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Good morning, readers, exactly one week before Christmas. Today's recipes should provide some fodder for your big meal ... and for any special occasion.
Your challenges are these: Lisa Oliver's Red Velvet Cake and the flourless chocolate cake once served at the Serendipity Café in Red Bank, and hot pimiento cheese dip. You'll need to read on to find an explanation of the fourth request - H.R. would like a substitute for the bread in the tart recipe she sent.
A longtime reader asked for a reprint of Oliver's red velvet cake. Teresa Patten wrote that she "would love to get the recipe for the Flourless Chocolate Cake from the former Serendipity Café in Red Bank. That was my favorite chocolate cake in the whole world. I have tried many flourless chocolate cake recipes, but none of them are even close."
Finally, Ruby Flores sampled a light and fluffy hot pimiento cheese dip and is dying to try it at home.
H.R. found this recipe in the New York Times and, heeding the caution that plain cheese and crackers are out as party foods, wanted to make the apple tart. She read that, "this sweet and savory apple tart is both substantial and sophisticated. The chewy, pizza-like crust is fortified with three kinds of flour. The topping is a comforting, mellow jumble of sweet roasted apples and shallots scented with thyme and zipped up with pungent blue cheese." Note that measurements are given in grams for more precise baking, but we've also given the equivalent U.S. measurements.
1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
5 grams sugar (1 teaspoon)
150 grams all-purpose flour (1 1/2 cups), more as needed
55 grams whole wheat flour (1/2 cup)
60 grams fine cornmeal (1/2 cup)
10 grams fine sea salt (2 1/4 teaspoons), more as needed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus a little more
2 1/4 pounds apples, cored, quartered and sliced 1/4-inch thick
3/4 pound shallots, peeled, trimmed, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, more as needed
5 thyme branches
3/4 cup finely crumbled blue cheese
Flaky sea salt
Place 3/4 cup lukewarm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over water. Let stand until frothy, about 5 minutes.
In another large bowl, whisk together both flours, cornmeal and 8 grams (1 3/4 teaspoons) salt. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; stir in yeast mixture and 1/3 cup oil until mixture is combined. If the dough seems dry, add a little more water. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until dough is smooth and elastic, about 7 to 10 minutes. Or, knead in a mixer or food processor fit with the dough blade for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rest at room temperature until dough has doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
While dough rises, heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together apples, shallots, 1/4 cup oil, 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) salt, the black pepper and thyme. Spread onto two large baking sheets. Roast, tossing occasionally, until mixture is tender and golden, about 30 minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet. Punch down dough and transfer to baking sheet. Using a rolling pin or your fingers, roll or stretch dough to make an even layer about 3/16-inch thick. Scatter apple-shallot mixture over crust. Scatter cheese on top. Drizzle with oil and season with flaky sea salt and black pepper. Transfer pan to oven and bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is just melted, 17 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly, then cut into squares and serve.
Yeast of the Ridge responded to the request for the best chocolate cake ever. She doesn't believe this recipe is the exact one desired, but says this one is definitely in the running. The recipe is adapted from a French cookbook by Trish Deseine. And again, the measurement is in grams, but we've added conversions.
200 grams (7 ounces) best-quality dark chocolate
200 grams (7 ounces) unsalted European-style butter (the high-butterfat kind, such as Lurpak or Beurre d'Isigny), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
250 grams (1 1/3 cup) granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
Heat the oven to 375 degrees, and butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the base of the pan with parchment, and butter the parchment, too.
Finely chop the chocolate (a serrated bread knife does an outstanding job) and melt it gently with the butter in a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring regularly to combine. Add the sugar to the chocolate-butter mixture, stirring well, and set aside to cool for a few moments. Then add the eggs one by one, stirring well after each addition, and then add the flour. The batter should be smooth, dark, and utterly gorgeous.
Pour batter into the buttered cake pan and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the center of the cake looks set and the top is shiny and a bit crackly-looking. (I usually set the timer for 20 minutes initially, and then I check the cake every two minutes thereafter until it's done. At 20 minutes, it's usually quite jiggly in the center. You'll know it's done when it jiggles only slightly, if at all.) Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes; then carefully turn the cake out of the pan and revert it, so that the crackly side is facing upward. Allow to cool completely. The cake will deflate slightly as it cools.
Serve in wedges at room temperature with a loose dollop of ever-so-slightly sweetened whipped cream.
Here is a special-occasion dish if there ever was one, a beef Burgundy filet from Bright School's cookbook, "Fork Knife Spoon."
4 cups Burgundy wine
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
2 cups oyster sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
8 (6-ounce) filets mignon
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon Burgundy wine
1 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced green onions
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
In a medium saucepan, mix together 4 cups Burgundy wine, canola oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic and oregano. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. Place in the refrigerator 2 hours or until chilled. Place filet mignon filets in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the chilled marinade over filets. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate a minimum of 5 hours. In a medium bowl, cream butter and 1 teaspoon Burgundy wine with a hand mixer. Mix in shallots, green onions and white pepper by land; cover tightly and refrigerate.
Heat an outdoor grill for high heat and lightly oil grate.
Heat oven to 200 degrees. Grill marinated filets on grill to desired doneness, turning once. Place filets in a clean 9-by-13-inch baking dish and dollop with the Burgundy butter mixture, and place in the preheated oven for a minute, or until butter is melted.
Ruby Flores says a cocktail called "poinsettia" is the perfect easy holiday drink. And because it is pretty and festive, you can serve it with a very simple meal. She mixes 1/4 cup cranberry juice, 1/2 cup prosecco and cherry Sprite or cherry Sprite Zero to taste. Serve chilled in champagne flutes.
The subject of oils is causing a lot of conversation these days. Olive oil for cooking? Yes and no. Canola oil? It's out - well, only certain kinds of canola oil are out, or canola properly stored. And coconut oil? Oh yes, but it does have a distinctive, albeit appealing, taste. Please let us know your preferences and how you use each one, particular when it comes to cooking.