Ina Garten has written six cookbooks, and her latest, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics (Clarkson Potter, $35) is the one most home cooks will want to put at the top of their wish lists.
The book is about e_SDHpgetting back to basics, but that doesn't mean simple mashed potatoes or a plain roast chicken. Nor is it about food trends, which Garten says don't really interest her.
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"What I need from a recipe is pretty simple: I want an easy recipe that I can hopefully make in advance, and when friends arrive, I want the house to smell wonderful.
"I'm far less excited by trendy new ingredients or fussy cooking techniques than I am by the basics; I don't see any reason why we can't buy perfectly good ingredients in a grocery store, cook them simply and serve an absolutely delicious meal that will delight everyone at the table," Garten writes in the introduction.
You would think that a Food Network star uses all the latest high-tech appliances and gadgets.
"Other than a standing mixer and a food processor, I rarely use any appliance more high-tech than a food mill or a mandoline," she said.
Garten's recipe for sticky buns is made with a ready-made puff pastry dough. Garten said she used to make "really delicious sticky buns at Barefoot Contessa, but they took two days to make because the yeast dough needed to rise overnight in the refrigerator. I was dying to find a way to make them easier, so I decided to try baking them with Pepperidge Farm puff pastry dough instead," she said
Easy sticky buns
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1⁄3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
½ cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
For the filling:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2⁄3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 12 tablespoons butter and 1⁄3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute pecans evenly among muffin cups on top of butter-and-sugar mixture.
Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry, with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with half the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1⁄3 cup brown sugar, 1½ teaspoons cinnamon and ½ cup raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down. Trim the ends of the roll about ½ inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1½ inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in a muffin cup. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.
Bake 30 minutes, until buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon), and cool completely. Makes 12.
Garten includes a recipe for chocolate bark. She said in the United States, chocolate bark is made by mixing raising and nuts into warm chocolate. In France, the raisins and nuts are embedded on top, which looks so much more delicious, she said.
French chocolate bark
1 cup whole salted, roasted cashews
6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 to 7 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup dried crystallized ginger, ½ -inch diced
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup dried apricots, ½ -inch diced
¼ cup golden raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a pencil, draw a 9-inch by 10-inch rectangle on a piece of parchment paper placed on a sheet pan, then turn the parchment paper over.
Spread the cashews in one layer on another sheet pan and bake for 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Place semisweet chocolate and half the bittersweet chocolate in a glass bowl, and microwave on high power for 20 to 30 seconds. (Don't trust your microwave timer; time it with your watch.) Stir with a rubber spatula. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Immediately add the remaining bittersweet chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.
Pour melted chocolate onto parchment paper and spread it lightly into the drawn rectangle. Sprinkle the top evenly in the following order: first the ginger, then the cooled whole cashews, cherries, apricots and raisins. Set aside for 1 to 2 hours until firm. Cut bark into 18 to 20 pieces and serve at room temperature. Makes 18 to 20 pieces.