Tag Archives: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pretzel Rolls and BBQ in St. Louis, Louie

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Pretzel Rolls inspired by dinner at Weber Grill STL.

St. Louis, Missouri, is not known as a food destination city, per se, but it is known for, among other things, very meaty and fatty St. Louis spare ribs and St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, which became a legend after a local baker mixed a cake in the wrong proportions. Or so they say.  St. Louis also has its own style of pizza that sounds even worse than Chicago-style pizza, if that’s possible. In St. Louis, mozzarella is replaced by something called “Provel,”  a white processed cheese formed by a fusion of Provelone, Swiss, and white cheddar. One of these days, I will stop being a snob and I’ll try it.

Weber Grill at the St. Louis Galleria opened about seven months ago, and even though it is tucked into a forgotten corner of the mall and hidden by construction, you can see it from a mile away because of the bright red outsized Weber grill that sits on top like a gigantic fire hydrant with a dog whistle. I have zero knowledge about BBQ, so I cannot speak to its authenticity, a subject that I understand is hotly debated at every roadside BBQ joint, but the meat and fish here were delicious. Just for context, however, remember that our dining experiences in St. Louis have been limited to chain restaurants in the mall:  Enough said? But no; it really is good!

This is the fifth of the Weber Grill Restaurant franchise (three in Illinois, one in Indiana), and I would be very happy indeed if they opened a location on the Upper West Side! As they themselves say:

Sit back, relax, and let Weber do the grilling tonight. Join us at the Weber Grill Restaurant where there’s no mosquitoes, tiki torches, or chance of rain. Just delicious grilled food from the folks who really know barbecue—Weber.

Most of what we ate at Weber Grill was really excellent. Mr. Darcy loved the pretzel rolls that they bring to the table,  which inspired me to make them at home. I found two recipes, one from Fleischmann’s Yeast, and the other from King Arthur Flour.  I opted in favor of the KAF, because it had fewer ingredients, but they both looked good, and they both involved giving the dough a bath — so much fun!

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Caesar salad with grilled salmon at Weber Grill.

My Caesar salad with grilled salmon was perfect, but the “grilled rustic flat bread” was supermarket pita with some herbs thrown on it while someone whispered, “Grill.” Mr. Darcy’s baby back ribs and  crab cakes were both delicious, but the “roasted garlic mashed potatoes” had no garlic, much less roasted garlic. The lemon grilled shrimp appetizer was very nice, but the four grilled shrimp came upon a huge pile of greasy fried onions, and the lemon aioli dipping sauce was devoid of both lemon and garlic.  Just plain mayo.  I do not care for coleslaw, and the blue cheese and pecan coleslaw did not change my mind, much as I love both blue cheese and pecans.

The staff was very pleasant and the service was quite good. Our iced tea and water were constantly being refreshed. Oddly, the check was presented without our being asked if we wanted dessert. I really wanted to try the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. Sniff. Oh well. Maybe next time.

The room is attractive with several separate seating areas. It is child-friendly, and the noise level is comfortable even when the restaurant is crowded. The booths are unusually comfortable. This was the first booth in living memory that didn’t make me feel like I was sitting in a high chair. Sweet!

The restaurant was busy the night we went, but I understand that Saturday nights are impossibly crowded and very hard to get into.  Make reservations.

Weber Grill offers grilling classes in a large and well-appointed classroom-kitchen, and I have convinced Mr. Darcy that we should take a class the next time we are in STL. I went to the website hoping to sign up for e-mail notifications, but found nothing. It would be good if they would provide e-mail information about their class schedule.

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Pretzel rolls about to go into the oven.

Speaking of cooking classes, Kitchen Conservatory, just up the street from the St.Louis Galleria, offers over 800 cooking classes a year, and the schedule for the year is right there on line. Right now. The classes are very reasonably priced and clearly delineated as “demonstration” or “hands on.”

Kitchen Conservatory has been here for 30 years and is an independent, locally-owned enterprise. It is housed in what looks like a small house from the street. Once inside, however, it feels huge. There are quite a few clearly designated and easy to navigate selling areas with an astronomical amount of top quality kitchen equipment. Everything you can imagine is displayed attractively — over 6000 items —  from huge Le Creuset Dutch Ovens to tiny little piglet cookie cutters. You can also shop on line. There is an informative blog, and they even offer an Ask The Chef feature to e-mail your cooking and baking questions. I haven’t tried it yet, but if it’s anything like King Arthur Flour’s Baker’s Hotline, we are in luck!

There are two kitchen-classrooms: one appears to be for demonstration classes while the other looks to be for participation classes. Definitely on the agenda for our next trip.

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Dorie Greenspan’s long-awaited cookie book. Three dozen chocolate chip cookies did not survive three days in Mr. Darcy’s cookie jar!

Waiting for me back home was Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful new baking book Dorie’s Cookies. First out of the box, so to speak, were My Newest Chocolate Chip Cookies — to which I added espresso, of course — for Mr. Darcy. Clearly a winner, this is a hefty volume and I will be reporting back on it. Frequently!

Less Sugar: Dipping into ATK’s “Naturally Sweet”

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Honey Buns are a lower sugar form of sticky buns. From Naturally Sweet.

America’sTest Kitchen has been publishing a lot of  new cookbooks lately. In fact, there seems to be a new one every week.  Naturally Sweet:  Bake all your Favorites with 30% to 50% Less Sugar is one of the most recent, and it is chock full of sweet and tasty desserts.  As the editors of Naturally Sweet acknowledge, sugar may be bad for you, but would life be worth living without birthday cake?

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Pistachio Spice Biscotti. A big winner. Wonderful flavor and texture.

But let’s be perfectly clear: In Naturally Sweet, less sugar does not mean fewer calories, less fat, or that these desserts are healthier. It means less sugar. Period. In fact the word “calories” does not appear in the book except in a nutritional information chart in the back. Naturally Sweet makes no medical claims and offers no medical advice. They leave that to the M.D.s and the R.D.s. If you want to cut down on sugar, the recipes work well and taste good.   The results are definitely less tooth-achingly sweet than standard recipes with tons of sugar. As a general rule, Mr. Darcy found them sweet enough to his sweet-tooth taste, and I found them less sugary and more flavorful.

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Chocolate Pudding Cake. No sugar at all; just chocolate!

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The Chocolate Pudding Cake before the pudding is scooped up looks like a moon landing!

There are many good reasons to be concerned about the consumption of sugar — tooth decay, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes come to mind. There is also the addictive nature of sugar. It’s a thing. The more sugar you eat, the more you crave. Unlike fat and sodium consumption, which, experts agree, should be monitored for general good health, or, which, in some cases, must be restricted for medical reasons, there is no modern-day existential need for sugar. (Unless you count the existential emotional need for chocolate!) But humans like sugar, and, there are adaptive and evolutionary reason for that: for one thing, sweetness signaled to our ancestors that a strange substance was not poison, and, therefore, was safe to eat.

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How dangerous are Chocolate Chip Cookies anyway?

The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, which is 4 times more than what the World Health Organization recommends.  What is most worrisome to nutritionists is that most of that sugar is consumed passively.  If you want to reduce sugar, it’s obvious:  eat fewer cookies,  less ice cream and candy, and drink less soda pop.  But, have you ever taken a close look at your box of breakfast cereal, your milk carton, your yogurt container, or your bread wrapper?  If you want or need to reduce your sugar intake, the first thing you should do is start reading and comparing labels. Talk about sticker shock!

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Chai-Spiced Pound Cake. I learned from Mary Berry that is not only OK for that rift to be there, it is supposed to be there. Whew!

To make matters worse, whenever a food product is advertised as low-fat or non-fat, what is not advertised is how much sugar has been added to boost flavor.  “Fat carries the flavor,” as they say, so reduced-fat products have to find another vehicle to carry the flavor load — and that’s where sugar comes in.

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Chocolate Pound Cake

You’d think that, if sugar is added when fat is reduced, then fat would be added when sugar is reduced.  Not necessarily. In Naturally Sweet, most recipes call for more liquid and more leaveners rather than more fat.  The book discusses the science of sugar, the various processes of sugar production,  and exlains why the ATK staff chose certain sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, sucanat, coconut sugar, for example) and not others (artificial sweeteners, agave nectar) . Happily, each recipe carries ATK’s signature “Why this recipe works” introduction, which is usually the most interesting portion of the recipe.

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Chai-Spiced Pound Cake, sliced.

I like these recipes, because I don’t like American-style “sugar cake.”  But that’s just me.  I’m not a sugar person. Except for sticky buns. Sticky buns are my annual birthday gift to myself, and these are exceptional. Light as a feather, sweet but not too sweet, and with a hint of orange.

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More sticky bun porn!

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Not being someone who craves sweets, I found that there was very little in Naturally Sweet that really tempted me.  It seemed that there were tons of muffins and quick breads, which I find very uninteresting, and a lot of fruit crumbles that don’t necessarily have all that much sugar anyway.  There is a significant variety of treats, but, surprisingly, there are no recipes for either a simple birthday cake or a Pineapple Upside Down Cake. So, harrumph, you really can’t “bake all your favorites with 30% to 50% less sugar.”Maybe this cookbook is for people who routinely eat dessert? Maybe ATK is overextending itself without the Bow Tie at the helm to reign in overweening ambition? Maybe the answer is that we shouldn’t be eating so many baked desserts?  I don’t know, America; you decide. I’m going to polish off my sticky buns!