MoM Aug. ’09 – ATK American Classics: Peach Crumble

This month, we’re exploring another ancillary publication from America’s Test Kitchen: American Classics. First up on the docket, I put their warm Peach Crumble to the test…

Peach Crumble 3

…and then I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

There seem to be a couple of different accounts as to how crumbles came to be. According to Wikipedia, the Brits invented crumbles during World War II, and were made due to rationing — pies required amounts of ingredients that were nearly impossible to come by. Crumbles (also called Crisps in some parts of the U.S.) came into being because the tops were simple to make, and didn’t require a large amount of those coveted ingredients. A different historical account comes to us from What’s Cooking America, explaining that it was the other way around — Brits copied the settlers, who were not very good at recreating their European recipes, and all of these different creations we have today are the product of their attempts. All I know is our founding forefathers sailed here and then sat down at a long picnic table wearing funny hats, big buckles, and pointy shoes, ate some turkey and corn, and then bought Manhattan with some beads.

Just kidding.

For more food nerdery, visit Wikipedia, and What’s Cooking America.

Surprisingly enough, this actually tastes like peaches, and not some slobbery mess of syrup. The crumble on top is baked twice — first by itself on a tray, then a second time on top of the peaches.

One thing that does bug me about this dessert is that reheating it in the microwave is tricky. I have found that, if you have too much syrup in your bowl during the reheat, and your crumble gets a little too mixed up in it, all of the flour starts to break down into a goopy mess. So if you do reheat this later in a microwave, use a slotted spoon and don’t add a ton of the peach juice.

Peach Crumble
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, American Classics

Filling
3 1/2 pounds ripe but firm peaches (6 to 7 medium), peeled and pitted; each peach halved and cut into 3/4 inch chunks (about 6 1/2 cups prepared peaches)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinch table salt
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg

Topping
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and very soft
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Adjust oven racks to lower and middle positions; heat oven to 350 degrees.

FOR THE FILLING: Gently toss peaches and sugar together in large bowl; let stand for 30 minutes, tossing several times. Drain peaches in colander set over large bowl. Whisk 1/4 cup drained peach juice, cornstarch, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in small bowl; discard excess peach juice. Toss juice mixture with peaches and transfer to 8-inch-square glass baking dish.

FOR THE TOPPING: While peaches are macerating, combine flour, sugars (reserving 1 tablespoon granulated sugar), and salt in bowl of food processor; drizzle vanilla over top. Pulse to combine mixture, about five 1-second pulses. Add butter and half of nuts; process until mixture clumps together into large, crumbly balls, about 30 seconds, pausing halfway through to scrape down sides of bowl. Sprinkle remaining nuts over mixture and combine with two quick pulses. Transfer mixture to parchment-lined baking sheet and spread into even layer (mixture should break up into roughly 1/2-inch chunks with some smaller, loose bits). Bake on middle rack until chunks are lightly browned and firm, 15 – 20 minutes.

TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: Grasping edges of parchment paper, slide topping over peaches and spread into even layer with spatula, packing down lightly and breaking up any very large pieces. Sprinkle remaining tablespoon sugar over top and place on lower oven rack. Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake until well browned and fruit is bubbling around edges, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack until warm, at least 15 minutes; serve.

Peach Crumble

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Magazine of the Month August ’09: ATK American Classics

Just when you thought I would shut up about America’s Test Kitchen.

I could give you all kinds of reasons as to why the last MoM fell flat on its face. I couldn’t find the ingredients, I made some of the dishes and it was just “meh” and not “wow”, the best looking stuff was fish and the web admin won’t eat it, etc. That’s part of the problem with cooking from something you don’t know anything about. This month, I decided to give myself a break and cook from something I did know about. For August 2009, we will be exploring one of the special America’s Test Kitchen magazine editions, American Classics.

ATK American Classics 2009

It’s got freaking cupcakes on the front! I had to buy it!

Last night I already started with their Improved Peach Crumble, and it was delicious. I even brought some as part of my lunch today. I’m very excited, and I know ATK will get our MoM segments back on track.

America’s Test Kitchen will have “American Classics” on the shelves until October 19, so you’ll have plenty of time to run out and grab a copy.

MoM June 2009 La Cucina Italiana: Oven-Baked Risotto

I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting side dishes, preferrably something that will give me a nice, healthy dosage of vegetables.

La Cucina Italiana's Oven Baked Risotto
Photo courtesy of La Cucina Italiana

When I saw this feature of Oven Baked Risotto in our latest Magazine of the Month, La Cucina Italiana, I was skeptical. Risotto is often heavy and laden with cream and cheese, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out as a side dish. However, because it’s our Magazine of the Month I’m obligated to make this stuff without even reading the recipe instructions. Whether this is for your amusement or delight I have no idea, but since I picked out the magazine, I have to cook this stuff.

As it turned out, I had no reason to fear. This risotto and vegetable combination was finger-lickin’ good.

Oven Baked Risotto

Vegetables are sauteed separately from the risotto, and the two don’t come together until the end when they’re baked. Buttered ramekins are filled with some of the risotto and a well is made in the center. Sauteed vegetables are then spooned into the center, more risotto is placed on top and packed down, to cover the vegetables tightly, then they’re baked in the oven for 15 minutes.

If you’ve never been sold on risotto before, this one will make you a believer. It was hearty, but not overwhelmingly so like with other risottos. Keeping the vegetables separate, rather than mixing them up with the rice, keeps the clean flavors from becoming muddled. Every bite was a delicious treat and the crisp-tender vegetables keep a rich risotto from becoming too heavy. This was absolutely outstanding and is going into my keeper stack.

Oven-Baked Risotto
Adapted from La Cucina Italiana
Serves 4

4 large porcini mushrooms or whatever you’ve got (about 7 ounces)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for ramekins
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4 -inch dice
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4 -inch dice
1/2 small zucchini, cut into 1 ⁄4 -inch dice
1 medium tomato, cored and cut into 1/4 -inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, heated to a simmer
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese

risotto-sauteed-mushrooms

The recipe comes from an interesting article on porcini mushrooms, so it’s too bad I couldn’t find any at the grocery store. Instead I went with baby bellas and they were delicious. Anything you like will do, though as you can see in the top picture, porcinis are the most glamorous on top… which really didn’t matter in my house, since it was inhaled in minutes.

risotto-sauteed-veggies

Our MoM, La Cucina Italiana, isn’t just Italian in the name. It’s flavors are all authentically Italian. I thought I knew what Italian flavors were and in many ways, I was wrong. That’s partly why I wanted to pick this magazine — I like that it challenges my palette and stretches me a little bit. The adventure is good, even if I don’t end up liking everything.

One thing in this dish that I automatically knew my Americanized palette wasn’t going to like was the addition of mint in the vegetable saute. I omitted that, and kept just the fresh sage and parsley. My ingredients listing above also omits the mint, but you can click the link for the original recipe and check it out if you’d like.

Risotto & Veggies

I didn’t use ramekins. I went bigger. Like a dummy, I served up doubled portions of the risotto alongside sauteed boneless, skinless chicken breasts. This was way too much food and the risotto was such a big hit, we scarfed up the risotto and the chicken was an afterthought (leftovers tonight). I know small ramekins sound like tiny portions, but risotto really sticks to your ribs. If you’re serving this as a side dish, the small ramekins are probably best.

Oven Baked Risotto

The fifteen minutes it spends in the oven is where the risotto absorbs a little more of the liquid and solidifies just enough that you can pop the whole thing out of the ramekins and serve them on a plate, like upside down pineapple cakes. But not. They’re risotto cakes… of deliciousness.

Instructions

Trim mushrooms and cut stems from caps. Separately cut caps into 1/4-inch-thick slices and stems into 1/4-inch dice. In a large skillet melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. In a single layer, add mushroom caps and cook until softened, about 1 1/2 minutes per side; transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper.

Add 2 tablespoons oil to skillet and return to medium-high heat. Add mushroom stems, celery, carrot and zucchini. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add tomato and cook until any liquid from tomato has evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove from heat and toss with parsley, sage, mint and pinch salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 400º.

In a large saucepan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot and cook until lightly golden then add rice, stir to coat with oil and cook for 1 minute more. Add wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to release any bits. Cook until wine is mostly evaporated, then add 1 cup broth and reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring, until broth is mostly absorbed, 5 to 7 minutes. In 1/2 cupfuls, add remaining broth, stirring until each addition is mostly absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender yet still slightly firm to the bite (you may have broth left over). Remove from heat and stir in cheese and remaining tablespoon butter.

Generously butter ramekins. Line bottoms with a single layer of mushroom tops (chop any leftover tops and add to vegetable mixture). Put 1/4 cup risotto into each ramekin, then press risotto into the bottom and up the sides of the ramekins to create cavities. Fill each cavity with 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable mixture, then top with remaining risotto, packing tightly. Place remaining vegetable mixture in a small baking dish. Place ramekins and baking dish with vegetables on a baking sheet; bake for 15 minutes.

Remove risotto and vegetables from oven. Run a paring knife around edges of ramekins. Invert risotto onto serving plates and sprinkle with pepper. Serve warm with vegetables.

MoM: June ’09 La Cucina Italiana: Sauteed Veal with Yogurt-Chive Sauce

Kicking off our new Magazine of the Month, the June 2009 edition of La Cucina Italiana, I dove right in with a simple dish that combined sauteed veal and steamed broccoli with something I had never eaten before: turnips.

Sauteed Veal with Yogurt Chive Sauce

And it turns out I don’t like turnips, but the dish was really good anyway.

What pulls everything together is a simple sauce made of plain yogurt, fresh chives, salt and pepper. I thought I was going to hate the sauce but when I tasted it against the vegetables and veal, it reminded me of the food you’d order in any Greek-style restaurant. The trick to making the sauce come together is making sure you put it together first. As you prepare the remainder of the dish, the flavors of the sauce meld together, eliminating the yogurt taste and leaving you with a mouth-watering, peppery sauce.

After that, it’s all about the ingredients. The onions and turnips are prepared two ways, steamed and sauteed, creating diversity of taste and texture. At my grocery store I found a tiny selection of veal (stew chunks and cutlets – that’s it) so I chose cutlets, sliced them into 1 1/2-inch strips, and only sauteed them for 90 seconds. I also couldn’t find fresh pearl onions, only frozen, but they came out fine and I didn’t have to change the cooking time. As for the turnips, I thought they were bitter. I guess they just aren’t my thing. Everything else was, though. Despite how little you see on the plate, I thought it was a pretty filling dish. I don’t know if I would make it again, but it was pretty delicious, and an encouraging start for our latest MoM considering we’re cooking out of it almost solely for the next month.

Bianchetto di Vitello allo Yogurt
aka Sauteed Veal with Yogurt-Chive Sauce
Courtesy La Cucina Italiana, June 2009

1 cup plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into eighths
3/4 pound pearl onions, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds veal top round, cut into 1-inch cubes

Stir together yogurt and chives; season with salt and pepper.

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Add broccoli and simmer until crisp tender, about 4 minutes. Reserving water, transfer broccoli to a plate. Return water to boil, add turnips and onion and simmer until crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Drain vegetables and pat dry.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add veal in batches and cook, stirring, until browned and cooked to medium, about 4 minutes; transfer to a plate. Reduce heat to medium, add remaining
1/2 tablespoon oil, turnips and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Season veal and vegetables with salt and pepper.

Divide yogurt sauce onto plates and top with veal, sautéed vegetables and broccoli. Serve warm.

Sauteed Veal with Yogurt-Chive Sauce

June & July 2009 Magazine of the Month

I fell off the Magazine of the Month bandwagon for this reason: Everything I saw was either way too intimidating or dreadfully uninspiring. I also live in a small, depressed city, so our off-the-rack magazine selection often leaves me wanting. I thought maybe we could switch to a book for something a little different, so I went to the bookstore and started searching through the cooking section…

Again with the intimidation.

A couple of weeks ago, I went on vacation to Las Vegas. If you’re anything like me and not into activities that involve paying cash for naked strangers, then all that’s left to see in Vegas is shopping and the food.

Oh, the delicious food

Yes, I’ll be covering my trip to Bouchon as soon as I can. Embarrassingly enough, it involves my waiter catching me sending a flurry of text messages to Citizen Chef, gloating that I was sitting in Bouchon! I even got a menu as a souvenir — I swear I didn’t steal it. The waiter gave it to me… though I would have considered sneaking one out in my purse if it had come down to that.

Anyway, after my trip to Vegas, eating in some truly great restaurants from some inspiring (and surprising) chefs, I was ready to come home and challenge myself. Magazine of the Month is back on! I’ve selected one that I’ve been purchasing on and off for over ten years, but have been way too intimidated to cook anything out of. No more.

Through June and July, we will be investigating La Cucina Italiana.

La Cucina Italiana June 2009

My first experience with this magazine was oh, so long ago when I thought all there was to Italian cuisine was spaghetti and lasagna. I brought it home and boy was I ever confused. I don’t think there was a single spaghetti recipe in that edition. Since that first encounter, I’ve found myself wanting to try their dishes out, yet nervous about the unfamiliar ingredients, processes, and the time sink it may take to make their food. I’ve continued to purchase these magazines off and on, but I confess I’ve yet to make anything.

This edition contains information and recipes to make pasta from farro (which includes that delicious “little lasagna with tomato, burrata and pesto” on the cover), an assortment of strawberry desserts, and a really delicious spread on paninis that even has me salivating — and I’m not big on paninis.

Grab a magazine, sharpen your knives, and get your seatbelts on. It’s time for some delicious Italian cuisine.

Buon appetito!

MoM March ‘09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Lasagna with Meatballs

This post has been a looong time coming.  Because at first I was waiting to get the pictures of my wife’s camera and on to her laptop so she can email them to me (it’s a Vista thing, don’t ask) but then her laptop ended up at the shop so we hooked her external hard drive to my computer so I could finally get the pictures but then it turned out they were gone.  So I had to take some liberties with the pictures, I appreciate you coming with me on this one.

Now as this is a Cooks Illustrated recipe, I can’t give you the actual recipe.  But the real jewel in this dish is the meatballs.  At first I was wondering why put meatballs in lasagna, but then when I ate it and said “ooh meatball” every few minutes that became rather obvious.  So you take your 85% lean ground beef, some bread crumbs, 2 eggs, some fresh basil and some Parmesan cheese and roll it up into little balls.  I used SarVecchio which is a Wisconsin Parmesan cheese because Chef Torysays so.  Nice video of him on the SarVecchio link too!  So put them on a baking sheet and throw them in the oven and they will look like this..

boulder-meatball

uhm yeah.  After that it’s your basic tomato sauce, using crushed tomatoes and garlic and olive oil.  Actually this recipe is a little scant on the sauce, which is on purpose but it works.  Boil your lasagna noodles and then do the assembly thing, noodles, sauce (and meatballs in the bottom layer), mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, noodles, rinse and repeat until it looks like this:

tn_strata5game_jpg

no, wait

rock_strata_1

The finished product looks like this:

fh1q4ca7rzeoica6t0w18cabbctdlca9t08hdcaxqq7wjca8klgc4caq8uwj8ca056d2bcakmro5icaoo7zogcar01tpwcawiem2tca95yx12capc29qrcav9o63zcanjmtrkcayadymo

 

So if you can still grab the magazine, please do so.  It’s well worth your time.  And if somebody wants to make the lasagna and send me some pictures, that would be great.

 

~Citizen Chef

MoM March ’09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Jucy Lucy Burgers

Ok, first off I’m aware that “Jucy” is not how you spell “juicy”.  I would have preferred “Juicy Luicy” if they had to be clever, but it’s not my magazine.  But misspellings aside, this was a great recipe, and one that I will make again soon. 

The deal here is that it’s a burger with cheese.  But wait, it’s gets better.  It’s a burger with the cheese on the inside!!!  Plus they want it well done and still juicy!!  What kind of laboratory wizardry will the America’s Test Kitchen scientists bring to bear on this conundrum?  Particle physics?  Will there be cyclotron useage??  What?   Oh.. they used bread and milk mashed together with garlic powder to add to the meat so it would stay juicy at a temperature high enough to melt the cheese?  Ok, that’s one way to go I guess.

dsc06262

It puts the cheese in one patty and encases it in the meat and then it puts the other half of the patty around it to make a double seal or it gets the hose again, uhm I mean the cheese will burst out.

These then cook for a long time burger-speaking, 6 to 8 mins on a side.  And it turned out well done and still juicy with the cheese all gooey.  I originally questioned what the point of putting cheese inside the meat was, but it did give it that oozing all over the place kinda feel.  Here’s the money shot:

dsc06272

 

And there you have it.  A post.  From me.  About food.  … I thank you.

 

~Citizen Chef

MoM March ‘09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Chili Con Carne & Broiled Steak

No word yet from SlackerCitizen Chef on the MoM dishes he’s been cooking up, so I’m going to steal his thunder and give you a quick update on a couple more that I’ve tried from Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2009.

Best of America's Test Kitchen

Two more weeks of this publication and we’ll be moving on. If you have any suggestions about what magazine you’d like us to dive into next, drop us an email through the contact link or post below!

So let’s talk about some of the beef listed in the mag. As I’ve said in the past, I primarily work with chicken and the broiler scares the hell out of me, but for the sake of trying out new things, I went for it this time around. That’s how much I trust America’s Test Kitchen.

First up, I tried the Easy Chili Con Carne. This is more of a Tex-Mex dish — no beans, just meat and some sauce. I had never eaten a Tex-Mex chili before; my experiences were all with beans and ground beef and all kinds of diced vegetables in it. This was just a really simple tomato sauce that the beef had been simmering in for hours. Though I was compelled to keep eating it, I had a really hard time associating this with chili. I think that’s more my problem than the recipe though.

Basically, you just create a really simple sauce from tomatoes, chipotles in adobo, bacon (oooh yeah), onion, jalapenos and some spices, and you let boneless beef chuck-eye roast sit in it for a couple of hours.

Chuck Eye Roast

What you’re seeing in the photo is the recipe halved. It calls for 3 1/2 – 4 pounds of boneless beef chuck-eye roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces. I grabbed a piece that was about 2 pounds, and was a little dismayed at the price – it was about $6. Though the Test Kitchen prefers chuck because it’s more affordable than other cuts of beef, it’s still more expensive than chicken.

Chuck Eye Roast 2

The beef is cooked in some bacon fat, then removed from the pot. More bacon fat is added back in, and then the other ingredients are added – some spices along with the onion and jalapeno, and cooked until softened.

Sauteeing Vegetables in Bacon Fat

A pureed mixture of chipotle and diced tomatoes are also added in with some water, the beef goes back in, and everything simmers for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Then an unexpected ingredient is added — a couple tablespoons of boxed corn muffin mix for a sweet, corn taste. Odd, but good. I used the rest of the mix to make corn muffins and served them on the side.

Easy Chili Con Carne

I’m really undecided as to how I felt about this chili, only because I am having a hard time associating it with the word “chili”. The taste was simple, light and smoky, but the beef… oh my God. Even if I had been undecided on the taste of the tomato broth, the texture of the beef was so addictive that I couldn’t stop eating it. If you like Texas Chili and you’re a fan of the beef taking the spotlight, then this is the chili for you.

Next up, I tried the broiled steaks. You know how much I hate the broiler and, coupled with my fear of making steak, it was quite an event.

Seasoning Steaks

The interesting thing about these steaks is that Test Kitchen chef loves the texture of the quintessential outdoor grilled steak, and endeavored to create a method of cooking them that would make the crisp edges just as good, if not better, than what is produced on the grill.

Success.

A disposable aluminum tray is used and salt is poured into the bottom to keep the grease from splattering. The steaks are then placed on a wire rack on top of the aluminum tray and baked. After a few minutes, they come out to be patted down dry, then they rest. Then they get the broiler and a bit of herbed butter.

I’ve never been able to make steaks better than this, and they came out beautifully. Everyone in the house was pleased, and you will be, too!

Broiled Steak with Herbed Butter

Okay, that last sentence was a little cheesy but you get the idea — these steaks are damn tasty! Bon appetit!

MoM March ‘09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Camembert, Bacon, & Potato Tart

We’re in week six of the mag-style booklet Best of America’s Test Kitchen, available on newsstands through the end of April ’09. This is so far the only publication we’ve extended to a second month — what can I say, it’s just that good.

So far we’ve covered the following dishes in Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2009:

Restaurant Style Hummus
Crispy Garlic Chicken Cutlets
General Tsos Chicken
Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce & Simple Italian-Style Meat Sauce
Tunnel of Fudge Cake

I have three more sitting in the hopper, and I know CC has a few to review once he gets off his rear end and posts them.

We’re looking for others who want to participate in the Magazine of the Month, so if you’re interested, send us an email through the contact link. Whether you have your own blog and prefer that we link to you, or want to participate here directly… whatever. We’re an easy going group, but we do request that you can actually write coherently. Drop us a note if you’re interested!

Brie, Bacon, & Potato Tart

So let’s talk about the Camembert, Bacon, and Potato Tart. First thing to note is my photo above — those lovely little triangles are not Camembert. My grocery store had somehow run out, so they suggested I work with Brie. I like Brie and they are similar, so I went with that instead.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the number one issue that deters chefs from making a tart: The dough.

Processor - Tart Dough

Dough is often laborious and messy, involving rolling pins and fussiness, and flinging tiny, wet chunks of dough on the floor and dropping them through the crack between the oven and the counter. The test kitchen, once again, provides a fantastic method: The dough is created solely in the food processor, then balled up into walnut-sized pieces and placed in the pan. Then they’re pressed down flat, thusly:

Pressing Dough into the Tart Pan

The dough is covered and frozen for 30 minutes, and then we get to the good stuff: the tart guts.

Sounds appetizing, no?

Diced bacon is fried and removed, then onion and sliced Yukon Golds are placed in a pan with the bacon grease and a bit of butter. Eventually, after the fresh thyme is added in with some salt and pepper, the bacon rejoins the party.

Bacon & Potatoes

The mixture is then placed inside of the tart shell, which baked while you were making the tasty tart guts. Everything is then baked altogether with the sliced Camembert on top or, as in my case, Brie.

Brie, Bacon & Potato Tart

I wish I had put more cheese on this; that’s pretty much the only thing that could have made it even better. The tart dough held a hint of sweetness, which was a nice trade off for the salty bacon.

Potatoes and bacon are great together anyway, and the combination of having it in one tight little package made it that much better. Here’s a side view:

Tart - Side View

The next night we had it as leftovers, and found that it actually reheated quite nicely in the microwave — a definite plus. I don’t know if it was magnificent enough to put in a weekly rotation, but I wouldn’t be against making this for a casual potluck. I liked it because it was different than the usual one-pot meal and a flaky pie crust always puts a smile on my face. This is something I would definitely recommend making — as long as more cheese is involved. If I had put at least two more slices of Brie on top, then it would have been perfect.

Enjoy!

Best of America's Test Kitchen

MoM March ’09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Tunnel of Fudge Cake

I’m kicking myself for not taking more pictures of the Tunnel of Fudge Cake. When I saw the page and the picture, I thought, “Eh, it’s just a chocolate cake.”

Just.

ATK Tunnel of Fudge Cake

Boy, was I ever wrong.

As you can see, we’ve moved steadily into the month of March, but we’ve decided to stick with Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2008 for our Magazine of the Month selection. To be honest, I wasn’t even going to make this cake, but when CC said we should continue Best of ATK through March and I ended up needing to bring a dessert somewhere, I decided I would make this cake, effectively knocking out two birds with one stone.

For those of you who didn’t pay the $8 to pick up this must-have paperback booklet (go get it!), you’re in luck — I’m posting this recipe. Back in October, Serious Eats was featuring the Cook’s Country Cookbook as a giveaway, and essentially regurgitated all of the information on this cake that the book had, including the recipe. Their site says the recipe was “adapted” from the Cook’s Country Cookbook, but I don’t think adding a pinch of salt in the chocolate glaze really qualifies as adaptation. I also saw the little trick with calling for already melted chocolate in the glaze rather than putting that step into the instructions, and I’m calling shenanigans. Nice try, though.

At any rate, this is the cake that made the Bundt pan famous. Back then, the lady who came up with the recipe used an ingredient that is no longer being produced. Many new versions of the recipe have emerged in an attempt to recreate the cake, but the Test Kitchen wasn’t happy with any of them. So, they went to work on making a definitive version that really emphasized chocolate. When they were finished, they had succeeded beyond expectation.

The “tunnel” comes from a gooey fudge center that actually looks like a tunnel within the cake. According to the notes from the Test Kitchen, the fudge layer actually separates from the rest of the cake.

Here’s a close up — hopefully you can see the gooey portion in the bottom/bottom-left of the cake.

Tunnel of Fudge Cake Closeup
Tunnel of Fudge Cake, sans glaze

Yes, my friends, that darker colored goop down there isn’t unbaked cake batter: It’s ooey, gooey, oh so rich and delicious fudge.

This cake is the chocolate lover’s dream. Finely ground nuts contribute to a fuller bodied cake and a much needed textural and taste contrast for the chocolate. The fudge center plus the chocolate glaze makes this cake over the top. I couldn’t get through half of my piece without reaching for an ice cold glass of milk. The party I took it to raved about it and ate the whole thing. Some of the guests even had seconds.

Making it was surprisingly simple and did not take a great deal of time. Granted, it did force me to do something I hate doing, and that is prep all three mixtures in separate bowls prior to combining them. I hate dirtying so many dishes but in this case it’s necessary as the cake batter is only just combined.

When the cake has finished its cooking time, you’ll notice it’s done because the edges pull away from the sides — the center of the ring will have collapsed slightly, as that’s the gooey, fudge part of the cake, and won’t rise.

Tunnel of Fudge Cake

Cake:
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting pan
1/2 cup boiling water
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups pecans or walnuts, chopped fine
2 cups (8 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

For the glaze:
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cake:
Adjust an over rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan and dust with cocoa powder. Pour the boiling water over the chocolate in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Cool to room temperature. Whisk the cocoa, flour, nuts, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Beat eggs and vanilla in a large measuring cup.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. On low speed, add the egg mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the chocolate mixture and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Beat in the flour mixture until just combined, about 30 seconds.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the batter and bake until the edges are beginning to pull away from the pan, about 45 minutes. Cool upright in the pan on a wire rack for 1 1/2 hours, then invert onto a serving plate and cool completely.

For the glaze:
Cook the cream, corn syrup and chocolate in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and set aside until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Drizzle the glaze over the cake and let set for at least 10 minutes. Serve.

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