to pick-up a little of pink cupcake decorating dust to give the ears a little dimension and color. Allow them to dry completely, then wrap them in cellophane and add a bow tie.

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