Holiday Cookies with Rose Levy Beranbaum | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Episode 634
December 15, 2022

Holiday Cookies with Rose Levy Beranbaum

Holiday Cookies with Rose Levy Beranbaum

This week, we’re getting ready for the holidays. Rose Levy Beranbaum shares everything we need to know about baking cookies—from favorite equipment and core techniques to her ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe. Plus, we go to Oaxaca to experience the Night of the Radishes with Gabriel Sanchez; Dan Pashman invents a “Hanukkah Miracle” sandwich; Cheryl Day answers your holiday baking questions; Chris shares his favorite books of the year; and we make a show-stopping Triple Crème Cheesecake with Guava Sauce.

Questions in this episode:

"How should I re-think freezing my cookies?"

"Do you have a default cake recipe that I can pair with any flavor?"

"Can you help me recreate my family's Apple Crumb Pie?"

"What's the best way to make almond biscotti?"

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    Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Today we're getting ready for the holidays with Rose Levy Beranbaum. She shares everything we need to know about baking cookies from equipment to techniques to why her recipes come down to precision.

    Rose Beranbaum: Well, I weigh everything. In fact, my editor at Food Arts magazine said Rose weighs everything even air.

    CK: Before Rose’s baking lesson, I'm talking with Gabrielle Sanchez, a tour guide from Oaxaca, Mexico. Every year on December 23rd his city celebrates the night of the radishes, an annual Christmas festival dedicated to radish carving. Gabrielle welcome to Milk Street.

    Gabrielle Sanchez: Thank you, Chris, thanks for the opportunity.

    CK: Before we actually get to the radishes tell me a little bit about holidays in Oaxaca. There's a long tradition of celebrations and events. Just tell us a little bit about that.

    GS: So, we always say in Mexico that starting September, its nonstop holidays, because after our independence in September, the Day of the Dead is October 31 to celebrate the loved ones that have you know, are not longer on this earth with us in getting into the month of December, getting ready for this beautiful tradition that Francisco Vasconcellos the city President started on the December 23 of 1897. That was the birth of the night of the radishes here in the city.

    CK: And why radishes?

    GS: The reason of radishes is because it's a very typical dish during that time of year, and obviously goes with the Christmas colors red and white. And you know, a state governor along with the city President Francisco Vasconcellos they decided, if there are so many radishes, why don't we just start harvesting radishes, make them bigger and have a competition for the local people to make different sculptures of the different traditions that we have in Oaxaca sometimes they want to recreate the Day of the Dead. Sometimes they want to recreate a facade of a church, a ____ which is another facility that we have in Oaxaca. Sometimes they could be different animals that they want to carve related to our pre-Hispanic history.

    CK: How big are these radishes? Let's start there. Are they like a foot long or something? I mean, if you're if you're going to do the Day of the Dead, or a church or something, it can't be three inches long, right?

    GS: Yes, you're right. You know, Chris, those these radishes, you can't chop them up and, and eat them with tacos, or basalts or nothing like that they're actually grown in a particular way, they can go up to 16 18 inches, because they put so much fertilizer, that they can grow at a size that's not normal. And that is exactly what they need because in order to carve, let's say a facade of Santo Domingo, they obviously need big enough radishes to be able to carve the columns, the niches, the front door, everything. And you know, they have to think about it before they even start carving. Because once you carve a radish, and you know, you're halfway onto the sculpture, you know, the there's no turning back.

    CK: So are these all serious artists who do this, or these are just, you know, local folks, or it's a mix of people, I mean, who signs up to do these carvings?

    GS: They're divided in three categories. The first category, we notice infantile, which is the kid’s competition, then you have the traditional, which are basically the local artists who have gotten involved in this 5 10 15 years ago, or even more. And then you have what we call categoria libre, which is the free category where anyone can go and you know, so it's pretty much open to the public, anybody that's wanting to do but you always have to sign a few months before because of the prices that they will win at the end. You know, you can get up to 30,000 pesos if you really get first place, which is around 1500 US dollars.

    CK: You know, in the States, there have been agricultural fairs for a very long time and carving anthropomorphic images out of vegetables is in almost all of those fairs. Is this something that was also done in Mexico, not just radishes, but the idea of displaying figures and scenes made out of vegetables or other things?

    GS: Well, not necessarily in other places of Mexico, we was something that it was particular to the city of Oaxaca, and that's why even still today, there's no other place in the country that does anything similar to what we do here in Oaxaca and that's one of the reasons why so many travelers come just to see one of these traditions that we've had for over 100 years.

    CK: So, this is in the central square in Oaxaca this this competition. Are there other things going on at the same time. How long are the lines? Is this is this just one part of a festival?

    GS: The lines are pretty long, they can be two, three blocks long. You know, visitors want to go and see every display I always tell them look, if you start lining up around one, you're going to go in around six 7pm. So, it's you know, it's a six, seven hour wait. But there are also a lot of things going on in the city at the same time. So, we have calendas, which is live music with dancing, going on maybe three, four blocks from the square, there's always tricycles that have a big sign, bonci, bonci. What it is, it's a hot drink made out of different fruits guava, orange, apple, pineapple, sugar cane, all inside one big pot, and they boil it along with cinnamon. So that's something very traditional in the month of December. So there's a lot of cultural activities going on in different areas of the city of Oaxaca. But the main activity is the night of radishes.

    CK: You mentioned that sometimes there are kids who who do the carvings. Was there one that you remember, done by a child that was really great.

    GS: Yeah, I remember in 2019, one of the scenes that caught my attention was this group of boys and girls that were carving a little bit of their history about their grandparents who had passed away. And one of my clients almost started crying, you know, just the way the skids were deep talking about their ancestors. And not only telling it in a verbal way, but also showing it to me that was one of the most emblematic scenes that caught my attention Mize and my spirit as well.

    CK: Gabriel it's been a pleasure. Thank you so much.

    GS: Thank you. And it's it's been an honor and thanks so much.

    CK: That was Gabriel Sanchez. He's a tour guide in Oaxaca. His website is Gabriel Sanchez tour guide.com. Now it's time to answer some of your holiday baking questions with Cheryl Day. Cheryl is the owner of Back in the Day bakery in Savannah, Georgia. She's also the author of Cheryl Days Treasury of Southern Baking. So, Cheryl, the holidays are confusing, right I mean, like Thanksgiving is pretty clear. You have your marching orders through but the holidays. I mean, they're all sorts of different types of holidays. And they're different traditions. And in England, for example, they do a turkey, you know, for Christmas. But in terms of the desserts and the baking, it's just all over the place. So, do you have something that's, you know, sort of de rigueur sort of your go to holiday?

    Cheryl Day: Yeah, I do. I go straight to cake. I love a coconut cake. There's something very nostalgic for me to make a coconut cake at Christmas time. So yeah, that's kind of my go to for sure. And of course, there's my chocolate cake that's going to make an appearance on the table. I also make a Buche de Noel, I love to make something festive for my centerpiece.

    CK: You know, everybody just needs to know that your chocolate cake that I watched you make at your bakery a while back is I mean, there's no point making anything else for your holiday dinner. I should just serve the chocolate cake as the first course, the second course on the last course.

    CD: I mean, I could definitely eat it that way. Yeah, sure. A big slice.

    CK: Give me a glass of champagne a big slice.

    CD: Oh, yeah, let's do it.

    CK: All right, let's take some calls.

    CD: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

    Caller: Hi, this is Jilda from St. Pete, Florida.

    CD Hi, Jilda. How can we help you?

    Caller: Well, I live in a Christian community. We're about 3000 members and every Christmas especially we make a lot of cookies. And we end up making a large variety of cookie balls and rephrase them raw. And something I've been observing over many years now is that there are certain types of cookies that do not do well, when they are frozen. And they lose their texture it’s not a nice texture as when they have been baked fresh. And I was just wondering if there's a process that one needs to do for freezing cookies. What would be your advice?

    CD: Oh, I love this question. I make a lot of cookies all day every day myself. And I actually do bake a lot of cookies straight from the freezer. What types of cookies are you having trouble with from the freezer?

    Caller: Namely chocolate chip cookies, and double chocolate chip cookies are more greasy once you frozen them?

    CD: I've got some questions because those two do very well, at our bakery straight from the freezer. How long are you keeping them in the freezer? And how are you wrapping them?

    Caller: Usually, we'll roll the bowls and then put them on a tray, they'll probably sit up to two, three months, maybe?

    CD: I think that's one problem. One other question. Are they sweaty kind of when you're before you're putting them in the oven? Is that what you're finding?

    Caller: Sometimes yes.

    CD: Okay, so let me tell you what I do. I scoop the cookies with like an ice cream scoop or weigh them. First of all, we put them on the trays to cool down, we layer them in pans, or in a container big container that's going to fit in your freezer. And then what you'll do is you'll put all of the balls on the bottom, put a piece of parchment down, and then you'll layer them that way. So that helps keep the moisture out. (Okay) and then you're going to want to make sure that those are airtight, I would not keep them for two months, or maybe a month. Then when it's time to bake them, you just simply put them on your baking sheets and bake them straight from the freezer, they're going to take a little bit longer. But that really works great. You can let them come up to temperature a little bit, but not to the point where they're going to be shiny or sticky looking, maybe 15 minutes. Another thing is some cookies that you find don't bake well from the freezer, you can bake those cookies, and then do the reverse wrap them and freeze them to save for the holiday season like sugar cookies and things like that.

    Caller: Okay. Is there any difference between han throwing a cookie or grouping them with ice cream scoop?

    CD: I would suggest scooping them with an ice cream scoop or weighing them out. (Okay) the more you manipulate a cookie or anything like that, you're going to have the tendency to overwork the dough. And then you'll kind of change the texture of the dough. You don't want to build any gluten and have a tough cookie. Or do you have anything to add? I didn't give you much Chris.

    CK: I know when silence is like really a good idea. Like this call would be one of those because you actually do this every day.

    CD: So, well I hope these tips help

    Caller: They do. Thank you. And I love your show. I listen to it every week. I love it. Thank you. Thanks for your time.

    CD: Thank you.

    CK: This is MILK Street Radio. If you have a culinary question or dilemma, give us a ring 855-426-9843 that's 855-426-9843 or simply email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com.

    CD Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

    Caller: Hi, my name is Angela. I'm calling from Searcy Arkansas.

    CD: Hi, Angela, how can we help you?

    Caller: I have a cake question. I know there's a science to the structure of cake. But I'm wondering if you guys have a go to recipe for a hearty trustworthy cake one that you can depend on one that can easily willingly adapt to different flavors or add ins. I've tried this out with a couple of different kinds of cakes and it has not worked. For example, I have a chocolate crazy cake recipe that calls for vinegar and water in place of dairy. It didn't like peanut butter. And another one was a shortcake recipe and I added sprinkles to it and it collapsed. It was thick and gooey in the center cooked but not edible. So just wondering if you have one in your back pocket that kind of a fallback for reliability.

    CD: Well, we've got lots of recipes in our back pocket for sure. But baking is definitely science. So, there's a few things you can do for addons you know, you can add sprinkles to a vanilla cake or chocolate chip, something like that. But you couldn't add a big fat like peanut butter or, you know, you can't just start switching up the recipe because that makes you a recipe developer. And you have to be really careful because you're messing with science. There’re certain things that require alkaline or acid. So unfortunately, you can't just add everything to one particular recipe,

    Caller: Well, I kind of figured that was going to be the case.

    CD: Chris, unless you've got one.

    CK: Well, in France, every kid grows up knowing how to make yogurt cake. When you go buy the yogurt in the store, they use the yogurt container as the measuring cup. So, the entire recipes based upon the size of the yogurt container, we got hold this recipe about a year ago and did it. And it's just a great basic loaf cake. You could easily put in a drizzle at the end of orange or lemon or anything you wanted. You could add things to it is similar to a pound cake, right? If you had a good pancake recipe, it's a good question, because then you have a basic cake recipe. And you can flavor it any way you want.

    CD: Almost anyway.

    CK: Yeah, I mean, you can't throw a cup of peanut butter. But you can ice it, you could drizzle it, whatever. I know Cheryl's going like, this is a really bad idea.

    CD: Well, no, it's a great idea. But I think what you should consider Angela is, you know, you could do the orange that you could do lemon zest, there's certain things that you can do to like a pound cake, you can add a lot of good things to those. You could have done like a peanut butter glaze, to a chocolate pound cake, or, you know, maybe some other glazes but not necessarily inside the cake. Because once you find your back pocket recipe that you're going to want to make all the time you don't want to change the texture of it.

    CK: I think a loaf cake, which is very popular in Europe is just a really good way to do 20 or 30 different cakes, because they're pretty easy to bake. Once you get a basic recipe down, you can finish it anywhere you want. So that would be my take a loaf cake

    CD: And I'm going to go southern pound cake. Okay, I love a good loaf cake too. I would start with those because it sounds like you're wanting a recipe, something simple that you can whip together.

    Caller: You may want to know why this strange request came up. Oh,

    CD: I'd love to.

    Caller: I have a five-year-old neighbor. And he says my name is Angela and he calls me Angela. He says Angela I love baking with you. And so, he comes over and I never know what kind of cake he's going to want to make. And so, this pound cake idea envelope cake sounds like a great solution to my problem. I'm going to start trying that.

    CD: Oh good. And then you all can just kind of create every time he comes over and make different types with no peanut butter inside

    Caller: You bet. Thank you guys so much.

    CK: Thank you Angela.

    CD: Thanks Angela.

    CK: This is Milk Street radio up next a masterclass on baking cookies with Rose Levy Baranbaum that's coming up after the break. This is Milk Street Radio I'm your host Christopher Kimball right now it's my conversation with Rose Levey Beranbaum. She's the author of 12 cookbooks including The Cake Bible, which is now in its 56th printing. Her latest book is The Cookie Bible, which she collaborated on with her husband, Woody Walston. Rose Levy Beranbaum it’s been so long welcome to Milk Street.

    Rose Levy Beranbaum: Do you realize that we've known each other for over 35 years,

    CK: I was thinking 40 but it's been about 35 years

    RB: because it was the first article, I ever wrote was for Cooks Magazine, and nobody else would have considered writing about understanding the genoise or understanding anything for that matter about baking.

    CK: I just want to start at the beginning and say, The Cake Bible is this one of the greatest cookbooks of all time, but I did I've made fun of you for years because you weigh your baking powder.

    RB: Well, I weigh everything. In fact, my editor at Food Arts magazine said Rose ways everything even air

    CK: So, let's talk about ingredients. So, you mentioned in your cookie book that you should use either Gold Medal or King Arthur all-purpose flour. But isn't King Arthur higher in protein than gold metal?

    RB: It is indeed

    CK: Would that make a difference or not?

    RB: A slight difference more so in, in perhaps pastry. But in cookies, I think cookies are more forgiving. The thing is, though, that unbleached flour, actually browns faster, and it has a slightly higher protein content. So, the difference between using an old purpose, bleached flour, and an unbleached is that the higher protein absorbs more of the liquid, and then it doesn't puff as much. It also keeps it from spreading as much. So, I write about all this in the book because I think people should know what they're choosing and why they're choosing because some people are religious about unbleached flour,

    CK: Types of sugar you call for super fine a lot as they do in Europe. Is there a reason that regular cane sugar is not as good as super fine?

    RB: Well, when you're making something like Christmas cookies, where you want to decorate on top of it, it prevents cracking, you get a finer crust. And in some cookies, you actually want to have the cracks, which that's a good thing. But if you want a smoother cookie, that's why I would call for super fine. And especially if you're making something like a macaroon, a super fine sugar with Marang. It dissolves more easily you get a better texture.

    CK: European versus American butter, like American butters. 82% fat or something and Europeans higher. Those butters are very different if you just picked them up and played with them. Right? What one is the European style is much waxier more solid. Does it make a difference do you think in any cookie recipes?

    RB: A lot of people choose the European because they think higher fat is better? And it isn't necessarily so you know, it depends on the recipe. Like for a laminated dough, yes. Because you have that flexibility of the butter, and it doesn't break through the dough package. But with cookies, I don't generally use the high fat at all. And a butter cream yes because then it emulsifies more easily. But you know that? Don't just assume. I mean, I'm not talking to you, of course. But it's your audience that that because it's more expensive and higher fat that it's better.

    CK: Salt. I'm a huge proponent of salt in all its forms, especially in sweets or chocolate. Do you feel the same way that salts really critical to balancing out sweet?

    RB: Oh, absolutely. But I find it kind of ridiculous that some of the recipes and baking used to say kosher salt. And I like to use fine sea salt.

    CK: Oh, oh, good. We can have an argument now. This is so exciting.

    RB: I knew we would have one somehow.

    CK: I always use kosher. I don't use table salt for anything or really find salt. And I just find that it dissolves just fine into batter or whatever. And I've never had a problem with pockets that are saltier. I mean, don't you think Kosher salt will it's just going to dissolve when it hits any kind of liquid

    RB: I totally agree. In fact, it dissolves more easily than even a fine salt. It's designed that way.

    CK: Then why are you telling me to use fine salt?

    RB: To measure it because if you’re not going to weigh it, and most people don't weigh salt, you're getting a different amount. And I always say to people if you're going to write an recipe, kosher salt at least say whether it's diamond or Morton’s

    CK: You have to say Diamond because Morton's very different.

    RB: Yeah. Okay, well, so we don't totally disagree.

    CK: So, we know I know how to do that. So, I have permission. Okay, that’s good. There's an ingredient most of us don't have golden syrup. And you you call for it in the book. So why golden syrup?

    RB: Chris, that wouldn't still be in this country if I hadn't given my recipe free of charge to the manufacturer that sold it in this country Universal Foods. I was so determined to keep it I didn't want to have to go to London or England just to bring back lots of golden syrup because it has a butterscotch kind of flavor. When you make it for example, I have pecan pie cookies, or just pecan pie. People often find it cloyingly sweet, but with the golden syrup, it gives it a lilting quality and it just seems it's more than just sweet. It has another element to it. I think it makes a huge difference.

    CK: So, what was the recipe you gave to them?

    RB: Pecan pie and it was on the jar for a long time I doubt if it still is.

    CK: Okay, let's see. Let's go back to my, the only time I make fun of you is when you weigh your baking powder. So really, I mean, you can't measure a teaspoon Do you really? I know you can tear the scale etc. But really, I mean, why?

    RB: Okay, I'm laughing because baking powder is the only powder that I find or any if you think of salt, baking soda, these minute qualities that you add in baking. It's the only thing that never measures the same way twice. I mean, you can use a teaspoon and it would be maybe six grams or could be four grams. And so, over a period of a year, I measure it each time and I know the exact weight which is 4.5. And if you actually if you sifted it into the spoon, it would be that too but I'm not going to write sift into the spoon because people will think I really went off the deep end. So that's why I offer it for people who have a scale, that's one of those really small jeweler scales, some people would do have it. I mean, I certainly do but some people who are really serious bakers want to get something that can measure minute quantities. And baking powder makes a huge difference. Maybe not so much in cookies as it matters in a cake.

    CK: You know, when my kids cook occasionally the question, they always ask me is, how do I know when it's done? Right, because that's the hardest thing. But cookies, I think, are really hard because they have to be not set up when you take them out, because there's a lot of additional cooking going on.

    RB: Good point.

    CK: So how do you determine whether a simple let's say Christmas cookie, sugar cookie is ready to come out of the oven?

    RB: Well, when you ask me what some of the essential equipment is, in my baking kitchen, I have to say I used to produce thermometers. And when Thermoworks came up with their Thermal Pen, and now what they call Thermal Pen One, one means that we one second that it reads, it's actually better than the mercury thermometer because that took a while to get from, say 70 degrees to 110. This is instant. So, in some cases, I actually give the temperature reading of the thermometer and the cookie that's really dependent on it.

    CK: If you have a thin cookie, right? How do you take the temperature of a thin cookie? Is somebody in the background laughing?

    RB: Yes, it's my husband. Would you like to say why you're laughing? Because Rose knows what he's excellent answer. Rose knows.

    CK: He's the perfect husband.

    RB: I'm telling you. You see, the thing is that with a Thermal Pen One it has such a tiny little tip that you actually can do a thin cookie. But I don't bother with a thin cookie. Because you know when it's done

    CK: Your first recipe in the book, I think is chocolate chip cookie.

    RB: It had to be I didn't even want to do chocolate chip cookie. I thought they've already been perfected there. Enough of them out there.

    CK: Yeah. Well, that's I was a little surprised but but you love this recipe. So why is this the best one out there?

    RB: Well, I do love it. No, but what won me over the idea of doing it is that people said probably the editor, we want to know what your best chocolate chip cookie recipe is. So that's when I revisited it, and I thought about what I really wanted in a cookie and I went that extra step to brown the butter. And then I discovered adding the brown milk solids as well. That was one of the things and then adding golden syrup or corn syrup. And that gives it more of a chewiness and also, I think mine has less salt and less sugar. Definitely less sugar than most because I started off with The Cake Bible I found cakes were much too sweet. And that you could get just really excellent results if you used equal weight, flour and sugar. And with cookies of course you need more sugar but still you don't need as much as a lot of people think.

    CK: Okay oatmeal. I once swore I would never make another oatmeal cookies. I spent 25 years of my professional life doing a new one every year. The chewy one, the crispy one. What's your ideal there and how do you get there? You did you like him? Chewy like crispy like big and thick. You like him stuffed full of walnuts and other things?

    RB: I like a lot of stuff in them yes, for sure. And my first cookie ever was an oatmeal cookie. And it was on the back of the Quaker Oats box and it would became one huge cookie because apparently the ratio ingredients was off. And I gave up baking after that for years. I think I was 17 and it just come home from college, and I thought oh, make an oatmeal cookie.

    CK: And you didn't make one oatmeal cookie.

    RB: Literally yeah. But you see, that's why my goal was to make sure that people didn't have that disappointment and stop baking because of it

    CK: Do you get old fashioned rolled oats or

    RB: Old fashioned rolled oats and that'll let the dough sit so that they can absorb some of the liquid. And absorbing the liquid is what makes them chewy. So that it’s not all crisp.

    CK: So, I was looking at some notes before today and you I didn't know this. You were hired to work on the Duncan Hines cake mixes, is that right? (Yeah). So, what was that like? I mean, yeah, this huge conference room full of people? Was it a huge kitchen? What what was it like?

    RB: Well, the first time when they tried me out, I was standing there talking, there were 12 people men standing there listening. But the most important thing to say about that experience was that always ask who your audience is whom you're talking to, because I thought there were just a bunch of guys. When I finally asked after the end, there were all engineers. And I always thought engineers were the kind of people who would straighten the picture in the room, even if it was supposed to be at an angle. But when I started working with them, I found that they were on the same wavelength as I was.

    CK: When people you know, people come up to me some time and talk about do you do follow recipes? And I say, sure I follow us. I mean, not all times sometimes I do. But you're one of those people where you absolutely have to follow your recipes as you really it makes such a difference. What do you think about people who think that's not cooking like you just have to improvise and make stuff up as as opposed to actually following a recipe.

    RB: Well, I think it's a pity if the first time they make it, they do it that way and then complain that it didn't work. Yes, it happens. But also, the word that I hate in the English dictionary the most when it comes to baking that I hear from people is your two words, it starts off with, can you and I always know the next word is going to be substitute. (Right) And once when I was doing a class to customers, and I had invited Maria ___Shelley, and her husband to see it, and somebody stood up and said, can you substitute something for the banana and the banana cake? And I said, well, why make that cake? There’re so many other cakes, you know, but, but her husband, John Guerra Shelley piped up in a loud voice, yes, watermelon. And I thought that was the perfect answer because that's the absurdity. Yes, you can substitute, but you have to know what the ingredients consist of, and at least make it the first time with what's recommended. And if it works, and only substitute one thing at a time, there can't be two variables, and then expect a conclusion to be at all logical.

    CK: Rose. This is ridiculous. We haven't done this in a long time. It's been a pleasure.

    RB: Thank you, Chris.

    CK: That was Rose Levy Barenbaum. Her latest book is The Cookie Bible. Rose and I go back a long time together to the 1980s when she published The Cake Bible. It was the first time I think that someone had applied a deeply rigorous laboratory approach to baking and an approach I have also pursued throughout my own career. But there are plenty of other approaches to the culinary arts, including the intuitive chef throw together chef, that tradition bound home cook, and the authors who use food as a stepping off point to tell a good story. And I think the same is true in music. Some musicians have amazing technical skills, yet others rely on soulfulness and songwriting. So, you can yeah weigh your baking powder, as does Rose Levey Beranbaum, or you can be more freestyle like Gordon Ramsay or Ina Garten. Nobody really cares how you got there. The food and the music always speak for themselves. You'll listening to Milk Street Radio, it's time to chat with Sam Fore about this week's recipe triple creme cheesecake with guava sauce. Sam, how are you doing?

    Sam Fore: Well, Chris, how about yourself?

    CK: Good. You know, it was in Mexico City a year or two ago and you know a lot. A lot of the foods you find especially on the street are expected. But I went and spent some time with Eduardo Garcia. He is the maximum of bistro we cook some beans, but he served for dessert, a triple cream cheesecake with guava sauce. So, I went to Mexico City to get cheesecake recipe you mean, no, but it was unbelievably fabulous. So how do you make a triple cream cheesecake?

    SF: You know, a delicious cheesecake should not be limited by geography. And this one is a lot lighter than it really has any right to be because it's got the creaminess of the cheesecake, but it's also nicely toasted on the top.

    CK: And so for the cheese, you know, obviously most people use cream cheese, which we do use here but the most cheese is not cream cheese. What is it?

    SF: it is St Andre, which is one of my favorite little hunks from the cheese aisle. It is a French triple cream Cheese beautiful texture. It is a stunning cheese with fruit. But in this case, we remove it from its rind and mix it up when it's nice and then like room temperature and gooey. And that kind of creates our base here. And if you're using a lot of fat in this, you want to have a crust that's going to hold up and so when we made this recipe, we decided to build it back up with all-purpose flour and almond flour just to kind of add to the texture and add to the richness of it.

    CK: Now there's one other thing about this recipe that really intrigued me is there's no water bath, no cheesecake, a water bath is just you know, tends to leak and it's kind of a pain.

    SF: So, after we turn off our oven, we prop the door open and just kind of let the cake hang out in there for about 15 minutes just to pull in that residual heat and finish off cooking without as much intense direct heat and that's what makes that texture.

    CK: So, we've made lots of cheesecakes and milk straight this is the latest and greatest now our favorite light texture, the guava sauce just really you don't have to use it but is a really nice compliment. And we learned something about baking cheesecakes which is you don't need a water bath. Just finish it in a cooling oven. Sam thank you.

    SF: Thank you Chris. You can get the recipe for a triple cream cheesecake with guava sauce at milk street radio.com

    CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up Dan Pashman creates a miracle after the break

    Voice: Hi This is Rose Hattabaugh since I've started working at Milk Street my cooking has really gone up a notch. I'm making fast, easy, bold and really interesting food for my family. Learn more about Milk Street membership options at 177 Milk Street.com/plans.

    CK: I'm Christopher Kimball you're listening to Milk Street Radio right now Cheryl Day and I will be answering a few more of your baking questions.

    CD: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

    Caller: This is Sally from Louisville, Kentucky.

    CD: Hi, Sally.

    CK: How are you?

    Caller: I'm fine. Thanks.

    CK: So how can we help you?

    Caller: Well, I'm calling today about an apple pie recipe that's been in my family. Several generations is kind of an apple crumb pie. Or you might call it a Dutch apple pie. Or some people may be apple strudel. And my challenge is making it like my mother did who's passed away and it's mainly the topping. I'm asking you about the proportions. My mother's her topping was kind of hard. I googled the recipe and the first four recipes; they have all different proportions.

    CK: Two questions. So this is flour, butter, sugar, anything else in the topping?

    Caller: There'd be a half a teaspoon of cinnamon.

    CK: What about the rough ratios between three things sugar, butter, flour?

    Caller: roughly about a half a cup of dark brown sugar and a couple of tablespoons of white sugar, and then maybe three fourths to a cup of flour. Where I have hard time is with the butter, but I'm using right now I'm trying to like five tablespoons,

    CK: Two things I would do immediately I would use white sugar, not brown sugar, if you want a harder topping because brown sugar is going to be moister and give you a softer topping. Two, I would make sure that you use twice as much flour as sugar. Sounds like your ratio is a little high on the sugar. I've reduced that down a little bit. The other thing you could do is add you know chopped nuts or oats or other things. But if you want to stick with that, I would just two parts flour, one part sugar, play with the butter. If you want a harder topping, you might use less butter than sugar.

    CD: This sounds good. I mean, it really is going to come down to personal preference, what I call a streusel doesn't have nuts in it. But the one I prefer on top of a pie personally does have oats in it. And it's a cup of flour, a half a cup of oats. And I do use brown sugar. And I use a quarter cup, a little bit of salt. I add only about a quarter teaspoon of cardamom or cinnamon if you prefer. And then I drizzle in melted butter about a stick. And then the other thing that I've started doing recently is I add two tablespoons of whole milk.

    CK: Oh, that’s interesting

    CD: Yeah, and so what happens if you refrigerate that mixture, you get these nice clumps, and they really stay when it is on the top of your pie. And to me, it does really add a nice, interesting texture. I'm afraid to touch your 100-year-old recipe, but sometimes I think it's nice to give it an update.

    CK: I have a good idea. Don't listen to anything I say and try Cheryl's recipe. Because I show you your recipe sounds great because it doesn't have as much sugar in it. It sounds better,

    CD: Right. Yeah. And that milk will surprise you. It's really delicious. I hope that helps.

    Caller: Right. It does help. Yes. I'm going to try it.

    CK: Sally. Thank you. And I'm sure Cheryl's recipe will solve the problem.

    Caller: Yes, thank you.

    CD: Thank you.

    CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

    Caller: Hi, this is Heidi and I'm calling from Milford, Massachusetts.

    CD: Hi, Heidi,

    CK: How can we help you?

    Caller: I'm calling because I am an avid baker. And as an avid baker, one of my favorite things to do is of course, try out many different bakeries, some of my favorites being in Boston, especially in the north end of Boston, where there's tons of Italian bakeries. So, I love to go to Modern Pastry in the north end, especially for their crawlies. But even more so I love their almond biscotti and I've been trying to mimic this recipe and perfect in my home kitchen for a while now. I've gotten somewhat close. It's a biscotti that has a nice shine on the top. And it's not super hard, it has some chew to it still, even when you don't dunk it in your tea, or coffee. It almost feels like it has like a macaroon type of texture to it. So, it's almonds in it definitely some orange zest in there. I think some almond flavoring. I've been wondering if there's also some anise flavoring in it as well. I've tried a European recipe that's gotten me pretty close that calls for three quarter cup superfine sugar, and one and a third cup of all-purpose flour in addition to the baking powder, and two eggs, salt, almonds and the zest. But I'm wondering if you have any tips to get that chew to and that shine.

    CD: Have you had these, Chris?

    CK: Well, I have had biscotti that are softer and chewier i My first thought would be to get rid of the egg whites just use the yolks.

    Caller: Oh, okay.

    CK: Egg whites tend to make things crispier egg yolk obviously is fat. So, you could eliminate one white or both whites and just use the yolks. I think that would give you a softer chewier cookie. Cheryl?

    CD: I agree with that. And then I wonder. I mean, I've not tried this delicious sounding biscotti. But I wonder if there's any almond flour or anything like that in there. But the egg yolks definitely would make a difference in the texture for sure.

    CK: That's a good point because almond flour obviously has no gluten, right, which would make a softer product. So, if you added a little bit of almond flour to it, that would probably make a softer cookie too.

    CD: What's the name of the bakery?

    Caller: It's Modern Pastry in the north end of Boston.

    CD: All right, Chris, we have to go there next time I'm in town.

    CK: Absolutely got to try it out. Well, did you pick up the phone and just call them?

    Caller: No, I'm too nervous.

    CK: Oh, just call them

    Caller: Yeah, I'll definitely give that a try.

    CK: I mean, they may not give you the precise recipe but they probably tell you what they're doing. I would guess.

    Caller: Yeah, if I was going to use some almond flour. The recipe I've been using that's gotten me pretty close. is one of the third cups are 165 grams of all-purpose flour. How much almond flour should I add in?

    CK: I would probably replace a third cup of the all-purpose flour add the same amount of almond flour or something like that.

    Caller: Okay.

    CD: Yeah, try that in the egg yolks.

    Caller: Okay, sounds good. I'll definitely give that a try. And also, this recipe uses no mixer. Would you still say don't use a mixer. Just do everything by hand to keep it light.

    CK: You definitely don't want to overwork the flour. I don't know. You could use a mixer with a paddle attachment on very low speed. Yes. That's what we mix. Yeah.

    Caller: Okay, awesome. Well, this is really helpful. Thank you.

    CD: Well good. Thanks for your call

    CK: Thanks Heidi take care.

    Caller: Alright bye bye

    CK: Now it's time for one of my favorite segments. This is our book roundup for this year. I have four books on my list, and I'll start with number four. Tava Eastern European Baking and Desserts by Irina Georgescu. She's from Romania, but many of the recipes are all across Eastern Europe. Romania is complicated. It's Jewish, Turkish, French, Italian, Saxon and Hungarian. And the food reflects all those different cultures strudels, fritters, cakes, poppyseed, crescents, gingerbread and pies. If you're a little bored with your current baking repertoire Irina can give you lots of fresh ideas with food that looks as good as it tastes. This is very much like going to a great pastry shop in Bucharest, but it's all in book form. The third book is 101 Thai dishes you need to cook before you die by Jet Tila. You probably recognize Jet Tila from television and social media. He was born into the first Thai food family of LA with the Bangkok Market back in the 1970s and Royal Thai cuisine. He knows all about salty, savory, sour, spicy and sweet. And he knows how to package it for the North American audience. So, the recipes work in your kitchen. Lots of familiar recipes here a Thai omelet, Pad Thai, trunk noodles, but this is as much a cooking lesson, as well as a cookbook highly recommended. Number two on the list is by Jacque Pepin. Jacque Pepin’s the Art of the Chicken. We all know that Jacques can cook, but he also is a phenomenal illustrator. He makes up hand drawn menus for his guests at home. He's been doing this for decades and he assembled all the chicken illustrations into this book, and they are absolutely spectacular. They're also great stories and great recipes, including Danny Kay's recipe for chicken salad, which he loves. Chicken bouillabaisse, vinegar, chicken, and even a simple roast chicken with boiled potatoes and salad. Jacque Pepin’s the Art of the Chicken really is Jacque Pepin at his best a pairing of art and simplicity. And finally, a dark horse winner for this year's top Book Award goes to A Waiter in Paris by Edward Chisholm. He shows up from London with his girlfriend in 2011. He's out of work for many months finally gets a job as a runner at a fancy French restaurant. The only problem is Edward does not speak French. So, he gets through the first day without getting fired and it goes downhill from there. You'll learn about the prep kitchen, the main kitchen, the rivalries between the front of house the back of house. And by the way, you may never want to eat at a French restaurant again, an excellent read and brilliant writing A Waiter in Paris by Edward Chism. That's our number one book. And those are our four top books of the year. To learn more about my favorite books of the year, you can head to Milk Street Radio.com Next up, it's the unpredictable Dan Pashman. Hey Dan, what's happening?

    Dan Pashman: Well Chris, as a Jewish American, I'm getting ready to celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah. And for me, likewise you say Hanukkah food to me. Potato latke’s goes a little bit applesauce, a little bit of sour cream and potato a lot because a customer out Hanukkah because they're fried in oil. And oil is at the center of the Hanukkah story. So, like the you may know the Maccabees thought they only had enough oil to provide light for one night, but instead the oil lasted eight miraculous nights. But in Israel, the traditional Hanukkah treat is actually a different fried delicacy. It's not potato pancakes or latke’s they go with doughnuts. (Really?) Yes, doughnuts are the most popular treat for Hanukkah in Israel.

    CK: I didn't know that

    DP: They usually do jelly doughnuts, which I personally don't love jelly doughnut because I don't like the big glob of jelly in the center unless they're done with this method pioneered by the donut plant in New York, they do a square filled doughnut that's still hollow in the center. And they inject thin ribbons of jelly throughout all the lines of the square, which allows for a more even distribution of jelly throughout the jelly doughnut instead of the giant glob

    CK: And surface area or something right

    DP: But that's an aside. So, jelly doughnuts aside, I'm all for doughnuts. And I have been trying to think how can we combine the American Hanukkah custom and the Israeli Hanukkah custom into one sort of transcontinental Hanukkah feast?

    CK: We're not going to make potato donuts are we

    DP: No. We're going to create something I call the Hanukkah miracle sandwich.

    CK: Okay, go ahead. What is the Hanukkah miracle?

    DP: I'm so glad you asked Chris. You start with a nice glazed raised or yeast donut. You slice it in half the long way like sandwich style. Now if you really want to get fancy, you can griddle the open halves in butter to toast them and then flip them inside out. (Okay) but either way you spread on the inside of the sandwich, applesauce and sour cream. And you put one big potato pancake in the center. And look, the idea of donut sandwiches is a bit of a trend in some cases. I think it's been abused. But here I think it works quite well because you have oily salty potato latke you have the tanginess of the sour cream. You have the nice flavor of the apple which goes so well with sour cream and the sweetness of the donut. You have a doughiness, you have crunchiness and crispness. I mean this it's got all the textures and all the flavors you could ever want. It's almost miraculous.

    CK: There is something about this, which has some appeal. I think the sour the salty, the fried. The sweet. It's covering most of the bases here.

    DP: There you go. I think it's one of those things where like when you first say it, people laugh and think, oh, you must be joking. But then they start to think more about it and then maybe they even taste and they're like oh, this actually isn't quite so crazy after all. Have you experimented with other donut sandwiches. Chris if you had like some people do like a burger on a donut and what are your thoughts on that. But no look I think the donut is one of nature's most perfect foods. The simplicity of the perfect donut is a marvel. So sometimes simplicity is better than complexity.

    DP: I'm with you on that. My straight up favorite donut is a glazed buttermilk. cake donut. That's my number one.

    CK: Yeah. I like a good cider, you know, old fashioned cider donut, right? Especially when you go out and you know, pick apples or whatever in the fall. And they all always have those Rube Goldberg machines that make the donuts you know, right. And you get those you get a big white bag and they're all grease stained.

    DP: And you Yeah, you see the doughnuts like floating down the lazy river of oil.

    CK: It's it's absolutely phenomenal.

    DP: What donut do you think would pair best with my Hanukkah miracle sandwich?

    CK: That's a good question. I would start with the old fashioned because it's not glazed.

    DP: Well maybe you could do apple cider, donuts and scrap the applesauce.

    CK; There you go. That's an excellent idea. I think you have something here.

    DP: All right. Apple cider donut. Scrap the applesauce, potato Latke sour cream. I think that's a fantastic concoction.

    CK: Dan, it's going to be the new Hanukkah sandwich. It's absolutely going to happen.

    DP: It's a Hanukkah miracle.

    CK: Dan Pashman with your wild culinary imagination. Once again. Thank you so much.

    DP: Thanks, Chris. Happy holidays.

    CK: That was Dan Pashman. He's the host of the Sporkful podcast and inventor of the pasta shape cascatelli. That's it for today. You can find all of our episodes on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts to explore Milk Street and everything we have to offer this holiday season, please go to 177 Milk Street.com. There you can become a member and get full access to all of our recipes and free standard shipping from the Milk Street store. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and cooking questions and thanks as always for listening, and we wish you a very happy holiday season.

    Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH co-founder Melissa Baldino, executive producer Annie Sensabaugh. Senior Editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clapp, Assistant Producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock. Additional editing by Sidney Lewis, audio mixing by Jay Allison and Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe, additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher camel's milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX.