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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Expert Lessons

Incredible Christmas Cookie Gifts Tags

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Christmas Cookie Gift Tags

Christmas Cookie Gifts Tags © Seton Rossini.

F&W’s Seton Rossini applies her graphic design talents to the gorgeous dessert blog Pixel Whisk. Some of her entertaining showstoppers include cupcakes that so closely resemble adorable potted succulent plants that recipients might be tempted to water them, and DIY cake stands made from vintage plates and goblets. Here, she explains how to create clever edible gift tags using a delicious Food & Wine sugar cookie recipe flecked with lemon zest. As Seton says "These tasty Christmas cookies can double as gift tags, place settings or even ornaments! (Just keep your dogs and toddlers away from the tree or your ornaments will go missing.)"

To see how to transform cookies in just a few steps click through the slideshow

Related: Beautiful Gifts to Make or Buy
Gift Picks from Star Chefs
Holiday Inspiration Served Daily

Grace in the Kitchen

Multilayered Crêpe Cake

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© William Meppem

Turning crêpes with a spatula often causes them to break. The easiest way
to flip them is with your fingers. Use a spatula or a table knife to lift up
the edge, then gently pick up the crêpe and flip it over.
© William Meppem

Food & Wine's senior recipe developer, Grace Parisi, is a Test Kitchen superstar. In this series, she shares some of her favorite recipes to make right now.

The funny thing about crêpes is that I always forget just how easy they are to make until I have to test or develop a recipe for them. Then, I remind myself to make them more often (which I never do). I have started tearing out, bookmarking and flagging old recipes that I’ve either developed or tested and loved and have forgotten about. (I may have to try get a Pinterest account.)

It’s hard to remember what happened last week, let alone in 2001 (unless, of course, you’re Tina Ujlaki, whose memory is positively elephant-like), so forcing myself to look back has been supercomforting. There are dozens and dozens of recipes that I’d always wanted to make again, but then I had to move on to the next thing and poof, they disappeared. I’m going to try this chocolate and dulce de leche torte again—I know my kids will go crazy for it. SEE RECIPE »

Related: More Beautiful Desserts
Mexican Desserts
F&W's Ultimate Holiday Guide

Expert Lessons

Top 10 Crimes Against Pie

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© Brian M. Heiser

© Brian M. Heiser

At Chicago’s Hoosier Mama Pie Company, former Trio pastry chef Paula Haney and her team make up to 600 pies a week, kneading dough nonstop for as much as an hour per day, and burning through literally a ton of flour in as little as eight weeks. But practice does make perfect, as Haney’s pies—like her Cherry-Berry Pie—come out superbly flaky and intensely flavorful. Here, Haney tips off home bakers to the many mistakes that can get in the way of pie perfection. 10 pitfalls to avoid when baking pie. »

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Grace in the Kitchen

Sweet, Tart and Creamy: The Perfect Summer Sundae

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Honey-Lime Strawberries with Whipped Cream // © Ryan Liebe

Strawberries become a bracing summer dessert when served over a scoop of lemon sorbet. / © Ryan Liebe

Food & Wine's senior recipe developer, Grace Parisi, is a Test Kitchen superstar. In this series, she shares some of her favorite recipes to make right now.

Strawberries and cream is such a trite, hackneyed combination, but one I will unapologetically never grow tired of. It just needs a little help from some well-conceived ingredients. Here, I've made a quick syrup of mild honey, fresh lime juice and a hint of cardamom, brought it to a boil and poured it over sliced strawberries. Thirty minutes later, cooled and juicy, the compote is poured over tart lemon sorbet and topped with honey-spiked whipped cream. A little bit of lime zest makes this refreshing, quick dessert even brighter. SEE RECIPE »

Related: More Fantastic Strawberry Recipes
F&W's Ultimate Summer Fruit Recipes
Healthy Fruit Desserts

Grace in the Kitchen

Fruit and Crumble: Separate but Equal

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Peaches and Plums with Sesame Crumble // © Ryan Liebe

Prepare the crust and fruit portions of this delicious crumble before baking them together so the topping stays crispy.

Food & Wine's senior recipe developer, Grace Parisi, is a Test Kitchen superstar. In this series, she shares some of her favorite recipes to make right now.

After years of struggling with soggy fruit crumbles, I stumbled upon a clever method while testing a chef's recipe (huh, imagine that?). Cook the filling and crumble separately, and then bake them together for a few minutes to marry the flavors. Ta-da! The fruit is tender and jammy, and the crumble is crisp and perky. It's completely equal to the sum of its delicious and perfectly cooked parts! SEE RECIPE »

Grace in the Kitchen

Ooey-Gooey Creamy and Crunchy Cake Sundae

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German Chocolate Cake Sundae / © Ryan Liebe

F&W's Grace Parisi reimagines the flavors of a German chocolate cake into this decadent sundae.

Food & Wine's senior recipe developer, Grace Parisi, is a Test Kitchen superstar. In this series, she shares some of her favorite recipes to make right now.

How can anyone not love ice cream sundaes? And the same goes for German chocolate cake. It just "goggles the mind" as a friend of mine says. For those who fall into the above category, skip ahead to tomorrow's post about tofu and millet. But for those of you who do love cake and ice cream, I urge you to try this deconstructed German chocolate cake sundae. A good sundae has three crucial components: ice cream, a gooey sauce and a crunchy topping. This one has coconut ice cream, a pecan-coconut caramel sauce (like the classic cake filling) and crumbled chocolate wafers. Feel free to try different ice creams and nuts—it's a template waiting to be played with. SEE RECIPE »

Related: More Delicious Ice Cream Sundaes
Chilled Chocolate Desserts
Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.

Grace in the Kitchen

Ice Cream Without the Guilt

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Nectarine-Buttermilk Pops / © Con Poulos

These refreshing nectarine-buttermilk pops are not only gorgeous, they're also refreshing and low in fat. // © Con Poulos

Food & Wine's senior recipe developer, Grace Parisi, is a Test Kitchen superstar. In this series, she shares some of her favorite recipes to make right now.

When it's hot, it's just too easy to polish off a pint of ice cream. Several thousand calories later, it's no wonder why I'm spilling out of my bathing suit. Here are three reasons why these popsicles are better for you than Häagen-Dazs. One, immediate portion control—it's a single pop; two, they're only about 100 calories, way less than half a serving of ice cream; and three, since buttermilk is very low in fat, each pop has less than 1/2 gram of it. SEE RECIPE »

Related: More Frozen Desserts
Fruit Desserts
Best Popsicles in the U.S.

Test Kitchen Tease

Summer Tease: Stone Fruit Pie with Buttery Streusel Topping

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Peach Pie

Photo: Justin Chapple


The best stone fruits arrive in the summer, and although it’s not quite time to take out the swimsuits, our Test Kitchen is fully immersed in developing recipes that will honor the bounty of the warmer months.

Read more about this week's sweet Test Kitchen Tease >

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Baking

Magnolia Bakery: 6 Ways to Ruin a Cupcake 

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Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes

© Courtesy of Magnolia Bakery
Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes

Last week, the confectionery geniuses at New York City’s Magnolia Bakery started offering their Sex and the City–approved cupcakes for national delivery. The company spent nearly two years testing out packaging before adding cupcakes to its lineup of cookies, brownies and bars already available online. (The cupcakes had a tendency to become less than pristine during the shipment process.)

 “I think my mother’s sick of me sending her cupcakes,” says Magnolia Bakery president Bobbie Lloyd. That’s not to say Lloyd will ever tire of America’s enduring dessert obsession. She served cupcakes at her wedding long before they became trendy. While Magnolia’s cupcakes can arrive literally overnight, Lloyd is happy to encourage baking at home. Here, she shares six mistakes that home bakers make when trying to create the perfect cupcake.

1. Skimming the recipe. Thoroughly reading the full recipe before getting started will help you avoid unwanted surprises midway through. Even as a professional baker, Lloyd admits to skipping this step: “There have been times where I’ve run out of vanilla extract, or sometimes my brown sugar will be as hard as a rock because I haven’t baked in a while.”

2. Using warm butter. Cupcake recipes often call for room-temperature butter, but what is room temperature? “For all intents and purposes, it should be 70 degrees,” says Lloyd, “but most people's home kitchens are too warm.” This is a problem if you want to make cupcakes from scratch, since butter is the leavening in those recipes. “When the butter is warmer than it needs to be,” she says, “you can’t whip it into the ingredients long enough, meaning the end result doesn’t come out as it should.” Her quick tip: If you take butter straight out of the fridge, then put it in the microwave on defrost for 10 seconds, it should reach the correct texture.

3. Forgetting to check the oven temperature. “Most home cooks never think to check this,” says Lloyd. It’s especially important when you’re working in a new or unfamiliar kitchen. “The first time I tried baking something in my new apartment, I burned a cupcake recipe I’ve been making for years. I went out and bought a thermometer, and guess what? The oven temperature was actually 75 degrees hotter than what I’d set it to!”

4. Substituting ingredients. Be careful how you alter a recipe. “A friend of mine once added cake mix instead of cake flour to a mixture of flour and baking soda, and her cupcakes ended up exploding in the oven!” says Lloyd. 

5. Watching TV instead of your cupcakes. It’s extremely easy to overbake cupcakes, so don’t lose track of the time. “If the recipe says 25 minutes,” says Lloyd, “go and test them in 20.” If the tester comes out clean at that point, go ahead and take them out to cool, since they’ll continue to bake for a few minutes outside of the oven.

6. Letting your cupcakes cool completely in the pan. After taking your cupcakes out of the oven, Lloyd suggests removing them from the pan after about 10 or 15 minutes. “The cupcakes will absorb too much moisture if you leave them in any longer,” she says. And soggy cupcake paper is never pretty.

Related: F&W's Best Cupcake Recipes
Beautiful Desserts
How to Make Layer Cakes
Best Pie Spots in the U.S.

Entertaining

How to Set Up a Thanksgiving Pie Bar

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Tiffany MacIsaac's Holiday Pie Bar

© Neighborhood Restaurant Group
Tiffany MacIsaac's Holiday Pie Bar

Showstopping desserts can outshine buttery mashed potatoes and perfect stuffing on Thanksgiving. That's the opinion of Tiffany MacIsaac, who oversees the pastry program for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which operates Birch & Barley and Tallua in the Washington, DC, area. MacIsaac likes to put holiday sweets—in particular, pie—on mouthwatering display from the start so guests can admire dessert from the moment they arrive.

At Buzz Bakery in Alexandria, VA, she's now offering a DIY Pie Bar package that comes with two pies (like Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan and Classic Pumpkin), house-made ice cream, cinnamon whipped cream, caramel sauce and candied cranberries. Since Buzz doesn't ship its baked goods, MacIsaac shared these tips on how to set up a DIY Pie Bar at home.

1. Make it a group project. Guests usually ask the host how they can contribute to the holiday meal. You can plan a cohesive, pie-centric menu for Thanksgiving and delegate specific components to invitees. If one guest brings pumpkin pie, others can take on gingersnap cookie crumbs and caramel sauce, and non-cooks can be in charge of bringing beautiful cake stands. The display will grow into something fantastically unexpected as the guests arrive.

2. Don't pay for props. MacIsaac repurposes items from around the house for the display. A stack of books works as a pedestal; fallen leaves make an easy accent to scatter around the table; an old frame refines the look of a printed menu. Lighting is especially important. Everyone looks good by candlelight and the same goes for food.

3. Incorporate traditional fall flavors. During the holidays, people look for familiar foods. If you experiment with something new like salted-caramel cream pie, you can also offer a super-old-fashioned option like double-crust apple pie or upgrade a classic, as in a meringue-topped sweet potato pie.

4. Consider textures. You don’t want all mush or all crunch when it comes to a pie or the toppings you set out for guests. With the pie bar, everyone gets whipped cream, nuts, cookie crumbs, sauce.

5. Master the pie crust. Besides the logistics of setting up a dessert display, the most basic rule of a great pie bar is to make delicious pies, and that starts with good crust. MacIsaac likes a nice amount of salt in the dough to balance the sweetness of fillings. And she says you might want to add vodka, not to your glass, but to the water as you mix the dough. It evaporates more quickly, so you’re left with less moisture, which makes for a more tender, flaky crust. In a dough recipe calling for water, MacIsaac subs vodka for about 1/6 to 1/4 of the water.

 

Related: Thanksgiving Desserts
Thanksgiving Pies
5 Easy Ways to Ruin the Thanksgiving Turkey

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