Category Archives: Baking

In the Pipeline: Fall Desserts

Whether or not we’d like to believe it — fall is creeping up on us.  Juicy, ripe tomatoes and summer squash will soon be a thing of the past, but not to worry, as the change in season undoubtedly brings some of our favorite fall ingredients into play … and our pastry chef, Sarah, can’t wait to get her hands on them.

“I’ve been thinking of what to do for fall desserts for a while now. I typically come up with the flavor combinations and garnishes first, and then build the rest of the dessert around that. My brain works backward a lot of the time, but it works for me.”

Sarah’s been impressing diners all summer long with her selection of confections, particularly the cherry pie with coffee ice cream and this standout sweet corn dish:

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“It’s a sweet corn-vanilla cake with sweet corn ice cream, plum pudding, semolina shortbread crumble, yellow plums and nectarines held in rosemary simple syrup, and then it’s garnished with fresh blackberries to offset some of the sweetness. Again, this dish started with the ice cream and then everything else just fell into place, which is how I’m approaching my fall menu, too.”

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Right now, Sarah plans to create dishes with flavor combinations like watermelon and basil, Mexican chocolate and dulce de leche, apple-cranberry with (most likely) rosemary ice cream, and even mini pears poached in spiced red wine. Yes, please.

“I’ve always loved incorporating herbs into my dishes, like the rosemary and basil. They definitely have their place in desserts, and even though it might freak some people out at first, I try to do it in a way that everyone will like … I have to remind myself that I can’t always make just what I want!”

She hopes to slowly introduce her new dishes to the menu in the next few weeks, so be sure to visit us soon — and don’t forget to leave some room for dessert.

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2013 Green City Market Chef BBQ

Last week we were serving up some classic childhood snacks (with a twist, of course) at the Green City Market Chef BBQ Benefit in Lincoln Park. JV was handing out mini, brown paper bags filled with “Cracker-Jacks” and crispy pig ears, while our pastry chef, Sarah, was cooling guests down with her grownup cucumber-gin and black raspberry push-pops.

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“As you can see, this is a very technical dish (:: insert sarcasm ::)  … ” — JV

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Technical or not — guests couldn’t resist the sweet ‘n salty combination of caramel popcorn and pig ears tossed with peanuts, green coriander and maple habanero sauce.

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And just in case you missed us, try making your own at home — just follow our recipe below for the caramel corn, and then add some salted peanuts and crispy bacon for the full effect :)

Caramel Corn Recipe – Yields ~8 servings

:: INGREDIENTS ::

  • 1 c. butter
  • 2 c. brown sugar; packed
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 8 cups popcorn; popped

:: METHOD ::

First, preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Then, combine butter, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. Then, pour this mixture over the popcorn and stir until evenly coated. Bake on a large pan for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. When finished, spread popcorn on waxed paper to dry. Be sure to store in an airtight container to retain its freshness!

See you at next year’s BBQ!


Wintertime Cooking

I was hanging around the restaurant last week and decided to take a walk downstairs to peek inside the walk-in cooler. Unlike the spring and summer months — when every nook and cranny is packed full with fresh produce — I came across lots of potatoes, salted meats, pickled vegetables, compound butters, Brussels sprouts, radishes and cabbage (just to name a few). Translation: it’s wintertime in the Midwest.

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Though our inaccessibility to certain types of produce year-round can make cooking for a genuine farm-to-table restaurant challenging at times, we accept it with open arms. Because we don’t have the luxury of living in an area where the climate is more temperate, it forces us to be creative, think outside the box and use the ingredients we do have in ways we haven’t before. Every day, the kitchen staff meets up to go over the menu, as it not only changes seasonally, but also daily. That’s what makes dining at Nightwood so unique.

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This time of year, we’re featuring heartier breads and biscuits, potato-based dishes, lots delicious fat (are you ordering the beef fat tacos for brunch today?), and comforting pastas, like our “one long noodle” that’s filled with carbonara and served with mussels, lemon and cured egg yolk. Here’s J.D., our pasta maker extraordinaire, rolling out the noodle:

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So while some might think wintertime cooking isn’t exciting, we beg to differ … just be sure to come on an empty stomach.

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Savory Tart Dough

If you joined us for brunch this past Sunday (1/6), maybe you were one of the lucky guests who ordered our savory tart. It was filled with a custard made from Clock Shadow Creamery quark, which was then topped with Brussels sprouts and a runny egg. Is your mouth watering yet?

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The good news is, even if you didn’t have the chance to try it at the restaurant, I stopped by Nightwood on Saturday while JV was rolling out the tart dough for brunch and snagged the recipe from him … so now you can make it at home.

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:: INGREDIENTS – SAVORY TART DOUGH ::

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. of each: dried dill, ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 c. cold, unsalted butter; cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 c. cold water

:: INGREDIENTS – CUSTARD :: 

(Note: This will only yield enough custard base for 1-2 small tarts. Multiply the recipe as necessary.)

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c. soft/fresh cheese (we used quark)
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

:: METHOD ::

On a flat, non-stick or floured surface, combine the flour, salt and dried herbs/seasonings. Then, using the “cut-in method,” incorporate the cold butter into the flour mixture (using your fingers or a fork) until it resembles chunks the size of peas. This will ensure a flaky crust. Now, take the cold water and slowly add it to the mixture, carefully incorporating it into the dough. It’s difficult to say whether or not you will need all of the water; you are basically adding it until the dough comes together nicely and isn’t crumbling into dry pieces. Be sure not to over-work the dough. Once you’ve achieved the right consistency, you can either separate it into smaller disks of dough if you’re making individual tarts (yields ~6), or keep it in one large disk if making 1-2 large tarts. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Now …  watch JV finish the tart here:

Also, note that the cooking times are dependent on the size of tart that you’re making. The small tart featured here took about 10-15 minutes to blind-bake, and then an additional 20 minutes or so to bake until the custard was set up. Larger, thicker tarts will obviously take longer.

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Please comment below if you have any questions about this recipe! Enjoy!