Just Desserts: Five Sweet Recipes for the Holiday Season


Five Sweet Recipes For The Holiday Season

Want to be a holiday hero? Bring our Pecan Pie to the party. We’re talking ooey-gooey nutty filling; rich, bourbon and vanilla notes; tender, flaky crust—this thing brings new meaning to the term crowd pleaser.

Chefsteps_pecan_pieFive Sweet Recipes For The Holiday SeasonGooey, with notes of bourbon and vanilla, this pecan pie is bound to go over well.

If you want to serve dessert but already feel maxed out with appetizers and mains, consider serving wine-poached pears. They’re an elegant solution that leaves your guests feeling sated without adding a lot of labor.

red_wine_pear_Five Sweet Recipes For The Holiday SeasonRed Wine Roached Pears are simple, but still worthy of a special occasion.

In search of something surprising this year? We guarantee your guests are not expecting you to serve a fruity take on Italian minestrone soup. Like that versatile vegetable potage, our sweet spin can be adapted to seasonal or locally available produce. And dang, is it pretty.

fruit Minestrone Five Sweet Recipes For The Holiday Season Fruit minestrone? Yup, it’s a thing now.

Don’t be intimidated by deconstructed desserts—just work through each step carefully and you’ll wind up with a beautiful presentation that always exceeds expectations. This take on the classic orange creamsicle will trigger sweet summertime memories while simultaneously showing off your plating prowess.

Orange Creamsile_Five Sweet Recipes For The Holiday Season This modern take on a kid favorite makes for a cheerful holiday dessert.

For something more classic, but equally impressive, serve our foolproof Molten Chocolate Soufflé—as is, or filled with decadent Crème Anglaise.

souffle Five Sweet Recipes For The Holiday SeasonMolten Chocolate Soufflé never fails to wow at a holiday feast.

For more great recipes, plus access to our lively forum of curious and engaging cooks, join the ChefSteps community today.

“Wall of Fire” Is on the Way! (Film Trailer)

Wall of Fire_Chris_MK3_3175

We have a tradition here at ChefSteps. Every summer, we challenge ourselves to create an outlandish exploit involving enormous amounts of meat and even more heat. Then, we invite a bunch of friends to a barbecue starring the flaming invention, plus a bountiful spread of food cooked using recipes from our development kitchen. Past exploit examples include the Gaggle Roaster and the World’s Largest Sous Vide Pastrami.

The point: to solve a common cooking problem, only on an insane scale. Oh, and to have the sort of fun that’s only possible when power tools and open flames are involved. We’re always looking to challenge ourselves to do something better than the year before, but at the end of the day, we still need to build a contraption that allows us to cook great food. (Remember all those people we invited over? They’ll be expecting dinner.) Basically, it’s about thinking ambitiously, solving problems through science, eating extremely well, and having a ton of fun. Kind of like the soul of ChefSteps, encapsulated in one very smoky annual event.


When we came up with this year’s apparatus, dubbed the “Wall of Fire” for reasons that are about to become apparent, we figured why not use the project to tell a story about our fledgling company? To help us, we brought aboard award-winning film and television director Sandy Smolan. Smolan worked with our team of in-house filmmakers, musicians, and writers to make a documentary short, Wall of Fire, that we will be releasing on Thursday, October nine. A true labor of love, the film showcases the passion for cooking and technology—not to mention general over-the-top ridiculousness—that ChefSteps embodies.

Below you’ll find the Wall of Fire trailer. Have a look, then let us know what you think in the comments, and get ready for the release of the full documentary on the ninth. We can’t wait to share it.

To stay up with the latest on this and other projects, be sure to sign up as a member on ChefSteps.com.

What Cookbooks Inspire You?

In our recent Design a Dish project, we included a list with some of our favorite books for plating inspiration. Whether we are dreaming up new textural combinations, studying a certain style of plating, or just need to look at something beautiful to get our imaginations flowing, these books always deliver with original flavor pairings and artful photography.

Of course, there are many more books in our library that inspire us for different reasons. And we also keep a lot of perhaps-less-pretty—but equally, if not more, useful—reference guides around for when we want to develop our own Melty Cheese Slices or Chewy Candy.

But now, we want to hear from you. What books inspire you most in the kitchen? What are your favorites for recipes, plating, or just pretty pictures? Leave your mini-list in the comments. We welcome your expert suggestions, and if your picks aren’t already in our library, they’ll definitely go on our shopping list.

Join the ChefSteps community to find out what ambitious cooks like you are cooking, reading, and thinking about. Plus, get the first word on all our new recipes, techniques, and events.

5 Common Misconceptions About Sous Vide Cooking

In the past few years, sous vide cooking—already ubiquitous in fine-dining restaurants—has gained a foothold in home kitchens as well. That’s thanks to newly affordable equipment and cameos on TV shows like The Simpsons and Adventure Time, along with the publication of groundbreaking books such as Modernist Cuisine and Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure.

But despite the technique’s rocketing popularity, it’s still plagued by many-a-misconception. Below, we debunk five common myths surrounding sous vide. Still have questions? Please share them in the comments.

1. “Sous vide” means “under vacuum,” and that means I need to pony up for an expensive, space-hogging chamber-style vacuum sealer if I want to try it.

Yes, “sous vide” is French for “under vacuum.” And yes, it’s a very confusing name. Because in fact, you don’t need a pricey vacuum sealer—or even an inexpensive countertop one—to successfully cook food at a low temperature in a water bath. To get started with sous vide, regular-old ziplock-style bags will do just fine. In fact, in some applications they are preferable to vacuum-sealed bags. Use the simple water displacement method (instructions in sidebar here) to remove the air from the bags, then get cooking.


2. Okay, but I still need to buy pricey sous vide equipment.

It’s true that cooks who regularly cook sous vide often opt to invest in an immersion circulator or SousVide Supreme bath. In the last few years, however, a number of affordable models have emerged for home use. (Popular Science has published a helpful roundup of those). And if you’re just looking to test the method out, you can improvise a sous vide setup with nothing more than a pot, a stove, a digital thermometer, and some plastic bags. Allow us to show you how.


3. I don’t need a circulator to get started, got it—that doesn’t change the fact that it’s not safe to cook food in plastic bags.

According to the latest research, the safest plastics for use with food are high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, and polypropylene. Virtually all sous vide bags are made from these plastics (the inner layer of nearly all sous vide bags is polyethylene). And most name-brand food storage bags and plastic wraps such as Ziploc and Saran Wrap are also made from safe plastics like polyethylene.

Now, other plastics that may be in your kitchen, such as inexpensive, bulk plastic wraps (still commonly made from polyvinyl chloride or polyvinylidene chloride), can contain harmful plasticizers that have been shown to leach into fatty foods such as cheese and meat. Legitimate concerns exist about food exposed to these plastics at higher temperatures—when you microwave food wrapped in plastic, for instance. Spend a little extra on one of the brand-name options, and you will be good to go.

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4. But why do I need a whole new cooking technique just to get tender steak, fish, and chicken?

People unfamiliar with sous vide often think it’s only useful for preparing proteins. While all three of those foods taste great cooked sous vide, there are so many more delicious options. Our gallery of sous vide recipes should provide you with plenty of further inspiration.

Carrots and Perfect Yolk-ChefSteps

5. Alright, ChefSteps. I’m convinced this could be a good way to go when I have plenty of time on my hands, but for day-to-day use, my trusty old oven is way more efficient.

We often reach for the circulator when it’s time to give tough cuts the slow-and-low treatment, but we also prepare sous vide mashed potatoes in 45 minutes flat, and fish, steak, and chicken usually cook in under an hour. And remember, instead of staring hopelessly into your oven window, hoping that chicken breast hasn’t turned to stringy shoe leather, you can allow food to cook largely unattended, safe in the knowledge that results will be predictable every time—and freeing you to focus on other things. Like, say, what you’re going to whip up next.

Join the ChefSteps community to get free access to the best resources for sous-vide cooking on the web, share recipes and tips with other enthusiastic cooks, and get the first word on new recipes and techniques.

10 Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Cook Sous Vide

Flourless Carrot Cake ChefSteps

Thinking about investing in sous vide equipment for your kitchen? Here at ChefSteps, we’re unabashed fans—we love the way sous vide requires little micromanagement, and predictably cooks all sorts of food. Sous vide recipes you find online tend to focus on steak and fish—two excellent options—but when it comes to cooking in a water bath, proteins are just the beginning. Read on for 10 of our favorite unexpected uses for sous vide. Got faves of your own? Go ahead and share them in the comments

1. Custards

Yup, you can prepare crème brûlée and other custardy desserts sous vide. We use it to create the carrot custard for our Flourless Carrot Cake—a sous vide recipe that’s gluten-free and about as modernist as they come.

Get the recipe: Flourless Carrot Cake


2. Purées

We like making purées well in advance—cooking them in a circulator is often the simplest way to do so. When it comes time to reheat them, it’s much easier to warm them in a sous vide bath than on the stovetop, where uneven heating sometimes means the purée near the heat is getting scorched while the portion near the surface is barely warm.

Get the recipe: Celery Root Purée


3. Burgers

Think we’re crazy for publishing a sous vide burger recipe? Don’t knock it ’til you’ve served a bunch of perfect patties to a large group, no grill-manning required.

Get the recipe: Beef Burger Patties


4. Flavored oils 

Got a recipe that calls for a flavored oil, but don’t want to pony up the cash for something you’ll probably only use once or twice? Make it at home instead. We cook flavored oil for three hours in a sous vide bath—yes, that’s far longer than most stovetop infusions call for, but the precise low temperature results in a flavorful oil that will keep for months.

Get the recipe: Thyme Oil


5. Cheese curds

Super-geeky, yet also super-great: using a SousVide Supreme to make your own squeaky cheese curds. You’ll need some funny ingredients, but how cool is it to be crafting curds like a pro in your own kitchen? And teachers, this would make an awesome classroom activity.

Get the recipe: Squeaky Cheese Curds


6. French fries

For these crispy-soft fries, we use a triple-cooking process made famous by British chef Heston Blumenthal. Once you recreate them at home, you’ll see why the method has set a new standard by which the world’s greatest French fries are judged.

Get the recipe: Thin-Cut French Fries


7. Mashed potatoes

Think cooking sous vide means waiting a long time for your food? Well, er, often it does. But here’s an exception—you can make these rich, creamy mashed potatoes (or pomme purée, as chefs and French people call them) in 45 minutes flat.

Get the recipe: Pomme Purée


8. Oysters

Weird but true: You can use sous vide to help you shuck oysters! Blanching oysters in a water bath at 140 °F / 60 °C for just a few minutes makes them easy to open. Time it right, and the oyster won’t cook but will wind up with a gorgeous plump appearance and an appealing firm texture that heightens their freshness. And because this technique makes it easy to pop the oyster open, you’re less likely to end up with shell debris floating in the salty brine surrounding the oyster.

Get the technique: Firming oysters


9. Stock

Using sous vide equipment to make stocks gives us the ultimate temperature control—for the richest, flavor-forward broth, we like to cook ours for a full day when time allows.

Get the recipe: Beef Stock


10. Eggnog

Yup, not even this most traditional of holiday libations is safe from our relentless need to sous vide everything. But seriously, that time of year has enough stresses—instead of slaving over your egg-and-booze beverage, drop it in the bath and occupy yourself with the million other tasks at hand.

Get the recipe: Eggnog

Join the ChefSteps community to get access to more than 100 sous vide recipes, talk sous vide with other enthusiasts on our lively forum, and get the first word on exciting new recipes, videos, and techniques. 

A Quick Announcement About Content

Camp the ChefSteps dog takes a nap.

Camp takes a quick break from a long research session.

Hello there, ChefSteps community. As you’ve likely noticed, our hard-working team of cooks, designers, writers, photographers, and musicians has settled into a pattern of delivering new content every Tuesday. This weekly schedule has allowed us to populate the site with tons of new content that, on the whole, you’ve responded to with great enthusiasm—which we appreciate greatly. We’ve been pushing hard to provide you with plenty of kitchen inspiration—from tips and tricks on how to level up your sous vide game, to a grow-your-own microgreens project and the launch of the ChefSteps Egg Calculator.

Recently, we began developing some ambitious new releases that we believe are shaping up to be among the best stuff we’ve produced yet. In the next few weeks you’ll get a thorough, behind-the-scenes account of how chefs design and plate their own dishes. Then, with the help of some of the best baristas and roasters in the biz, we’ll dig deep into the science of espresso—teaching you to pull perfect shots and make sexy latte art, among other things. After that, prepare for an epic launch of new sous vide content, featuring exclusive, essential information you won’t find anywhere else, period. Whether you’re just getting curious about this revolutionary cooking method or are looking to improve your already considerable skills, you’ll discover plenty there to enrich your sous vide experience.

But here’s the thing: Ensuring this content is the best it can be is going to require massive amounts of research, plus more photo and film shoots, writing, original graphics, and input and innovation from our kitchen than we’ve ever brought you before. Plus, we want to get better at supporting content once it has been published. So while you can continue to expect lots of new stuff from us, we will no longer be adhering to a strict weekly schedule. Stay tuned for more information, and don’t forget to explore the hundreds of recipes, techniques, and articles that currently populate the site. Get ready for some great stuff coming soon. We can’t wait to share it with you.

Hans’ Hit List: Music Picks From Our Staff Musician


As some of you will remember, this isn’t the first time this blog has highlighted the work of ChefSteps audio director Hans Twite—Twite told us all about his covetable job in this post from September 2013. What you might not know: One of the perks of working with Hans is that he’s a veritable wellspring of awesome music recommendations, and he’s always enthusiastic about sharing the stuff that inspires him. So we asked him to share that stuff with you. Below, Hans details the weird and fascinating tracks he’s listening to right now. Enjoy, and please share your own current favorites in the comments.

Shabazz Palaces: “They Come in Gold”
Ishmael Butler and Tendai “Baba” Maraire, the amazing duo known as Shabazz Palaces, are never far from reach in my record collection. This track—from the highly anticipated, recently released Lese Majesty—is just a taste of the amazing and creative production that these guys have to offer. The feats of musical ingenuity they pull off in the studio are also on display during their captivating live shows . 

Oneohtrix Point Never: “Ships Without Meaning”
Daniel Lopatin, also known as Oneohtrix Point Never, is lauded for his minimalist, yet multi-layered, experimental music. I am constantly gravitating towards his stuff and admire his ability to take simple patterns or arpeggiated synthesizer lines, and completely breathe life and feeling into them with his arsenal of musical machines.

Iska Dhaaf: “Happiness”
Nathan Quiroga and Benjamin Verdoes are two Seattleites with a long history in the local scene. Known locally for his successful hip hop group called Mad Rad, Quiroga found himself looking to expand his musical and artistic outlets, and formed this duo with drummer Verdoes. This hypnotic and honest music is some of my favorite to come out of Seattle in recent years.

NetCat: “The Internet is an Apt Motherfucker”
Hilarious song title, right? NetCat (Brandon Lucia, David Balatero, and Andrew Olmstead) are definitely on the edge of where technology and music meet. Equipped with both musical and computer programing backgrounds, these guys are pushing the limits of live improvisation, and humanizing the technological world of modern music production.

Swans: “Screen Shot”
Michael Gira and his band Swans are not for the faint of heart. But they are influential and compelling to me, thanks to their willingness to completely commit to whatever they are working on—no matter where that work leads them. They have come a long way since the early days, when they played with nothing but a tape recorder of samples and a wall of amps.

Tim Hecker: “Amps, Drugs, Mellotron”
A lot of my life is about plugging and unplugging cords, setting up microphones, moving amps, restringing guitars, and attempting to tune old synthesizers. When I am actively working in my studio, I need to concentrate. But I want to still listen to music. Enter Tim Hecker, who creates the perfect atmospheric background music for when you need to be able to think, but also to keep moving.

P.J. Harvey: “Black Hearted Love”
Polly Jean Harvey has always been a musical innovator—and a subtle comedian. She has the ability to make some of the most earthy and natural-sounding recordings sound completely fresh and of the future. I chose this track, from an overlooked album she created with John Parish in 2009, because it really demonstrates her thematic writing, not to mention her dry humor.

Beck: “Wave”
Morning Phase, a late follow-up to 2002’s Sea Change, has been a welcome addition to Beck’s already substantial discography. This direct and atmospheric piece exemplifies my favorite aspects of Beck’s music: his ability to find the essence of a song; his ability to craft that perfect melody on top of his music; and his ability to get out of the way of the music when the occasion calls for it.

Ben Frost: “Venter”
Are you going on a long road trip, or driving very late at night? Put on some Ben Frost to transform your journey into an epic cinematic experience that keeps you alert and makes you feel like you’re in some weird and awesome Icelandic movie.

Death Grips: “Black Quarterback”
Death Grips just broke up! I really wish I could have seen them live, but from what I have heard even if you bought the ticket, they may not have shown up anyways! These guys were pretty much the essence of punk in a hip-hop world. Vicious, unrelenting beats and polyrhythms assault your senses, but they still manage to engage listeners and create something completely unique.

Robin Guthrie: “Some Sort of Paradise”
Guitarist and founder of Cocteau Twins, Robin Guthrie and his use of live looping have always been a huge influence on what I do. I got into Cocteau Twins much later than many of my musician buddies because I sometimes found the vocals distracting when I wanted to hear more of what Robin was creating in the background. This album is always around, and a great one to listen to when you are relaxing late at night.

David Bowie “TVC15″
David Bowie—where to begin? This guy is pretty much the reason I try to do what I do. His drive to keep pushing for new ideas, and ability to never settle on a technique or hit neutral on his “gear box,” are completely inspiring. I could tell you how I feel about the albums Low, or Aladdin Sane, or Heroes, but instead I give you “TVC15” from Station To Station. I DARE you to try and get that chorus out of your head!

So there you have it folks, a new playlist for yahs from a guy who pretty much lives for this stuff. To hear Hans’ own inspiring creations (and get access to recipes, techniques, and our lively forum), join the ChefSteps community. Then, check out original Twite tracks like this recent Starburst-Style Chewy Candy composition—featuring Macklemore trombonist Greg Kramer—or the breezy, evocative score to our Kouign-Amann video.

How Do You Like Your Burger?



Here at ChefSteps, we have burgers on the brain. Our kitchen crew has been working hard on an upcoming project that will delve real deep into the matter. One thing we’ve discovered along the way: Everybody has opinions about this most American of sandwiches. Well, we want to hear yours. Do you like your patty piled high with wet and dry toppings, or more minimally dressed? Are you a year-round griller, or do you prefer broiling your burgs in the cold months? What are your feelings about fat content in the beef? Perfect melting cheese? Shake Shack vs. In-N-Out? Whatever. Share your thoughts here, and look out for the ChefSteps Burger class—coming your way soon.

Join the ChefSteps community for all the latest recipes and techniques, plus the chance to chat with our outgoing community of home cooks. 

Yup, You Can Make That at Home: 5 Homemade Takes on Storebought Stuff

There’s something uniquely satisfying about making your own version of storebought foods using fresh, quality ingredients. It’s also a great way to cook with kids (and keep them from destroying the house on a rainy day). From Starburst-Style Chews to Nacho Cheese, here are five of our favorite ways to recreate supermarket treats without having to leave the house. Try these recipes, and if you’d like us to develop techniques for other stuff on your grocery list, tell us about those in the comments.

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Starburst-Style Chewy Candy—so pretty.

Nooks and crannies! Thomas isn’t the only one who can make English Muffins. Since 1747, baking enthusiasts (or, you know, people who just wanted to eat) have been doing their own versions of this comforting breakfast treat, and you can too.


English muffins, fresh from the oven.

What’s the best thing to serve with pulled pork and crunchy coleslaw? King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, of course. The only way to improve on that satisfying summer meal is to make the rolls yourself and serve ‘em up fresh.

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Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, always great with pulled pork.

Life hack alert: If you only make one recipe on this list, let it be homemade Ice Cream Cones. Because it’s so easy you won’t believe you ever bought that stack of styrofoam-esque sugar cones. This is how you get fast-tracked to parent of the year, and you don’t even have to attend one PTA meeting.


Homemade Ice Cream Cones—as impressive as they are easy.

Nacho Cheese is one of those foods you eat with the blinds drawn when your significant other goes out of town. Well come out into the light, Velveeta lovers. ‘Cause there’s no shame in indulging in creamy, chip-coating cheese sauce when it came out of your own kitchen. The secret—melting salts. And they’re about to change your life.


Homemade nacho cheese—so creamy.

That’s right, you can make your own Starburst-style Chewy Candy—all you need is a stand mixer and a set of really strong arms. (The more sets of really strong arms you have, the better. So invite your gym-iest friends over to help you pull.)


Stretch your confectionery skills with Starburst-Style Chewy Candy.

Want to find more great recipes to enhance your experience in the kitchen? Chat with other modernist cuisine enthusiasts? Get the first word on ChefSteps news and events? Join our community and get cooking. 

Salad Days: Lighten Up With Summer-Friendly Sides and Starters

In between sous viding the World’s Largest Pastrami, scarfing down Kouign-Amann, and reconstructing beef roasts like a bunch of modernist Dr. Frankensteins, we like to work in the occasional salad. But we’re not talking about the sort of iceburg-and-stale-crouton situation you find beneath the sneeze guard at a supermarket salad bar. Oh no. With ingredients like pork belly, fresh Parmesan, and albacore tuna, these salads are far, far sexier than all that. Read on for our favorite ways to lighten up at dinner.

Fun fact: Radicchio is not a lettuce. It’s a member of the chicory family, and it’s super tasty, especially when you accessorize it with creamy buttermilk, verdant chive oil, and funky blue cheese—which is exactly what we do in this Microwaved Radicchio Salad. An elegant warm salad you can make in the microwave? Radicch.


Salads are a magical thing. You can top them with stuff like fried chicken and fatty cheese, and somehow they still feel healthy. Our Endive Salad works in skinny rolls of braised pork belly, so you get that hit of salty fat without getting too weighed down. It’s a great one for a dinner party, but give yourself time—that belly’ll need a minute to brine. (And by “a minute,” we mean 48 to 72 hours).


So, your kids complain that chickpeas look like little butts. Don’t let that deter you from serving this Chickpea Tuna Salad. You can substitute all sorts of non-butt-like beans for the chickpeas, and your picky little legacies will never know the difference. Ha, tricked ‘em. That’s called good parenting.


Speaking of microwaves, did you know you can confit vegetables up in there? True story. In fact, that’s how we prepare the squash for this Confit Squash Salad. Then we cut it into cubes and let a blizzard of ricotta salata rain down upon them, tossing on some toasted hazelnuts for good measure. Use kabocha squash and you don’t even have to peel the skin off. Come on, people. The only way we could make this easier on you is to come over and make it ourselves. (Not right now, we’re at work.)


“You can’t please everybody,” your wise uncle Fred used to tell you. But here’s the thing: You can. Case in point: our two versions of coleslaw–creamy, and red. Because some people love their coleslaw all mayo-slicked and fatty, and other people like it red. Can’t please everybody? Have some coleslaw, Uncle Fred.


The Germans like to lay claim on potato salad. Man, Germany. Is winning the World Cup not enough? Right here, right now, we’re calling on America to claim this carbiest of side salads. After all, there are few foods that feel as U-S-A! U-S-A! as potato salad. And okay, our version involves homemade mayo and homemade pickled mustard seed—look, if you want something quick go back to that confit squash dish—but it’s stupidly delicious. Bring it to a barbecue and watch it upstage the ribs and the keg of lager and the tall, handsome German guy teaching the kids to play soccer properly.


Want to make chef-level dishes at home? Chat with other modern cuisine enthusiasts about all sorts of stuff? Watch beautiful, inspiring videos filmed in our test kitchen? Join our community and get cooking.