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Mar 31, 2013 05:29 PM

Cookbook of the Month 2013 AD HOC AT HOME: Lifesavers, Breads, Crackers and Cheese, Dessert

Welcome to Thomas Keller month.

Please post your full-length reviews of recipes for "lifesavers", breads, crackers and cheese and desserts in AD HOC AT HOME here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

This thread is for the following chapters:

Lifesavers, p234
Breads, Crackers and Cheese, p268
Desserts, p292

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

I can't wait to see your reviews - happy cooking!

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  1. Herbed toasted walnuts -- p 238

    This is one of the quickest and most straightforward recipes in this book! Take 3 cups of raw walnut halves and toast them on a tray in a 350F oven. Meanwhile melt an ounce of unsalted butter along with 3/4tsp each of finely chopped parsley, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Once the walnuts are nicely toasted, toss them with the butter and herbs and some salt, and allow to cool slightly then serve warm.
    The nuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week and TK recommends reheating them in a warm oven before serving.

    The walnuts are rich, crunchy and very flavourful. I put them out in a bowl on the table and invited the geeklings to help themselves during lunch, and sprinkled a generous amount onto a simple salad of baby spinach leaves drizzled with olive oil & lemon juice. The lemon & herbed walnut combo was especially nice.

    We've still got loads left so I expect that I'll be snacking on these all week.

    1 Reply
    1. re: geekmom

      This is one of two or three recipes I've made from AHaH preciously and they were a hit to the people I served them to. I thought they were fine, but, really, how amazing does one expect toasted walnuts to be anyway? I didn't really like the texture the butter imparts if you serve them later and do NOT reheat them... So eat them all right away or do as he suggests and reheat.


    2. Chocolate brownies

      I don't have the book, so used this recipe from the interweb:

      The net is full of blogs eulogising these brownies as the best thing EVER! So I was excited to make them for a homecoming dinner for my parents, who've been out of the country since November, the lucky things.

      Were they good - yes. The best brownies I've ever had...probably not. I made as written, including the frankly eyewatering three-quarters of a pound of butter. He uses a technique I've never come across before, which is to melt half the butter, which is then added to cubes of cold butter, which almost melt but not completely. The butter is added to eggs beaten with sugar, cocoa, plain flour and salt. Chocolate chips are stirred in at the end.

      I used the called-for silicone pan, which is supposed to prevent the edges from catching and becoming dry. I have to say this didn't work for me. The recipe says to bake for 40-45 minutes. My oven normally runs fast, so I tested after 40 minutes and the brownies were still way too gooey in the middle. After 45 minutes - still too gooey. Another 5 minutes - fine in the middle, but the edges were overdone! Aaagh! However, at this point I was also distracted by the arrival of said parents. so that may have been the issue.

      Anyway, eaten still warm as dessert, with a little creme fraiche, these were rich, dense, intensely chocolatey and pretty good. Some bloggers note that the chocolate chips give a slight crunch - mine had completely melted into the brownies.

      The search for brownie nirvana continues....

      6 Replies
      1. re: greedygirl

        Darn it, too bad this one wasn't worth the insane amount of butter! I had this recipe on the list and was thinking of fulfilling my apparently insatiable chocolate craving with it later today. I shall carry on with my secret gorging of The Offspring's easter baskets instead (wouldn't want to burden them with all that candy) ....

        Thanks for taking one for the team!

        1. re: Allegra_K

          To be honest, I hadn't noticed how much butter was in them until I took a pack out of the fridge - and realised that I'd need half of another pack as well! I can practically feel my arteries hardening...

          You should definitely make them though - but watch them like a hawk towards the end.

          1. re: Allegra_K

            I've just had another small piece of brownie, and think I may have been too hasty! These are actually excellent brownies. And now they're cold, I can detect the chocolate chips.

            Of the twelve I baked on Wednesday, only four remained today (I only had one, which means my parents ate seven in less than two days!). We've just polished off the rest at work, and my colleagues raved about them. One said she'd had much worse from a bakery! They are very rich though - a half of a piece is plenty.

            1. re: Allegra_K

              I ADORE these brownies and definitely think they're worth the 3 sticks of butter, although I am planning to cut back by maybe 4T. next time I make them, just to see how it affects the finished product. I don't think I've made another brownie recipe since I found these. Make them - you won't be sorry!

            2. re: greedygirl

              I have made the brownies at least a half dozen times. I make them in a metal pan with no problems. I was lured into making them bc I'd never seen that method of the melted and cubes of butter mixed. I love them and most others have as well but my sister and my husband do not like them at all, think they are too chocolately. I don't bother trying to understand 'too chocolately'!!!

              1. re: greedygirl

                Made these brownies yesterday. I messed up and creamed the butter and sugar together (instead of eggs and sugar) because I wasn't paying attention. I added the eggs as soon as I realized what I did and then just added the dry ingredients in 3 parts instead of alternating dry and butter.

                These brownies are amazing and that is coming from someone who doesn't particularly like chocolate, desserts, or sweets. My husband has already had like 4 of them. My coworkers are going to die when I bring them in tomorrow.

                Easy to make and absolutely delicious! Moist, fudgy, yum. I'll definitely be making them again.

              2. Mint chocolate chip ice cream - p 320

                1/2 oz of mint leaves are infused in a combination of milk and cream. This liquid is strained and whisked with 2/3 cup of granulated sugar over medium heat. Meanwhile, 2/3 cup of sugar is whisked separately with 10 egg yolks (!!) and the hot milk is slowly whisked into this mixture. This rich concoction is heated slowly until it thickens, strained again, then cooled completely before being churned. 3 oz of 55% chocolate, cut into small chips, is added to the ice cream just at the end.

                I plan to make this into ice cream sandwiches with the chocolate shortbread on p. 330, but we all had to test to make sure that it was okay before that. ;-) Ooooh my goodness. This is SO yummy! It's not your average mint chocolate chip ice cream, that's for sure, with that rich custard and the fresh mint flavour is so much nicer than mint extract. I will check back in later about the ice cream sandwiches!

                9 Replies
                1. re: geekmom

                  I'm so glad you posted this - I have passed this recipe by without really thinking about it. Didn't even really think about what it would be like with real mint.

                  1. re: moreace01

                    Thanks for your review, geekmom. I am intrigued by the ice cream recipes, but intimidated by the 10 egg yolks! Glad to hear it was really good. Might be a fun project with the kids when I'm on vacation later in the month.

                    1. re: moreace01

                      Yes, the real mint really bowls you over when you taste it. Quite a few people have tried this ice cream so far and everyone has remarked on how lovely that fresh mint flavour is (except for one guy who thought it was "kind of weird", but I noticed he didn't have any trouble polishing it off!) Definitely a keeper.

                      1. re: geekmom

                        My mint should start poking out some shoots soon.Can't wait!

                        1. re: smtucker

                          Mine is coming in wonderfully already. I'm so excited that spring is here!

                          1. re: geekmom

                            And I have yet to see a single edge of garden box from the white ocean in my backyard. Sob!
                            That's it-I'm moving.

                            1. re: Allegra_K

                              Hang in there, spring WILL make an appearance and so will your plants! We pay dearly for the dubious privilege of living in this rainforest. ;-)

                    2. re: geekmom

                      I made this over the course of two days. Day 1 was making the custard and day 2 was churning and freezing it. I really wanted to love it, but the fresh mint flavor was.... unexpected? overpowering? I love fresh mint in mojitos (hence why I grow it in my yard) but I couldn't really handle the strong mint flavor of this ice cream. Maybe I just ate too much of the fake green stuff growing up but I just couldn't eat this ice cream.

                      I froze it because I couldn't bear the idea of throwing it away right then and there but it will probably be chucked over the course of this weekend. I didn't even pass it off to my sister (who loves MCC) or coworker (who loves any ice cream). I had that little confidence in its flavor.

                      1. re: Njchicaa

                        Interesting! Sorry to hear that you weren't wowed by the fresh mint flavour. It's definitely NOT subtle, and I did have one friend come over and try it the week after I made it and say that he thought the mintiness was "strange" but none of us disliked it. I am trying to figure out some way you could salvage this but I have a feeling no matter what you add to the ice cream you won't be able to dilute the fresh mint taste enough. :-( Bummer.

                    3. Pineapple upside-down cake - p 310

                      I don't have a lot to report here other than it was really great! And for Keller, an actually pretty straightforward, easy recipe.

                      I have a gas oven that heats unevenly (despite an enormous baking stone that permanently resides on the bottom rack) - the cooking time was a little off for me (cake needed to bake longer than recipe stated), but I expect that and I think its more my wonky oven than anything.

                      I used vanilla extract instead of vanilla paste. It does make quite a bit of the 'pan schmear'. Now...what to do with the leftovers (other than eating with a spoon).

                      Anyway, I highly recommend this one.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: moreace01

                        Thanks for your review moreace01. I am eyeing this upside down cake recipe and glad to here it is recommended! One question. Did you use a silicone cake pan? He specifically calls for one, but I don't have one. Was wondering if it would be impossible to get out of a regular cake pan or something?

                        1. re: moreace01

                          I made this one a couple of months ago at the request of a coworker. It was easy enough to make but, like moreace01, I needed to bake it longer than the 35-40 minutes stated in the recipe.

                          Everyone went crazy for it and they really liked the use of fresh pineapple instead of canned. I tried a piece and thought it was okay.... but I'm not a big dessert person. Unless it is coconut cake, creme brulee, or cheesecake, I usually skip sweets at the end of a meal. I am in no rush to make this again.

                        2. Chocolate Shortbread Cookies - p 330

                          I can't find a recipe online, so here's a summary: Mix 3/4c sugar, 1.5c + 2tbsp AP flour, 3/4c + 1 tbsp alkalized cocoa powder, 1.5tsp kosher salt and 1/2tsp baking soda in your stand mixer bowl using the paddle. Add 3/4" cubes of unsalted butter, at room temperature, one at a time. (A total of 15 tbsp of butter is added). Eventually, the mixture will start looking like wet sand and then will start to cling together, at which point you put it on a board, bring it together into a block about 5x7" and refrigerate that, wrapped in plastic wrap, for around an hour. At that point you break the block of dough in half and roll each half out between parchment paper until it's about 1/4" thick. You can cut this with a knife or a cookie cutter. Slide the parchment paper with the cut cookie dough into the fridge to cool for long enough so that the dough has firmed up again; now you can safely remove the cookies onto yet another piece of parchment and then bake for 10-12m at 350F.

                          These were nice and made a decent ice cream sandwich with the fabulous mint chocolate chip ice cream from this chapter, which is why I made them. However, don't be fooled by the chilling and rolling of the dough, like I was, into thinking these are like sugar cookies. The baking soda in the dough means these cookies rise slightly during baking, and fizz up and become kind of blurred around the edges - so my carefully cut and pressed Millenium Falcons and Death Stars became long shapeless blobs and round shapeless blobs with none of the nifty details from our awesome Star Wars cookie cutters left visible on their bubbly surfaces.

                          The baking soda in combination with the salt also made for a rather distinctly salty cookie, which none of us thought was particularly "right" but didn't by any means make them inedible. So all in all, probably not a recipe I'd make again, although we were all happy to eat them.

                          Also, can I just take this opportunity to rant about the measurements used in the baking recipes in this book? Seriously, I do completely understand that many people in North America prefer and are more comfortable using cups and tablespoons rather than weighed amounts in their recipes. And for the most part I am fine with cooking and baking that way - have been doing so for years. But considering that TK has a reputation for exacting standards and that these cookbooks are known for producing excellent results if you follow the instructions closely, would it really have been so hard for them to give both the cups/spoons measurements and the weights? When I see an amount like "1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons" I *know* that has been adapted from a recipe that is based on weight, so why NOT give us that in ounces and grams too? And may I just add that in Canada, for the most part, our butter only comes in big solid 454g blocks, not in four neat sticks with the tablespoons all marked out on the paper, and it is a ludicrous pain in the rear end to measure out 15 tablespoons??? GAH!! OK, rant over. :-)

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: geekmom

                            I completely agree - am used to weights and far prefer it, especially when baking. Our butter comes in 250g blocks, so sticks and tablespoons completely irrelevant.

                            1. re: geekmom

                              YES to the butter rant!
                              and Yes! to the Star Wars cookie cutters, only too bad they didn't work out...

                              You've really been going hardcore with the baking section, I'm so impressed. I have yet to attempt a recipe.

                              1. re: Allegra_K

                                I think it's because I'm avoiding the daunting Bouchon Bakery so I'm spending all this energy baking from AHAH. I *will* try that macaron recipe again but it was probably not the smartest place to start. Next I'll do the oatmeal cookies... those shouldn't be too hard, right?

                                1. re: geekmom

                                  I think to myself 'oh, this __ recipe shouldn't be too hard' for the seemingly "easy" ones, and pretty much give up as soon as I read the instructions. In Bouchon Bakery, I really and desperately wish to make the eclairs--but!-- just how much sleuthing do I need to do to find neutral glaze and high-quality chocolate? How much am I willing to spend for those ingredients?
                                  There is one recipe in Bakery in the bread section that doesn't call for a 12+ hour ferment time...and it requires 1/2 hour of 'low speed' mixing. I don't own a stand mixer....
                                  I *want* to make these recipes, it just isn't working out for me.

                              2. re: geekmom

                                This is really a serious flaw, especially in the baking section.

                                But not only there: Somewhere, maybe in one of the nominating or voting threads, there was a justified complaint about bad results with the TK brine for chicken -- his measurements for salt are in tablespoons, which means you have to take into account the salt he's using (Diamond Crystal kosher). Because I use regular sea salt, I've gotten used to just cutting most salt amounts in recipes in half. But for something like a brine, it's seriously negligent not to include the salt amount in weight because the volumes of different salts vary so much.

                                The editors and designers of this book made so many poor decisions that their work cries out for a mock 'award' (like a cookbook version of the P-U-litzers).

                                1. re: ellabee

                                  The chicken brine has a weight for the salt for exactly the reason you sited: different brands of salt have different weight to volume ratios.

                                  The brine calls for 2 cups of Diamond Kosher / 10 oz.

                                  1. re: smtucker

                                    So it does; thanks for correcting that, smtucker. Strike one item in the list of the editors' sins, then.

                                    The chicken brine p.339 instructions even explicitly tell you to go by the weight if using another salt -- so the aggrieved poster just failed to read past the list of ingredients.