Vanilla Extract – Week 2

December 17, 2013

2 weeks ago I started a new batch of homemade vanilla extract. It’s starting to look a little better. Mostly as I have already surmised; more beans means more flavor. Oddly, there is one exception. My recipe #4, the double-strength extract, seems paler than recipe #3 (even similar to recipe #2). This seems so counter-intuitive that I will make a second jar of recipe #4, because that jar used exceptionally fat beans. When making my “control jar” I will use more average-sized beans (but still my super-sized 68-beans-per-pound).

After 2 weeks, it's looking a little cloudier

After 2 weeks, it’s looking a little cloudier

My Four Vanilla Extract Recipes for Round 2:

  1. 60% of the minimum FDA-strength: Based upon Chris Kimball’s 1993 recipe using super-size beans. I used 2 beans (1/2-ounce) and 8-oz of vodka. The cost is 25-cents per ounce of vanilla extract.
  2. 120% of the minimum FDA-strength: The recipe is slightly more potent than the minimum FDA-Strength. I used 1 ounce of beans and 8-oz of vodka, whereas the FDA requires only 0.83-oz beans per cup. The cost is 46-cents per ounce of vanilla extract.
  3. 166% of the minimum FDA-strength: I am hoping that this recipe gives me the big vanilla flavor that I am searching for. I used 6 beans weighing 1-3/8-ounces plus 7-1/3-oz vodka. The cost is 75-cents per ounce.
  4. 211% of the minimum FDA-strength: Gives me a full double-strength vanilla extract. The recipe used 7 beans weighing 1-3/4-oz plus 7-oz vodka. The cost is $1.03 per ounce.

Better Homemade Vanilla Extract

December 8, 2013

A few years ago, I made a quart of homemade vanilla extract, based upon 4 different recipes. I considered all 4 recipes a failure, and abandoned the project after a few months. I added a bunch more vanilla beans, and was able to salvage my investment and produce enough “acceptable” vanilla extract, which has lasted for a few years. The last of my homemade vanilla extract is now gone, and I am ready to revisit my efforts to make a better vanilla extract.

After just 4 days, only Chris Kimball's recipe looks weak.

After just 4 days, only Chris Kimball’s recipe looks weak.                  (Recipe 1 to 4 are in order left to right)

The lessons I learned from my first experiment are:

  1. MORE BEANS EQUALS MORE FLAVOR. Within a few short weeks it became clear that the only real determinant in the strength of the extract is the amount of beans used. More beans equals more flavor. While I had tried Chris Kimball’s 2009 method of heating the vodka prior to adding the vanilla beans, that technique had absolutely no affect on the final outcome. Because the extract process takes three to six months, any increase in temperature lasting only a few hours will obviously have no real effect.
  2. AVOID EXTRACT-GRADE BEANS. While the consensus on the internet is that “Extract-Grade” or “Grade B” beans are most suited to make vanilla extract (mostly for cost reasons), I was so disappointed with their quality that I will probably never buy extract-grade beans again. Last time my extract-grade beans (150 beans per pound) cost $16 per 1/2-lb. “Grade A” beans require approximately 100 beans to make one pound. Even better, the beans that I am using today are 68 beans per pound, which cost me $28 per 1/2-lb.  While costing 75% more, I definitely wanted to see if the higher-quality beans were worth the extra cost. So far, I am thrilled with them. Here is a link showing the description of the beans I bought.
  3. USE FRESH BEANS. While vanilla extract can last forever, the beans themselves seem to remain fresh for about a year. They tend to dry out, but there are still additional steps you can take to re-hyrdate them. Vanilla extract can be made from dry-ish beans, but it is a question of the quality of the final extract that most concerns me. My experience with old and tough beans was terrible, so I wanted to try making the extract from the current year’s crop (2013).

Just as last time, I am making four recipes to evaluate how to obtain the best vanilla extract. The recipes that I am making now are generally much stronger than my last attempt. You can see the summary of this second round here. The four recipes I am follow are here:

  1. Recipe 1: (60% of FDA):  I wanted to give Chris Kimball’s 1993 recipe another try, using my high-quality beans. These super-size beans mean that his recipe represents 60% of the minimum FDA-strength, whereas using two extract-grade beans represented just 25% of the FDA-minimum. Today, I used 2 beans (1/2-ounce) and 8-oz of vodka. Using my half-pound of beans, I could make a total of 1 gallon vanilla extract (or 32 four-ounce-bottles).  The cost is 25-cents per ounce, or $1 for a 4-oz bottle.
  2. Recipe 2: (120% of FDA) It’s the closest to regular FDA-Strength, and want to see if the higher quality beans make this recipe acceptable. I used 1 ounce of beans and 8-oz of vodka, whereas the FDA requires only 0.83-oz beans per cup. Using my half-pound of beans, I could make a total of 64-ounces of vanilla extract; sixteen 4-oz-bottles. The cost is 46-cents per ounce, or $1.86 for a 4-oz bottle.
  3. Recipe 3: (166% of FDA)  Of the four recipes, this is the one that I’m most hoping works out. I want big vanilla flavor, but still to keep the cost down. I used 6 beans weighing 1-3/8-ounces plus 7-1/3-oz vodka. Using my half-pound of beans, this recipe will yield a total of 48-ounces of vanilla extract; or twelve 4-oz-bottles. The cost is 75-cents per ounce, or $3 for a 4-oz bottle.
  4. Recipe 4: (211% of FDA). Because recipe 3 does not represent a full doubling of the FDA requirements, and I know that bakers especially love to use double-strength vanilla, I wanted to include this option as an upper end. The recipe used 7 beans weighing 1-3/4-oz plus 7-oz vodka. Using my half-pound of beans, I could make a total of 32-ounces of vanilla extract; or eight double-strength 4-oz-bottles. The cost is $1.03 per ounce, or $4.13 for a 4-oz bottle.

Additional comments and considerations:

  1. Chris Kimball’s 1993 and 2009 recipes have both been removed from his website. Good riddance! While I’m still including a version of the 1993 recipe in this experiment, it is only remotely feasible based upon these super-sized beans. Realistically I think recipe 2 or 3 will be the ultimate victor in this shoot out.
  2. McCormick’s won Chris Kimball’s 2009 taste test, and is the most important company with regards to vanilla production (not just commercial brands). They control about 40% of the world trade of vanilla. I will use McCormick’s in my taste tests as this experiment continues.
  3. There are two main varieties on beans used to produce vanilla extract: Bourbon and Tahitian. Most vanilla extract is made using Bourbon beans. The Bourbon refers to Reunion Island, located near Madagascar, which was mostly called Bourbon Islands between 1649 and 1848. Bourbon beans do not typically use bourbon (the alcohol) to extract the vanilla flavor.
  4. Many commercial extracts also add sugar, which takes away the natural bitter aftertaste. Buying/making it without sugar will allow the extract to keep indefinitely. Plus all recipes in which you use your extract also add sugar, so there’s absolutely no reason to incorporate sugar into your extract.
  5. Vanilla keeps for at least 10 years without any loss in potency or flavor; though McCormick’s puts an expiry date about 2 years out. If properly stored in cool, dark place, most say that it only improves with age, and any fine red wine.
  6. I recommend contacting your seller about bean size before placing your order. If a potential bean vendor won’t tell you how many beans per pound, then don’t buy it. “Extract Grade” (a.k.a. “Grade B”) vanilla beans should be 140 to 160 per pound. “Grade A” requires about 100 beans to equal one pound.
  7. The FDA defines Vanilla Extract to contain at least 35% alcohol. I used 80 proof (40%) Vodka because of its neutral flavor, but theoretically any alcohol can be used; rum, bourbon or brandy is sometimes used. There is no benefit to using expensive vodka; I used 1.75 liter bottle of Svenka that cost me $13. I have read using significantly higher proof will hinder, rather than help, the extraction process.
  8. The perfect bottles for gift are here. The amber helps protect the vanilla from light.
  9. Cost of McCormick’s is about $4 per ounce, but most others are $2 per ounce. Based upon these super-high-quality beans, my FDA-strength cost about 50-cents per ounce, and my double-strength cost just $1 per ounce.

Finally, after you’ve finished your with your extract, you’re beans still have more to give. You have a couple of choices:

  1. You don’t need to filter your vanilla after the 6-month extraction process. You can just leave the beans in your extract for years, and it will only improve the flavor. The only downside is that there will be seeds floating around and included in your recipes. That isn’t a bad thing, but visually it is more pleasant to see the pure, dark liquid without anything floating around.
  2. After my last batch, I added some new vodka to a mason jar containing the used beans, then let it steep for nearly three years. I ended up with an extra 12-ounces of 60%-strength vanilla extract, pictured below.
  3. Chris Kimball tried to dry and grind the spent pods, but he was unhappy with malty flavor that the vanilla powder gave. He recommends sticking to extract and “new” beans.
  4. Lastly, people make vanilla sugar out of their spend beans. After slowly drying the beans in a very low oven, simply bury them in granulated sugar for a month. Here is an article, and Cook’s Country has a related article here.
Made re-using beans after they had already been extracted.

Made re-using beans after they had already been extracted.


Crispy Potato Tots

March 24, 2013

My first Tatar-Tot-experience was from my mediocre Jr. High School’s cafeteria. Even still, they were delicious and I never figured out why my mother never made Tator Tots when I was growing up. I have always loved them, and I’ve made them for my kids many, many times; but only from a bag. So I was excited to see in the latest season of Cook’s Country that Tator Tots can be made from scratch. I made them for a recent sleepover with 5 teenage boys. They were easy to make, but there were a few minor problems. First, 10 minutes in my microwave didn’t seem to fully cook the potatoes, compromising both texture and flavor.  They were just undercooked, not raw, so an extra 2 to 4 minutes would be enough extra time. Second, I failed to properly estimate the amount of time they would take to prepare. Budget a full 1-1/2 hours. Third, the boys wanted the Tots to be round; not square. Fortunately, the bar to make a sleepover a success is set pretty low; having more to do with the smile on my face than perfectly cooked Tator Tots. As they were, I can only give them 3-1/2 stars. Not worth the effort when compared to the bag. But I will try them again and update the review if I am more successful next time.

Homemade rectangular Tator Tots

Homemade rectangular Tator Tots

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball warns that if you have a food processor with capacity less than 11 cups, that you need to process the potatoes in two batches. I did this, using half the water in each batch.
  2. When I pressed the water out of the potatoes I didn’t check to see if I yielded 1-1/2 cups of liquid. If I didn’t, that may explain why the potatoes didn’t fully cook during the 10 minutes in the microwave.
  3. Chris Kimball says that you can cool the fried leftovers, then put in a zip-lock bag. They can be frozen for up to 1 month. Bake at 400-degrees for 12 to 15 minutes to re-heat.

Rating: 3-1/2 star.
Cost: $2.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 4:30 pm. Dinner Time:  6:00.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below, but the ingredient list has already increased the amount of cheese according to my recommendations above :
2-1/4 teaspoons table salt
2-1/2 lbs russet potatoes
1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups vegetable oil

  1. Whisk 1 cup water and salt together in bowl until salt dissolves.
  2. Peel your potatoes and cut them into 1-1/2″ pieces.
  3. In one or two batches depending upon the size of your food processor, add the potatoes chunks and water. Pulse 10 to 12 times until the potatoes become coarsely ground. Empty into a fine mesh strainer and use a rubber spatula to press out 1-1/2 cups of liquid.
  4. Put potatoes into a large glass bowl and microwave (uncovered) for 10 to 14 minutes; stir potatoes once after 5 minutes. The potatoes should become dry and sticky.
  5. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, mix until combined. Allow to cool for 10 minutes by spreading the potatoes out on a foil-lined sheet pan. Use a spatula to push the mixture to the center of the foil, and put in an 8″ square cake pan. Use a spatula to evenly spread the potatoes, then fold the foil over and firmly press the potatoes to ensure they are even, compact and fill the corners. Freeze for 30 minutes, so that they are easier to cut.
  6. While the potatoes freeze, begin pre-heating your oil over a high burner to 375-degrees (about 10 minutes).  If you want to serve both batches at the same time, pre-heat your oven to 200-degrees. I served the first batch immediately, and therefore didn’t pre-heat my oven.
  7. Use the foil to lift the potatoes and put them on a cutting board. Cut them into bite-sized tots. Depending upon the exact size of your cake pan, that could be 6×8 or 5×9.
  8. When the oil reaches 375-degrees, use a wide, metal spatula to gently lower half your tots into the oil (without splashing). Fry each batch for 6 to 7 minutes until they become crispy and golden brown.
  9. Remove from oil as they become ready and drain on a wire rack set over a foil-lined sheet pan. Season with salt. Keep the fist batch warm in your 200-degree oven while you cook the second batch. Repeat steps 8 and 9 for the second batch.

Traditional Chicken Stock

December 15, 2012

Is spending 5 hours to make homemade chicken stock really worth the $6 savings over store-bought broth? If you measure your answer in terms of time or dollars, then the answer is certainly no. So here’s why I make it nonetheless. First, the 5 hours of clock time is more like 30 minutes of effort. Second, I like the idea of using my chicken scraps rather than simply discarding them. When I buy chicken breasts, I always feel semi-guilty about throwing away 20% of what was once a living creature. But of course, the most important reason to make it is that homemade stock taste much better and is preservative-free.

After de-fatting, separate into usable sizes.

After de-fatting, separate into usable sizes.

My personal history regarding chicken stock is a checkered one: Years ago, all my “chicken stock” started with a bullion cubes (bullion is just the French word for broth). It was inexpensive and convenient, but unfortunately they are mostly salt (and chemicals). Any recipe that reduces stock made from bullion will become too salty. My childhood memories of metallic-tasting Campbell’s soup have always stopped me from buying canned broth. So lately, I’ve been buying 32-ounce cartons of broths, which taste much better, but can be inconvenient if I only need a cup or two (once opened the boxed broth should be used within a week). I suppose it could be frozen, but have never actually done so.

Comments:

  1. The most important thing in terms of logistics, is to keep a gallon-sized Zip-lock bag in your freezer. As you trim your chicken over the months simply add the chicken scraps to the bag. My first misconception with stock is that I had to have 5 pounds of fresh chicken scraps all at once, which of course would never happen.
  2. This recipe makes the equivalent of three 32-ounce cartons of chicken stock. It usually takes me about 2 months of regular cooking to gather enough chicken scraps to make a batch of stock. In terms of my kitchen, that’s more than enough to satisfy all my chicken stock needs.
  3. For recipes where I need a smaller amount of stock, I measured out 2-cups into Zip-lock bags. I laid then flat on a baking sheet and froze them. I can thaw out a bag for just 2 cups of stock at a time. From an old quick tip. I also have some containers with 3 and 4 cups, which satisfy my soup making needs.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $7.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 1:00 PM. Finish time: 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s version of this recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

5 pounds assorted chicken parts (backs, necks, legs, and wings)
3-1/2 quarts of water
2 medium carrots
2 celery stalks
2 medium onions
2 dried bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

  1. Add chicken parts to a stockpot just large enough to hold them. Cover with water, adding an extra 1″ of water (about 3-1/2 quarts). Bring to a boil over medium-high burner. Use a ladle or skimmer to remove any foam that rise to the top.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and cut carrots into 2″ lengths. Cut celery into 2″ lengths. Peel and quarter your onions.
  3. When water comes to a boil, add chopped vegetables, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Reduce burner until it is barely simmering (bubbles just barely breaking the surface). Cook for 4 hours, occasionally skimming any impurities that rise to the top.
  4. Line a strainer with cheese-cloth and place over a large bowl or pot. Strain away and discard the solids; do not press on solids.
  5. Allow to cool completely (you can use an ice-water bath to speed the process). Refrigerate overnight to allow the fat to accumulate to the top; then lift off and discard the semi-solid fat.
  6. Separate into individual containers in commonly used sizes. The stock should only be refrigerated for up to 3 days, but holds well in the freezer for up to 3 months; but be sure to completely thaw in refrigerator before use.
Divided into 4 cup, 3cup, 2 cup and 1-12 cup sizes

Divided into 4 cup, 3 cup, 2 cup and 1-1/2 cup sizes. So they’re pre-measured.

After  chilling, the fat is easily removed with a spoon

After chilling, the semi-hardened fat is easily removed with a spoon


Fresh Pasta Without a Machine

April 28, 2012

The current issue of Cook’s Illustrated promises to deliver one of my son’s favorite food; perfect fresh pasta. Unfortunately, for all my past efforts, I have never been able to surpass a $2.50 package of refrigerated Buitoni. So today I tried Chris Kimball’s technique, and was quite pleased with the ease with which the dough is mixed, rolled out and cut into linguine.  It was even easier than using the pasta machine, and cleaning a counter-top is much more straight-forward than trying to brush away the dough fragments stuck to the pasta machine. The key to obtaining the perfect al dente texture is to roll your dough out incredibly thin. The guidelines he gives by rolling out into a 20″x6″ sheet allowed me to understand just how thin the dough needed to be. In the end, the final pasta was perfectly cooked with great texture. So far so good.

Yellow color comes from egg yolks, not semolina flour.

Unfortunately, the recipe relies of egg yolks instead of double-zero flour to attain its soft, workable texture. While providing a beautiful yellow color, it also adds a slight but distinctive egg flavor that left my son liking, but not loving, his dinner. 3-1/2 stars.

Comments:

  1. I used Chris Kimball’s recommended rolling pin, but the tapered ends made it difficult to obtain an even thickness. I think non-tapered ends would have made the rolling process easier and more effective.
  2. I didn’t make any of his recommended sauces; Olive Oil Sauce with Anchovies and Parsley, Tomato-Brown Butter Sauce or Walnut Cream Sauce. I will definitely try one or two in the future, and it’s possible that the sauces would have been more effective at hiding the eggy flavor.
  3. The original recipe calls for folding the dough into 2″ folds, but I found 3″ folds easier to unfurl.
  4. Chris Kimball notes that if you use King Arthur flour you will need to use 7 egg yolks, to compensate for the extra protein.
  5. I allowed the dough to rest for 2 hours, and it rolled out fine. However, the longer the dough rests in step 2 (up to 4 hours) the easier the dough will roll out.
  6. Chris Kimball offers a few alternate shapes. I tried the bow ties, but it is much more work and in the future will stick to linguine.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $1.40; 1 pound of fresh pasta.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 4:00 PM.  Dinner:  7:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it today are given below:

2 cups all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
2 large eggs plus 6 large yolks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt

  1. Add flour, eggs, yolks and olive oil to the bowl of a food processor. Mix for 45 seconds until it becomes cohesive. If the dough sticks to your fingers, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time (up to 4 tablespoons) until the dough just becomes tacky. But if the dough doesn’t become cohesive then add 1 teaspoon of water (up to 3 teaspoons) until the dough just comes together. Process an extra 30 seconds to incorporate your adjustments.
  2. Empty the dough onto a dry, un-floured work surface. Knead by hand for 1 or 2 minutes until it becomes smooth. Roll into a 6″-long cylinder and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature for between 1 to 4 hours, the higher end will make the dough easier to roll out.
  3. Add 4 quarts of water to a large pot and place over medium burner. The water will slowly come up to a boil while you roll out the pasta.
  4. Cut into 6 equal pieces and re-wrap remaining dough. Dust both sides of 1 slice with flour, lay the slice on a dry, un-floured work surface. Use your fingers to press into a 3″ square. Use a rolling pin to roll into a 6″square. Lightly dust both sides with flour.  Maintaining the 6″ width, roll the dough into a 12″ by 6″ rectangle; start in the middle of the dough roll away from you, return the rolling pin to the center of the dough, and roll the closer half towards you. Repeat as necessary to obtain a 12″ by 6″ rectangle.
  5. Again lightly dust both sides with flour and continue the same rolling process until you obtain a 20″ by 6″ rectangle, which will become somewhat translucent. Lift the dough occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the counter-top, and if the dough sticks to the counter too frequently or wrinkles when you roll it out, then you should again lightly dust the dough with flour. Repeat the rolling process with the remaining slices of dough. Be careful not to add too much flour or the dough may snapback when you roll.
  6. Allow the pasta sheet to stand on clean kitchen towel for 15 minutes before cutting. To make linguine, loosely fold pasta sheet at 3″ intervals to form a flat roll. Use a chef’s knife to cut into 3/16″-wide noodles. Gently use your fingers to unfurl the cut pasta. Place on baking sheet while you prepare your sauce, but be sure to cook within 1 hour.
  7. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water. Boil pasta for about 3 minutes. Reserve a cup of the pasta’s cooking water for later, drain and combine with sauce. If your sauce is not immediately ready, add back a little of the reserved pasta’s cooking water to re-loosen the sauce.
  8. If you don’t cook all the pasta tonight, lay your shaped pasta on a baking sheet freeze until it is firm. Once frozen you can put in zip-lock bags a freeze for up to 2 weeks.

Donuts

April 25, 2012

I haven’t made donuts for 2 years because the last ones were such a big disappointment, with some of them as hard as a hockey puck. Today they came out much better, but still I am not completely satisfied. I believe that I rolling out in step 7 to 3/8″ is too thin, so I modified the recipe to 1/2″-thick. At first my oil was too hot because the oil wasn’t deep enough for my clip-on candy thermometer to properly register the temperature. The donuts overcooked within 1 minute, but when I lowered the temperature they came out much better. I was looking for chocolate glaze, but again ended up with chocolate frosting. At best, I consider these a work-in-progress; 3-1/2 stars (which is not very good for a donut). Please fell free to add comments with suggestions about how to make the donuts fluffier and how to improve the consistency of the chocolate glaze.

they were just okay; 3-1/2 stars

Comments:

  1. The donuts are best eaten the day they are made. Without any preservatives these donuts became stale quickly, even when tightly wrapped in plastic. I’d suggest freezing half your donuts. When you are ready to eat them, heat them up in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds.

Rating: 3-1/2 star.
Cost: $1.50 for 10 donuts, plus donut holes.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Huge.
Start time 9:00 AM. Dessert time 1:00 PM.

3/4 cups milk
5 tablespoon butter
2-1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (14-1/2 ounces)

  1. Put milk and butter in micowaveable bowl or measuring cup and microwave for 1 minute. Alternatively you could melt it a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk and butter until just melted. Then set aside.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of 110° water to the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the yeast and let stand 5 minutes.
  3. After 5 minutes, add the remaining milk and butter to standing mixer, then add the egg, sugar, salt and half the flour.
  4. Mix with dough hook on low, increasing to medium until well combined.
  5. Add the remaining flour on low, increasing to medium until dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise until it has doubled in size; about 1 hour.
  7. Transfer dough to lightly floured  surface and roll out to 3/8″ 1/2″-thick. Use a donut cutter to create the donuts, pressing down firmly and rotating cutter at least 90-degrees to ensure a clean cut.
  8. Do not try to re-form the scraps to form more donuts, because the flour from the counter will prevent them from holding together. Instead you should make donut holes without adding additional flour.
  9. Transfer  the donut rings and donut holes to a lightly floured baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, preheat oil in Dutch oven to 360°, about 15 minutes.
  11. Working with 3 or 4 rings at a time, gently place doughnuts in the oil.
  12. Cook for approximately 1 minute per side until lightly golden brown, being careful not to overcook. Use a slotted spoon and tongs remove from oil and allow some of the oil to fall back into the fryer for a few seconds, then transfer to a wire rack set over a foil-lined baking sheet and allow to cool for 15 minutes prior to glazing.

Chocolate Glaze:

1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoon milk or half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz dark chocolate
3/4 cups powdered sugar

  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate until fully melted.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar and milk.
  3. Let cool slightly then dunk doughnuts.

 


The Last Straw for Kingsford Charcoal

April 14, 2012

There was a time when Kingsford Charcoal was undoubtedly king in my house. Then a few years ago they reformulated. I’ve expressed my disappointment with their reformulation, and was not alone, see here and here. Others complained about changes in grilling temperatures, that the coals would burn out quicker, as well as lack of charcoal flavor. However, my biggest complaint was that the juices from the meat would extinguish the new formulation (which never happened with the older formulation).  I never got the full burn of the briquettes when cooking juicy meat.

This year’s Kingsford Corporate Blunder was to drastically downsize their “value packs” by over 30% without lowering the price. Last year their “Value Packs” consisted of twin 20-lb bags (total of 40-lbs of charcoal for about $12).  This year, I went to Home Depot and paid about the same price. When I got home I noticed they downsize each of the two bags from 20-lbs to 13.9-lbs (total of 27.8-lbs for $13). Come on, did they really think we wouldn’t care?

A bag from last year compared to this year's downsize.

While Kingsford charcoal is still the best selling brand, they have used their market dominance to squeeze more profits by substituting lower cost (and heavier) materials, such as clay and other “binding” materials. In the past Kingsford has decreased the size of each individual briquettes so that they could claim the bags are the “same size” (based on briquette count in the bag). Do they really think we’re that gullible? This latest corporate blunder is the last straw. I’m done with them for good, like Netflix before them. I will try to find other brands and let you know the results.


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