Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

If last episode of Good Eats was all about cake, I suppose it is only fitting that this episode dealt with icing. Alton made the point that store-bought cake mixes are generally quite good, and, in fact, they are sometimes better than the cakes we can make at home. For this reason, a cake mix was used in this episode, and Alton used it to make two round layers. Once his cakes were baked, it was onto the icing.

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One of my two cake mix layers.

Buttercream

First up, Alton made his version of buttercream. To make this recipe, you will need to have 10 ounces of softened butter, so you will need to set your butter out in advance. In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 C sugar and 1/2 C dark corn syrup, bringing this mixture to a boil over high heat. When your sugar syrup has large bubbles, turn off the heat and set the syrup aside for a few minutes.

While the syrup cools, beat 4 eggs with a whisk attachment until they are thick and have lightened in color.

It is ideal to use a metal turkey baster to add the hot syrup to the eggs, as you can drizzle the syrup into the edge of the mixing bowl, avoiding the whisk (the syrup will solidify upon hitting the whisk). You will, however, want to oil your baster first by drawing vegetable oil into the baster, and then pushing it out again. Using your lubed baster, and with the mixer running on low speed, drizzle the hot syrup into the eggs, trying to get it in the space between the bowl and the whisk.

Continue this process until all of the syrup has been added. When all of the syrup is in, increase the speed to high and beat until the side of the bowl is warm, but not hot, to the touch; this should take about two minutes.

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Buttercream after adding all of the syrup.

Next, piece by piece, slowly add your softened butter, only adding a new piece of butter when the previous piece has been completely mixed in. Your resulting buttercream should be smooth, creamy, and thick enough to frost a cake. The key word here is “should.” Mine was not. My buttercream had turned into sort of a broken soup at this point.

I attempted to save my buttercream by first heating it on the stove to get the tiny lumps of butter incorporated.

I then tried beating it again, and it was smoother, but it still was not thickening properly.

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Beating the buttercream again.

I decided to try chilling it and beating it again, which resulted in a slightly thicker consistency, but it still was inadequate. My last hope was to try chilling it even longer, but this still did not solve the problem.

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Beating the buttercream after chilling.

After working on this buttercream for a couple hours, I finally pulled the plug. My buttercream tasted fantastic – rich, buttery, and sweet, but it just was too runny. I did use it for a pseudo crumb coat on my cake, but it just did not work well. Oh, and did I mention that while I was having my buttercream fiasco, my dog decided to sample my cake? Yep, he took a bite right out of the side.

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Using the buttercream for a crumb coat.

I have successfully made buttercream in the past, using a sugar syrup. The recipes I have had success with in the past have all used a candy thermometer and specific temperatures for the syrup. I wonder if my syrup was not hot enough, or if I did not add it quickly enough. I also wonder if my butter was too soft. After reading the online reviews of this recipe, I see that I was not the only person to struggle with this particular recipe. Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with this recipe again, as I know that there are other buttercream recipes out there that work, while this one did not for me. When all was said and done, I wound up frosting my cake with store-bought buttercream, which is just not the same.

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Giving in and frosting my cake with store-bought buttercream.

Oh, but if you choose to make this buttercream and it works for you, you do also have the option of adding flavor. For chocolate buttercream, melt 4 ounces of chopped dark chocolate, letting it cool for a few minutes. Add the melted chocolate to the finished buttercream. For coffee buttercream, dissolve 1 t of instant espresso in 2 t coffee liqueur. Or, you can add any extract or food coloring of your choosing. Store buttercream in an airtight container with an additional layer of plastic wrap. If you make the buttercream in advance, bring it to room temperature and re-whip it before frosting your cake.

Ganache

For his cake, Alton opted to make a ganache to use as a filling between cake layers. To make the ganache, heat 6 ounces of heavy cream with 3 T corn syrup in a small saucepan.

Add 12 ounces of chopped dark chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

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Chopped dark chocolate.

Remove the pan from the heat and add 1/2 t vanilla extract.

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Ganache after chocolate was melted and smooth. Adding vanilla off the heat.

Let the ganache cool before using. Spread the ganache between cake layers, using a spatula to spread it almost to the cake edge.

Unlike the buttercream, this ganache recipe was super fast and easy, and it tasted great. I typically use a regular frosting between cake layers, rather than a filling, but I really liked the contrast of dark chocolate between layers. And, if you refrigerate your cake, the ganache becomes fudge-like and dense, adding a level of richness. Oh, and my suggestion if you happen to have leftover ganache is to refrigerate it until set. You can form balls with the firm ganache, rolling them in cocoa powder or powdered sugar to form truffles. Or, you can just eat it with a spoon like I did.

Writing Chocolate

A recipe for writing chocolate was last in this episode. For this one, combine 1 C chocolate chips and 2 t canola oil in a microwave-safe container, stirring to coat the chips with the oil.

Microwave the chocolate for one minute on high. Stir the chocolate until it is completely smooth. For decorating, transfer the chocolate to a piping bag or a plastic bottle.

This recipe also worked very well and was super easy. It is certainly an easy way to add some writing to a cake. It tastes much better than the artificial writing icing you can buy in the store too.

Cake Assembly

Though not a recipe per se, Alton did go over some of his cake assembly/decorating basics.

  1. He opts for a lazy susan for cake decorating, placing it on top of an upturned cake pan.
  2. To level his cakes, Alton uses two wooden yard pickets, placed on their sides in a V-shape. He places his cake inside the V and slices along the top of the pickets with a bow saw blade.
  3. He also uses the pickets for splitting cake layers, turning them onto their shorter sides. Again, using a bow saw blade, he slices across the top of the pickets, slicing the cake into two layers.
  4. When frosting a cake, place the layers in the following order from base to top:  bottom of cake 1, top of cake 1, top of cake 2, and bottom of cake 2.
  5. When you have the filling between your layers, first frost the cake with a thin crumb coat of icing (about 1/4 of your icing) and refrigerate. This crumb coat will make it easier to apply a smooth layer of icing.
  6. When frosting a cake, apply more icing than you think you need to the top of the cake. Spread the icing, working out to the edges and down the sides. It is always better to remove excess icing than to add more.

Gold Cake

Cake is one of my very favorite desserts, and I would probably choose it over pie most of the time. The star of this episode is a gold cake, which is a relative of the classic pound cake. This recipe uses cake flour because of its low protein content, which results in a cake that is more tender. Alton also explained that he often prefers to use butter-flavored shortening when baking, as he thinks it gives more of a buttery flavor to baked goods than does actual butter. You can swap shortening for butter in any baking recipe, but you will need to make a couple of modifications because shortening is 100% fat, while butter is 20% water. This means that you will need to use 20% less shortening than the amount of butter called for, and you will need to increase the liquid in your recipe by 20%. Now, on to the cake.

Before starting this recipe, weigh the empty bowl of your stand mixer, noting the weight for later. In the stand mixer bowl, beat 140 g of butter-flavored shortening on low for about a minute.

To the beaten shortening, add 300 g sugar and a pinch of Kosher salt, and beat this mixture on medium for at least four or five minutes.

Next, with the mixer running, slowly add 130 g of egg yolks (about 8 yolks).

Once the yolks are incorporated, prepare your remaining wet and dry ingredients. In one vessel, combine 180 g of milk with 1 t vanilla extract.

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180 g of milk with 1 t vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together 350 g of cake flour and 14 g of baking powder.

Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures to the batter by adding half of the flour, half of the milk, the remaining half of the flour, and the last of the milk.

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The final cake batter.

Once you have a smooth batter, again weigh your mixing bowl. Subtract the empty bowl weight you took earlier from the weight of the bowl+batter, and divide this number in half; you now have the weight of batter you should have in each cake pan for baking. Using this number, divide the batter evenly between two greased/floured 9-inch cake pans (my batter weighed 1070 g, so I allotted ~535 g per pan).

Bake the cakes in the top third of a 350-degree oven.

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Cakes in the top 1/3 of a 350-degree oven.

Check the cakes after 12 minutes of baking, rotating them if one cake is browning more than the other. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, which took about 30 minutes for my cakes. Let the cakes cool in their pans (on racks) for 10-15 minutes.

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Cakes after baking until a toothpick came out clean – about 30 minutes.

Remove the cakes from their pans and let them cool completely.

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Cake removed from pan.

Now, you could eat these cakes plain, or with whipped cream and fruit, but I did what Alton did and frosted them with his cocoa whipped cream (recipe below).

Cocoa Whipped Cream

To go with his gold cake, Alton made this cocoa whipped cream. You will want to make the cream once your cakes are completely cool. While your cakes finish cooling, chill the mixing bowl and whisk attachment of your stand mixer by placing them in the refrigerator. When the cakes have sufficiently cooled, place 2 T of cold water in a small saucepan and sprinkle 1 t gelatin over the water’s surface; set aside for 5 minutes.

Place the saucepan over low heat, just until the gelatin has melted.

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Gelatin, heated until just melted.

Meanwhile, in your cold mixing bowl, beat on low 2 C whipping cream, 1 t vanilla, and 1/2 C cocoa mix (you could probably use any cocoa mix, but Alton used his Good Eats mix, of which I still had some).

Slowly drizzle the melted gelatin into the cocoa/cream mixture and increase the speed.

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Cocoa mixture after all of the gelatin was added.

Beat the cream until it forms medium peaks.

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The final cocoa cream, beaten until it had medium peaks.

Use the whipped cream to frost Alton’s gold cake, or any other two-layer cake.

We thought Alton’s gold cake and cocoa whipped cream paired nicely together. The cake is a bit of a dry, crumbly cake, but has nice buttery flavor.IMG_6269 The cocoa whipped cream is a nice alternative to traditional frosting, having a light, airy texture and being less sweet than many frostings, but it also necessitates refrigerating your cake.

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A slice of Alton’s gold cake with cocoa whipped cream.

All in all, I would be more likely to make the cocoa whipped cream again over the cake. The cake had good flavor, but was just a bit too dry.

Sweet or Savory Pâte à Choux

When I was in elementary school, a different kid in my class was tasked with bringing snacks for the class each week. No-bake cookies with chocolate and oats were in regular rotation because they were easy to make and most of the kids liked them. My mom usually sent me with cupcakes or other (baked) cookies. One girl’s mother scored massive points with all of the kids (and probably made all the other parents feel like slouches), as she always made homemade cream puffs.

Personally, I have never made cream puffs or eclairs… until now. Baking and pastry are definitely two of my favorite things, so I eagerly whipped up a batch of Alton’s Pâte à Choux yesterday. Pâte à Choux is a pastry dough that is designed to make pastries that can be filled; therefore, when you bake the dough, it is supposed to only form one or two large bubbles, as opposed to the numerous bubbles desired in certain breads and such. In order to create these large bubbles in the pastry, steam needs to be created. Bread flour, and especially bread flour for bread machines, is ideal for Pâte à Choux because it has the highest protein content of all flours, which allows it to absorb more liquid; more liquid equals more steam production. To make Alton’s Pâte à Choux, combine a cup of water and 6 T butter in a pan. If you are making savory dough, also add 1 t Kosher salt. Or, if you are making a sweet dough, as Alton did in the episode, add just a pinch of Kosher salt and 1 T sugar.

Bring this water/butter mixture to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, weigh out  5 3/4 ounces of bread flour. I did not have bread flour for bread machines, so just used bread flour.

When the butter has completely melted and your liquid is boiling, add all of the flour, at once, to the pan.

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Flour added to boiling butter/water.

Stir the flour into the liquid with a spatula until a paste forms. Decrease the heat to low and continue to stir the dough until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough is no longer sticky. Turn off the heat and transfer the dough to the bowl of a standing mixer, setting it aside until it is cool enough to touch.

While the dough cools, place four eggs and two egg whites in a measuring cup; the egg yolks will act as an emulsifier in the dough, while the whites will give the dough structure.

When the dough has sufficiently cooled, slowly add the eggs to the dough, keeping the mixer running. You want to continue adding egg until the dough hangs from the paddle attachment in a ‘V’ shape; for me, this required all of my eggs.

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Dough after adding all of the eggs. A perfect ‘V’ shape off of the paddle.

At this point, you can use your dough immediately, or you can let it rest at room temperature for a couple hours before using. When you are ready to use your dough, prepare a piping bag with a piping tip; Alton did not specify which tip to use, but I used one that was about 3/8″ in diameter and it worked fine. Large Ziploc bags work well for piping too – just snip off one corner, insert the inside part of the coupler, place your desired tip on top, and screw on the coupler ring.

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Ziploc bag turned into piping bag.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. If your parchment is sliding around, you can pipe a dollop of dough on each corner of your sheet pan, pressing the parchment down in the dough to keep it from sliding.

To make eclairs, pipe the dough into ‘S’ shapes, with the tail of each ‘S’ facing up toward you. With a wet finger, pat down the tails.

Alternatively, you can make cream puffs by piping the dough in concentric circle patterns, finishing in the center. Again, pat down any points with a wet finger.

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Dough, piped into concentric circles for cream puffs.

Place the eclairs (or cream puffs) in the center of the oven, increasing the temperature to 425 degrees, and setting the timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake the eclairs for an additional 10 minutes. As soon as your eclairs/cream puffs are cool enough to handle, pierce them with a sharp paring knife to release excess steam.

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Piercing a hot eclair to release steam.

Cool the pastries completely.

At this point, you can bag and freeze the pastry shells for up to a month, bag and store them at room temperature for a week, or you can fill them with a filling of your choice. To do as Alton did in this episode of Good Eats, make vanilla pudding, using only 3/4 of the recommended liquid.

Then, using a small star tip and a piping bag, poke a hole in each eclair/cream puff, filling them with the pudding until the pudding starts to come out the end. Chill the filled pastries.

To bedazzle your eclairs/cream puffs with chocolate, melt 1 C chocolate chips with 1 t vegetable oil in a double boiler. Dip each pastry into the chocolate mixture. Or, you can pour your chocolate into a squeeze bottle and decorate them that way. I opted for the dipping method.

If you do not plan to eat your eclairs right away, keep them refrigerated. I made a mixture of eclairs and cream puffs, ending up with 17 eclairs and 6 cream puffs. I stuck most of my pastries in the freezer for later use, but filled several yesterday.

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Chocolate dipped eclairs.

I have to say that this is a great recipe. Not only are these delicious, but they are really super easy. My pastries turned out light, airy, and slightly crispy on the outside. The pastry itself was barely sweetened and each pastry had a perfect cavity inside for filling. The vanilla pudding was a super easy filling option, and the chocolate set up into a slightly crispy shell. This one is a keeper. For a different option, you could make ice cream sandwiches with cream puffs, splitting them in half. Or, you could make Alton’s savory Pâte à Choux, filling split puffs with a savory salad.

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A cream puff, cut in half.

Funnel Cake

So, what else can you do with Pâte à Choux? Well, you always opt for funnel cake! To make this classic carnival/fair favorite, heat ~1 inch of vegetable oil to 375 degrees.

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Oil, heating to 375 degrees.

Using a #12 piping tip, pipe Pâte à Choux into the hot oil in a circular pattern. Cook the pastry until it is golden brown, flip it over, and cook until the second side is golden.

Remove the pastries to a rack over a sheet pan and dust them liberally with powdered sugar.

My funnel “cakes” turned out more like funnel “straws,” but they were still quite delicious.IMG_6018 I found that the pastry was too thick for the #12 tip, though I had set my dough aside for a while. Still, my pastries were like eating little fried pillows with powdered sugar. These were definitely tasty, though not as pretty as they should be.

I am taking some liberties here and doing this special out of order, as this special episode was really the 7th one to air, but I’m writing it up as my third special. We wound up hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year, and the recipes from this episode composed a large portion of our Thanksgiving menu. Yes, I know Thanksgiving was quite a while ago, but it seems we’ve had non-stop things going on for the last several weeks. The premise of this special is that Alton intends to give you a solid, stress-free Thanksgiving menu, much of which can be prepared in advance. In the episode, he breaks down exactly when you need to complete each step of each recipe, so everything winds up on the table at the same time. I was slightly skeptical as to how well his schedule would actually work when put to the test. Without further ado, here are the recipes from Alton’s second Thanksgiving-specific special, along with his Thanksgiving schedule.

Butterflied, Dry Brined Roasted Turkey 

In the online recipe, the turkey and panzanella are written as one, but really you will begin prepping the turkey and two other menu items before you begin the panzanella, which I will write up separately below. Note that, for this recipe, you will need to have your bird thawed four days in advance. The ideal bird for this recipe is a 14-pound frozen turkey, which you can thaw, wrapped, in the refrigerator; allow one day for every four pounds.

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My 14-ish pound bird.

If you really want to get fast/fancy, you can purchase a pump and thaw your turkey in a cooler next to your sink, placing the pump in the sink and covering it with cold water. Run the pump tube up into the cooler with the bird. Meanwhile, open the drain spout on the cooler, allowing it to drain into the sink. Make sure you reach equilibrium if you try this method, or you could end up with water all over the floor. If the cooler is draining too quickly, you can partially plug the hole with some foil. I opted for a third method and thawed my bird in a bucket of cold water, changing the water every couple hours, which took about eight hours. Four days prior to serving, make a dry brine by grinding 3 1/2 T Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t dry thyme, 1 1/2 t rubbed sage, 1 1/4 t black peppercorns, and 1 1/2 t allspice berries in a spice grinder.

Remove the neck and giblets from the bird, reserving them if you plan to make Alton’s gravy. Placing your turkey breast side down, use kitchen shears to cut up one side of the turkey’s backbone. Flip the bird 180-degrees and cut up the other side of the backbone, holding onto the neck. Save the bones for Alton’s gravy.

Flip your bird over, so it is breast side up and press the keel bone with the heels of your hands until it cracks and the bird flattens.

Sprinkle half of the dry brine on each side of the bird, patting it into the turkey. I know this sounds odd, but place your flattened bird, breast side up, on a parchment-lined sheet pan and let it age in your refrigerator for four days, uncovered.

The day you plan to serve your turkey, remove it from the refrigerator 3:40:00 ahead of meal time. Place the turkey in a 425-degree oven 2:05:00 ahead of serving; if you are also making Alton’s panzanella, you will place the bird directly on an upper oven rack without a pan, allowing the turkey’s juices to drip into the panzanella below. Otherwise, yeah, you will probably want to use a pan! When you have 1:35:00 to dinner, decrease the oven temperature to 350. You will want to continue cooking your turkey until it reaches 155-degrees in the deepest part of the breast. I will confess that I cooked my turkey until it was ~160 degrees.

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My completed turkey, after cooking to ~160 degrees.

Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest under foil. My bird was done pretty much on schedule, so it had plenty of time to rest while we finished up other things.

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My completed turkey, after cooking to ~160 degrees… and a desperate dog.

Honestly, this is the easiest turkey you will ever make and it takes so little time. Also, we could not believe how much the spices from the dry brine (isn’t that really a cure?) had permeated the meat – so much flavor! This will be the turkey I make the next time I prep one. Yes, your oven does get slightly messy, but that is worth it. This is my new favorite turkey recipe.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Okay, so this pecan pie recipe is awesome because you can make it up to two weeks ahead of time. I actually made this for us to eat the week after Thanksgiving, as we already had enough dessert contributions for our Thanksgiving meal (including a pecan pie!). The first step for Alton’s pie is to make his spiced pecans. Oddly, he did not actually demonstrate this recipe in the episode, though he did mention that you need the spiced pecans in your pie. So, I simply followed the online recipe for the spiced pecans, making a half pound of them.

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Ingredients for spiced pecans: pecan halves, light and dark brown sugar, butter, water, and spice blend.

To make a half pound of spiced pecans, combine in a bowl 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/4 t cumin, 1/4 t cayenne, 1/4 t cinnamon, and 1/4 t dried orange peel (I didn’t have this, so left it out).

Toast the pecan halves in a pan over medium heat until they smell toasted, and stir in 2 T butter.

Once the butter has melted, stir in the spice mixture.

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Spice mix added to buttered pecans.

Finally, add 1 T water, 1 T dark brown sugar, and 1/8 C light brown sugar. Stir until the nuts are coated evenly and spread them on a parchment-lined sheet pan to cool, breaking up any clusters.

Once your spiced pecans are complete, you are ready to make the rest of your pie, beginning, of course, with the crust. In a food processor, pulse 3 1/2 ounces plain pecan halves until fine. To your pecans add 6 oz flour, 4 T cold butter, 1/2 t Kosher salt, 2 T ice water, and 2 T bourbon, pulsing after each ingredient is added, and avoiding over-processing.

Flatten the dough into a disc and place it in a ziplock bag, refrigerating for 30 minutes.

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Dough flattened in a disc, and placed in a ziplock bag to cool.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the filling by melting 4 T butter. In a bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 1/2 C sugar, 1/4 t Kosher salt, 1 t vanilla, 1 T bourbon, the 4 T of butter you melted before, and 6 ounces (by weight) of golden syrup; golden syrup can be tricky to find, so I ordered it online.

When your dough has chilled, cut the two opposing side seams of your ziplock with scissors. Open the bag and sprinkle both sides of the dough disk with flour. Cover the dough with the bag again and roll it into an 11-inch circle.

Alton recommends using a 9.5-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, as you can simply place your dough circle onto the bottom of the pan, folding up the excess dough. When you place the bottom of the pan into the edges, you can simply unfold the excess dough, pressing it into the flutes. I, however, do not have a tart pan of that size, so I opted for a regular pie plate, transferring my dough circle by rolling it around a rolling pin. This dough is slightly sticky, so you do need to use flour.

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Crust, transferred to pie plate.

Regardless of which pan you use, press the dough into the pan before adding 6 ounces of your spiced pecans, chopped. Pour the filling mixture over the pecans and jiggle the pan to evenly distribute the nuts.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes. At this time, remove your pie from the oven, placing it on a rack. Decorate the top of your pie by placing spiced pecan halves around the edge of your pie – you will need about two ounces of spiced pecans for this.

Stick your pie back in the oven and bake it until the internal temperature is 200 degrees, which Alton says should take about 10 more minutes. If your oven is like mine, however, it will take 15-20 minutes of additional baking. Remove your pie from the oven and let it cool.

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Pie after baking to internal temp of 200.

If you are making it in advance, cover your cooled pie with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for eight hours to two weeks. When you are approaching your serving time, remove your frozen pie from its pan and slice it; you can place it back in the pan. Refrigerate your pie until ready to serve. Alton guarantees that this pie will not seep or weep, and I can vouch for that. I never froze my pie, as we simply ate it once it had cooled down. Still, unlike many pecan pies, this one had a filling that maintained its shape and form.

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A slice of Alton’s pecan pie.

To boot, we really liked the bourbon flavor in this pie, which paired well with the spices from the pecans. The golden syrup also seemed to give more of a caramelized flavor versus using corn syrup. The crust in this recipe is crispy, light, and pretty savory, which we thought contrasted greatly with the super sweet filling. I will make this pecan pie again for sure, as it is probably the best pecan pie I have had.

Whipped Potatoes

Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be complete without some form of potato, right? This special episode featured Alton’s recipe for whipped potatoes. Like the other recipes in this episode, this is one for which much of the prep can be completed in advance. A full 24 hours ahead of serving time, you will want to peel four pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, and slice them as thinly as possible; a mandolin makes this much faster, if you have one.

Place the potato slices in an 8-quart container, covering them with a gallon of cold water. Let the potato slices sit overnight, allowing the water to remove any excess starch.

You will not need to touch your potatoes again until 1:30:00 before serving time, which is when you will place your potatoes into a strainer (resist the urge to dump the potatoes into the strainer, as you want to avoid transferring all of that starchy water). Rinse your potato slices with clean water and spin them in a salad spinner to dry.

Transfer the potatoes to a large pot, covering them with a gallon of whole milk, and placing them on a burner over medium-high heat.

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Potatoes and a gallon of whole milk, placed on the stove.

Twenty-five minutes before your meal, drain your potatoes, reserving the milk. Press the potatoes through a ricer into your serving bowl, adding 4 ounces butter, 1 C of the reserved milk (you can use the rest of the milk for something like potato soup), and 1 T Kosher salt. Whip the potatoes with a hand mixer for 15 seconds. Yes, seriously, 15 seconds will do it. Resist the urge to blend the potatoes further, as they will become gummy. Sadly, because I was scrambling around on Thanksgiving, I forgot to take photos of my potatoes as I riced/whipped them, so I have no photos of my finished product. These potatoes seemed to be very popular around our Thanksgiving table, and I have to say that this is now my favorite mashed potato recipe. The potatoes were super light and fluffy, and had just the right amounts of butter and salt. Cooking the potatoes in milk gave them a very creamy mouthfeel and flavor. I highly recommend this recipe, and it will be the one I use when I next make mashed potatoes.

Roasted Root Vegetable Panzanella

As I mentioned above, this panzanella is designed to go along with (and cook with) Alton’s dry brined roasted turkey. While you begin prepping the turkey four days in advance, this panzanella only needs to be prepped 24 hours ahead of your dinner, so Alton covered this as the fourth recipe in the episode. So, 24 hours ahead, cut eight ounces of hearty multigrain or sourdough bread into 1/2″ cubes, leaving them on a sheet pan in a cold oven to dry out overnight.

At this time you will also want to mince two cloves of garlic, chop a red onion, and shred eight ounces of Brussels sprouts (this is super fast with the shredding blade in a food processor).

Place these prepped items into separate containers and refrigerate. Finally, peel 1 1/2 pounds each of parsnips and rutabagas, cutting them into chunks. Combine the parsnips and rutabagas in a container and place them in the refrigerator.

The following day, you will begin your panzanella when you pull your turkey out of the refrigerator, which will be 3:40:00 ahead of dinner. At this time, dump your rutabaga/parsnip combo into a large roasting pan, along with 2 t vegetable oil.

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Rutabagas and parsnips placed in roasting pan with vegetable oil.

When you place your turkey in the 425-degree oven (2:05:00 ahead), also place your roasting pan into the oven, directly beneath your turkey; this will allow the turkey’s juices to drip into the vegetables. Once you have 1:35:00 to your planned dinner time, add the diced red onion to your roasting pan, tossing, and decrease the oven to 350 degrees.

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Red onion added to roasting pan.

Forty-five minutes ahead, add your bread cubes, shredded Brussels sprouts, and garlic to your panzanella, tossing.

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Bread, sprouts, and garlic added to panzanella.

Thirty minutes before dinner, remove the roasting pan from the oven and add 1/4 C cider vinegar, 2 t fresh thyme, a pinch of Kosher salt, and some black pepper to the roasting pan.

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Cider vinegar, fresh thyme, salt, and pepper added to finish panzanella.

Toss everything around and transfer the panzanella to a serving bowl. The flavors in this panzanella were fantastic, but I was highly disappointed in the texture of the bread cubes. To me, a panzanella should have super crunchy bread cubes, but this bread was kind of soggy. I do intend to make this again, but I plan to toast my bread cubes in advance, and I will add them to the salad right before serving. Aside from the bread, the sweetness of the root vegetables was great with the slight tang of vinegar and bite of garlic/onion. I’m sure the turkey juices didn’t hurt the flavor at all either! Again, this is a delicious recipe, but it does need some help in the texture department. Cooking this with the turkey makes everything super easy, which is a huge bonus.

Turkey Giblet Gravy

Last, but not least, Alton had to include a recipe for gravy in his second Thanksgiving special, no? Remember the turkey neck and backbone that we saved from prepping Alton’s turkey four days before Thanksgiving? Well, we’re going to use them here, along with the giblets. Four hours before dinner heat 1 T canola oil in a pot over medium heat, adding the turkey neck and backbone.

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Turkey neck and backbone, cooking in vegetable oil.

Brown the bones, turning them often for about 5-6 minutes.

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Turkey neck and backbone, cooking in vegetable oil, turning often.

Once the bones are browned, add the giblets, a small onion, a carrot, a stalk of celery, and a heavy pinch of Kosher salt to the pan.

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Onion, carrot, giblets, celery, and Kosher salt added to bones.

Cook all of the vegetables until they are tender, which should take about five minutes. Next, add 1 t black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, and 6 C of water.

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Peppercorns, bay leaf, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and water added to make stock.

Cover the pot, bringing it to a boil. Once boiling, remove the lid and decrease the heat, leaving the pot to simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

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Stock, after being brought to a boil.

Two hours prior to dinner, strain the stock, saving the giblets. You can discard the rest of the solids.

Once the giblets are cool, chop them finely. When you have 1:30:00 to dinner, pour 2 C of your stock into a saucier over medium heat. At this same time, pour 1/2 C of additional stock into a lidded container, along with 1 T flour, shaking to make a slurry.

Slowly whisk this slurry into the warm stock in the saucier.

Again, in your shaking container, combine another 1/2 C of cooled stock with 1 T potato starch, shaking.

Turn the burner off under your pan and allow your gravy to cool to below 190 degrees. Once below 190 degrees (which should be about 1:20:00 before your meal), turn the heat to low and whisk in the potato slurry. I had some trouble with this, as my slurry appeared to be quite lumpy, so I had to add some additional hot stock and re-shake my slurry. Once your slurry is incorporated, also add 1 t chopped fresh sage, 1 t fresh thyme, 1 t fresh rosemary, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper.

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Fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage to finish gravy, along with chopped giblets.

When your gravy has reached a simmer, stir in the chopped giblets and turn off the heat. When heated through, you can transfer your gravy to a thermos to keep it warm until you are ready to serve. I failed to get a final photo of my gravy, unfortunately. I am not a huge gravy person, but this one got some rave reviews at our house. The gravy seemed like it was going to be way too thin, but it did thicken up some. Flavor-wise, the gravy fans here really seemed to enjoy it.

So, to sum up Alton’s second Thanksgiving special, I have to say that I was quite pleased with all of the recipes, how they worked together, and his timeline was pretty spot on. If you follow his directions, you can have a pretty stress-free, well-timed Thanksgiving dinner with his five recipes here. While all of the recipes were honestly very good, I would absolutely not skip the turkey, potatoes, or pie. Below is a breakdown of my Thanksgiving Day Alton-based schedule, aiming for a 5:00 pm dinner. Honestly, it worked pretty darn well, and we were seated right around 5 o’clock.

1:00 PM – Start gravy stock.

1:20 PM – 1) Bird out of refrigerator. 2) Rutabagas and parsnips in roasting pan.

2:55 PM – Bird and vegetables in oven at 425 degrees.

3:00 PM – Strain gravy stock and cool giblets.

3:25 PM – 1) Add red onion to vegetables. 2) Decrease oven temp to 350.

3:30 PM – 1) Strain/spin potatoes. 2) Put potatoes in pot with milk. 3) Make gravy and transfer to thermos.

4:15 PM – 1) Add bread, sprouts, and garlic to vegetables. 2) Remove bird when it hits 160.

4:30 PM – 1) Add cider vinegar and seasonings to vegetables. 2) Rice potatoes and whip.

Fresh Yogurt

Yogurt is one of those things that I always feel I should eat more of than I do. I tend to go in spurts with yogurt, eating it frequently for a while, and then not at all. Alton’s yogurt episode began with homemade yogurt. I made homemade yogurt once years ago when I was in grad school, as part of my food microbiology lab course. All I really remember from that experience was that I had a lab partner from Mongolia who called himself “Woody,” I could barely understand a word he said, and our yogurt was very pink. Needless to say, I was hopeful that my Woody-less yogurt would be more successful. When making Alton’s yogurt, you can use any type of milk that you choose, but Alton opted for organic 2% milk in the episode of Good Eats. Alton did say that whole milk will result in looser yogurt, while skim milk will yield yogurt with a grainy texture. In addition to a quart of milk, you will need 1/2 C of powdered milk, 2 T honey, and 1/2 C of plain yogurt, containing live cultures.

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Ingredients for homemade yogurt: plain yogurt with live cultures, dry milk, honey, and milk.

Begin by pouring your milk into a saucepan, adding the powdered milk and honey.

Meanwhile, allow your yogurt to come to room temperature.

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Plain yogurt, being brought to room temperature.

Using a probe thermometer, heat the milk mixture to 120 degrees over medium heat. Remove the milk from the heat, and pour it into a clean cylindrical container, allowing it to cool to 115 degrees.

Once the milk has cooled, whisk about a cup of the warm milk into the yogurt.

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About 1 C of warm milk whisked into yogurt.

Then, whisk the yogurt/milk mixture back into the cylinder of milk. Wrap the cylinder in a heating pad that will maintain the yogurt’s temperature between 100 and 120 degrees; you can test your heating pad first by filling your cylinder with water.

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Yogurt added to milk and wrapped with heating pad to ferment for 6 hours.

Allow your yogurt to ferment for three to 12 hours, depending on how you like the texture of your yogurt; a shorter fermentation will yield looser yogurt, while a longer fermentation will give thicker yogurt. Alton did an even six hours in the episode.

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Yogurt, after fermenting for 6 hours.

Refrigerate your yogurt overnight before using.

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Alton’s homemade yogurt.

I thought this yogurt was fine, but really nothing special. If anything, I would have liked this yogurt to have had a thicker texture, so I would possibly ferment it a little longer if I were to make it again. Honestly, I wouldn’t go to the trouble of making this again when I can easily buy yogurt that I like just as much.

Thousand Island Dressing

So, really, Alton calls this dressing “Million Island Dressing” in the episode, and it is a good use for some of his homemade yogurt. To make his dressing, whisk together 1 C plain yogurt, 2 T vegetable oil, and 2 T tomato sauce.

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Yogurt, tomato sauce, and vegetable oil.

Once combined, add 2 t lemon juice, 2 t dry mustard, and 2 t sugar.

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Lemon juice, dry mustard, and sugar added to dressing.

Next, whisk in 1 t Kosher salt and 1/2 t pepper.

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Kosher salt and pepper added to dressing.

Finally, fold in 1/2 C diced onion, 1 T relish, 1 T chopped green olives, and 1 minced jalapeno.

I enjoyed this dressing more than I thought I would. It has a really good kick from the jalapeno, tang from the yogurt and lemon, and bite from the onion. It also adds a lot of texture to a salad. We actually liked this enough that I made it a couple times in one week for us to eat on our lunch salads. This is a really good salad dressing.

Tarragon Yogurt Sauce

If you are looking for another savory application for plain yogurt, this tarragon sauce is one to try. This sauce is very versatile and could be served over many things, including fish, eggs, and vegetables; in the episode, Alton says that his favorite use of this sauce is over braised carrots, so that is how I opted to use mine. For this sauce, begin by heating a saucier over medium heat, adding 2 T olive oil, 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/2 C finely chopped onion, and 1 1/2 t minced garlic.

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Olive oil, Kosher salt, onion, and garlic in saucier.

I did not have a saucier until recently, but I inherited my parents’ copper-bottomed Calphalon saucier when my brother and I finished sorting through our parents’ belongings; thankfully, my parents are still living, but they really do not cook anymore. Yes, I have learned that a saucier is a very nice tool to have for a job such as this tarragon sauce. While your onion and garlic saute, combine 2 T cornstarch and 1 C chicken stock in a lidded container, and shake to combine. This slurry will help to thicken the sauce, and will also prevent over-coagulation of proteins, AKA curdling. Cream-based sauces have enough fat to prevent curdling, but yogurt-based sauces do not. Anyway, add the slurry to the pan, increase the heat, and add 1 1/2 T dried tarragon, whisking.

Remove the pan from the heat and temper 1 C of plain yogurt by gradually whisking in some of the sauce mixture. Finally, add the tempered yogurt to the pan, whisking.

Heat the sauce over low heat, just until warmed through. As I said before, we ate this sauce over carrots as a side dish.

The tarragon flavor in this sauce is quite strong, giving a real anise-like flavor, and you also really taste the yogurt. This is a sauce you could make with other herbs too; I think a dill version would pair terrifically with salmon. Either way, this is an easy sauce to dress up veggies or protein.

Yogurt Cheese

What is yogurt cheese? Yogurt cheese is yogurt that has been allowed to drain, removing whey. While cheese has had its whey removed, regular yogurt has not. Allowing yogurt to drain results in a thick yogurt that has a consistency similar to cream cheese. To make yogurt cheese, line a strainer with two layers of cheesecloth, setting the strainer over a bowl. Add a quart of plain yogurt to the strainer, folding the cheesecloth over the top.

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A quart of plain yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined strainer.

Weigh the yogurt down with the lid of a pot and a can, refrigerating it for four hours.

Yogurt cheese can be used plain as a spread, or in Alton’s recipe for frozen yogurt, which I will write about below. I tasted the plain yogurt cheese, but opted to use it for Alton’s other recipe; it tasted like plain yogurt… just much, much thicker.

Herb Spread

This herb spread is basically the same recipe as the one for yogurt cheese above, but with added seasonings. To a quart of plain yogurt (I used homemade) add 1 1/2 t cumin, 2 T chopped parsley, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/2 t pepper.

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Cumin, parsley, Kosher salt, and pepper added to a quart of plain yogurt.

As with the yogurt cheese above, place a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl and add the yogurt mixture.

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Seasoned yogurt poured in cheesecloth-lined strainer to drain.

Weigh the yogurt down with a pan lid and can, allowing it to drain for four hours in the refrigerator.

The resulting spread is tangy and has a punch of cumin, and it is great with crackers or on sandwiches.

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Herb spread with crackers.

Talk about an easy hors d’oeuvre, and it is even easier if you use store-purchased yogurt!

Lemon-Ginger Frozen Yogurt

This recipe is the perfect use for Alton’s yogurt cheese. Combine in a bowl 4 C plain yogurt cheese, 3/4 C sugar, 1/2 C light corn syrup, 2 t lemon zest, 1 T minced fresh ginger, and 3 T lemon juice.

Whisk the yogurt mixture until smooth and freeze in an ice cream mixture per the manufacturer’s instructions.

In the last few minutes of churning, add 1/4 C chopped crystallized ginger.

Freeze the frozen yogurt in the freezer until firm.

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Alton’s lemon-ginger frozen yogurt.

This frozen yogurt is super refreshing and reminds me of warmer weather (as I type this, it is snowy outside and the Christmas tree is illuminated). The first time we ate this frozen yogurt, the crystallized ginger seemed too chewy, but after freezing the yogurt for a longer period, the chewiness went away. I definitely foresee making this again, as it is packed with ginger and lemon flavor, and is a relatively healthy treat. This is worth making.

 

In Season 1 of Good Eats, chocolate was chosen as the subject of the final episode, which I wrote about here. That episode featured a couple of chocolate desserts that used chocolate chips. Again, chocolate is the star of the 63rd episode, but this time the recipes utilized cocoa powder as the source of chocolate.

Baking with cocoa powder always makes me nervous since we have two dogs. Years ago, I made a chocolate cake from scratch and placed it INSIDE a kitchen cabinet. Imagine my surprise when Ted called to tell me that he had arrived home to find that Hitcher, our male hound, had jumped onto the kitchen counter, pried open the cabinet, and eaten the chocolate cake. Thankfully, Hitcher turned out to be just fine!

Cocoa Brownies

Naturally, the first recipe Alton tackled with cocoa powder was for a classic brownie. I have always found that brownies made from scratch with cocoa powder are much richer and have more intense chocolate flavor. For baked goods, Alton recommends that you use natural process cocoa, which is redder and more bitter than Dutch process cocoa. To make his brownies, preheat your oven to 300 degrees and spray an 8″ square pan with nonstick spray. Additionally, line the pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over two opposite edges of the pan; this will allow you to easily lift the brownies from the pan. The online recipe does not mention the parchment paper, but it really is a good trick.

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Pan sprayed with nonstick spray and lined with parchment paper to overhang on two sides.

When your pan is set, sift together 1 1/4 C natural process cocoa, 1 C brown sugar, 1 C sugar, 1/2 C flour, & 1/2 t Kosher salt.

Next, in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat 4 eggs until light.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the eggs, gradually incorporating them until smooth.

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Batter after incorporating dry ingredients.

Once the batter is smooth, add 2 t vanilla extract and 8 ounces (2 sticks) of melted butter; you will want to add the butter gradually and on low speed.

Finally, scrape the bowl and pour the batter into your prepared pan.

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Batter in pan, and ready to go in the oven.

Bake the brownies for 45 minutes before checking with a toothpick. You will want to remove your brownies from the pan when a little bit of crumb still sticks to the toothpick, which took about 49 minutes in my oven.

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My brownies, after baking for about 49 minutes.

In the Good Eats episode, Alton strictly tells you to remove the brownies from the pan as soon as they come out of the oven. He also tells you to immediately cut the brownies, using a pizza cutter.

Once cut, allow the brownies to cool completely on a rack. My brownies were a little tricky to cut, so I would probably let them cool for a few minutes out of the pan before attempting to cut them. These brownies are really good if you like your brownies to be super dark and rich. Seriously, you cannot eat a lot of these. These paired very well with vanilla ice cream, which helped to cut the chocolate slightly. Personally, I like brownies to be kept in the refrigerator… but that’s just me.

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These brownies pair greatly with vanilla ice cream.

Cocoa Syrup

Next up in Alton’s cocoa arsenal was his take on chocolate syrup. Growing up, I was always more of a hot fudge sauce girl, while my brother was a chocolate syrup fanatic. I was curious to see if homemade chocolate syrup would convert me to more of a syrup person. For this particular recipe, you will want to try to use Dutch process cocoa, as it works better in applications with low fat content. Honestly, I looked at three stores for Dutch process cocoa and could not find it, so I made my syrup with a cocoa powder that was a blend of natural and Dutch process cocoas. To make Alton’s chocolate syrup, begin by combining 3 C sugar, and 1 1/2 C water in a pan. Bring the sugar and water to a boil and add 2 T light corn syrup; this will prevent crystallization.

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Sugar, water, and corn syrup being brought to a boil.

To this, slowly add 1 1/2 C cocoa powder, along with 1/4 t Kosher salt. You will want to gradually whisk the cocoa powder into the liquid, which will take a little bit of time.

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Salt and cocoa powder, gradually being whisked into liquid mixture.

Finally, once all of the cocoa powder is incorporated, stir in 1 T vanilla extract.

Pour the syrup into a squeeze bottle and allow it to cool to room temperature.

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My chocolate syrup.

If you want to reheat your syrup, place the squeeze bottle in hot water for ~10 minutes. I served this chocolate syrup in the traditional way – over vanilla ice cream, and with cake on the side.

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Chocolate syrup over ice cream.

I have to admit that this syrup is pretty darn good, and much better than the stuff you can buy. The chocolate flavor is much more intense, and this tastes like a much darker chocolate than store-bought syrups. I also think this syrup is a bit thicker than other chocolate syrups I have had, which I like. If you’re a chocolate syrup fan, I’d certainly give this one a try. Note that this recipe makes a lot of chocolate syrup, but you could always cut the recipe in half.

Hot Cocoa

Last but not least, no cocoa episode would be complete without a recipe for hot cocoa. To make Alton’s hot cocoa mix, into a large, lidded container place 2 C powdered sugar, 1 C Dutch process cocoa, 2 1/2 C powdered milk, 1 t salt, 2 t cornstarch, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Place the lid on the container and shake the mixture to thoroughly combine.

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The shaken/combined cocoa mix.

To serve Alton’s cocoa, fill a mug 1/3 full with Alton’s cocoa mix and add boiling water just to cover the powder.

Stir the cocoa/water mixture to create a thick slurry. Finally, top off the mug with more boiling water and stir again to combine.

We do not typically drink a lot of hot chocolate, but this was pretty good. Of course, this isn’t really the season for hot chocolate either. We both really liked the addition of the cayenne (I added a pretty hefty pinch), which made this a little different from your typical hot cocoa. We had our hot cocoa with whipped cream because really, why not?

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Alton’s hot cocoa, served with whipped cream, of course.

I will probably make this mix again, though I will likely wait for colder weather to make it again. I have to say, though, that I have a serious hankering for some chocolate after typing up this episode. Though the brownies are long gone, we still have homemade chocolate syrup and hot cocoa mix, one of which I will probably be tapping into shortly!

After the lack of deliciousness that ensued with the last episode, I was super anxious to make something I knew we would enjoy. Thank goodness cheesecake was next in line. I adore pretty much anything made with cream cheese, but especially cheesecake; oddly, I don’t eat cheesecake very often, which I think needs to be amended pronto.

My mom went through a cheesecake phase when I was a teenager. As you can imagine, it was one of the greatest periods of my life. As she strove to find the perfect cheesecake recipe, we got to sit back and test them all. From New York cheesecake to Italian cheesecake, and everything in between, she tried them all. I honestly don’t recall which cheesecake was deemed the favorite. I only remember that I loved them all.

Sour Cream Cheesecake

This entire episode of Good Eats focuses on one recipe for a sour cream cheesecake. I don’t know about you, but when I think of cheesecake, I think of a springform pan. Alton Brown, on the other hand, suggests that you do not use a springform pan for sweet cheesecakes, as they can leak when you bake the cheesecake in a water bath. Alton does not bake savory cheesecakes in a water bath, so he uses a springform pan for those; strangely, he never really explained why he does not use a water bath for savory cheesecakes. So, what type of pan does Alton recommend for sweet cheesecake? He likes a 9-inch round pan with 3-inch tall sides. Honestly, I was just going to use my springform pan to make this cheesecake… until I tested it in a pan of water. Sure enough, it leaked instantly, so I bought a pan like Alton suggested. Ok, so once you are ready to make your cheesecake, you will want to allow 20 ounces of cream cheese and 1 1/4 C sour cream to sit on your counter to soften while you prepare your crust. Prep your pan by brushing the inside of the pan with melted butter.

Next, line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper.

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Pan brushed with melted butter and lined with parchment paper.

Alton, of course, had a certain technique for cutting  paper to line the pan. Yes, I tried his method, but I screwed it up and ended up just doing it the way my Mom taught me when I was about 10 – tracing the pan with a pencil. Some things never change. For the crust of the cheesecake, put 33 graham cracker squares in a large ziplock bag and crush them with your hands until you have a mixture of crumbs and some slightly larger pieces.

Combine the graham pieces with 1 stick of melted butter and 1 T sugar, and toss everything to combine.

Pour 2/3 of the crumb mixture into your prepared pan, reserving the remaining crumbs for later. Using the bottom of a weighted glass (Alton used coins in his glass), tamp the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan.

Bake your crust for 10 minutes at 300 degrees, and set it aside to cool while you begin making the filling. You want the crust to be cool before pouring adding the filling to the pan.

To make the filling, beat the 1 1/4 C sour cream on medium-high speed in a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment. The sour cream will coat the bowl and keep the cream cheese from sticking. Next, add the 20 ounces of cream cheese, along with 1 C sugar; begin beating this mixture on low speed, increasing to medium.

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Cream cheese mixed in bowl to coat. Cream cheese and sugar added.

Note:  if you want insurance against your cheesecake cracking, Alton also suggests that you add 1 T cornstarch when you add the sugar, but I opted not to add the cornstarch. While the mixer works on the cream cheese mixture, in a separate container combine 1/3 C cream, 1 T vanilla extract, 3 egg yolks, and 2 whole eggs.

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Cream, vanilla, egg yolks, and eggs.

Scrape the bowl and paddle of the mixer, and slowly add half of the liquid mixture on medium speed. Once half of the liquid is incorporated, scrape the bowl again. Increase the speed of the mixer and add the rest of the liquid.

Keep the mixer running until you have a smooth batter with no lumps. Meanwhile, decrease the oven temperature to 250 degrees and boil 2 quarts of water for your water bath. The water bath will control how quickly heat goes into the cheesecake. When your batter is smooth, pour the batter over your prepared crust, popping any visible bubbles. Place a towel-lined roasting pan in the center of your oven and add your cheesecake to the pan.

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Cheesecake in roasting pan. Water to be added for bath.

Carefully pour boiling water in the roasting pan until it comes 2/3 up the sides of the cheesecake pan; for me, 2 quarts of water was perfect. Bake your cheesecake for 1 hour. When the hour is up, turn the oven off and open the oven door for 1 minute.

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Cheesecake after baking for 1 hour.

Shut the oven door and leave the cheesecake in the cooling oven for an additional hour.

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Completed cheesecake.

Remove your cheesecake from the oven and place it immediately in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours to cool. When you are ready to serve your cheesecake, fill your sink partially with hot water and dip the cheesecake pan in the water for ~10 seconds.

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Getting ready to serve cheesecake – dipping pan in hot water for ~10 seconds.

Next, dip a sharp knife in hot water and run it around the cake between the cake and the parchment paper; this should allow you to pull the wall-lining parchment paper out.

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Cheesecake after running a hot knife around the edges and removing parchment paper.

Place a sheet of wax paper on the surface of the cheesecake and invert it – a springform pan base works well for inverting.

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Inverted cheesecake.

Remove the final parchment paper circle and invert the cake again onto a serving platter. With a hot knife, cut the cake into slices, slicing straight down and pulling the knife out toward you, rather than up. Remember those left over graham cracker crumbs? If desired, toast them in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes and pat them around the sides of your cheesecake. Voila! Cheesecake a la Alton.

Okay, so this was a pretty darn good cheesecake, but I wish I would have listened to my gut and baked it a little longer. Alton was so definitive about his procedure that I decided to follow it to a T, even though my gut told me my cake would need a little more time. Sure enough, my cake was slightly softer in the middle than I would have liked. Even so, it was delicious. Now, if you are looking for a super thick, dense cheesecake, this isn’t for you. This cheesecake has a lighter, fluffier texture, while still being super rich and tangy. Ted is not as fond of cheesecake, or cream cheese for that matter, as I am and he really liked the texture of this cheesecake. I will make this again, but I will either cook it longer initially or I will not open the oven door for that one minute. Alton emphasized that cheesecake is like eggs:  done in the pan means overdone on the plate. I also might bake the crust just slightly longer initially, as it could have been a tad crispier. Still, we ate every last bit of this, and enjoyed it.

Savory Cheesecake

Although Alton did not make a savory cheesecake in the episode, there is a recipe online for a savory cheesecake from this episode. I tend to print all of the recipes out prior to watching an episode, so I printed this savory cheesecake recipe out, planning to make it when we had my parents over for dinner. Though Alton did not make this in the episode, I decided to make it anyway, using the end of my Alton Brown smoked salmon.

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Alton’s savory cheesecake.

The filling on this cheesecake was really good, but the crust was chewy and disappointing. If I were to make this again, I would make an alternative crust. But, I probably won’t waste my cheesecake-making on this again. Instead, I’ll make Alton’s sweet cheesecake again, tweaking the baking time.