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Comfort food: Recipes for Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese and Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

10/22/2013 05:33 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
As the weather turns colder and we start to embrace fall and winter ahead, thoughts turn to comfort food.

Chef Michael Smith, a Food Network Canada host who is appearing at the Delicious Food Show this weekend in Toronto, says these are "things that make us feel warm and comfortable in our own kitchens and certainly in my world the best example of that is Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese. My kids love it."

Smith includes the recipe for this dish in his recent seventh cookbook "Back to Basics: 100 Simple Classic Recipes with a Twist."

When thoughts turn to the comforts of fall baking, lifestyle expert Martha Stewart has just the answer in her new cookbook, "Martha Stewart's Cakes." It's a guide that every baker will appreciate, with plenty of tips and guidelines to ensure success. Below is her recipe for Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake from the book, which she will be demonstrating at the Delicious Food Show.

Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese

Once you've mastered this basic dish, Smith gives some variations or suggests you let imagination and taste be your guide.

Breadcrumb Topping

1/2 loaf Italian bread, torn or cut into chunks

15 ml (1 tbsp) of your favourite dried herb, such as oregano, thyme, sage or rosemary

A few good splashes of extra-virgin olive oil

Mac and Cheese

500 g (1 lb) penne

12 slices of bacon, chopped

2 onions, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

150 ml (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour

1 l (4 cups) milk

250 ml (1 cup) whipping cream

30 ml (2 tbsp) Dijon mustard

15 ml (1 tbsp) paprika

5 or 10 ml (1 or 2 tsp) hot sauce

5 ml (1 tsp) salt

500 g (1 lb) aged cheddar cheese, shredded

Position a rack toward the bottom of your oven so mac and cheese can bake evenly in the middle. Heat oven to 200 C (400 F) and turn on convection fan if you have one. Lightly oil a large baking dish.

Fill your largest pot with lots of hot water and lots of salt and put it over lots of heat. Bring to a boil and cook noodles.

While you wait, prepare breadcrumb topping. Fill food processor with bread and choice of herb. Pulse until coarse, even crumbs are formed, just a few seconds. With the food processor running, splash in olive oil, processing just long enough to evenly combine the works. Don't grind crumbs too finely — the coarser the crumbs, the crispier they'll be once baked.

Begin sauce by putting bacon in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Splash in enough water to just barely cover it. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon. As the water simmers, the bacon will begin to cook. Then, as the water evaporates, the bacon will render, releasing its fat. Lastly, it will crisp as the flavourful bacon fat heats past the boiling point of water into the flavour zone. Adjust heat as needed, keeping bacon sizzling but not smoking and burning. Stir and be patient, until the bacon is evenly cooked and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon bits to paper towels, leaving the fat behind for building the sauce.

Add onions and garlic to hot bacon fat; saute as textures soften and flavours brighten, 5 minutes or so. Evenly sprinkle flour over onions, then stir it in well. The bacon fat will absorb the flour and create a thick paste. Continue cooking, getting rid of the raw flour taste, just a minute or two. Whisking constantly, pouring milk and cream, then gently stir as sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.

When noodles are al dente, drain and return to pot. To finish sauce, smoothly stir in mustard, paprika, hot sauce and salt, then mix in cheese and bacon bits. Pour sauce over hot, steamy noodles and stir mixture together.

Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with seasoned breadcrumbs. Transfer to oven, reduce temperature to 180 C (350 F) and bake until lightly golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Twist:

Feel free to stir a wide variety of other tasty treats into your mac and cheese. Smith enjoys a store-bought rotisserie chicken shredded into the works. Broccoli, peas, chickpeas and other vegetables can all make an appearance. Salmon, scallops and lobster can star too.

Makes 4 to 6 servings, with leftovers.

Source: "Back to Basics: 100 Simple Classic Recipes with a Twist" by Michael Smith (Penguin).

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Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

With streusel on top and layered within, plus a basic milk glaze drizzled on top, this is about as close to a classic example of a Swedish coffee cake as you are likely to find.

Streusel

175 ml (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour

250 ml (1 cup) packed light brown sugar, divided

6 ml (1 1/4 tsp) ground cinnamon, divided

5 ml (1 tsp) coarse salt

175 ml (3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) coarsely chopped toasted walnuts, divided

Cake

125 ml (1/2 cup or 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

500 ml (2 cups) all-purpose flour

6 ml (1 1/4 tsp) baking powder

2 ml (1/2 tsp) baking soda

2 ml (1/2 tsp) coarse salt

250 ml (1 cup) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) vanilla extract

250 ml (1 cup) sour cream

Glaze

250 ml (1 cup) icing sugar

30 ml (2 tbsp) whole milk

Streusel: In a bowl, mix together flour, 175 ml (3/4 cup) of the brown sugar, 5 ml (1 tsp) of the cinnamon and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers until small to medium clumps form. Mix in 125 ml (1/2 cup) of the nuts. Refrigerate topping until ready to use. Make the streusel centre: Mix together remaining 50 ml (1/4 cup) brown sugar, 1 ml (1/4 tsp) cinnamon and 250 ml (1 cup) nuts; set aside for layering in centre of batter.

Cake: Heat oven to 180 C (350 F). Butter a 23-cm (9-inch) tube pan with a removable bottom. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl.

With an electric mixer on medium, beat butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 batches of sour cream; beat until well combined.

Transfer half the batter to prepared pan. Sprinkle streusel evenly over batter. Top with remaining batter; spread evenly with an offset spatula. Sprinkle streusel topping evenly over batter.

Bake until cake is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Remove cake from pan; transfer to a parchment-lined work surface or serving platter.

Glaze: Mix together icing sugar and milk. Drizzle over cake, allowing glaze to drip down sides. Let set for 5 minutes before serving. (Cake can be stored at room temperature, covered, up to 5 days.)

Makes 12 servings.

Source: "Martha Stewart's Cakes" from the editors at Martha Stewart Living (Random House).

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