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Archive for February, 2011

RECIPE: Chocolate Fondue

February is National Fondue Month, but chocolate fondue is a dessert that can be used to celebrate any occasion. It’s fun served to a group; it’s romantic enjoyed by two.

Chocolate fondue is easy prepare, so why don’t we have it more often? You don’t need a special fondue pot: You can use a standard sauce pot and a portable burner to keep the chocolate warm. However, long-handled fondue forks are needed.

A fondue sidebar: Back in the day, we were big fondue fans, hosting frequent fondue parties. We owned the specialty pots dictated by convention for each type of fondue:

  • Cheese fondue was served in a wide, short ceramic dish with a handle (i.e., a pot) that made dipping into the bubbly cheese easy
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    We’re trading in our sterno-heated brazier
    for this electric fondue pot from Rival.

  • Beef fondue was served in a taller metal pot with a narrow mouth, so the cooking oil didn’t spatter and the fondue forks could rest against the mouth while the meat cooked
  • Chocolate fondue required a much smaller than either of the main course pots
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    The cheese and chocolate, and the oil for the beef, were heated on the stove. They were brought to the table and placed atop a brazier, a portable metal frame with an underneath heating source: alcohol, Sterno or butane (or the original, less effective heating source, a tea candle).

    Today’s portable electric burners and electric fondue pots are a better solution, but for the electric cord and an extension cord trailing over the dining table.

    We’re actually moving our fondue party into the 20th century, donating our three fondue pots to a good cause and purchasing one electric pot.

    Back to the chocolate fondue:

    Chef Trey Foshee of George’s at the Cove in La Jolla, California, goes a step beyond the traditional chocolate fondue recipe and adds creamy mascarpone cheese (a key ingredient of tiramisu).

    Thanks to Chef Foshee and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board for the delicious recipe.

  • Chocolate Mascarpone Fondue
  • Classic Chocolate Fondue and Fondue History
  • White Chocolate Fondue
  • Easy Chocolate Fondue
  • Spicy Chocolate Fondue
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    ACADEMY AWARDS: A Themed Cheese Board As Oscars Food

    What the king ate after the speech:
    A Stilton from purveyor Neal’s Yard. Photo
    courtesy Whole Foods Market.

     

    We’ve received dozens of recipes for themed cocktail recipes for Oscar parties. For example, combine gin with Earl Grey Tea, and call it The King’s Speech cocktail.

    Fatigued at the idea of 12 different “Best Picture” cocktails, we’ve published just two over the past month.

    But the idea of an Oscar-themed cheese board caught our interest. Here are suggestions from ArtisanalCheese.com, one of the finest online cheese purveyors, on how to create an Academy Awards cheese board:

  • The Fighter: Aged Roquefort (it’s a salty punch)
  • The Kids Are All Right: Goat cheese (goats are kids, too, and goat cheese is always all right)
  • The King’s Speech: Cheddar, Stilton or Wensleydale, iconic English cheeses
  • The Social Network: Any mixed milk cheese—two or more milks connecting socially
  • Toy Story 3: Flosserkäse, an aged Swiss cheese with woody notes
  • True Grit: A washed rind cheese like Epoisses or Livarot, a challenging stinker for turophiles with true grit
  • Winter’s Bone: Comte, the great Swiss mountain cheese, as complex as nature
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    Discover the world of fine cheese in our Cheese Section and Cheese Glossary.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Baking Soda, Baking Powder

    Yesterday someone told us she had baked a cake recipe from one of her favorite authorities, and it was “inedible.” We asked to see the recipe.

    While she is an experienced baker, in her rush she grabbed baking soda instead of baking powder. It’s an easy “oops.” Some recipes use both leveners, but if only one is called for, be sure that it’s the right one. Baking calls for very precise chemistry.

    So what’s the difference between baking soda and baking powder?

    Both baking powder and baking soda are chemical leavening agents that cause batters to rise when baked, by enlarging the bubbles (gases) in the batter. Sometimes you want a little rise (in a cookie, for example), sometimes a lot (in a fluffy layer cake).

  • Baking soda, also known as bicarbonate of soda and by its chemical name, sodium bicarbonate, is about four times as strong as baking powder. It’s used to neutralize the acid in recipes that contain an acidic ingredient (for example, brown sugar, buttermilk, chocolate, citrus juice, chocolate, fruit, honey, maple syrup, molasses, sour cream, vinegar and yogurt.) The acid-neutralizing quality is what makes baking soda, dissolved in a glass of water, a cure for upset stomaches.
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    Check that label twice to be sure you’re
    adding the right leavener. Photo courtesy
    Clabber Girl.

  • Baking powder consists of baking soda plus cream of tartar (and/or sodium aluminum sulfate, both “acid salts”) and cornstarch. The cornstarch absorbs moisture so the chemical reaction does not take place until a liquid is added to the batter. Baking powder creates a better rise than baking soda. Nearly all baking powder made today is “double acting,” containing two different types of acids that react at different times and make the baked good fluffier. The first acid creates gases when mixed with the liquid in the recipe, the second type creates gases when the batter is exposed to the heat of the oven.
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    Using the wrong leavener can cause bitterness and/or toughness and a compact (not fluffy) crumb. Once you’ve made the mistake (and we did, when we started to bake), you’ll never do it again. We still keep checking back and forth from the recipe to the can or box: Soda, soda, check. Soda, soda, check. Only then do we add the leavener to the batter.

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    COOKING VIDEO: For Mardi Gras Food, Make A Gumbo

     

    You don’t have to head to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras on March 8th.

    Celebrate at home with a special Mardi Gras gumbo—a flavorful layering of chicken, andouille sausage, crawfish, okra, diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, cayenne, fresh parsley and white rice. It has a chicken stock base and is thickened with a roux (fat and flour—the okra also helps to thicken). Gumbo recipes traditionally include filé powder (pronounced fee-LAY), which is ground sassafras leaves. If you don’t have any, you can skip it.

    Dress up in costume (here’s some inspiration). Wear ropes of beads (they’re unisex during Mardi Gras).

    Don’t limit the festivities to your immediate household. Since a pot of gumbo serves a crowd, have a Mardi Gras party. Ask participants to bring appropriate desserts and drinks.

    And tell everyone to bring their favorite jazz recordings. Give a Louis Armstrong CD or an inexpensive MP3 download as a prize for best costume.

    Back to the gumbo:

    Gumbo, an African word for okra, is a Creole soup originally thickened with okra pods (the French added the roux). Okra came to America with the slave trade and was introduced into Southern cuisine by African cooks.

    As with all recipes, there are regional variations and different styles of gumbo. If you’ve never made a gumbo, see how easy it is in this cooking video with caterer Shelly Everett, a.k.a. The Gourmet Angel:

       

       

  • See the different types of soups and the history of soup in our beautiful Soup Glossary.
  • Coming shortly: a Mardi Gras salad with Bourbon-soaked raisins and glazed spicy pecan pieces.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Use Unsalted Butter For Cooking And Baking

    Go for the unsalted butter. Photo by
    Kasey Albano | SXC.

     

    Some recipes call for salted butter, others for unsalted butter. Does it make a difference which you use?

    Yes, and the answer is that unsalted butter produces more consistent results.

    The salt content of butter varies from brand to brand. There can be as little as 1/4 teaspoon salt per four-ounce stick of butter, or as much as 3/4 teaspoon. You can’t tell by reading package ingredients.

    Recipes that specify salted butter use less added table salt. Recipes with unsalted butter make up the difference with added salt.

    But in order to make recipes consistent—especially recipes in which the amount of salt can make a difference, such as delicate cookies and cakes—it’s better to use unsalted butter and add a consistent amount of salt each time.

    To convert salted butter to unsalted in a recipe, do what the dairies do and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt per four ounces of butter.

  • Check out the different types of butter and butter sauces in our Butter Glossary.
  • The history of butter (like yogurt, an accident).
  • Compound butter recipes (so many different ways to enjoy butter!).
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    What happened to “sweet butter?”

    This term is often used by consumers to refer to butter that has no salt. But “sweet butter” is a misnomer, because any butter made with sweet cream (instead of sour cream) is sweet butter. The appropriate terms to use are unsalted butter or sweet cream butter; but the latter has disappeared from common use. Stick to unsalted.

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