Great press for a Chicago girl & her flavorful doughnuts

Filed at 8:54 p.m. ET

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Pomegranate thyme and bing cherry balsamic may sound like salad dressings, and lemon chamomile creme custard may evoke thoughts of fancy teas, but they actually are cutting edge flavors in the latest fad to hit the U.S. baking scene: doughnuts.

So much for glazed and jelly.

Fresh off the nation's fascination with cupcakes, bakers across the country are experimenting with gourmet flavor combinations and unorthodox ingredients in doughnuts, everything from meats to Cocoa Puffs breakfast cereal.

At Glazed Donuts Chicago, for example, mint leaves spring from the holes of iced mint mojito doughnuts. Baker Kirsten Anderson also adds grape jelly to the dough of her peanut butter and jelly doughnuts.

''You're taking a relatively inexpensive item and you're turning it into a luxury item,'' says Anderson, whose seasonal offerings also have included butternut squash and white chocolate blueberry doughnuts.

''So maybe people can't afford the best house or the best car, but they can go out and buy a piece of indulgence at a price they can afford.''

Paul Mullins, author of ''Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut,'' calls them ''designer doughnuts'' and says the trend defies the stereotype of doughnut shops as smoke-filled havens for laborers lingering over burnt coffee and bad doughnuts...

Additionally, fancy doughnuts are increasingly common. Designer doughnut shops, bakeries and related businesses have proved popular with young urbanites on both U.S. coasts, as well as large inland cities such as Chicago, Mullins says.

''The chefs, they're really skilled, they are really creative,'' he says. ''These designer doughnuts by regular Krispy Kreme-standards are pricey, but by haute cuisine standards, $5 or $6, that's not that much.''

The doughnut-makers are playing with consumers' notions of creativity and curiosity, Mullins says. ''What in the world does a chamomile doughnut taste like? I don't know if I'd want it on an every-week basis, but I'd give it a shot.''

Michelle Vazquez, owner of Mandarin Gourmet Donut Shoppe in Miami, Florida (home to the chamomile creation, as well as a guava and cheese variety), says her doughnuts are attractive to health conscious customers who want something ''a little bit higher-class than a regular doughnut.''

She uses organic ingredients, trans fat-free oil, seasonal fresh fruits, Ghirardelli chocolates and cheeses such as savory French fromage blanc and creamy Italian mascarpone.

Mark Isreal, owner of Doughnut Plant in New York City, sees doughnuts as palettes for creativity and experimentation. He created a square doughnut filled with homemade jelly. Other recent flavors have included peanut butter, roasted chestnuts, cranberries and coconut.

''The bakery is my artist's studio in a way, where I create,'' Isreal says. ''You're going to have a flavor and a texture that is totally new for a doughnut, and that's exciting.''

Designer doughnuts are not as popular as cupcakes, which spawned a craze of cafes and bakeries, but the groundwork is there, says Sarah Levy, a pastry chef who owns two dessert shops in Chicago and is author of ''Sweetness: Delicious Baked Treats for Every Occasion.''

''It's an item where you can put a unique twist to it to kind of freshen it and make it exciting again,'' she says. ''It's kind of a cool blank slate that you can doctor up and make them festive with different ingredients.''

At Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon, owner Kenneth ''Cat Daddy'' Pogson says the bakery puts a signature stamp on doughnuts by using sugar cereals such as Fruit Loops and bacon strips as ingredients. The shop's bacon maple bar doughnut came to be after a discussion about mixing savory and sweet flavors.

''I walked in with some bacon one day and boom, there it was,'' Pogson says. ''Two strips of bacon.''

Back in Chicago, Anderson makes doughnuts for customers like Ellen Pecciotto of Chicago, who bought butternut squash and frosted apple cider doughnuts.

''I love the different flavors,'' Pecciotto said after making her purchase at a recent local farmer's market. ''Nobody does that.''

Anderson says she will continue to experiment with her doughnut flavors.

''There's a lot of room for growth,'' she said. ''I think things are just beginning.''

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On the Net:

Glazed Donuts Chicago: http://www.glazedchicago.com

Doughnut Plant: http://www.doughnutplant.com

Voodoo Doughnut: http://www.voodoodoughnut.com

Mandarin Gourmet Donut Shoppe: http://www.mandaringourmetdonutshoppe.com/

What to eat for good luck in 2010!

via Chicagoist by Megan Tempest on 12/31/09

   

At some point in your life you’ve probably had to tolerate pork and sauerkraut, or another similarly perplexing “good luck” meal, on the first of January. Read on for a little insight in to the wisdom behind several New Year’s culinary traditions.

Grapes - Natives of Spain are known to consume twelve grapes at midnight, each representative of the months of the year. In theory, in your third grape is sweet, you may anticipate good things in the month of March. This tradition reportedly originated in the early 1900's as a way for grape growers to make use of their surplus.
Pork - Perhaps the most universal “good luck” charm of the New Year, the fat-rich pig is symbolic of wealth, progress and prosperity. Around the world, including Portugal, Ireland, and Cuba, roast suckling pig is the standard New Year's dish.

Greens - Given their resemblance to money, folded green veggies, such as collards, cabbage, or kale are thought to bring wealth and fortune.
Fish - Believed to bring good luck in many regions, the tradition of eating fish on the New Year (especially those with silvery scales) dates back to the Middle Ages. According to German tradition, putting fish scales in one’s wallet will bring financial wealth.

Ring-shaped foods - The likes of doughnuts and bagels are believed to represent the cyclical nature of life, and of the year coming full circle. Italy, Poland, and the Netherlands enjoy doughnut-type pastries at the New Year. In Mexico, locals indulge in a ring-shaped cake adorned with candied fruit known as the rosca de reyes.

Legumes - Beans, peas and lentils, with their small, rounded appearance, resemble coins and are thought to bring financial prosperity. Brazilians typically feast on lentil soup for the New Year. Germans favor split pea soup with pork sausage. In the U.S., especially in the south, black-eyed peas are the lucky New Year’s food, a tradition that traces back to the Civil War when food was scarce and many survived on this hearty legume.

Noodles - With their long shape, the Japanese greet the New Year with buckwheat noodles to ensure a similarly long life.

Happy New Year!

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Bittman's 101 Holiday Recipes

Mark Bittman (the Minimalist) unveiled his 101 Things to Prepare in Advance for Thanksgiving, but some of these recipes could be used for parties or everyday eating.

Here are my picks:

#27: unique way to use cranberries & polenta

#42: a novel, out-of-the-box way to cook brussels sprouts, the "it" vegetable of the moment

#53: see my previous photo of purple cauliflower to make this recipe

#62: with frozen spinach on hand in the freezer, make this dish for any night of the week

#85: pair these biscuits with any of Bittman's soups for a quick work-day lunch or dinner

#101: probably the easiest dessert or first course to make ... 

Budget Grocery Shopping Tips

Great ideas for grocery shopping on a budget especially the link to Whole Foods & its items under $1.50

via Cooking with Amy: A Food Blog by Amy Sherman on 9/20/09

Hunger Challenge 2009
Just yesterday the San Francisco Chronicle reported that unemployment has reached 12.2% in California, that's the highest it's been since 1976. That means more and more people are struggling to make ends meet. More and more people are facing hunger.

I'm lucky, I've never faced hunger. I've never used food stamps or gotten food from a food bank, but for the second year in a row, I'll be participating in the Hunger Challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Food Bank. It's an opportunity to try to gain a better understanding of the challenges that come with trying to eat 3 meals a day for only $4, the typical food budget of a food stamp recipient.

I've already gone shopping twice at Whole Foods, once for my own cooking and a second time with Sue Kwon of KPIX to help her as she takes on the challenge. This week I'll be sharing my experiences, tips and recipes. To kick things off, here are some of suggestions for how to save on groceries at Whole Foods:

+ Buy bulk, that way you can get as little as you need for recipes using ingredients such as nuts, legumes or grains.

+ Frozen vegetables are often a better value than fresh, especially when it comes to green peas, spinach and broccoli.

+ Use flavor boosters to help make bland foods taste better--try a little garlic, lemon zest or chili flakes.

+ It's perfectly ok to buy one stick of butter, even if you have to open a package to get it.

+ Look to the Whole Foods 365 brand for tremendous values. Best bets include peanut butter, pasta, and oatmeal.

+ Protein is expensive, but eggs are still a good bargain and can be purchased for under $3 a dozen.

+ Lentils are another cheap source of protein and cook quicker than other types of beans. Dry beans are always cheaper than canned beans.

+ One of the best bargains in the produce section is carrots at 99 cents per pound. Eat them raw in salad, cooked as a side dish, or add them to soups and stews.

Here is a great list of 50 Items Under $1.50 at Whole Foods compiled by Stephanie at Noshotopia. Not all the prices are still the same, but they are pretty close.
This post and more original content can be found at www.cookingwithamy.com