Honing technique unleashes kitchen creativity for New London, Mo., cook

Linda Stinson and her daughter, Jessica Stinson, make butter cookies together. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Jul. 9, 2013 2:11 pm Updated: Jul. 24, 2013 2:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

NEW LONDON, Mo. -- Linda Stinson stresses the basics in the kitchen, starting with good technique.

"I'm a little more inclined to use recipes for basics," Stinson said. "Get the technique down, then be creative."

With a basic butter cookie dough mastered, for example, "you can take this cookie and make it 10 different ways," she said.

Stinson and her daughter, Jessica, 12, cream butter and sugar. They add eggs, vanilla and the dry ingredients to the dough, which needs to chill before rolling it out for cut-out cookies.

"I make sure I don't smash down the edges when rolling this out," Stinson said, while adding a dusting of flour to her work surface. "Flour doesn't add flavor, so you always want to make sure you have just enough flour but not too much."

Baking, more than cooking, inspires Stinson, who turned a love of spending time in the kitchen into a career.

Initially a business major in college, Stinson found the classes boring until her advisers steered her to family and consumer science classes that tied into her interests in baking and sewing.

The need for FACS teachers led to the classroom, with the New London woman in her ninth year teaching at Mark Twain High School in nearby Center and offering occasional classes for John Wood Community College in Quincy.

She offers basic foods classes and also works with the ProStart program, through the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, which teaches students the skills needed to succeed in the restaurant and food-service industry. The students took fifth place in ProStart's management competition in April, and Stinson was named ProStart's teacher of the year in Missouri for 2013.

"I've become a better cook by taking the training and doing all these classes," she said. "I like to practice what I teach the students."

Stinson's family, her husband, Brad and their daughter, make a willing audience, with mother and daughter often working together.

One family favorite is a "Cake Boss" Chocolate Cake with mousse filling, and Perfect Pie Crust works well with Sweet Potato Pecan Pie. Her class made Chef Bob Bonney's Blackberry Bread Pudding and Bluff City Bottle Caps, or Fried Pickles, and a tree at the school provides the key ingredient for Crabapple Butter.

Training classes introduced her to making artisan breads and the finer points of pastries like opera cake or cheesecake.

"I've made cheesecakes for years, but learning water-bath techniques just kind of takes you to the next level," she said. "My latest thing is learning to fill, flood and use feathering techniques on cookies."

Bringing those techniques into the classroom benefits all the students, who get plenty of hands-on experience in Stinson's classes.

"We have a greenhouse where students can grow basil and have availability of fresh herbs," she said. "They tend to them, then cook with them."

Keeping a clean workstation is important, and so is keeping things organized.

For the cookie dough, Jessica "was ready," Stinson said. "She had everything measured out, all the ingredients."

Even if something doesn't turn out exactly right, it still gets used.

"We always feed it to the students," she said. "They never seem to mind."




Bluff City Bottle Caps

1 cup flour

1 cup rice flour

1 cup light beer

3/4 cup vodka

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon honey


1 cup dill pickles

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon dill, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine 1 cup flour and rice flour. Slowly add light beer, vodka and honey to tempura batter.

Strain pickles. Toss pickles into 1 cup flour and minced dill. Shake off excess flour, and place in clean mixing bowl.

Add pickles to tempura batter. Toss until thoroughly covered. Shake off excess tempura batter, and drop pickles into a fryer set at 325 degrees. Fry until golden brown and crisp. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with carrot and celery sticks and ranch dressing.


Crabapple Butter

4 pounds crabapples, stems and blossom ends removed, quartered

1 cup water

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine crabapples and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until crabapples are soft, 20-30 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer crabapple mixture to a food mill, and puree just until a uniform texture is achieved. Do not liquefy. Measure 6 cups of crabapple puree.

In a large stainless steep saucepan, combine crabapple puree, orange zest and juice, sugar and cinnamon. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens and holds its shape on a spoon.

Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids. Ladle hot butter into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot butter. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil, and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait five minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.


Chef Bob Bonney's Blackberry Bread Pudding

1 (10-count) roll flaky layers biscuits

4 large eggs

10 ounces Greek yogurt

2 pints blackberries

8 ounces heavy cream

7 ounces sugar

5 ounces powdered sugar

1 lemon

16 ounces heavy cream

2 ounces wild berry soda

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

Bake biscuits according to package directions on parchment-lined sheet. While biscuits are baking, mix up the custard.

In a large bowl, add the eggs, sugar, 8 ounces heavy cream, zest of lemon and yogurt. Mix until well combined; set aside. Let biscuits cool thoroughly, then slice in half and cut into one-inch cubes. Add biscuits to the custard mixture, and allow the biscuits to absorb moisture. Layer the bread custard mixture with the fruit in mini tart pans, reserving a few blackberries to use as garnish. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until golden and firm.

For glaze, in a medium bowl add the juice of one lemon to the powdered sugar. Mix well until it reaches a thick and creamy consistency. Drizzle glaze over the top of the warm bread pudding.

For whipped cream, place metal mixing bowl and metal whisk into the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Place the soda and gelatin into a small bowl for fives minutes. In the metal bowl, whip the cream until slightly thick. While beating the cream, slowly add the gelatin soda mixture to the whipping cream. Whip at high speed until stiff peaks form. Pipe onto top of bread pudding.


Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour, plus more for flouring the cake pans

1 1/2 cups sugar, plus more for unmolding the cakes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, at room temperature

1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup melted unsweetened chocolate (such as Baker's) from two one-ounce squares

1/2 cup hot water

2 extra-large eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

Unsalted butter (about 2 tablespoons), nonstick spray or vegetable oil for greasing the cake pans

Put the flour, sugar, butter, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer, but take extra care not to overmix). Mix on low speed just until the ingredients are blended together, a few seconds, then increase the speed to low-medium and continue to mix until smooth, approximately one additional minute.

Stop the motor, and pour in the chocolate. Mix for one minute on low. With the motor running, pour in the hot water. Add the eggs, one egg at a time, adding the next one after the previous one has been absorbed. With the motor still running, pour in the buttermilk. Stop the motor periodically, and scrape from the bottom with a rubber spatula to be sure all the ingredients are fully integrated, and return the mixer to low-medium speed. Continue to mix for one minute.

Grease and flour two nine-inch cake pans. Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Bake at 350 degrees until the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and are springy to the touch, 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Put a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with sugar and turn the cakes out onto the parchment.


Chocolate Fudge Frosting

2 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened

5 cups powdered sugar

2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

3 tablespoons lukewarm water

Put butter into a bowl of a stand mixer, and beat on low speed until smooth, approximately three minutes. With the motor running, add the sugar, one cup at a time, adding the next cup only after the first addition is absorbed. Stop the machine, and add the cocoa, vanilla and salt. Beat on low-medium speed until completely smooth, approximately two minutes. Add the water and continue to beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.


My Dad's Chocolate Mousse

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 tablespoon Kahlua or coffee liqueur

Put the cream, sugar, cocoa powder and Kahlua in a stainless-steel mixing bowl. Blend with a hand mixer at high speed until fluffy, about one minute. Use immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to three days.


Perfect Pie Crust

2 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

8 tablespoons Crisco shortening

2-4 tablespoons of ice water

Mix together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour, until the size of pellets, with a pastry blender (about 40 strokes). Bigger chunks of butter are better than smaller, about the size of dimes. Then add the shortening and continue to cut into the flour, about 40 more strokes. Sprinkle in just enough ice water to bind the dough, which will be crumbly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Divide the dough in two pieces, with a little more for the bottom crust, pat with flour and roll out on a floured baking sheet liner or parchment paper. Do not reroll the dough.

Dough is best used the day it is made, but it can be frozen.


Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

2-3 sweet potatoes, baked not boiled

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 egg

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg



3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup dark corn syrup

2 small eggs, beaten until frothy

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 teaspoons vanilla

Pinch of salt

Pinch of cinnamon

3/4 cup pecans

Mash baked sweet potatoes. Combine 1 cup pulp with remaining ingredients; set aside.

For topping, beat 2 eggs until frothy. Add remaining ingredients, and beat one minute. Stir in pecans.

Spoon pie filling evenly into crust. Pour syrup mixture over top of pie. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Pecans will rise to the top.


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