There's always something delicious being created in Tom Douglas' restaurant kitchens. And there's always a special project on the burners for the celebrity chef.
The chef's latest book "The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness in Seattle" offers home cooks recipes for 125 luscious goodies from Dahlia doughnuts and pear tarts to apple dumplings, Dahlia triple coconut cream pie and eclairs. There are also savory recipes included in the book for items such as tomato soup, grilled cheese, croutons and English muffin sandwiches.
Douglas, owner of the Dahlia Bakery and 11 other eateries in Seattle, has garnered many culinary accolades through the years. He was proclaimed Outstanding Restaurateur of 2012 by the James Beard Foundation and won a James Beard Award for Best Northwest Chef in 1994.
He also recently made a special appearance on the current season of "Top Chef: Seattle" and is a member of Macy's Culinary Council.
Douglas said "The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook," which he co-authored with pastry chef Shelley Lance, was written over a 2 1/2-year period.
"But it's really been in the works for the past 23-1/2 years," said Douglas, whose parents hail from Chicago's south side.
The chef, a native of Delaware, said he has fond memories of being in the Chicago area as a youngster and visiting his family. "My family is from Harvey," he said, adding he still has cousins living in the south suburbs.
The culinary memories conjured up after those visits were terrific.
In fact, one of his favorite recipes included in the book is courtesy of his grandma Douglas' kitchen.
"A simple taste or smell easily evokes a past time or place...I am absolutely the end product of years watching and helping my grandma Florence make her schnecken on the kitchen table when visiting her home on the south side of Chicago, and in later years when she moved in with our family in Newark, Delaware," he writes.
Through his latest cookbook, Douglas said he wants to ease people's minds about baking at home.
"There are two things (when it comes to the kitchen) that people are most intimidated by," he said. "One is cooking fish at home and second is baking," he said.
Douglas added he personally doesn't consider himself a "good" baker but being passionate about great tasting food and trying to make it the best you can, definitely helps one turn out wonderful items. And practice certainly makes perfect when it comes to unfamiliar recipes.
He encourages readers to indulge themselves and create their own home-made goodies. All the recipes in the book have been tested time and again.
"Our recipes run the gamut from easy to tough, but you can be assured we have tested and retested every one, so if you put in the energy and indulge yourself with the time needed, you'll be rewarded with a most delicious, and, dare I say, memory-making taste," he writes.
Douglas' book also teaches and offers a variety of lessons from how to measure ingredients and how to shave chocolate to how to whip egg whites, how to fold with a whisk and more, all culled from the pastry experts at his baking facility, the Dahlia Workshop.
The following recipe from the book is for his grandmother's schnecken, a type of cinnamon bread.
Grandma Douglas's Schnecken
9 × 13-inch Baking Pan
1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for the bowl and pan
1 cup milk
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
3 to 3 1/2 cups all- purpose flour as needed
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup chopped pecans
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
DIRECTIONS: 1. To make the dough, melt the 1/2 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the milk and sugar and heat just to lukewarm, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the warm milk mixture into a bowl. Stir in the yeast. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes, then stir in the salt.
2. Beat the whole egg and egg yolk together and add to the yeast mixture. Stir in the flour 1 cup at a time until you have a sticky dough. Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until you have a nice smooth dough. Butter a large bowl. Place the dough in the prepared bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put the bowl in a warm place and allow the dough to rise for 2 hours, until tripled in volume.
3. Meanwhile, brush a 9 × 13-inch baking pan with some melted butter (or spray it with vegetable oil spray). To prepare the sugar-pecan topping, melt the butter with the brown sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from the heat and spread the mixture in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans.
4. Punch down the dough and turn it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead for a minute, then use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle about 15 × 12 inches and 1/8 inch thick. To make the cinnamon-sugar filling, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and allow it to cool. Brush the butter thoroughly over the surface of the dough. In a bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the melted butter. Roll the rectangle up, like a jelly roll, along one long edge.
5. Slice the log of rolled dough into 1-inch-thick slices and arrange the slices, cut sides up, in the prepared pan. Cover the pan with a piece of plastic wrap (you can spray the plastic wrap first with vegetable oil spray to be sure it doesn't stick to the dough) and allow it to rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the schnecken until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Check them occasionally during the baking time, and if they seem to be browning too quickly, loosely cover them with a sheet of aluminum foil.
7. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn the schnecken out of the pan while still warm by inverting the pan over a large platter or baking sheet. Serve the schnecken warm.
Source: "The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook"