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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 >

read more
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

Recipes

Towering Layer Cake for the Weekend

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Warning: Test Kitchen Tease snapshots may cause cravings, lip-smacking and an unshakeable desire to cook.

Layer Cakes from Seattle's Dahlia Bakery

© Grace Parisi
Layer Cakes from Seattle's Dahlia Bakery

This week in the Test Kitchen, Food & Wine’s Senior Recipe Developer Grace Parisi tested two unparalleled layer cakes from Seattle’s Dahlia Bakery. Dahlia fills its decadent chocolate cake (top right) with an irresistible bittersweet chocolate mousse and frosts the cake with a creamy hazelnut buttercream. Brown butter yellow cake (far left) provided a rich canvas for white chocolate mousse filling—spiked with a delicate amount of orange liqueur—and bittersweet chocolate frosting. These recipes will be published early next year, but this weekend, you can practice your baking skills on this super-delicious old-fashioned chocolate layer cake from Test Kitchen Supervisor Marcia Kiesel.

Related: Layer Cake Recipes

Thanksgiving Desserts

Thanksgiving Pies and Tarts

Restaurants

Cooking Class With Super Star Chefs

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Pastry chef and Top Chef: Just Desserts judge Johnny Iuzzini.

© Trump Hotel Collection
Jean Georges pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini.

With the finale of Top Chef: Just Desserts last week, pastry fans across the country will miss their weekly fix of handsome judge Johnny Iuzzini. Those considering a major holiday splurge can now get up close with the Jean Georges pastry chef and his powerhouse boss, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, in New York City. The Trump International Hotel & Tower recently launched a $9,999 Culinary Master Course package that includes a three-night stay, a private cooking demo by JGV and a personal pastry class with Iuzzini (plus breakfast at Nougatine and a three-course dinner at Jean Georges). While booking the demo, guests choose themes tied to Vongerichten's restaurants: Jean Georges (French), JoJo (Mediterranean), ABC Kitchen (organic and local), Spice Market (Asian) or Perry Street (New American). For the hands-on pastry session, Iuzzini teaches the basics of cake baking, tuiles, ice creams and sorbets.

An intimate demo with chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

© Trump Hotel Collection
An intimate demo with chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

 

News

Jacques Torres's Dark (Chocolate) Side

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© Jacques Torres Chocolates

Chocolate maestro Jacques Torres will debut his latest Halloween offerings in New York City stores and online today. On a recent tour of the Hudson Street facility, we previewed (and participated in) the creation of chocolaty haunted houses, spiders, Jacques “O” Lanterns and these skulls—not quite creepy enough to scare away chocoholics. Torres also showed off his first batch of bean-to-bar milk chocolate made with beans sourced from the Dominican Republic that are roasted, ground and refined in lower Manhattan. The bars go on sale later this fall.

Related: Chocolaty Recipes from Jacques Torres
Super Spooky Halloween Recipes

Restaurants

Top 5 Trends in Restaurant Desserts

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Since I'm pretty obsessed with finding great desserts, I spend a lot of time examining pastry menus from all over the country. Here are some of the biggest trends turning up on early fall menus.

Upside-Down Cake Recipe

© Tina Rupp
Upside-Down Cake.

1. Black pepper. Salt continues to be popular, but now pastry chefs are experimenting with pepper, which adds a mild heat to desserts like tuiles, sablés and even cheesecake.

2. Brown sugar. Obviously brown sugar is nothing new, but now it's being called out as the title ingredient in pavlovas, tea cakes, pound cakes and cookies. This recipe for simple Iced Brown Sugar Cookies from Baked in Brooklyn is a great way to embrace the trend at home.

3. Chocolate crémeux. The French word just translates to "creamy." The silky, pudding-like dessert seems to be the new darling on pastry menus. For an Italian take on this classic, try this Milk Chocolate Cremoso recipe.

4. Duck fat, lard and foie gras. These fatty faves are adding a savory element to cookies, profiteroles and even s'mores.

5. Upside-down cakes. Pluot, peach, blueberry, black plum, and of course pineapple are some of the fruits starring in this easy cake. The most interesting fruit in rotation has to be tomato, seen at Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon. Here's our recipe for the perfect upside-down cake.

Related: 30 Beautiful Desserts
Delicious Chocolate Desserts
Fabulous Apple Dessert Recipes

 

Baking

Mail-Order French Pastries

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The October issue celebrates France. Here, new U.S. shops and mail-order sources that let you taste exceptional French desserts the easy way.

 

Creme Brulee in a Jar

© Kate Mathis
Creme Brulee in a Jar

CRÈME BRÛLÉE

Dessert in a Jar: Petaluma, California–based Rob Waddell sells the silky dessert in three flavors. You'll need to blowtorch the top to get a restaurant-style crackly crust. ($40 for six 4-oz jars; sweetcremebrulee.foodzie.com).

MILLE-FEUILLE

Delicate Pastry: The layers of cream and puff pastry are too fragile to ship, so a visit to Olivier Dessyn's NYC shop is the best way to try his signature sweet. (552 Laguardia Pl.; millefeuille-nyc.com).

French Macarons

© Kate Mathis
Mail-Order Patisserie: Macarons

MACARONS

Champion Cookie: F&W editors tried macarons from seven bakeries and liked the ones from NYC's Macaron Café best: crisp but chewy almond-flavored cookies sandwiching intense fillings. Our favorite flavor: caramel. (From $15 for six; macaroncafe.com).

Pâtisserie Legend: Paris's Maison Ladurée, the pâtisserie credited with creating macarons in the early 20th century, finally opened an outpost in New York City, its first in the US. (864 Madison Ave.; laduree.fr).


CANNELÉS

Bordeaux-Born Cake: Gil Ortale has built his Philadelphia bakery business around a French regional sweet: the cannelé, a caramelized, fluted miniature cake with a custardy interior. ($25 per dozen; marketdaycanele.com).

Related:
The Best Paris Bakeries
Amazing French Dessert Recipes
A Vermont Bakery's Perfect French Tarts and Desserts

Baking

5 Ways to Ruin a Cake

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Here, Baked co-owner Matt Lewis explains how you can do wrong by his number-one passion in our new blog series called What Not to Do.

Malt-Ball Cake by Baked

© Tina Rupp
Malt-Ball Cake by Baked.

This is my relationship with cake: Cake is kind of my obsession, and I probably eat too much of it. I much prefer cake to cupcakes (the frosting/sponge/filling ratio is more to my liking), and I prefer cake for breakfast as opposed to a post-dinner sugar binge (cake goes extremely well with that first hit of coffee). I will eat almost any type of cake—but I really like dark-chocolate versions. As much as I want to love every cake, though, it's not always easy. Sometimes we do things to cake that we normally wouldn't do to things we love. Here, five ways to ruin a cake:

1. Put toilet-paper rolls in it. The disturbing trend of treating cake as a Michael's craft experiment is kind of gross and completely unappetizing. Do people actually eat cakes filled with chicken wire? Would the food world rise up if this trend started hitting other foodstuffs (i.e., salmon molded into the shape of your favorite cat, or pork chops twisted into a Prada purse)? Leave cake alone.

2. Experiment with food coloring. Perhaps I worry too much, but I think ingesting a cake that is neon red is not good for you—and I really do think some food colorings/gels add a slightly weird chemical-ish taste to cakes and icings (especially in large quantities). I love some of the natural brands, like India Tree, and I really appreciate the lighter shades that less food coloring imparts—they just seem more eatable.

3. Fetishize frosting. Bad cake cannot be covered up, and good cake should not get lost in mounds of frosting. Frosting should complement a cake, not overpower it in sweetness or in weight. By the way, icing shots are gross (think of salsa shots). Let's not encourage this trend.

4. Bake it to clean out the pantry. This goes for almost any recipe. Make sure you use fresh ingredients—baking soda and baking powder lose their potency over time, and old spices are ineffective and will impart an "off" taste. Also, if you are making a chocolate cake, make sure to start with a really good chocolate, since it is the star of the show.

5. Roast it. Most ovens are off by a few degrees at best, and wildly inaccurate at worst. Buy a cheapo oven thermometer to gauge your true oven temperature and adjust accordingly. Oven temperature is key to good baking. Overly hot ovens can cause cakes to be crispy on the outside and goopy on the inside, while your cake might not rise properly in a cooler oven.

Matt Lewis is the co-owner (with Renato Poliafito) of Baked in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He doesn't eat enough leafy greens. Oh, and he co-wrote two cookbooks: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and Baked Explorations. He is currently very behind on his third book, due out in October 2012.

Related: Malt-Ball Cake Recipe by Baked
More Wonderful Cake Recipes

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