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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.

                              3. Basic pie crust - p 338 (This is from the "basics" chapter which comes after these other ones, so I'm reviewing it here).

                                OK, I know there are a gazillion and one recipes out there to make a pie crust, but not all of them work for me and THIS one is geekmom-approved. It came together easily, rolled out without cracking or crumbling, was perfectly willing to be moved onto a tray to cool or into a pie plate, and baked up golden, flaky and crisp for my chicken pot pie. WIN!!

                                1. Basics
                                  pork brine, page 339

                                  This was the first thing I made after purchasing this book and I haven't looked back. This brine just makes pork, non-heritage especially, taste better.

                                  Honey, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, parsley, garlic, pepper corns, salt and water are brought to a boil. Boil for one minute, while stirring. Cool completely before using. This is a fairly expensive brine when you don't have the items growing in the garden. I often cheat and reduce the amount of aromatics for this reason.

                                  I have used this brine for tenderloin, loin roasts, and pork chops and it just hasn't failed me. I generally have an ice bath nearby so that I can cool the brine down more quickly. Due to the cooling period, you do have to plan ahead, making the brine in the morning to use that day.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: smtucker

                                    I found this Pork Brine recipe at Leite's Culinaria... Sound right?

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      Yes that looks exactly the same. They just left off two weight options:

                                      1/2 bunch [1/2 oz] thyme
                                      1/2 bunch [2 oz] parsley

                                      Very useful to have the weight since my bunches vary greatly depending on the time of year.

                                      1. re: smtucker

                                        Many thanks for the added information, SMT. I've added the recipe to my Pepperplate account so now I can insert the weights.

                                    2. re: smtucker

                                      Thank you very much for flagging this. I'm a huge bacon and ham fan but not so much pork - I find it to taste too, well, piggy. The brine sounds like an intriguing way to bring some flavour to the meat.

                                      1. re: smtucker

                                        Oh, that brine is good! The pork tenderloin has become a regular in our house.

                                        This is a must try for anyone considering an Ad Hoc recipe.

                                        1. re: smtucker

                                          Pork brine, page 339.

                                          Completely agree with smtucker's review of this brine. We don't usually heat a brine, but I'm now a convert. Even after it cooled, it was so aromatic, and I think it really imparted the flavors to the pork. I used it for the Fig-Stuffed Pork Loin, reported here:

                                          Because the oven was full, we cooked the roast in the grill, and even though the brine was rinsed off, I think it helped make a delicious outer crust to the meat.

                                        2. Made a cup of the yellow curry powder, page 336, which is used in quite a few recipes in Ad Hoc at Home. [Reposting here from Poultry-Meat-Fish because the recipe is in the Basics section.]

                                          It was based on Keller's recipe, but adapted in light of several web recipes for Madras curry powder, and based on my own judgment. I toasted the whole spices until some of the mustard seeds popped, then ground them with a mortar and pestle (with several siftings and re-grindings), then combined the freshly ground with the already ground spices.

                                          Whole: 4 tsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 3 tsp mustard seeds, 4 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp anise seeds, 2 tsp black peppercorns, three whole cloves.

                                          Ground: 3 tsp turmeric, 2 tsp fenugreek, 2 tsp ginger, 2 tsp coriander, 1 tsp cumin, 3 tsp cinnamon, 1.5 tsp cardamom, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, .5 tsp allspice, 1 tsp Maldon or other flake sea salt.

                                          Lesson learned: Don't make up spice blends first thing in the morning, or the aromas from the up-close toasting and grinding overwhelm your olfactory system and throw off your taste and smell for the rest of the day. If you do the job in the evening, then take a shower, by morning your senses will have had a chance to recover without inconveniencing you.

                                          1. Would someone kindly double-check the coconut cake recipe in the book and tell me whether this version http://caramelisedblog.wordpress.com/... is correct? If not, what changes were made on the blog?

                                            I'm visiting my parents in Toronto, didn't bring the book (too darn heavy!) and have a sudden hankering to bake, possibly related to the freezing cold temperatures and ice pellets falling from the sky.

                                            Thanks in advance :-)

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: geekmom

                                              There are some differences there -- the one below appears to be a faithful restatement of the recipe and directions:

                                              Good luck -- I'm mostly a lurker here, but love your posts!

                                              1. re: mebby

                                                Thank you so much! I can never tell with food bloggers how many liberties they've taken when adapting a cookbook recipe.

                                            2. Desserts - Chocolate Chip Cookies p 326
                                              Breads, Crackers, Cheese - Buttermilk Biscuits p 276

                                              This is my first time posting so hopefully I've posted in the right place. So inspiring reading everyone's takes on the recipes in AHAH...

                                              I made the Chocolate Chip cookies first, which were very good. I really REALLY love cookies, especially chocolate chip, so was looking forward to what Keller described as "arguably the best cookie ever". The instructions were a bit finicky for me, i.e. beating half the butter first then beating the other half when the sugars are added, using a strainer to shake out any chocolate “dust” from the chopped chocolate (I skipped this step which supposedly leads to a “cleaner” looking cookie). Keller also uses two types of chocolate – 55% & 70-72%. Apart from including the chocolate dust, I stuck to the instructions and measurements.

                                              These cookies are very tasty. You add 1 tsp of kosher salt of which the taste/texture really comes through in the final cookies, even for what seems like a small amount. While the salt taste was surprising it was not unpleasant. The cookies were dense and chewy and stayed moist even a few days later when stored in an airtight container. And I love that Keller gives directions for refrigerating or freezing the dough if you want to make ahead (or just don’t want 30 cookies in the kitchen at one time). One other surprise for these cookies was that I didn't really like them hot out of the oven - a first for me. I found them much better once they cooled.

                                              I also made the Buttermilk Biscuits, mainly because I had all the ingredients on hand. You mix cake & pastry flour, AP flour, 1TBSP + 1 TSP kosher salt, baking powder, baking soda, half lb of butter, and 1.5 cups of buttermilk. I made some subs here, in both the ingredients and the method. I used all AP flour as I was out of Cake & Pastry. I also used a pastry cutter instead of the food processer method that Keller describes, but I had a bit of trouble with it and ended up just rubbing the butter into the flour with my fingers. When I added the buttermilk, the dough seemed really shaggy and wouldn’t come together at all, so I added some additional buttermilk, maybe an extra quarter to half cup.

                                              Despite my modifications, these biscuits were great, if not a bit salty (my husband didn’t find them salty, so it might just be my taste). I had rerolled the dough several times to use it all up and even the biscuits cut out of the final roll turned out flaky and delicious. We ate some out of the oven, and rewarmed several for egg sandwiches a couple of days later and they were still yummy. I’d like to try this recipe with some grated cheddar, maybe it was the salt, but every time I ate one I thought they would be even better baked with cheese (like most things!). If baking again, I would probably reduce the salt, or maybe weigh the salt instead. Can't say what they tasted like at room temp, as I ate them fresh or toasted.

                                              A couple good recipes that came together pretty quickly and easily.

                                              12 Replies
                                              1. re: Nevita

                                                Welcome aboard Nevita! Thanks for these two great write-ups. I made the chocolate shortbread and I also noticed they were distinctly salty. I'm not really sure how I felt about it - like you said it wasn't unpleasant, but... I dunno.

                                                I hope if you try the biscuit recipe with the modifications you'll post here about your results. :-)

                                                1. re: geekmom

                                                  On another AHAH report thread it was written that Keller uses Diamond Kosher salt and not Morton's. That's significant because Diamond is less salty than Morton's because of the way it's produced. Perhaps that's the reason some of these recipes have been too salty...

                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                    I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt, so for me that wasn't the issue. I put it down to one of those things where I clearly don't have a sophisticated enough palate to appreciate the "robust" saltiness of the shortbread. LOL! ;-)

                                                    1. re: geekmom

                                                      Thanks for the warm welcome, geekmom! I think I'm just used to not tasting the salt in baked goods, rather than it playing a leading role. Not necessarily bad, just very pronounced. Also, being the baker and knowing how much salt was in the cookies and biscuits probably stuck in my mind as well...or it could be just that we share the same unsophisticated palate! :)

                                                2. re: Nevita

                                                  Just a footnote about this recipe. I had frozen a few of the buttermilk biscuits since it didn't seem like a good idea for two of us to eat a dozen in one weekend. I pulled them out the other night to try them with strawberry shortcake "recipe" on page 2, as suggested in the recipe's preamble. Essentially you toss sliced strawberries with a couple pinches of sugar, and layer them with the biscuits and heavy cream whipped with a bit of sugar and vanilla.

                                                  The biscuits to use for the dessert were WAY too salty! Three of us had the dessert and all of us thought it was really salty. Maybe Diamond Kosher would have improved the biscuits. On the up side, the freezing didn't seem to affect the biscuits really which I was happy about.

                                                  1. re: Nevita

                                                    BUTTERMILK BISCUITS, p. 276

                                                    I have had only a few successes making biscuits over the years, but I was trying to come up with an "American" dessert for a small dinner party for a visiting Frenchwoman, and as TK's biscuits looked so good and strawberries are at their peak here, I settled on--you guessed it--strawberry shortcake.

                                                    I followed the AHAH biscuit recipe to a tee--both cake and AP flours, Diamond Crystal salt, etc. (and didn't find them salty at all). Because I have a tendency to overwork dough, I was obsessed with not doing so, so I probably under-processed it in my FP. I had much difficulty getting it to come together (I probably should have followed Nevita's lead and added more buttermilk) so I finally dumped it all onto a granite slab and patted away, probably overworking the dough. (This makes a lot, btw. After cutting out 15 2-inch rounds, I still had almost half the dough left, so I wrapped it carefully and froze it, hoping it will be ok for another use.)

                                                    These were not "light and fluffy." Rather they were crusty and separated easily into layers. But my husband pronounced them the best he'd ever had, and I have to say they were darned good, in the shortcake dessert(spread with lemon curd before being ladled with berries and whipped cream) and lightly warmed the next morning, with butter and kumquat marmalade. (Tomorrow they will be made into little sandwiches with sliced pork tenderloin and chive mayonnaise for a picnic.)

                                                    Nevita and I think alike as my first thought was how good these would be with some cheese added to the dough. I'll do that next time.

                                                    Did these come out as TK intended? Probably not. But we loved them nonetheless.

                                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                      Glad your biscuits turned out so well, nomadchowwoman! I will definitely try the diamond crystal salt next time...Funny that you had so much leftover dough. I got 12-14 biscuits out of mine - maybe another reason I found them salty!

                                                      1. re: Nevita

                                                        Well, I realized as I was looking at that recipe again today that I used smaller biscuit cutters than the recipe directed. But it is still strange how many biscuits I got: when I defrosted the leftovers, I got another 12 biscuits. I wonder if I worked/stretched the dough too much/too thin?

                                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                          I wondered if I overworked the dough as well, but the biscuits seemed to come out fine. And they looked very similar to those in your photo. A Keller mystery!

                                                    2. re: Nevita

                                                      Chocolate Chip Cookies, p. 326

                                                      My husband is always up for chocolate chip cookies (well, so am I; I just can't eat them with the abandon he can), so I thought I'd give the AHAH recipe a whirl, with a few tweaks.

                                                      I followed TK's method: cut 1/2 lb butter into small pieces, beat half of it in the stand mixer before adding the other half plus 1 c dark brown and 3/4 c granulated sugar and beating until "light and creamy," then 2 eggs, one at a time. The flour mix (2 1/3 c + 1 AP with 3/4 tsp baking soda & 1 tsp. kosher salt) is added to the bowl and mixed on low speed until the dough forms. You then fold in 5 oz (you read that correctly: suddenly, you *do* need a scale--which might have been handy for that flour measurement!) ea of 55% and 70-72% chocolate pieces. The closest thing I had to 55% were 60% Ghirardelli chocolate chips so I used 5 oz of those and another 5 oz, chopped up from a bar of Green & Black (70%) and part of a Whole Foods Organic (70%) . I did NOT sift the chocolate for a "cleaner" look: when the dirt is chocolate dust, I'll take a dirty cookie anytime.

                                                      The other change I made was adding 1 c of toasted chopped pecans, knowing my husband's fondness for nuts. (OK, knock it off with the knowing looks, please!) I'm happy to report that these did not seem to detract from the cookies in any way, but I guess we'll never know.

                                                      Verdict: excellent. The remaining dough is in the fridge, wiating to be baked later and and delivered as a hostess gift (and from temptation!) tonight.

                                                      Whether they were worth the fuss--that is, any better than those made from the recipe (from Essential NYT) that I've been using--I'm not sure. Is it really necessary to cut the butter into small pieces and add it in two batches? I can't say I noticed any discernible difference. I also had never used dark brown sugar in CC cookies before, but I couldn't taste any difference there either. I also baked the first batch at 375F before realizing the recipe called for 350; I switched to that for the second sheet of cookies and cooked those a minute longer. No difference there either.

                                                      No complaints though. My husband loved them, but lately he's been pronouncing eveything the "best ever." I realized he's not to be trusted: a few nights ago he devoured with equal relish and enthusiasm the Girl Scout cookies he found stashed in the pantry.

                                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                          Hah! Great review. The finished product looks and sounds amazing, though perhaps not much more amazing than, say, a box of Samoas, depending on your point of view. ;-)

                                                      1. Soffritto pg. 263

                                                        This one takes time, serious time. 6 hours start to finish for me. Its basically slowly caramelized onions and tomatoes cooked slowly in a lot of olive oil with a little garlic and salt added at the end. The results are a bit funny, kinda tastes like greasy onions, but wow drained of the oil and added to a sauce they really deliver flavor.

                                                        One note, I weighed my onions, 2 medium sized were just right for a half batch. But then I forgot to weigh my 3 tomatoes, and after grating three smallish plum tomatoes I had way more pulp than I was supposed to. No idea why. Anyway, I went with the liquid measure, 1/2 cup for a half recipe, which was about half of what the 3 grated tomatoes produced in puree. It seemed to work fine.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: qianning

                                                          My soffritto is cooking now - however, I am not quite sure how to tell when it's done! I let the onions cook for 2.5 hours, at which point they were golden, but not darker than a golden raisin by any stretch of the imagination. I was impatient, though, so I added the tomatoes anyway (I used canned, which I seeded and pureed in the food processor) and the mixture has now been cooking for about 2 hours. The oil is clear, but aside from that, I haven't seen any changes. I'll probably let them go another hour and then drain...

                                                        2. Mayonnaise, pg. 333

                                                          Interesting, add the acid (lemon juice) after the oil, and no mustard either. Will this work? Well, not for me.

                                                          I ended up with a mayonnaise that had the consistency of buttermilk. It tasted OK, and as I was making it ( a 1/4 batch, btw) to use in his Buttermilk Dressing, the lackluster results/texture weren't the end of the world, but I wouldn't use this technique again.

                                                          1. Chicken Stock, p.339

                                                            This was just a simple yet flavourful stock that involved certain methods I had never employed before.

                                                            After rinsing the bones, backs & necks (with optional chx feet), bring to a slow simmer with the pot half off the burner. This is supposed to create a natural current that makes for easier skimming, though I found not much skimming to be had anyway.
                                                            After simmering a bit, add 8 cups of ice cubes, which is to get the fat to solidify and make it simple to remove..but it didn't work, even though I dumped all my ice in at once. They just melted on contact. After all that time I took making those cubes! I proceeded to add the rest of the items: leeks, onions, carrots & bay. I dealt with the fat later.

                                                            Can someone please explain to me why the green tops of the leeks are never used? I don't often work with leeks..but this seems incredibly wasteful if they are just going to be discarded after flavouring a stock anyway. So, rebel that I am, I used the green tops as well, heh heh.
                                                            I also skipped the cooling-in-the-ice-bath part, and instead strained the liquid and set it out in the porch to cool overnight, skimming the fat off in the morning. And I don't really care if my stock is cloudy, so I kept the remaining liquid full of "impurities" at the bottom of the pot.
                                                            I also made a sort of 'second pressing' with the leftover meat & veggies, a weaker broth that is still mighty tasty.

                                                            Maybe not Keller-approved, but the idea's there.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: Allegra_K

                                                              You iconoclast you, no cooling in the ice bath, no discarding greens, no fear of impurities....hat's off to you for even reading this recipe, the first paragraph was the end of me.

                                                              1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                I actually love the green tops of leeks - if you slice them thinly across the grain and cook them a little longer than the whites, they tenderize quite nicely. I especially like them in mapo tofu.

                                                                1. re: biondanonima

                                                                  This is great info, thank you! It really does seem like such a waste otherwise.

                                                                  PS-I love your bacon equality avatar...

                                                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                                                    Wow! That is great to know! I hate throwing them away - good to know I don't have to!

                                                                  2. re: Allegra_K

                                                                    Chicken Brine, pg. 339

                                                                    Is there another thread on this? Thought so but can't seem to find it.

                                                                    Anyhoo, this was my second time making this brine. The first time was a couple years ago for a batch of his fried chicken, we liked it but weren't bowled over. This time though was for the pan roasted chicken, and wow. The brining really did the trick for both flavor and texture. I made just a 1/5 batch (enough for 2 lbs), and now that I've got the calculations made and know that it fits perfectly in my 5qt casserole, I'll be making and using this brine again. In fact I'm already thinking garlic chicken pre-brined in this would be awfully nice....

                                                                    1. re: qianning

                                                                      There is a chicken brine review in the desserts thread since the basic section comes after that. I need to try his brine for chicken.... so far, I have only used his pork brine and it is stellar.

                                                                      Never mind, we are already ON that thread. :-)

                                                                  3. Coconut cake - p 309

                                                                    I used the recipe which mebby helpfully tracked down for me here: http://tomatoesonthevine-velva.blogsp...

                                                                    For this cake, you reduce 500ml of coconut milk, and my can was only 400ml, so I added 100ml of coconut-flavoured almond milk which happened to be in my dad's fridge. The reduction took an unbelievably long time - at least an hour. I don't know if this would be quicker with a coconut milk that has a lower water content, as mine was already 40% water to begin with before I added the extra liquid. At any rate, it was a very weird experience because if you don't whisk it very frequently while it simmers, the coconut milk bubbles up every few minutes at random like boiling lava with a noise that made us think the cat was being violently ill the first few times we heard it.

                                                                    Anyway, that process, as weird and long as it was, is essential and totally worth it because it gives the cake an incredible, intense coconut flavour which really bowled us over. The cake had a light and fluffy texture, too, which makes it worth the trouble of separating six eggs and whisking the whites up before folding in to the butter/sugar/flour mixture.

                                                                    The cake was an unqualified success with everyone who tried it. My brother, in his usual eloquent way, described it as "@#$!* awesome!" 'nuff said. ;-


                                                                    One thing which seemed off for me was the quantity of toasted coconut to sprinkle on top of the cake. I had LOADS left over after a generous sprinkling. I baked the cake in a 9x13" sheet cake pan; perhaps if you are making a double-layered round cake and intend to present it on a cake stand you might need the full two cups, but otherwise if you're like me and serve the cake straight out of the pan, you can cut the toasted coconut by at least half.

                                                                    One other comment - the unfamiliar oven I was using apparently runs hot, and my first attempt at toasting coconut to sprinkle on top was a disaster which had to be thrown out even though I set the timer for the minimum time listed in the recipe (6min). So unless you're absolutely sure about your oven temp I would encourage you to keep your oven slightly cooler or check every few minutes from the start so you don't end up wasting two cups of coconut flakes.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: geekmom

                                                                      I love this review geekmom; you're constantly cracking me up!

                                                                    2. Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce, pg. 333 - Basics

                                                                      I assume this is the thread for the "Basics" chapter as well? If not, someone can move my post, but if so, here goes!

                                                                      This recipe caught my eye both due to the technique (oven-reducing the sauce, etc.) and the ingredients. The recipe is made entirely in a 350 degree oven. You combine equal parts chopped onion, leek and fennel with some garlic and canola oil (I used olive) and roast for an hour or so. Add some red wine vinegar and brown sugar and roast another 20 mins. Add canned San Marzano tomatoes (drained, seeded, half pureed and half rough chopped), salt and pepper to taste and a sachet (bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns and garlic) and cook for another 1.5 hours or more, until the sauce is very thick.

                                                                      I made just a couple of small changes - I felt like the amount of sugar called for was too much, so I used about 2/3 the amount. Even that was generous - I would use even less next time, possibly none at all - the fennel and leeks add plenty of sweetness IMO. I also forgot to seed my tomatoes, but I don't think that did any damage. I used a fairly light hand with the salt because I wasn't sure how much the sauce would reduce, but I ended up adding quite a bit at the finish to help balance the sweetness. I'll probably add another splash of vinegar as well.

                                                                      Despite the sweetness, I like this sauce quite a bit - it has a nice texture and the flavors of fennel and onion really come through. I'm not sure I would choose to eat it straight over pasta, but I'm planning to use some of it as a sauce for roasted salmon, and I think it would be good with meatballs as well. The oven-reducing technique was easy (perfect for a day when you're at home but don't want to be tied to the kitchen) and I can imagine adapting other sauce recipes to this technique.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                                                        Sorry yes, people have been posting basics here. I don't have the book, and went with the contents page from Amazon. I don't recall seeing a Basics section on there, but I must have missed it.

                                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                                          We could perhaps ask the moderators to add basics + the page numbers to the top post, so that in future when people are looking through these threads they can find comments on the basic recipes?

                                                                        2. re: biondanonima

                                                                          Here's a photo of tonight's dinner - pan roasted salmon on a bed of white bean puree, with the tomato sauce on top, roasted Brussels sprouts on the side!

                                                                        3. Pecan-Walnut Bars, Desserts, P306

                                                                          These were delicious! Make a crust of powdered sugar, ground almonds, AP flour, butter, vanilla and an egg. Refrigerate the crust which is later rolled out onto a quarter sheet pan, then chilled again. While the dough is in the fridge, make the filling – pecans, walnuts, eggs, molasses, vanilla, salt, brown sugar, corn syrup & melted butter (this mixture stands for 30 mins). Bake the crust for 30 mins, then pour in the filling and bake the whole thing for another 15 minutes. Cool to room temp, then freeze the pan until solid. Take the bars (not quite in bar form yet) out of the pan, trim off the edges, then cut into bars. Serve cold or at room temp (though Keller mentions eating them warm out of the oven in the preamble).

                                                                          This is a great recipe if you’re trying to use up eggs – 7 in total! I made a few modifications that didn’t seem to harm the bars – I ran out of AP flour and subbed about a ¼ cup whole wheat; I just whisked the almond flour and flour together rather than running them through the food processor to combine (seemed unnecessary); and I used a 9x13 baking dish rather than the quarter sheet pan asked for. Also worth mentioning that I had to bake the filling for much longer than Keller's 15 mins, more than double that in fact, for it to set. I also cut the bars much smaller than the 8 pieces that Keller suggests. They're probably each a 1/3 of that and that's plenty rich for me.

                                                                          Nice that the bars could be made in steps in case you didn’t want to spend an afternoon in the kitchen. That being said, I found the method lengthy with all of the dough chilling, then freezing the finished bars. If I made these again, I’d just press the dough into the pan. I thought that the bars were similar in taste to a really good pecan pie, which wouldn’t require all the effort. That being said, they received rave reviews. I’ve just kept a stash in the freezer, and I’m surprised I prefer them frozen to warmed. The texture of the frozen bars is lovely, kind of toothy. And the super-sticky edge pieces (from trimming) are the best! I’m glad I didn’t skip that step, though Keller probably intends that they be discarded. :)

                                                                          1. Chive Oil, p. 265

                                                                            It's not that this recipe was really calling out to me--my experience is that flavored oil is usually more trouble than it's worth: I use a bit and end up throwing it out long after I've forgotten I it. But I have a wild abundance of chives in my little garden so I went ahead with this recipe.

                                                                            I took a few liberties. I halved the recipe for aforementioned reason. And since I don't own a Vita-Mix, I used my stick blender (which worked just fine here). Isn't it ironic that the AHAH editors didn't want readers to feel they needed a kitchen scale to use this book, yet several recipes call for a Vita-Mix?

                                                                            TK's method of running hot water over the chives and then drying them seems to really help with the pureeing. Since I was using only 1/2 c ea of chives and oil (I used grapeseed), I put all the chives in(to a tall, pint-sized measuring cup) initially, with just enough oil to cover and whirred away for a full two minutes. I then added the remaining oil and whirred for another 2 1/2 minutes. That really seemed to do it.

                                                                            The puree went into a jar, was refrigerated for 24 hours, then poured through cheesecloth. The picture below is of the puree, but my photography couldn't capture the emerald clarity of the finished oil. Beautiful.

                                                                            And delicious! I mixed it with mayo to serve with crabcakes and drizzled some of it over grilled shrimp. Tonight we'll be drizzling it over a farro risotto.

                                                                            I'm really glad I made this and will soon be making more. Suddenly I can think of all kinds of things to do with it. If you've got lots of chives and a stick blender, I recommend it highly.

                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                              "Isn't it ironic that the AHAH editors didn't want readers to feel they needed a kitchen scale to use this book, yet several recipes call for a Vita-Mix?"

                                                                              So true. Everyone I know who has a Vitamix talks about how awesome it is, so I'm sure if I had one I would love it, but I'm happy to hear from you that this is worth the trouble and that my stick blender will do the job :-)

                                                                              1. re: geekmom

                                                                                Believe me I have eyed them lasciviously myself (and have no doubt I'd love one and give it a good home too!), but since I haven't yet succumbed, I'm immediately put off by recipes requiring one. So, yes, I was surprised by how nicely the puree turned out.

                                                                              2. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                Ha, your scale/VitaMix comment brings to mind my reaction upon reading a muffin recipe from Bouchon Bakery, with instructions to use a stand mixer - with the whisk attachment, on low speed, mixing no more than 2 or 3 minutes at a time. In other words, you might as well just do it with a bowl and a whisk and your hand like every other oil-based pumpkin muffin recipe I've made.

                                                                                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                  That chive oil sounds amazing and I have loads of chives just popping their heads up in the garden! Do you literally just puree the chives and oil together?

                                                                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                    First, he has you cut the chives into 1/2 inch lengths and then run hot water over them (to soften and "remove any chlorophyll taste") in a sieve and then dry them as well as you can.

                                                                                    He has you do the pureeing in a couple of steps (1/2 c chives just covered w/oil, then 1/4 c covered w/oil, then remaining chives and remaining oil), blending for 2 minutes after ea. addition. Since I was using only 1/2 c ea., I did the first puree with oil to cover and then added the remaining oil. (I was concerned that my blender wouldn't be fully immersed if I halved the recipe in the first step and proceeded as it was written.) The long blending times were necessary, and in my opinion, the key to success. I've tried making herb oils many times and never could get a really smooth puree--but I'd never blended for that long, and I'd never softened with hot water--or blanched, as a lot of recipes call for--and that also seemed to make a difference.

                                                                                    But ultimately, yes, it is just a puree of the chives and oil, which is then filtered through cheesecloth. Really very easy.

                                                                                  2. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                    "Isn't it ironic that the AHAH editors didn't want readers to feel they needed a kitchen scale to use this book, yet several recipes call for a Vita-Mix?"

                                                                                    You know, it's funny. In the book's intro Keller describes a good kitchen scale as one of the "big four" countertop appliances everyone should have (the others being that Vitaxmix, a stand mixer and a food processer). He says that they use volume measurements in the book in most cases because so few people have a scale. I'd suggest to his editors that if this book goes to another edition they include both; the people seeking out his recipes probably overlap nicely with the people taking his advice about countertop appliances.

                                                                                  3. Vegetable Stock -p.341

                                                                                    What's to say about vegetable stock that hasn't been said before? Well, this was an exceptionally delicious, rich golden stock packed full of flavour, which is saying something since it contained minimal ingredients.
                                                                                    Carrots, leeks (again I used the whole allium) , onion, and fennel are pulsed to finely chop in a food processor. Ever since a certain member of the family has started putting the dishes away, I haven't been able to locate many items....the food processor blade being one of them! So I chopped by kind-of finely by hand in a sort of lazy, careless manner (one less dish to dirty!). This is softened w/oil, and in goes parsley, thyme, and bay (and water, of course!) and all is simmered for three-quarters an hour, then cooled quickly in an ice bath--tho I just left on the counter.
                                                                                    I was going to omit the fennel because I strongly dislike this vegetable (there. I said it.) but it really added a lovely roundness to the stock that I would have missed. There was no hint of anise at all.
                                                                                    I used this for a grilled vegetable paella (from Planet Barbecue) and it made for a very delicious and robust base for something so simple.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                                        Yes, this is the one. Whiskey, beer and good music optional but recommended.

                                                                                        1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                          Thanks muchly! I wonder how much cooking he actually gets done.

                                                                                    1. Romesco Sauce -p.333

                                                                                      Hey look, I found another 'easy' Keller recipe! I had to do a few substitutions in this rendition of the delicious Spanish sauce, but it turned out to be a good version.

                                                                                      Start by soaking ñora peppers to soften. I doubt I'll ever be able to find these ones in my town, so I used some pasillas instead. Meanwhile, roast red pepper, onion, garlic, and tomatoes until charred. I used a few tinned tomatoes and did my best to blister them under the broiler. Bread and slivered almonds are toasted in oil, and the lot is pureed until smooth. Finish with sherry vinegar,salt, and piment d'esplette (pimenton for me).

                                                                                      This keeps for up to two weeks, and the flavour certainly gets better after sitting overnight. I used this to go with grilled green onions and asparagus in a cava and tapa-filled evening (whilst longing for a porrón!) and it was very good, albeit a little too tangy. I think I prefer a nuttier, less tomato-y sauce, but I have yet to encounter a romesco I don't like. It was swell.

                                                                                      And thus concludes my adventures in Ad Hoc at Home.

                                                                                      1. Cheesecake p.313

                                                                                        You combine a cup of graham cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and 5 tablespoons of melted butter, press it into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan, and bake in a 325 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.

                                                                                        When the crust is cooked and cooled, you beat 1 pound of room temperature cream cheese, 8 ounces of mascarpone, and a cup of sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle for a couple of minutes until it is smooth and light.

                                                                                        In another bowl you lightly beat 4 eggs + 2 yolks, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and then add 1 teaspoon lemon juice. You then slowly add the egg mixture to the cream cheese mixture, add 1/4 cup +2 tablespoons heavy cream and the grated zest of a lemon, and mix until combined.

                                                                                        You pour the mixture into the springform pan (which has been wrapped in foil) and put the pan in a water bath. Then you bake for an hour or until the cheesecake is set and a light golden brown. Let cool in the water bath until water is room temp and then refrigerate for several hours or up to 2 days.

                                                                                        This was my first ever attempt at making a cheesecake and the actual process and directions were easy enough. Either my oven temperature is way off or the amount of time in the recipe is way wrong because it took closer to an hour and a half for the cake to set in the middle.

                                                                                        The cake was much thinner than I had anticipated but my springform pan might be bigger than 9 inches. (I'm honestly not sure) It also was my first time at making cheesecake so I may have over or under-mixed it. In any case, a slightly flat cheesecake (as compared to a towering NY cheesecake) wouldn't bother me as long as it tasted good.

                                                                                        The one thing I had a real problem with was the amount of lemon zest in the cake. This was described just as a plain cheesecake but the flavor was more lemony than the lemon cheesecake that my mother makes (and I adore). It was too much even for a lemon cheesecake. If I were going to make this recipe again, I'd use the lemon juice but omit the zest.

                                                                                        The cheesecake isn't bad but the flavor is a bit much for me. I normally can't resist cheesecake in my fridge but this one will probably go bad before it is entirely eaten. I will be trying a different recipe next time.