Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Cinnamon Throwdown

Cinnamon by Art Pepper
I often listen to jazz while I cook.  I love it's free-spirited nature.  There's lots of room for personal style and interpretation which I hope translates itself into my cooking.  Today's "recipe" is rather loose and there's room for your own personal interpretation.  Let the mood take you where it will!  The makers of the recipe certainly did!  In the end, they came up with a winner!  And it's all about the cinnamon!  And, of course, the chocolate doesn't hurt either!

Every couple years our family gathers together for a week-long reunion.  We usually choose a place with a warm climate, find a home large enough to accommodate our growing numbers, and plan and anticipate.  We golf, shop, play games, watch movies, visit, and, one night we have our Iron Chef competition!

This is how our cook-off works.  We pick a not-so-secret ingredient before we come.  We work in pairs.  The challenge is that we don't know which course of the Iron Chef meal we will be preparing before we arrive.  So we have to come prepared to make either an appetizer, an entree, a side dish, or a dessert.  All courses must have the not-so-secret ingredient.  The winner is decided by a family vote on secret ballots.  The decision is always difficult, but we've always had a clear winner - no ties!  We do have a "trophy" - if you can call it that.  A large wooden spoon with a tres chic plastic label.  It has each year's recipients boldly proclaimed in black permanent marker and hangs in our kitchen for all to see.  I've decided we need something a little more grand.  I'll be checking into that in the next few weeks.

This week we have gathered in Carefree, Arizona for our big reunion and the Iron Chef competition was last night!  Our not-so-secret ingredient was cinnamon.  The four teams drew their course assignments the first night we arrived and everything was ready to serve by about 6 o'clock.  Here's a photo journal of how the night went -

My daughter and I drew the appetizer course.  We decided on a fruit salsa with homemade cinnamon sugar chips.

We chopped up a bunch of colorful fruit - apples, kiwi, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and orange supremes.

We added a little drizzle of an apple cider reduction over the fruit when we plated!  Tasty!

My son and his wife drew the side dish and went with a family holiday favorite - always welcome at the table!  Southern Comfort Sweet Potatoes!

Golden, bubbly, solid comfort here, people!  Sooo good!

My daughter and her husband were in charge of the main dish.  They came up with an amazing pizza with a Moroccan feel to it.  It had cinnamon and spice sautéed chicken, red onions, and mozzarella cheese slices on top!

Just look at these babies coming out of the oven!  Felt my knees go a little weak here!

The final team, the one with my youngest son and youngest daughter, the defending champs, were pretty much seen to be lazing around and not doing much at all.  Reading, playing on their iPad, or heckling other teams as they worked hard on their dishes.  "Were we even going to get dessert tonight?" we wondered.  But, then, they started doing stuff like this:

Chocolate, butter, and a little whole milk in a double boiler?  Hmm - sounds like a chocolate ganache.  And then they brought a sheet of these little nuggets up from the oven in the basement kitchen! 

 I'm starting to take notice - as is everyone else!  What are those?  Fig Newtons?  They just laughed at us - in a "bwa-ha-ha-ha!" manner.
As my daughter is making the chocolate sauce on the stove, my son starts scooping up vanilla ice cream and rinsing berries and mint leaves.

I hear them actually discuss a plating strategy!  When I saw this ribbon of chocolate cascading over the ice cream and cinnamon bars, I knew there was gonna be trouble!

In a few short moments we were presented with this!

And this beautiful dessert was voted the winner at this year's Iron Chef competition!

When asked for the lowdown on how to make it, this is the best I could get - apparently they did a lot of "winging it!"

Cinnamon Bars
printable recipe
Stick of butter, softened
Sugar and cinnamon

Mix the butter, sugar, and cinnamon together well and microwave for a few seconds to melt just a little.  Roll out the pie dough into a sort of rectangle until about 1/4 inch thick.  Spread the cinnamon, sugar, and butter mixture over the top leaving a half inch edge clean.  Cut into 1 1/2 - 2 inch strips lengthwise then cut them in half crosswise.  Fold these strips up so they look similar to a Fig Newton, then cut them in half.  (See picture above)  Place on sheet tray and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, until dough is done and flaky.  Cool.

Make ganache and, while still warm, drizzle over the top of the bars and ice cream. 

Garnish with berries and a mint floret.

Truly delicious!


  1. Oh what a GREAT tradition! I would love to be a fly on the wall that night!

  2. Lisa - We have a good time! It's always fun to see what everyone comes up with!

  3. I know your sister Brenda. I say not fair tempting us with all the yummy pictures and only giving directions for the dessert. How about the other ones as well? Everything looks delicious.