♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Today on "America's Test Kitchen," Lan makes Bridget a show-stopping cranberry curd tart with almond crust, Jack challenges Julia to a tasting of blue cheeses, Lisa shares her favorite eco-friendly gadgets, and Keith makes Julia wheat berry salad.
It's all coming up right here on "America's Test Kitchen."
♪♪ -Poor cranberries.
The only way they get a seat at the holiday table is if they come in the form of a compote or a jelly.
Well, I think cranberries deserve something more special, and Lan's here, she's going to show us how to take cranberries and turn them into a spectacular dessert.
-Bridget, you are so right.
They deserve to be much more than a side dish, and so today we're going to make a cranberry curd tart.
-Oh, sounds so good.
-I'm going to start with the cranberries themselves.
I've got 4 cups here.
This is 1 pound of cranberries.
I'm just going to get them right into this medium pot, and you can use fresh or frozen.
Next up, to tame their acidity and sharpness, I've got 1 1/4 cups of sugar, 1/2 a cup of water, and just a pinch of salt.
And we'll just turn this on.
Gonna set this to about medium-high, and I'm just waiting for that water to come up to a boil.
I'll give this a couple stirs to help that sugar dissolve.
So now that these have come up, I'm just going to turn down the heat, pop a top on this, and we want those cranberries to pop, start to shrivel a little bit.
Usually takes about 10 minutes.
-These look great.
They've popped, they've shriveled.
They've got that beautiful, dark, cooked cranberry color.
Let's move on to the rest of this filling.
I've got just 3 large egg yolks here, and to that I'm adding 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.
I'm just looking to break up all the cornstarch chunks.
So I'm just going to dump these cranberries right into this processor bowl.
Our egg and cornstarch mixture goes in, and the key here is you want to make sure you're not messing around.
You want to get everything together while the berries are hot.
Pop the lid on.
And let her rip.
That's it, we're done cooking.
We're done mixing.
-That is so easy.
We're going to let this cool for about 45 minutes to an hour.
And while that's happening, let's make our tart shell.
-Alright, so for this crust, I've got just a handful of ingredients, the key one being almond flour.
Almonds are perfect for this.
They're kind of rich and nutty.
They've got these floral overtones.
Pairs really well with berries.
-So I've got 4 ounces, which is 1 cup of almond flour.
If you have a scale, this is the time to dig it out.
-To this, I'm adding 2 ounces of cornstarch.
That's 1/2 a cup.
Next, 1/3 of a cup or 2 1/3 ounces of granulated sugar.
And last is 1/2 a teaspoon of table salt.
I'm just going to whisk this together, and I really want to make sure to break up any clumps.
This is looking pretty great.
Less two ingredients are 6 tablespoons of melted and cooled unsalted butter and 3/4 of a teaspoon of almond extract.
-A little goes a long way with that one.
-It really does.
And now I actually want to switch away from a whisk.
This dough is so firm and tight and kind of Play-Doh-y, that it would just get caught up in the balloon of the whisk.
There's no technique to this.
You're just kind of mushing everything together until it's combined.
-No dry spots.
So this looks great.
Let's move on to our pan.
I have a nine inch tart pan here with a removable bottom.
Just going to put about 2/3 of this mixture right into the pan, and I want to make sure it's evenly distributed before I start pressing it into place.
It just means that I don't have to manipulate it quite as much, and it really is just mushing it into place.
This is looking pretty great, nice and even.
It doesn't have to be perfect.
Now, I'm going to crumble the rest of the dough kind of around the edges, just making sure that it's well-dispersed so that I don't run out as I'm pressing the sides into place.
So this is ready to bake.
-I'm going to set this on a rimmed baking sheet, and we're going to bake this in a 350-degree oven on the middle rack.
It'll take about 20 minutes to become golden brown, and halfway through, I'm going to give it a spin so it bakes evenly.
♪♪ So that's our crust -- nice and golden brown.
We're just going to let this hang out and cool while we wrap up the filling.
So it's been about an hour since we last looked at this, and it's cooled quite a bit.
I'm actually looking for a specific temperature -- 120 to 125 degrees.
Now, the reason I'm looking for that temperature is it means that this mixture has cooled enough that a skin has formed on top.
I know we don't normally like skins on curds, but since it's still in the food processor, we can get rid of it so that it doesn't end up on our tart.
I'm going to use this opportunity to enrich it a little bit with 4 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter.
I'll just put this lid on and let it run for about 30 seconds.
-Oh, so pretty.
-Yeah, because we're not using a ton of thickener, the cranberries' color really comes through, too, which is great.
So now I'm just going to pour this through this fine mesh strainer, get rid of any bits of seed or skin that didn't get busted up.
Now, before I go to fill that tart, I'm actually going to reserve 2 tablespoons.
So let's pour this into place.
So the crust is still warm.
-You can pour it into a fully cooled crust, a still warm crust.
It's not going to matter.
So just give this a quick shake.
Sometimes I will take a spatula to this to smooth it out, but this is fluid enough that I think that'll do.
So this is going to hang out for about 4 hours at room temperature.
Last thing, I wanted to make a lightly flavored whipped cream for garnishing this, and to do that, I'm going to add a cup of heavy cream to our cranberry puree, and I'm going to sweeten it with 1 tablespoon of sugar.
And I'm not looking to get soft peaks or anything here.
I just want to bring everything together, and I'm going to pop this into the fridge so it gets nice and cold and it'll whip up into billowy peaks.
And when we come back, we get to decorate.
♪♪ Alright, so our tart is set.
It's time to start decorating.
I've got our cranberry whipped cream here, and I'm just going to give this a quick whisk to take it to stiff peaks.
I'm only going to need half of this whipped cream for decorating the border of that tart.
The rest of it, I'm just going to put in a serving bowl.
Now you could pipe any sort of decorative pattern you'd want on here.
So I'm going to do a little bit of a random pattern.
I'm just going to kind of not be too careful about making sure they're all the same size or that they're evenly spaced.
Then I'm going to come back and kind of fill in with smaller dots around the bigger ones, and I want to make sure that I'm working with just the outer maybe inch, inch and a half of the tart.
I really think it's important to leave the center open so you can see that gorgeous, smooth tart, but that's it.
-That is absolutely stunning.
-So let's get this out of the ring before I pop it on the pedestal, I just want to make sure it's loosened from the bottom.
-Oh, the little bottom of the tart pan.
It's a little bit of insurance so that I don't have a tart kind of stuck in one spot.
We're well past "ta-da" here.
Let's do this.
I hate making the first cut.
It makes me so nervous.
After all of that.
-Look at that.
It's good to have it all sliced and ready to go because you mentioned that whipped cream will hold up.
-Yeah, I've actually had this, two, three days later, and it looks as pristine as five seconds after I piped it.
-It's nicely set, but it's still got a little tiny wobble to it, so it's not rubbery at all.
That will shake up any holiday table.
-Isn't it intense?
-Oh, they're tart.
They're still tart.
So this is not overly sweet at all.
But they've just rolled over into that desert territory.
Oh, my gosh.
This is one of the best holiday desserts I have ever seen.
-Oh, thank you.
You're definitely going to want to make this.
It is outstanding.
And to make this show-stopping cranberry curd tart at home, cook cranberries with water and sugar to keep that cranberry flavor potent.
Use a small amount of egg yolks and cornstarch to thicken the curd, and pour that curd into a toasty almond crumb crust.
Bring out your inner artist and decorate with whipped cream as you wish.
So from America's Test Kitchen, a show-stopping, spectacular alternative and now replacement to every holiday dessert out there -- cranberry curd tart with almond crust.
Cranberries never looked so good.
♪♪ -Blue cheese comes in a variety of styles, with textures that range from creamy to crumbly and flavors that go from mild to absolutely pungent.
And today Jack's going to walk us through all the options.
-Yeah, we have a little bit of everything here on the table.
I just have to ask, do you love blue cheese as much as I do?
-Now you ask me?
[ Both laugh ] Yeah, actually, I love blue cheese.
I grew up loving it, but I really don't know a lot about the different brands.
I just kind of grab one and go.
-Alright, so I've got four really interesting samples.
We actually tasted 14 blue cheeses.
-That's a lot.
-And I brought a representative sample.
I want to hear what you're liking, why you're liking it, and if you have any thoughts about what specific blue cheese that you're tasting.
-[ Laughs ] Alright.
-Everything on the table is a winner.
-So that's why I'm upping the ante a little bit here.
-So while you're digging in, let me explain to you why blue cheese is such a big category compared to, like, Parmesans or cheddar, and it's not to say that there aren't variations within those categories, but blue cheese -- First of all, you can use any kind of milk.
-It can be cow's milk, goat's milk, sheep's milk.
Most of it's cow's milk, but sheep and goat make their appearances.
They can be aged a couple of weeks, or they can be aged for a year.
The molds are all the same, so people think, "Oh, they're using different molds."
There are different strains, but the big thing is how they inject oxygen into the wheels of the cheese.
-So they make the cheese like any other cheeses -- they add mold, they form a round, and then the mold needs oxygen to do its thing.
So they have a metal tube... -Mm-hmm.
-...that they use to basically cut out parts of the cheese and provide channels for oxygen to get in there.
And when they do that, how they do that, how often they do that, what size those holes are can all determine the ribboning -- Like, where does that mold go?
How much mold do you get?
The other thing is the aging.
It starts usually in a warm, moist environment and then goes cooler and drier, often into a cave.
And so rather than a single aging environment, it has multiple.
Wh-- -[ Laughs ] -Whew!
I might have taken too big of a bite of that one.
But that one is an "open the window" kind of pungent.
[ Laughs ] -Yeah.
So I've been telling you all about blue cheese.
You've been tasting.
I'll let you get a first pass.
We -- I think we know what you think about that last sample.
-I like it.
It's very creamy.
It's very strong, but has little crystals in it, which are fun.
This one, I could eat this all day.
It has a lovely texture, it melts in your mouth, but it has nuances of flavor, reminds me of Parmesan, reminds me of Gruyère.
Tastes a bit aged.
The blue isn't as prominent as some of these other aging flavors, which I love.
This one is like blue cheese met Brie and had a baby, and I love it.
Like, this spread onto a good baguette would be amazing.
-There are three different cheeses that are really different from each other, aren't they?
I would use these for very different things, I think.
And this one, when you think of blue cheese, this is what you think of.
It's a little crumbly, but you could spread it on something.
It would make a great salad dressing.
-Do you have a favorite on the table?
-This one, I could eat this all day long.
I don't think I've ever had a blue cheese that tasted like this, which might be why I'm so interested in it, because -- Oh, you're like, "Oh, you don't think you have."
-Oh, no, I feel very excited.
I brought something new for you.
Yeah, no, this one, I really just enjoy all the nuances in flavor, but I really could eat any of these any day of the week.
-Any sense of what any of these are?
-I thought I was going to be like, "Oh, this tastes like Roquefort, and this tastes like Gorgonzola."
I think this might be Gorgonzola because it's very soft, but that's about all I got.
-Okay, well, why don't we start here, then?
-Well, that would be the Gorgonzola.
-Oh, that's the Gorgonzola, which is also soft.
That's what I think about Gorgonzola.
And that's -- But it's not as potent as I thought a Gorgonzola would be.
-So this is a Dolce.
-Not a piccante.
When you said, "If blue cheese and Brie had a baby," I thought that's a very good way of describing a creamy, lightly aged, well, I would call this a sort of beginner-ish blue cheese.
-It's not super aggressive.
It's very friendly.
-Yeah, it'd be great on a bigger cheese plate when you have a bunch of people coming because, like you said, it's good for beginners and everyone would like it.
-Let's go down to the end.
-So this is the Roquefort.
Right, right, Roquefort.
So those crystals are actually because it's aged a really long time.
It's the same process.
It's similar to, like, what happens to Parmesan.
And that's one of the hallmarks of Roquefort is you get a little bit of that crystalline texture, which is wonderful.
-Yes, it's really nice.
Okay, now for my all-time favorite.
-So this is the Stilton.
-And I think the best description from tasters was fudgy.
-[ Laughs ] -Well, 'cause it's su-- Like, this is creamy, the Gorgonzola, but it's like... -Mmm.
-...it is so creamy that it's almost fudgy.
-And the milk is just absolutely divine.
I think it's getting a little bit of yellow because there must have been a lot of grass the cows were eating before that cheese was made.
Last but definitely not least in my book.
-I wanted to put in an American cheese.
This is Maytag.
I forgot all about Maytag.
-Yeah, and it's a heritage cheese.
It's from the Midwest.
I would say it's sort of average blue cheese.
Not super mild.
Not super funky.
-[ Chuckles ] -Just delicious.
Jack, thank you.
This is a really interesting tasting.
-So there you have it, in the world of blue cheese, there is something for everybody.
♪♪ -We're all trying to do better for the environment, and that's why we tested plenty of gadgets and gear that promise to help.
Here are our favorites.
First, reusable straws.
Bad ones were horrible.
They were flimsy, they were uncomfortable.
But we loved these.
The OXO Good Grips 5-piece reusable straw set for about $13.
You get four straws and a cleaning brush.
And these have a great design.
They have the sturdiness of steel, plus the comfort of silicone tips.
They're durable, they're easy to clean, and really nice to drink from.
Now, silicone food covers.
They let you skip the plastic wrap, and they're endlessly reusable.
They're perfect for covering bowls in the fridge or microwave.
Now, these are our winners -- the GIR suction lids in sizes from 4 inches to 12 1/2 inches.
They seal tightly and super easily, and they resist stains and damage.
This big one even doubles as a skillet lid.
We used it to steamed broccoli on the stove.
Reusable food wraps -- They're fantastic.
They save money.
And again, they avoid those single-use plastics and they keep foods in great shape.
You can wrap bowls, half an onion, cheese, whatever you like.
I particularly love them for wrapping bread.
This beeswax-infused cloth, it creates a natural moisture barrier.
You just use the warmth of your hands to help seal it up.
Now, to clean these wraps, you just use warm, soapy water, you rinse well, you let it air dry, and it's good to go again.
When you buy groceries, you can bring your own produce bags.
These are our favorites, so the Purifyou premium reusable produce bags, and they come in set of 9 for about $9.99.
This strong polyester mesh is extremely lightweight, has a great drawstring that really keeps them closed.
Now, these are tough enough to hold a pineapple, but they're fine enough to carry rice.
They're a snap to wash and dry and use again and again.
So there you have it, with any of these winning gadgets, your kitchen is going to be greener.
♪♪ -Nowadays, you can find a wide variety of whole grains in most supermarkets.
Anything from barley to Kamut, rye, and einkorn, and that is good news for home cooks looking for a little variety because you can add these to all number of recipes, from soups and stews to cakes and casseroles.
And today, Keith's going to show us his favorite.
-Yeah, I love cooking with whole grains.
They're hearty, nutritious, satisfying, as well as being versatile.
-So today I'm going to cook with wheat berries, which is my favorite, and we're gonna incorporate that into a simple salad.
-So we have to cook them first.
There are a couple of different options for whole grains.
We can treat them like rice... -Mm-hmm.
-...and cook them with an absorption method or pilaf method... -Mm-hmm.
-...and that's where you're cooking the grains with a set amount of liquid.
Now, we didn't really like that method because we found that some of the grains would absorb enough water to hydrate and cook, but other parts of the pot would not fully hydrate, and it would be raw and kind of grainy.
-So we don't want that.
So we're actually going to treat the wheat berries like pasta.
-We're going to cook them in a copious amount of water.
-[ Chuckles ] -So I have 2 quarts of water.
I'm just going to add 2 teaspoons of salt... -Mm-hmm.
-...and 1 cup of wheat berries.
Very, very simple.
I'm just gonna stir this, make sure the salt is dissolved and those grains are not sticking to one another.
-And then we're simply going to simmer this for 60 to 80 minutes.
If you soak these ahead of time, which is always a good idea... -Yep.
-...you can shorten that to about 45 to 60 minutes.
So the key here is 2 quarts of water to 1 cup of grain.
-Yeah, any type of whole grain will work like this.
-We actually have a chart online for all these grains and their cooking times.
-It's been 60 minutes, and let's check the progress of our wheat berries.
They have a little bit of snap to them... -Mm.
-...which is exactly what you want from wheat berries, so they're ready to go.
We're just going to drain these.
-Mmm, they smell good.
-They do smell good.
-They have a nice, wheaty flavor.
So I'm just going to take these out of the colander and I'm just going to lay these onto a rimmed baking sheet.
-Now, this will allow them to cool, but it will also allow any excess moisture that we have on there to evaporate.
We can make the salad components.
-Like I said, we're just making a simple salad here.
It's going to start with a shallot.
-Horizontal first, and then thin vertical cuts this way.
Spin it around.
-Nice fine mince.
Now, so we have our shallots.
We're just gonna make a quick dressing here.
I have 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar.
Now, usually, if we're making a leafy green salad, we use a ratio of 3-1, 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar.
Grains can take a little bit more vinegar, a little bit more acidity, so we're using a ratio of 3-2.
So 3 parts olive oil to 2 parts vinegar.
-1/2 teaspoon of table salt and a 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
And we'll just whisk that together.
-That's a simple dressing.
Okay, so that's that.
Now, for the other salad components, I have 1/2 a head of radicchio, so I'm just going to take the core out like that.
And I like to cut it into quarters and then, much like cabbage... -Mm-hmm.
-...which is exactly what this is -- it's kind of a teeny cabbage -- I take out the core, and that allows me to kind of push it down like that and get a nice flat surface.
I'm just going to chop this.
About 1/2 inch pieces.
Okay, radicchio is done.
Now I'm also going to add 1 cup of parsley leaves.
That looks great, so we have the nice red and green holiday colors here.
-[ Laughs ] -So one more thing, we have a 1/4 cup of dried cherries for sweetness.
-I also have some toasted pecans.
I'm going to add 1/4 cup now and we're going to reserve a 1/4 cup for later on to garnish the top.
So we're going to let that sit, we're going to let our grains cool, and then we can toss the salad.
-It's been 15 minutes, and the grains have dried off nicely and they're cool.
-So I'm just going to slide these into our bowl ever so carefully.
-[ Chuckles ] -Before I pour, I like to work most of the grains down to the corner.
-So now that they're bunched down here, it's a lot easier to transfer over.
I think that is good.
So I'm just going to toss this around nicely.
Make sure that vinaigrette is coating everything.
This looks beautiful, doesn't it?
-It is a beautiful salad.
-I'm just going to transfer this over to a serving dish.
You can see by the glisten that that vinaigrette has now coated everything nicely.
That is a looker.
That would be great for a holiday table.
-Yes, you can double it.
You can triple it.
-You can serve as many people as you need to with this.
-And you can make it ahead.
-And so this is our remainder of our toasted pecans.
-Just a 1/4 cup here.
-Oh, and they'll stay nice and crisp if they're on top.
And one last addition -- I have a 1/4 cup of blue cheese here.
-Really love the salty, tangy flavor that blue cheese adds to this.
Blue cheese, pecans, and radicchio -- Yes, please.
That is gorgeous.
-We are ready to eat.
-Make sure we get a little bit of everything in the bowl here.
Fill her up.
Oh, thank you.
-Goodness, that's pretty.
What a terrific balance of flavors.
-I like that the vinaigrette is on the bright side because those wheat berries are pretty rich and it really balances them out.
-Yeah, and plus that radicchio is bitter... -Mm-hmm.
-So having some acidity to balance that, as well, is really nice.
You know, I'm not a huge fan of radicchio, but it is delicious in this.
-The cherries are also a bit of a surprise, and I love them in here.
-They're a little bit big, so every once in a while you get a pop of sweetness from the cherries.
It's really nice.
It's a little surprise.
Keith, this is delicious.
-Oh, I'm glad you like this.
-You want to make this delicious and healthy salad, simmer wheat berries in a pot of salted water for about an hour.
Let the cooked wheat berries cool on a baking sheet, then toss with a flavorful dressing.
From "America's Test Kitchen," a fabulous recipe for wheat berry salad with radicchio, dried cherries, and pecans.
You can find this recipe and all the recipes and product reviews from this season, along with select episodes, at our website -- americastestkitchen.com/tv.
This is my kind of food.
-Really satisfying, isn't it?