When it comes to baking — be it for Thanksgiving or every day —
Gail Simmons says it’s crucial to have an enthusiastic sous chef. The “Top Chef” judge loves having her 3-year-old daughter, Dahlia, help out in the kitchen of her Cobble Hill home.
“[She] always eats more pancakes if she’s the one who stirs the batter,” Simmons tells The Post.
Like her “Top Chef” contestants, Simmons is not a pastry chef but she definitely appreciates sweets.
“I’m a savory cook,” says Simmons, whose new cookbook, “Bringing it Home: Favorite Recipes From a Life of Adventurous Eating,” nonetheless has a lengthy baking chapter. “There are a lot of ways to make really satisfying, delicious desserts without complicated equipment.”
Case in point: her coconut cream puffs. They’re inspired by Gigi Blue bakery on the Upper East Side, where Simmons’ friend, Katherine Yang, an alum of Daniel and Bouchon Bakery, whips up a delectable coconut cake.
“[She] makes the very best version I have ever tasted,” Simmons says. “[But] I’m not as patient nor as experienced a baker as she is, so I came up with this cream-puff version … It’s light and fun to assemble for adults and kids alike.”
Coconut cream puffs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine 1 stick butter, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and 1 cup water in large saucepan and bring to a boil.
Remove from heat and add 1 cup flour. Stir about 1 minute. Return to heat, on low, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes, until it a dough ball forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and allow dough to rest for 1 minute. Stir in 4 eggs, one at a time.
Scoop dough into 24 walnut-size pieces and place on 2 of the papered baking sheets, spaced 1 inch apart. Bake until puffs are golden brown, 28 to 30 minutes. Let puffs cool completely on a wire rack, but leave oven on.
Toast 2 cups coconut, spread on the remaining baking sheet, in th oven till light-brown. Transfer ¹/₂ of coconut to small bowl. In a food processor, grind remaining ¹/₂ of coconut into coarse powder.
In medium bowl, combine 2 ¹/₃ cups cream, ¹/₂ teaspoon vanilla and 2 teaspoons powdered sugar. Beat to stiff peaks, then fold in ground coconut. Transfer mixture to a piping bag with a 1/4-inch tip. Make a small hole in the bottom of each puff. Insert tip of piping bag into hole and pipe cream into pastry, being careful not to overfill.
In shallow bowl, use fork to mix together 1 ¹/₂ cups powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons milk until a smooth glaze forms. Dip the top of each puff in the glaze and sprinkle with a pinch of the toasted coconut. Makes 2 dozen cream puffs.
The first Thanksgiving might have been a group of people celebrating their escape from England centuries ago, but now the holiday feast gets acknowledged across the pond.
Chef and cookbook author
Yotam Ottolenghi came up with these festive cookies to sell in his London bakeries around Thanksgiving, and they quickly became a hit.
“Our customers soon demanded them all year-round,” he writes in his new book, “Sweet” (Ten Speed Press), co-written with Helen Goh. “They have enough going for them to appeal to all senses, as well as seasons: tartness from the cranberries, chewiness from the oats, nuttiness from the whole wheat flour and almonds, and a bit of sweet luxury from the white chocolate coating.”
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spread 1 cup whole almonds on rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool and roughly chop into ¹/₃-inch pieces. Transfer the nuts to large bowl and add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, ½ cup whole-wheat flour, 1 ½ cups oats and ¼ teaspoon salt. Mix together and set aside.
Increase oven temperature to 375 F.
Chop ¾ cup dried cranberries in half and leave to soak in 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons orange juice.
Use electric mixer with paddle attachment to beat together 1 cup room-temperature unsalted butter, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces; ½ cup sugar and grated zest from 1 orange. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until combined and light and fluffy. Gradually add almond-flour mixture and continue to beat on low speed until dough just comes together.
Add in cranberries and orange juice and beat for another few seconds to combine. On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough into a ball, sprinkling on more flour if needed to prevent dough from getting too sticky.
Cut dough in half and roll out ½ so that it’s just over ¼-inch thick. Use 3-inch cookie cutter to cut dough into rounds. Repeat with remainder of dough. Bake cookies for 18 minutes on lined baking sheet, until lightly colored all over. Let cool completely.
Meanwhile, heat 9 ounces white chocolate in a double boiler, stirring occasionally until melted. Use back of dessert spoon to spread 1 tablespoon melted chocolate over top of each cookie. Makes about 30 cookies.
“I don’t think we travel by buses, trains, cars and planes, often during inclement weather and even more brutal traffic, because we’re secretly hoping our family ditched the known-and-loved standards for an edgy new recipe,” food blogger
Deb Perelman, author of “Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites” (Knopf), tells The Post.
The Thanksgiving holiday calls for classics done just right, and when it comes to pecan pie, Perelman has strict rules: toasts your pecans; use dark, not light, brown sugar; add a touch of vinegar to balance out the sweetness; make it plenty big; and, if you really want to go all out, add some chocolate. Her recipe does all that.
Forget the pumpkin dessert — this is the triumphant end to a feast. Perelman says: “There’s a whole extra dynamic of deeply toasted, luxurious flavor that you just don’t get with a pumpkin pie.”
Chocolate pecan slab pie
To make crust:
In food processor, combine 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt, and 1 ½ tablespoons sugar. Add 1 ½ cups cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, and pulse machine until mixture resembles coarse meal, and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. Turn the mixture out into mixing bowl.
Add ³/₄ cup cold water. Stir until large clumps form. Use hands to knead dough. Divide dough in two and wrap each half in a sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to 72 hours.
Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line bottom of a 10-by-15-by-1-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll one dough half into an 18-by-13-inch rectangle. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet; gently drape some of the overhang in so that dough fills out inner edges and corners. Some pastry will still hang over sides of pan: Trim this to ¹/₂ inch. Freeze crust in pan until it is solid, about a half hour.
To make filling:
Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread 3 ¾ cups pecan halves on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice so that they toast evenly. Set aside.
Melt 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips with ½ cup heavy cream, and stir until smooth. Spread over bottom of frozen crust. Freeze crust again until chocolate is solid, about 10 minutes.
In large saucepan, combine 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 2/3 cups packed dark-brown sugar, 1 cup maple syrup, and ¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Remove pan from heat and stir in pecans, 1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and 1 ½ tablespoons bourbon (optional). Pour into bowl and set aside to cool a little, 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in 5 eggs, one at a time, until combined. Pour mixture into prepared pie shell.
Finish assembling pie. Roll second dough half into a 16-by-11-inch rectangle.
Drape it over pie in one piece (cutting slits to vent the top), or cut into wide strips to form a lattice. Pinch or crimp upper and lower crusts together, and fold the bottom crust’s overhang, if you wish, over top crust to seal it.
Lightly beat 1 egg with 1 teaspoon water, and brush it over top crust and edges.
Bake pie at 350 F until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Makes 12 to 18 servings.
Excerpted from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites.” Copyright © 2017 by Deb Perelman. All rights reserved.