All posts tagged “katherine sacks

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Christmas Sweet Potato Gratin

A last minute addition for your holiday table.

Merry Christmas! I’ve been a bit lacking in my blog posts these past few months, but it isn’t for good reason. My new job in New York has kept me quite busy, from covering 2nd Annual International Pastry Competition, to traveling to Atlanta and Boston on culinary escapades. But if there’s any time to think about food, it’s the busy holiday season, when the day’s hours get taken over with holiday parties, family meals, and celebrations galore. And while I may not have had the time to capture my food musing on the Internet, I’ve certainly been eating my way through the holidays. This beautiful sweet potato gratin (a dish I brought along to a recent holiday party) is a wonderful side to add to your dinner table. The herb-packed cream sauce holds layers together, melted Pecorino adds a crispy crust, and baking the dish in a pie pan makes for easy serving. Whether you add it to your Christmas menu, or save it for a dinner in 2012, I hope you enjoy!

This Christmas greeting comes to you all the way from Lisbon, Portugal, where I’m spending the day in route to Morocco. Over the next week, TH and I will explore the medinas and haute cuisine of Marrakech, Tangier and Casablanca. Look for our African update soon!

Sweet Potato Gratin
4 to 6 servings

2 to 3 medium sized yams, washed
1 cup heavy cream
1 handful thyme, rosemary, and sage
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano
½ cup grated Parmigianino Reggiano

1. In a medium-sized pot, bring salted water to a boil. Place the sweet potatoes in the water and cook for 15-20 minutes, until fork tender. Remove from the water and cool completely.

2. Bring the heavy cream to a simmer, and place the herbs in the cream. Take off the heat and reserve. Peel the skins off the potatoes and slice vertically into ¼-inch pieces.

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch baking tin or spring form pan with parchment paper. Lay the sliced potatoes onto the bottom of the pan in one even layer. Spoon the infused heavy cream on top, then sprinkle with the Pecorino and Parmigianino. Repeat 2 to 3 times, until all the slices are used. Top with the remaining cream and cheese.

4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Cool, top with fresh herbs and serve.


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Pumpkin Seed and Hazelnut Pie

Earthy pumpkin seeds and hazelnuts give pecan pie a run for its money.

Everyone loves pecan pie. Gooey, sweet and chuck full of toasted nuts, it’s a bona fide Turkey Day classic for a reason. But in my book, every classic can use the occasional update (I’m all for a Thanksgiving meal that eschews the mashed potatoes, gravy, and plain-Jane Turkey for more creative operations, like Ideas In Food’s Turkey Meatballs.) While I’d never turn away a pitch-perfect slice of pecan, this pie combines a variety of nuts—rich hazelnuts, crunchy pepitas, and sweet pine nuts—for taste that still offers the sticky sweet flavor that makes the dessert such a success, while giving real the depth of flavor. Thanksgiving fanatics may not let it take over the table, but this Pumpkin Seed and Hazelnut Pie is bound to become a holiday hit.

Pumpkin Seed and Hazelnut Pie, adapted from Bon Appetit
Servings: 1 9-inch pie
For the crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 large egg 9″-diameter pie pan with a removable bottom

For the filling:
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 ounces unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
Powdered sugar (for dusting)

1. Crust: Whisk 1 cup of flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and powdered sugar until light and fluffy and pale yellow in color, about 3 minutes. Add egg; beat to blend, occasionally scrapping bowl. Add dry ingredients in 3 batches, beating just to blend between additions. Gather dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°Fahrenheit. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch round. Transfer to pan, pressing dough onto bottom and up sides of pan. Trim dough flush with top of pan (reserve any scraps in case needed for patching crust after baking). Prick dough all over with a fork and freeze for 10 minutes.

3. Line the chilled pie shell with foil or parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the edges of crust are just beginning to turn golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

4. For filling: Preheat the oven to 300°Fahrenheit. Spread out the pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, and pine nuts on 3 separate small baking sheets. Toast the nuts until fragrant and light brown, about 10 minutes for the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds, and 20 minutes for hazelnuts. Let the nuts cool completely.

5. While the nuts are toasting, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown bits form on bottom of pan, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

6. Stir brown sugar, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Stir in the eggs, then add the browned butter. Fold in the nuts. Pour the filling into pie shell.

7. Turn the oven up to 350°Fahrenheit. Bake the pie, rotating pan halfway through, until filling is set around edges and jiggles slightly in center when nudged, about 1 hour. Loosely tent foil over pie if crust gets too dark. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Chocolate Beet Cake

This rich decadent cake is the perfect treat: one part indulgent, one part healthy.

I’m never quite sure what to say when I meet a pastry chef who doesn’t like sweets – it’s a problem I certainly don’t suffer from, and I find it oddly amusing when someone who doesn’t like sugar is willing to devote themselves to its craft. I’m not sure if my love of all things sucrose, fructose and glucose stems from a childhood based on German chocolate and Italian gelato, or years spent nibbling on crème brulee scraps after long shifts in pastry kitchens. But either way, my taste buds crave sweets the way some women crave shopping, in the -oholic sense that borders on obsession. In short: I’m never one to turn down another course during a dessert tasting and I can always nibble on one more macaron.

My crème de le crème is chocolate of course. This luxurious chocolate cake offers all the rich, luscious texture and flavor of the most decadent recipe, with an added healthy kick: beet puree. While the vegetable may add an earthy bite — and a handful of vitamins and minerals — your guests won’t think you’ve tossed something unexpected into the cake, until you spill the beets. The puree adds a wonderfully moist crumb, and the almond flour adds a nice texture (although the cake is just as wonderful made with all cake flour if you are short on almond). It’s the perfect way to feed a sugar craving, and get a healthy dose of nutrients to boot.

Chocolate Beet Cake, adapted from Tiger in a Jar/Gilt Taste
8 ounces butter, divided
1 ½ cups packed dark brown sugar
3 medium eggs
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 cups pureed cooked beets (steam and puree in a food processor)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups cake flour
1 ½ cups almond flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with oil and lightly dust with sugar.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream 6 ounces of butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well combined.

3. Melt the chocolate and the remaining 2 ounces of butter together and stir to combine. Add a small amount of the butter/egg mixture into the chocolate, mix well, and then combine the chocolate with the butter mixture in the stand mixer. Beat well to combine completely. Blend in the beet puree and vanilla on slow speed until just combined; mixture will appear slightly separated.

4. Sift together the cake flour, almond flour, baking soda and salt; mix into the creamed mixture until thoroughly combined.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, rotate, then bake an additional 20-30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan completely, then remove. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.