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Archive for March, 2008

GOURMET GIVEAWAY: Win A Key Lime Tart & Tostitos

Key Lime Tart
This tasty key lime tart could be yours.
  We just selected the winner of last week’s Gourmet Giveaway, who is now the proud owner of a delicious Easter ham (at least, it will soon be on its way to her). So if you’d like to win the Key lime tart at the left—which, owing to the strangeness of Easter falling this Sunday, will be your post-Easter gift from THE NIBBLE—enter this week’s Gourmet Giveaway and answer a few trivia questions about limes. The Q&A isn’t exactly trivial: You’ll learn fun facts about the tart green fruit (although some varieties are as sweet as oranges), without which there would be no Margaritas, either.

There’s a special bonus this week: 10 MORE PRIZES! In honor of National Chip & Dip Day, March 23 (coincidentally, that’s Easter Sunday this year), Tostitos® is giving ten lucky winners second prizes of Tostitos Chips & Dip gift sets.

So, if you’ve refrained from entering the Gourmet Giveaway in the past because you think your chances of winning the one big prize aren’t so great: Now we may pull your name out of the hat (actually, it’s a computerized random selector) for one of 11 prizes. See our favorite fruits in the Fruits & Nuts Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine…or check out the chips in our Snacks Section.

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Coconut Torte Day

March 13th, Coconut Torte Day, begs the question: What is a torte? Is it just a pretentious word for cake, something to make you think the torte is more special than an everyday cake?

Nein, mein freund. While torte is the German word for what the British (and Americans) call cake and the French call gâteau, they don’t refer to identical confections.

Different cooking traditions led to different styles of baking.

  • British cakes, German tortes and Italian tortas are generally hardier creations than delicate French gâteaux.
  • The French, those keen culinarians, went for light, rich, layered affairs stuffed with custard, whipped cream or butter cream, frosted, and decorated with fresh fruit—oh la la, but very perishable.
  • While British culinary tradition created sturdier, longer-lasting pound cakes and fruit cakes, tortes are rich, dense cakes made with many eggs and little or no flour, using ground nuts (and sometimes breadcrumbs) for texture.
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    A torte is thus easily recognizable because it’s one layer that’s shorter than a typical cake layer, often no more than 2-1/2 inches high because there’s not much, if any, flour to rise. Flourless cakes are tortes. The crumb is denser than the airy crumb of a layer cake; it’s similar to the density of a Bundt cake.

    And a torte is wider than a cake—usually 10 to 12 inches in diameter compared to the typical 8-to-9-inch cake. That’s to compensate for the shorter height, so each short wedge will be a good portion.
     
    KNOW YOUR TORTES

    Alas, many people, including some bakers, use terms incorrectly. The following may be called “torte” by their makers and/or sellers, but are not tortes:

  • Bundt cakes
  • Layer cakes
  • Sheet cakes
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    Remember these words: one short, dense, round layer.

     

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    Coconut Torte

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    A torte can be plain or iced. Top: Plain coconut torte from SweetSmarts.com; it’s also sugar-free. Center: Key Lime Coconut Torte from Pixilated Crumb. Bottom: Flourless almond and coconut torte from Food52.com.

     
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CAKES IN THE NIBBLE’S TASTY CAKE GLOSSARY.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Irish Cream Icing

    White Chocolate Cake
    Make a white chocolate frosting with Irish cream liqueur. Photo courtesy of Equinox Maple Flakes.
     

    Celebrate the 17th with Irish Cream Icing. You can bake or buy brownies or a loaf cake and add this tasty homemade topping. Take 1/3 cup Irish cream liqueur (such as Bailey’s) and 8 ounces of top-quality white chocolate. Buy a good chocolate bar instead of baking chips, which can be vegetable oil instead of real chocolate. You can buy Green & Black’s, one of our favorites (it’s organic, too), readily available at Whole Foods Markets and elsewhere. In a small pan, bring the liqueur to a slow boil; then remove from the heat and whisk in the chopped white chocolate until it’s completely melted and the icing is smooth. Refrigerate until it becomes thick enough to spread, stirring occasionally. Spread the icing over the brownies or cake. Keep refrigerated until 30 minutes before serving.

    – Make Irish Coffee to go with your dessert.
    – Find more cake recipes in the Gourmet Cakes Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

     

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    TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Baked Scallops Day

    We love scallops, so National Baked Scallops Day isn’t a hard day for us to fit in to our eating schedule. Scallops are found in all the world’s oceans. They are a member of the oyster family, Ostreida, and have the familiar central adductor muscle that attaches their two shells. The adductor muscle of scallops is larger and more developed than that of oysters, because the little dudes are active swimmers. Not just content to hang around at the bottom of the ocean, waiting to be scooped up, they exercise their inner Michael Phelps (or does Michael Phelps exercise his inner scallop?) by rapidly opening and closing their shells. Another fun fact: Scallops are hermaphrodites, and switch sexes. Both sexes produce roe. So, here’s an example in the animal kingdom where dads can give birth (if you call expelling your roe into the water, where it is fertilized by by some other scallop’s expelled spermatozoa, and then sinks to the bottom of the ocean to hatch, giving birth).   scallops-260.jpg
    Bake me tonight.
    Scallops were traditionally caught by dredging (dragging) the seabed, but scuba divers now catch the quality ones—hence the term “diver scallops” or “dayboat scallops” (the divers go out just for the day) on menus of better restaurants. If you saw or read “The Perfect Storm,” you understand that seafood can spend two or more weeks on ice in the hold of a boat before getting to port. Diver scallops get to market quickly, and thus are so much are fresher and tastier. Now, onto baked scallops: Perhaps the most famous baked scallop dish is Coquilles Saint-Jacques, translated as Saint James’s scallops, a rich mixture of butter, cream, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese, baked in a scallop shell. The scallop shell is the emblem of Saint James the Greater. The saint’s association with the scallop shell is based on a legend that he once rescued a knight covered in scallops, or alternatively, that while his remains were being transported to Spain from Jerusalem, the horse of a knight fell into the water and emerged covered in scallop shells. As a result, Medieval Christians making the pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, often wore a scallop shell symbol on their clothing. You can easily find a delicious recipe for Coquilles Saint-Jacques online (we use the one from Mastering The Art Of French Cooking by Julia Child. It’s easy to make—pick up the ingredients and enjoy it tonight. You can buy the scallop shells in any cookware store (including chain stores), and they’re useful for serving other foods, from desserts to hors d’oeuvres (olives, for example). And of course, you can serve the dish on any plate—scallop shells not required!

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Callie’s Southern Biscuits

    Country ham biscuits
    Can’t you taste the goodness of Callie’s Country Ham Biscuits? The Cheese and Cinnamon are also stunning.
      She catered Reese Witherspoon’s and Ryan Philippe’s wedding, and other catering clients have been clamoring for her country ham-stuffed biscuits for years. She couldn’t hand over the secret recipe, of course, so Charleston, South Carolina caterer Callie White did the next best thing: She charged her daughter with opening up a division to sell the bodacious biscuits online. Now, there’s no need for you to imagine what super Southern biscuits taste like. Buttermilk, cheese, cinnamon and the country ham biscuits that started it all will come to you. Get yourself a variety pack for Easter dinner or breakfast. Send some to Mom for Mother’s Day. Each biscuit is handmade with just a bowl and no other equipment (save for the oven, of course). Callie says that the secret to making a great biscuit is to not over-mix the dough. Each batch is mixed by hand, and the expert biscuit makers know by the feel when the dough is ready. It’s art, it’s science, it’s delicious! Read the full review. Visit more of our favorite breads and biscuits in the Gourmet Bread Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
    And here’s our Question Of The Week (you’ll find a new one each week on TheNibble.com home page—we usually don’t post them here): Why do the British refer to cookies and crackers as biscuits? It’s because the word biscuit comes from the Latin bis coctum, which means “twice cooked.” This is manifested in biscotti, the hard Italian cookies which are baked twice. Americans get “cookie” from the Dutch word, “koekje,” which means “little cake.” Both terms arrived in America in the 1600s, with their respective groups of Colonists. According to The Encyclopedia of American American Food and Drink, the first American usage of “biscuit” as a soft bread was in 1818, in the Journal of Travels in the United States of North America, and in Lower Canada, by John Palmer.By 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defined a biscuit as “a composition of flour and butter, made and baked in private families.” These small, puffy leavened breads were called soda biscuits or baking-soda biscuits, to differentiate them from the unleavened cracker type of biscuit. These bread-biscuit recipes are ubiquitous in 19th-century cookbooks. In addition to serving up plenty of soda biscuits, Southerners also developed the beaten biscuit, first mentioned in print in 1853. In 1930, General Mills introduced Bisquick, the first packaged biscuit mix. And the rest, as they say, is history. Pass the butter, please.

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