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Pressure Cooker Pot Roast … The Merlin Menu way!


My Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker.


 I am just loving the newest addition to my kitchen repertoire … an electric pressure cooker!   Ron Merlin of the blog The Merlin Menu  inspired me to overcome my fears of this  (I thought) “dangerous” cooking method.   (Click over to his blog … he has a great giveaway!  Entries open til April 25th.)  Never in a million years would I have envisioned myself loving this style of cooking.   Maybe it’s the “tramatic” childhood memories of my Mother using one and telling us we could not play in the kitchen or run or jump because we might disturb the little metal thingie bouncing on top of the pressure cooker and cause the house to blow up.  Mom, if you’re reading this and shaking your head in disbelief at the story I am telling,  just ask Denise (my sister), she remembers the same thing!  

Pressure cookers have a brand new image and are sleek, modern and safe.  Reading the directions before firing up this appliance, in my opinion, is critical to understanding how to properly and safely use your pressure cooker.  You will have a better understanding of just how your cooker works, maximum limits for different foods and why it is crucial to have the right amount of liquid in the cooker at all times. 

As Ron said … Today, we are tackling an American Sunday staple … the Pot Roast.  Generally a cheaper cut of meat is used and it requires a long cooking time to break down and tenderize.  

For my pressure cooker meal I used a 3 pound chuck roast.  (3 pounds is the maximum recommended for my cooker – read the directions)  I was able to sear the meat in the cooker, remove it and set to sauté for the onions.  I’m all about less dishes to wash!  In FORTY-FIVE minutes you will have a tender, juicy roast with perfectly cooked vegetables, not to mention some of the best gravy you’ve ever had.  

Some of the best pot roast I have ever made.

Pressure Cooker Pot Roast
adapted from a recipe of Ron Merlin
The Merlin Menu 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1     3 lb chuck roast
1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 package brown gravy mix
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 package Italian dressing mix
1 can beef broth
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 beef bouillon cube
salt and pepper to taste
12 small red potatoes, halved
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves

 Turn heat under Pressure Cooker to medium and add olive oil. Sprinkle roast on all sides with salt and pepper. Place into cooker and brown all over, about 5 minutes per side.

Add onion, gravy mix, ranch dressing mix and Italian mix , beef broth, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and beef bouillon cube all over the roast in the cooker. No need to stir, the pressure cooker will distribute everything just fine. Turn heat to high, let liquids come to a boil, and then seal the pressure cooker. Wait until a steady stream of steam is being emitted, and immediately turn to medium low, and begin timing 30 minutes from this point.

 After 30 minutes of a steady stream of steam from the cooker, remove from heat and run cold water over the cooker until pressure recedes. Open cooker, and add bay leaves, carrots and potatoes to the liquid surrounding the roast.

 Place cooker back on stove and bring to high heat and a boil. Seal cooker with cover, wait until it’s emitting a steady stream of steam, turn to medium low and time for 15 more minutes to continue cooking the roast and cooking the carrots and potatoes perfectly.

 After 15 minutes, remove from heat, and let cool down naturally. Remove cover.

 If the “gravy” is too thin, remove the roast and vegetables, and stir in 2 tablespoons corn starch dissolved in 4 tablespoons water,  over medium heat until gravy thickens.   Let roast rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes, and slice and serve with potatoes, carrots and gravy.

 Note from Debbie:  Ron cooks with a stove-top pressure cooker … mine is electric.   Both types produce a wonderful end result.  I love some of the special features on my electric pressure cooker:  automatically starts the timing when the pressure is reached, can sear and sauté right in the unit and when the pre-set cook time is reached it automatically turns the unit to the warm holding temperature.  I found it very easy to adapt the stove-top cooker directions to my electric one.  

Sear the meat in the pressure cooker.

Looks good ... has a nice sear. Now in to the onions.

Set the pressure cooker to "saute" and add the onions.

To the onions add broth, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and bouillon cube.

Add the dry gravy, ranch and Italian dressing mixes. I took Ron at his word and resisted the urge to stir everything together! Add the roast back to the pot and fire up the pressure cooker.

The result ... a "fall-apart" tender, juicy roast.

Chocolate Cake Doughnuts with Mocha Glaze and Crispy, Creamy Doughnuts with Vanilla Bean Glaze

Chocolate Cake Doughnuts with Mocha Glaze and Creamy, Crispy Doughnuts with Vanilla Bean Glaze


In case you haven’t heard … gourmet style doughnuts are to 2010 what cupcakes were for 2009!  The doughnut’s somewhat dull, predictable reputation has undergone a complete makeover from glazed and jelly filled to become the latest trend in the pastry scene.  Artisan and “designer” doughnuts are popping up at local Farmer’s Markets, specialized bakeries and are even being featured on menus in the “white tablecloth” kind of restaurants.  Purveyors of designer donuts have elevated these humble rings of fried dough to a heavenly status.

Dreamy Donuts ran a contest, Australia’s Next Top Donut and the creative winner “designed” a cherry bite doughnut.  This ring of pastry has dark chocolate, coconut and cherries and is drizzled with more dark chocolate!   In the US, the trend has gone even more extreme with flavor combinations like pomegranate thyme, bing cherry balsamic, iced mint mojito and lemon chamomile crème.   One creative baker in Chicago is even adding grape jam to her peanut butter and jelly doughnuts.

So fellow  Bakers, join me in shouting  “Move over cutesy cupcakes … Doughnuts are staging a comeback!”

adapted from a recipe from Dianna’s Desserts
makes 16,  3 inch doughnuts

2   1/2   cups all-purpose flour
1  cup  unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
2  teaspoons baking powder
1/2   teaspoon salt
4  large eggs
1  1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3  cup buttermilk
3  tablespoons butter, melted
vegetable oil for frying  (I used canola oil.)
Mocha glaze (recipe follows)

1.)  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, buttermilk and melted butter.  Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until well blended.  (I mixed this dough with a wooden spoon.  The dough will be stiff and sticky.) Chill at least 1 hour, up to 3 hours.

2.)  Once chilled, scrape the dough onto a well floured surface.  (The dough can be a bit sticky.  The secret is to use only as much flour as necessary to make the dough easy to handle.) Flour your hands and pat the dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick.  Use a  3 inch cookie cutter to cut your doughnut and a 1  inch to make the hole in the center.  (In the pictures you will see that I used a piping tip that was 1 inch to make the center hole!) You can pat the scraps together and cut again.  (I got 15 doughnuts from this recipe.) Place doughnuts on a floured baking sheet to await frying!

3.)  Fill your deep fryer, electric frying pan, wok or frying pan with oil.  Make sure you do not overfill the type of fryer or pan you are using.  (I used an electric frying pan.) Heat oil to approximately 375 degrees.  Place one doughnut at a time onto a spatula and gently place into the oil.  It will fry a bit and slide right off the spatula into the oil.  Do not over crowd your pan as it will lower the oil temperature.  I fried 3 at a time.  Fry the dough, turning once, until puffy and cooked through.  (I found that 2 and 1/2 minutes on each side was perfect for me.  I suggest you fry only only one doughnut at first and “sacrifice” it to check that your doughnut is cooked through.  It is a bit difficult to tell when a chocolate doughnut is done!  You cannot go by the color, you must actually check for “doneness”.)

4.)  When the doughnuts are just cool enough to handle, but still quite warm, dip the top into a warm glaze.  Next, dip immediately into a topping such as sprinkles or nuts.  Place on a rack so the excess glaze can drip.  Let stand until the glaze sets.

Just before you begin to fry the doughnuts, I would suggest you make the glaze.  In a heatproof bowl, combine 6 ounces of choped semi-sweet chocolate (I used dark chocolate chips), 1/2 cup of whipping cream, 1 tablespoon butter, 2 teaspoons light corn syrup and 1 teaspoon of expresso powder.  Place the bowl over a pan with a few inches of water.  Gently heat the water and it will melt the chocolate mixture.  Stir until smooth.  (I very carefully combined the ingredients in a micro-wave bowl and in 30 second increments melted the chocolate mixture, stirring after each 30 seconds in the microwave.)  I like to keep the glaze warm for the best dipping.  If necessary microwave the glaze in short intervals to warm.

Chocolate Cake Doughnut dough ... ready to cover and chill.

Dough has been patted to 1/2 inch thickness and cut to doughnut shape.

Ready to fry!

Place one doughnut ring onto a spatula and gently place in the oil. The dough will begin to fry and slide right off the spatula!

"Sacrifice" the first doughnut you fry! Cut it in half to test for "doneness". Adjust the frying time as necessary.

Fried, glazed and dipped in sprinkles. Almost ready to eat!

adapted from a recipe submitted by Kelly on allrecipes.com
makes 18 doughnuts


2   (.25 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1   1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2  cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup shortening
5 cups all-purpose flour
vegetable oil for frying   (I use canola oil.)

1/3 cup butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
1  1/2 teaspoons vanilla  (I substitited with vanilla bean paste in the same amount.)
4 tablespoons hot water or as needed


  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water.  (I do take the temperature of the water to make sure it is approximately 110 degrees F.) In about 5 minutes you will notice that this mixture is foamy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine together the yeast mixture, milk, sugar, salt, eggs, shortening, and 2 cups of the flour.  At low speed you want to mix for a few minutes.  You could use a wooden spoon if you do not have a mixer.  Beat in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl.   (It took all 5 cups of the flour.) Knead for about 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. (I did use the dough hook on my stand mixer to knead.) Put the dough into a well greased bowl and cover.  You will need to set in a warm place to rise until double.  The dough is ready if you touch it and the indention remains.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently roll  to 1/2 inch thickness.   Use a floured 3 inch cutter to make the doughnut shape.   Use a 1  inch cutter to make the center hole.  Place the doughnuts on a baking sheet  to rise again until double.  Cover loosely with a cloth.
  4. Melt butter in a small pan medium heat.  Stir in confectioners sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Remove from heat, and add one tablespoon of hot water at a time, stirring until the icing is somewhat thin, but not watery.   Set aside.
  5. Heat oil (I used canola oil in an electric skillet) in a deep-fryer or large heavy skillet to approximately 350 degrees F  (My temperature was closer to 360 degrees F).   Slide doughnuts into the hot oil using a  spatula.  Turn doughnuts over as they rise to the surface.  Fry doughnuts on each side until golden brown. (This took about 1 and 1/2 minutes per side.) Remove from hot oil, to drain on a wire rack.  Dip doughnuts into the glaze while still hot, and set onto wire racks to drain off excess.  Keep a cookie sheet or tray under racks for easier clean up.

Dough has been mixed and its ready to cover and let double in size.

The dough is ready when you touch it and the indention remains.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll to 1/2 inch thickness.

Cut doughnut shape with floured cutters. Let doughnuts sit out, loosely covered and rise again until double in size.

Ready to eat!

I substituted vanilla bean paste for the vanilla extract in the glaze. In this picture you can really see the beautiful specks of vanilla bean seed in the glaze.