Holiday gifts and essential baking tips from two local chefs

Holiday gifts and essential baking tips from two local chefs

Just in time for the holidays, Lan Lam, senior editor at Cook’s Illustrated and cast member of PBS’s America’s Test Kitchen, opens the recipe book for… Boston Radio In this part 2021. Also joining the show is Joe Gatto, private chef, culinary instructor and host of “From Scratch” on Pluto TV.

Millionaire cake

-The following American Test Kitchen recipe, highlighted by Lan Lam on our show, makes about 40 cookies.

“Millionaire Exotic Cake” made by Lan Lam. (Courtesy Lan Lam)

“For a caramel filling with the right texture, monitor the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. We prefer the Ghirardelli Fine Baking Bar 60% Cacao and Bittersweet Chocolate for this recipe. Grating a portion of the chocolate is important to make the chocolate set properly; the small holes in the grater A box works well for this task. Stir frequently while the chocolate is melting and do not overheat it.



  • 2½ cups (12½ ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 packed cup (7 ounces) brown sugar
  • Half a cup of heavy cream
  • Half a cup of corn syrup
  • 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (6 ounces finely chopped, 2 ounces grated)


  1. For crust: Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make foil ropes for a 13 x 9-inch baking pan by folding two long sheets of aluminum foil; The first sheet should be 13 inches wide, and the second sheet should be 9 inches wide. Place sheets of aluminum foil in the pan perpendicular to each other, with additional aluminum foil hanging over the edges of the pan. Push the foil into the corners and sides of the pan, smoothing the foil into the pan.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and stir with a rubber spatula until the flour is evenly moistened. Crumble the dough evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan. Using your fingertips and palms, press and spread the dough until it is of even thickness. Using a fork, prick the dough 1 inch apart.
  3. Bake until light golden brown and firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. Using a sturdy metal spatula, press the entire surface of the warm crust to press (this will make cutting the finished bars easier). Let the crust cool until warm, at least 20 minutes.
  4. To fill: Mix all ingredients together in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 236 to 239 degrees (temperature fluctuates), 16 to 20 minutes. Pour over dough and spread until even thickness (mixture will be very hot). Let it cool completely, about an hour and a half.
  5. For chocolate: Microwave chopped chocolate at 50% power, stirring every 15 seconds, until melted but no warmer than body temperature (check by holding the bowl in the palm of your hand), 1 to 2 minutes. Add the grated chocolate and stir until smooth, then return it to the microwave for no more than 5 seconds at a time to finish melting if necessary. Distribute the chocolate evenly over the surface of the filling. Refrigerate the shortbread until the chocolate has set, about 10 minutes.
  6. Using foil overhang, lift shortbread from pan and transfer to a cutting board; Discard foil. Using a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, cut the shortbread in half crosswise to create two 6½ x 9-inch rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half to make four 3½ x 9-inch strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 10 equal pieces. (Biscuits can be stored at room temperature, between layers of parchment paper, for up to one week.)

Sugar sweets

The following recipe was provided by Joe Gatto who said Boston Radio It was stolen from his mother’s recipe card.


Sugar cookies made by Joe Gatto and decorated by his children.  (Courtesy Joe Gatto)
Sugar cookies made by Joe Gatto and decorated by his children. (Courtesy Joe Gatto)

  • ½2 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup of melted butter
  • 1 ½ cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Carefully add one egg at a time and beat until combined. Then add vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and stir until combined.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Drop a teaspoon-sized ball onto the baking sheet. Making sure to leave a space between them. Bake for 10 minutes. They should turn golden brown. When done, take it out of the oven. Do not touch for 3-4 minutes (it will fall apart). Then place it on a cooling rack. After it cools completely, decorate it with anything you like.

This is an excerpt from a segment that aired on December 20, 2021.

This segment aired on December 21, 2023.

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