Good morning! Join our Live Chat with Rick Nelson at noon today, but if you'd like to get your questions at the top of the list, please post NOW! We'll be talking about our holiday baking contest winners, and dining over the holidays and well, whatever you want to talk about. See you in a bit.
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Hi everyone. I baked up a batch of our winning cookie this morning, and they're fantastic, if I do say so myself. And so easy.
Absolutely. I picked it up at Seward Co-op in Minneapolis the other day, I think I paid $5.39/pound, and it's worth every penny. Holiday cookies are special -- to me, anyway -- and why not buy the best ingredients that you can afford? You'll notice the difference, the extra 3-4 percent butterfat (which means there's 3-4 percent less water and milk solids) turns out cookies of golden, tender perfection. Why not support a local company making a great product?
Freezing chocolate is a problem. One of the reasons that I love our winning cookie is that it's one of those great make-in-advance recipes. You can make the dough, roll out the logs and then stick the logs in the freezer for weeks. When you're ready to bake, defrost the dough overnight in the refrigerator and bake them fresh, and dip them in chocolate and serve. Or, bake the cookies, freeze them and then when you're ready to serve, defrost them then dip them in chocolate.
Ovens are the biggest obstacle to cooking baking success. Temperature gauges in ovens are notoriously inaccurate; I once had an oven that was off 75 degrees. Here's how you get around that: buy an oven thermometer. I've got one from Target that I bought for less than $7 (http://www.target.com/p/taylor-trutemp-oven-and-grill-thermometer/-/A-11010614#prodSlot=medium_1_2&term=oven+thermometer), and it works like a charm. My second tip: Line your baking sheets with parchment paper or use silicon mats (like Silpat). So much easier, and far less greasy, than using butter or shortening.
You should book a table at Union Rooftop (unionmpls.com), which is an extraordinary cold-weather venue, with its glass barrel-vaulted roof. Or the St. Paul Grill (stpaulgrill.com) in the evening, with a table at the window overlooking the incredible light show in Rice Park.
Two ideas: Marin Restaurant & Bar (marinrestaurant.com) the stylish and delicious new restaurant in the Chambers Hotel at 9th and Hennepin, Or you could go old school and have a holiday lunch amid the festive tree and trimmings at the Oak Grill on the 12th floor of the store Formerly Known As Dayton's.
My first thought is to send you to the Machine Shed in Lake Elmo (machineshed.com), where the kitchen prepares it in three sizes, $19 to 26
Sure, why not? I would be cautious about introducing too many flavors into this cookie, however; I really like the subtle mix of chocolate, coffee and cinnamon.
Using straight-up oil is going to cause problems, with spreading, with texture. Have you tried vegan butter substitutes? One product worth checking out is from Earth Balance, I've seen it in the dairy case at several natural foods co-ops.
More and more restaurants are embracing sustainability, not only in their everyday practices, but in the design and construction of their facilities. One good example is Common Roots Cafe (commonrootscafe.com) in south Minneapolis, which goes to great efforts to source locally as much as possible, recycle and reuse. Check out their website, they have tons of information.
Thanks for the laugh. You and I are on the same page. I see candied cherries in a recipe, and I want to run in the other direction. I don't get it, but then again, I don't get lutefisk, either. Tradition, right?
Insanity? Kidding. We were going through piles of old Taste sections from the 1970s, and we were struck by how interactive they were. Well, interactive in the pre-Internet era, anyway. There was a lot of reader participation in those old (and huge, 20-plus pages) sections, with lots of recipe sharing. We thought that taking a somewhat universal cooking/baking subject -- holiday cookies -- and combining it with reader input -- a contest -- would bring back some of that old Taste spirit. Plus, it sounded like fun (as it turned out, it is). Selfish reasons, too: I love to bake in December, and am always on the lookout for delicious new recipes.
Tons, as always. I'm looking forward to Travail opening (or, really, re-opening) in downtown Robbinsdale, although that might occur before the end of the year. The women behind the Chef Shack are getting close to opening Chef Shack Ranch, their bricks-and-mortar version of their popular food truck, on E. Franklin Av. in south Minneapolis. The talented duo behind Borough are opening a place in Uptown, in the same building as the folks who run the Yogurt Lab; they're creating a fast-casual salad concept that sounds really cool. Oh, and Jim Christiansen, formerly of Union, is opening Heyday with front of house guy Lorin Zinter, at Lyndale and 27th in south Minneapolis.
If you haven't checked out the Buttered Tin (thebutteredtin.com) in Lowertown, you need to, pronto.
If you're going to be using a lot of almonds, walnuts, pistachios or other nuts, skip the supermarket and go to We Are Nuts (wearnutsmn.com), a warehouse specialty store in St. Paul, not far from I-94 and Vandalia/Cretin. Huge selection, great prices. If I'm making the aforementioned Almond Triangles, I always go there.
My second suggestion is to buy fresh spices, and not from those little jars at the supermarket. Instead, go to the nearest natural foods co-op and buy whatever you need, from the bulk section. You'll save a significant amount of money, and you'll be surprised by how much fresher and more potent these spices are vs. the spices in the spice rack at the supermarket.
Two that I really appreciate are the increasing number of late-night (or, later-night, anyway) establishments, and the increasing number of restaurants serving creative, thoughtful breakfasts. More of both, please.
I'm going to hold off on that for a few weeks. We're announcing our Restaurant of the Year on December 26th.
Are they ever. You can go traditional, and find this year's winners in today's paper (it's an excellent group, I'm going to be baking all of them again before the end of the year). You can also find all the cookies we've published during the last 11 years of the contest (57 of them) at startribune.com/cookies. And then there's our ebook. We've made a new edition of "The Cookie Book," featuring all 57 recipes (plus two that are absolute favorites, from me and from Taste editor Lee Svitak Dean). You can find it at startribune.com/ebooks, and it's the deal of the year at $2.99.
Thanks everyone. One last item: Meet our bakers this Saturday at the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, from 1 to 3 p.m. It's a lot of fun, and of course you'll get to sample their winning recipes. See you there.
Thanks for joining our Live Chat. We'll be back next week, same time (noon), same day (Thursday) to talk restaurants and more. FInd transcripts of past Live Chats at startribune.com/tastechats. Look for your restaurant/food news anytime at startribune.com/taste or on Thursdays in the Taste section. Find us on Facebook at Star Tribune Taste and on Twitter: @RickNelsonStrib and @StribTaste.