Newsletter #33 and How to Make the Perfect Pie Shell Video

News and Fun Facts   It’s Thanksgiving week and I’m teaching some mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and stuffing this week.  So, you can make it with me and then have it ready to serve for Thursday.  Want a fun fact?  Here is what the Pilgrims probably ate.  Eels and lobster were on the menu.  They had pumpkins but, alas, no mashed potatoes

Snap and Cook Photo Drawing  Congrats to one of my regular baking students.  She has submitted so many wonderful photos it’s high time she won the drawing for a FREE class.  The photos above are from many of her baking creations. 

Top Tip  If carrots are on your Thanksgiving menu, how about jazzing up the dish with a unique type of carrot?  Or think about planting some seeds during the long weekend.   Read Getting to Know Carrots to learn about a host of carrot types.

What I’m Reading  Onions are probably a key ingredient in your Thanksgiving dishes.  You can just pop down to the local market to buy your onions but learn about the Onion Johnnies which were popular 100 years ago in England and France, onion salesmen via bicycles.

What I’m Listening to  If you  like allrecipes.com you’ll love their podcast “Homemade”.  It’s been fun to listen to chefs (and how Jet Tila became one) and learn how to be a social media cooking star with Eitan Barnath.   

What I’m Cooking  The Thanksgiving pumpkin pie class was so much fun on Friday.  If you missed class but want to make a pie for Thanksgiving, perhaps watch my video on “How to make the Perfect  Pie Shell”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Newsletter #32 & Rice Cooker Oatmeal Recipe

News and Fun Facts   The weather is taking on a chill as it does in California once the Halloween costumes are put away.   To brace myself against the morning chill, oatmeal and maple syrup are top of mind.  So I have some interesting tidbits about those in this newsletter.  Classes have a Thanksgiving focus for the next 2 weeks.  Even if the number at your table is small this year a fabulous dessert would be wonderful.  So you’ll see pumpkin pie on the class listing for this week and a not so Thanksgiving chicken tender class.  Next week we head towards Thanksgiving sides.

Snap and Cook Photo Drawing  The pumpkin mousse photo above was shot by a student in a recent class.  She won a spot in the pumpkin pie class.  You can win a class too.  Join a class and take a photo or maybe take a photo of your oatmeal you make with the recipe below.

Top Tip  For those of you with pie on your mind for Thanksgiving, learn about pie shields.  Or go whole hog on pies and buy the new “The Book of Pie” cookbook.

What I’m Reading  When I was young, maple syrup generally came in a plastic Log Cabin bottle loaded with chemicals.  We are so lucky today to have real maple syrup from maple trees at nearly every grocery store.  Even in the pure form it does beg the question, “Maple Syrup.  Is it good for you or just pure sugar?”

What I’m Watching A new season of “Someone Feed Phil” just popped up on Netflix Streaming.  Season 4, episode 2 hits close to home as Phil eats his way through San Francisco and hob nobs with some of the Bay Area’s greatest chefs.   He raves about Tartine’s chocolate croissants, has a heart to heart chat with Dominique Crenn, tours 3 of Thomas Keller’s properties in Yountville.   Check it out and make a list of all of these great restaurants to visit when we are able to do that again.

What I’m Cooking  The former Whole Foods CEO wrote an article a while back about making oatmeal in a rice cooker.  He would travel with a rice cooker and oatmeal and make it in his hotel room on business trips.  I’m not kidding about that.  I thought it was a great idea and I’ve been making my oatmeal that way ever since.  Here’s how:

I use these ingredients and then press the “on” button to let the rice cooker do it’s magic

1 cup old fashioned oats

2 ½ cups liquid (my preference is 1 cup water and 1 ½ cup almond milk

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Newsletter #31 & Shrimp Risotto Recipe

News and Fun Facts   My kind of fun fact and kind of not so fun fact is the same.  I was itching to test out a Hungarian recipe book recently donated to me and chose to make peppers stuffed with veal.  Alas, veal was no where to be found.  It seems it has been banned in California.  So scrap any veal recipe on your list.  And, really, standard beef is no substitute.  As we head into fall, we’ll start by baking this week Traci de Jardin’s favorite Thanksgiving dessert, cranberry walnut tart.   And for dinner this week you can imagine yourself in Paris with the quiche class on Wednesday. Hey, this is the week to eat some great food while musing over the election results.

Snap and Cook Photo Drawing  We had a fun Halloween week and I wanted to share our winner’s photo with darling Halloween cupcakes.  Send me a photo from a recipe posted in the newsletter or from a class to enter the drawing for a FREE class.    

Top Tip  While we all hope to make a perfect pie or tart shell, sometimes all doesn’t go so well.  Try out this way to patch your pie shell,  offered to readers in a recent Cooks Illustrated article.

What I’m Reading  I’m not saying that corn syrup is a super food but read “We need to Talk about Corn Syrup” to read why’s it’s actually not as bad as you think.  It’s a key ingredient for my ooey gooey brownies and this week’s cranberry walnut tart class.

What I’m Watching  I’m still watching the most recent season of the Great British Baking show (season 7, episode 4) and I recommend it both to inspire your baking and to build your self esteem.  You’ll see that even the experts have some flops.  For instance, if you put too much custardy filling in the middle of a bundt cake it can easily crack, sadly this happened to one of the contestants on the show.

What I’m Cooking  I LOVE shrimp risotto.  If you do, too, try out my recipe.  As I tell my students, risotto is a “process”.  Once you master it you can swap out the ingredients and let your imagination go a bit wild.  Ditto for quiche.  We’ll learn how to make quiche this week in class. Once you learn the techniques for quiche you can mix and match the cheese type and main ingredient.  In class we’re going classic with either a mushroom or bacon (Lorraine) quiche.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Newsletter #30 & Free Form Apple Pie Recipe

News and Fun Facts   Have you been baking bread this year?  The fun fact (and maybe not a surprise) is that bread cookbooks are having record sales in 2020.  I’m trying out breads from a cookbook recently donated to my collection “Bread” by Ruth Hensperger.   Tried their very interesting for oat/pistachio bread and yesterday made a whole wheat loaf which uses part whole wheat pastry flour to make it light and fluffy.

Snap and Cook Photo Drawing  To get you into the Halloween spirit, here’s a photo from a family who attended my spider peanut butter cookie class.  Very cute!!

Top Tip  If you’re whipping up some cream for your Halloween treats, it’s best to start with cold cream.    Here’s a recent tip from Cooks Illustrated to get your cream down to a frosty temp super fast.

What I’m Reading  In the Cookies with Royal Icing Class this week, we’re using a tad of cream cheese for the cookies, a bit of a twist on the standard sugar cookie recipe.  Any cream cheese will do but it may be fun to read “How Philadelphia Cream Cheese Took Over the World

What I’m Listening To  The Extra Spicy Podcast aired an episode about the Meadowood Restaurant in Napa Valley, now lost to the Glass fire.   I never had the opportunity to dine there but if you did (or even if you secretly desired to drop more than $300 on your fine dining dinner experience) you may find this interesting.  It includes interviews with some of the former employees and some insight into that it takes to rise to a 3 star Michelin rating.

What I’m Cooking  Just this weekend the temperatures are dropping in California.  That makes me think of fall fruit!  We had fun on Friday at my Apple Pie class but I’m posting the recipe here in case you missed it and want to venture out on your own.  It’s from the Fog City Diner in San Francisco.  When they first opened they felt a proper diner wouldn’t be right without apple pie on the menu yet they had forgotten to purchase pie plates so they quickly created this galette like pie for the opening.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Newsletter #29 & Making Candy Eye Video

News and Fun Facts   Halloween treat classes kick off this week!   La Toque’s YouTube channel has launched.   It will be a work in progress but come see how to make candy eyes for your Halloween treats.

Snap and Cook Photo Drawing  There were no submissions this week except from my ever enthusiastic student, Caroline.  She has sent so many photos I’ll batch them up and send you at set all at once. This week come join class: Macaroni and Cheese, Apple Pie, Peanut Butter Spider Cookies.

Top Tip  If just learning how to use pastry bags, you can fill them easily and limit mess by placing the empty pastry bag into a tall cup.  Fold the bag over the cup to make a cuff.  Put your frosting (or melted chocolate) way down in the cup near the pastry tip.  Pull the pastry bag out and you’re ready to pipe.   Remember to push down to pipe.   A simple trick if you’re new to this is to wrap a rubber band around the top of the bag.  If you push the frosting up rather than down your frosting won’t leak out.

What I’m Reading  To add a little humor to your day and permission to level down your cooking, read “Things Chefs Do that You Should Not Do

What I’m Watching  The Great British Baking Show, season 7, episode 1, with a 3 layer sponge cake, via Netflix streaming, was a pleasure to watch this week.  It brought back fond memories of my British Baking Show summer camp capped off with lots of successful Princess Cakes in a “technical challenge” on camp’s last day.

What I’m Cooking  I’ve been spending a lot of time getting ready for Halloween classes so this week I’m offering you a no recipe recipe.  For the spider cookies we’ll be making candy eyes.  If you’re signed up for that class and want to get a head start on that class OR just want to venture out on your own for Halloween come watch the “How to make Candy Eyes” video.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Newsletter #28 & Halloween Classes and Royal Icing Recipe

News and Fun Facts   La Toque’s big news is that I’m teaching 6 Halloween classes starting next week.  Think spider cookies, ghost cupcakes.    Or host a Halloween cooking party with your friends.   I’d just like to make this holiday fun this year as trick or treating may not be an option.

Top Tip  During a recent class we made chocolate custard pies.   They were delicious but I was sad to see so much sludge in the sieve when I strained the custard before baking.  To prevent loss of so much deliciousness, try this trick from Cook’s Illustrated – hand immersion blend before straining. 

EPSON MFP image

What I’m Reading  Don’t lean towards packaged foods as an easy way out. Some foods, think cornbread, brownies, salad dressing, are just as easy homemade vs. a package. If you’re in the packaged foods camp, read “ Jacques Pépin’s Advice For Newbies In The Kitchen: Don’t Stress Out

What I’m Watching  Christina Tosi of Milk Bar in NYC hosts a weekly Bake Club “class” online.  This week was about an Albanian breakfast. Not baking but sounds delicious. Lots of red pepper!  See it here

What I’m Cooking  In preparation for all of those Halloween classes I’ve mentioned above, I’m weighing out the pros and cons of royal icing with meringue powder vs egg whites.    Here are the two options.  If you try out both and prefer one over the other, write back.  Just mix the ingredients together until smooth.  If it works out, the icing should pipe easily but retain a it’s shape.  We’ll be using this in the Halloween cookie with royal icing class on October 27

½ cup water, room temperatures + 53 grams meringue powder + 2 pounds confectioner’s sugar + 2 teaspoons flavored extract such as vanilla or lemon

10 2/3 ounce confectioner’s sugar + 2 large egg whites (4 tablespoons)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Newsletter #27 & Sauted Corn with Fresh Herb Recipe

News and Fun Facts   This newsletter has a focus on corn as we wave goodbye to the summer crops.   Grab some corn while you can!  As for classes, head my way if you’re a chocolate lover. This Friday: Chocolate Custard Pie, Next Friday: Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Cake

Snap and Cook Photo Club There’s good news and bad news here.  The bad news for me is that I’ve received very few photos in the past 2 weeks.  That’s bad news for me but good news for you.  If you send me a photo there is a high probability you’ll win the drawing.  The photo above was submitted by a Lava Cake class student in celebration of her friend’s new USA citizenship.  All dolled up in red, white and blue.

Top Tip  Buy super fresh corn and cook it minimally, or not at all.  I pop mine into boiling water for a bout 3 minutes but it’s fine to eat it raw.  As for shopping, I never peel back the husk at the store.  Rather, I feel the ear through the husk for firmness, especially at the tip.  Next time you’re at the store do yourself a favor by not peeking inside until you’re ready to cook as the husk will prevent spoilage and your fellow shoppers will be happy to have un-shucked corn in the bin.

What I’m Reading  This week I was so happy to see the corn farmer at the downtown Palo Alto farmer’s market.  But that won’t be for long so take advantage of the corn while they last.  And, read about corn, off the cob and into the world of possibilities”.  

What I’m Watching  I’m still adding to my restaurant “wish list” and added Mahoroba Bakery in Sacramento after watching “A Few Great Bakeries” this week.   Mahatoba is a Japanese bakery which seemed very unique and a great find.

What I’m Cooking  Did I say corn?  Yup I did.  I hope everyone had a chance to make the corn fritter recipe I posted a few weeks ago at the height of corn season.  On it’s way out, try out this Sauteed Corn with Herb recipe I’ve taught many times.  In case you’re looking for a good weekday meal side, try this (hint, hint-it’s easy).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Newsletter #26 & Skillet Meatball with Peaches, Basil and Lime Recipe

What’s Happening at La Toque If you’re looking for a fun activity to boost the spirits of your team at work, how about setting up a happy hour and start with a cooking class?  I was thinking it could be fun for your workgroup to start with one of these classes and then have happy hour with what you’ve learned at class.

How to make a few fun cocktails

Bake a dessert with me.  Have your group do a wine pairing 

Learn how to make some appetizers then enjoy them with your group with drinks

Classes this week: Shrimp risotto, sticky toffee pudding

Snap and Cook Photo Drawing  Thank you Caroline for being a regular baker with me.  She’s won a free class by submitting the photos above.  Send yours my way to latoquedecindy@gmail.com 

Top Tip  Black pepper is a key ingredient in nearly every savory dish and I highly recommend you grind it rather than using pre ground.  Once an exotic ingredient this is now commonplace and this black pepper know how is my top tip this week.

What I’m Reading I thought I’d send a thought piece  your way.  How America Lost Dinner (the meal kit market craze, or is it not?  Is there a move back to take out?).  Hoping you’re cooking and eating dinner together and bucking the trends mentioned in this article.

What I’m Watching  I haven’t yet started my YouTube channel but many other great cooks have.  Most recently my friend’s son launched his cooking channel.  Check out Adam and Eats and give him a “like”.

What I’m Cooking  I thought this recipe sounded CRAZY but with peaches in my freezer from the summer harvest and the limes and basil ready to pick in the garden this seemed to be a perfect inventory reduction recipe.  It turned out to be so much more than that.  It’s incredible how the flavor combo melded together.  Hats off to Melissa Clark at the New York Times.  Try out her Skillet Meatballs with Peaches, Basil and Lime.  Photos once you’v made it are welcome.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Neiman’s Chocolate Chip Cookies – Cooking School Online Learning Newsletter #25

News and Fun Facts   Most of my readers are living in the west coast and it’s tough times with the fires burning, some of you evacuated, some with losses and most everyone experiencing smoky unhealthy air.  So, once again, I’m making this newsletter light.   Light meaning you should all bake some cookies and watch my “escape” show.  Read on for more details and stay safe this week.   

Classes this week: black bean soup, quesadillas, chocolate lava cakes, chocolate cake, chicken tenders, roasted potatoes

Snap and Cook Photo Club Above is this week’s winner of a free class, a student making Indian Butter Chicken in class. Send me a photo (latoquedecindy@gmail.com) of a chocolate chip cookie (ideally with you in the photo to enter the drawing.

Top Tip  Think comfort this week.  Think COOKIES.  And see this Cookie 101 article from  Cooks Illustrated to get you inspired and on the right track for fantastic results.

What I’m Reading  Aiming to head you into a no fuss cookie baking week, skip the tools and use your hands instead. Read “Your Hands Are Your Greatest Kitchen Utensil.”

What I’m Watching  Everyone needs a bit of escapism this week.   I recommend everyone watch this fun show “Million Pound Menu” which is a bit of “Shark Tank” meets British restaurants.  Prospective restaurant owners give their pitch to investors and possibly get a BIG investment for their dream restaurant concept.

What I’m Cooking   Cookies should just do the trick to boost your mood a few notches.  Have you heard of the Neiman Marcus story?  Is it a myth or not? Cookies are “it” this week so try the “comfort” recipe, the Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip cookie

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Neiman-Marcus $250 Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

  • 5 cups oats
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, such as Hershey’s bars, grated
  • 4 large eggs
  • 24 ounces chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups chopped nuts, your choice

           How to Make this Recipe

  1. Grind in a blender or food processor to a fine powder.
  2. Mix together the flour, oats, salt, baking powder and soda.
  3. Cream the butter and both sugars together with an electric mixer.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla.
  5. Add chocolate chips, grated Hershey Bar and nuts.
  6. Roll into 1 inch balls and place 2-inches apart on a cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes at 375° or until golden.

 There has been a story about the secret Neiman recipe for years. So many have tried to duplicate the recipe. This is the recipe posted here. But, if you want Neiman’s side of the story, they claim this is the real deal.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment