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Archive for January 28, 2015

TIP OF THE DAY: Get Some Gourmet Crackers

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Dr. Kracker is packed with different types of
seeds: good looking and good for you! Photo
by Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE.

 

Soup and crackers was a popular dish at my mother’s table: animal crackers, oyster crackers, Royal Lunch Milk Crackers*, saltines, Uneeda Biscuits* (water biscuits) and Ritz crackers made frequent appearances. Our favorites were Nabisco’s Triscuits and Stoned Wheat Thins, imported from Canada.

The gourmet cracker market didn’t exist then. Sesame seed breadsticks were a rare specialty that we had to seek out in Italian markets in Little Italy. The handful of gourmet food stores and cheese stores sold the bland yet purportedly elegant Carr’s Water Biscuits, imported from England, and long flat rectangles of Middle Eastern lavasch.

But today, there are more fancy crackers than we could desire, serving up interesting flavor profiles and alluring appearances. You can find some in supermarkets, some at natural grocers like Whole Foods and some at specialty food stores. Look for:

  • Asian rice crackers in many flavors, which happen to be gluten free (we especially like San-J’s Black Sesame Crackers).
  • Super-seeded crackers, like those from Crunchmaster, Dr. Kracker and Mary’s Gone Crackers.
  • Olive oil crackers like taralli from Italy, available plain or flavored.
  • Gourmet flatbreads like Lesley Stowe’s Raincoast Crisps and assorted gems from Rustic Bakery, pricey but worth it.
  • Flatbreads/crispbreads like La Panzanella’s Croccantini and Primizie, delicious and more affordable.
  • Fricco, an Italian cheese cracker now baked in the U.S. by Kitchen Table Bakers, made 100% from cheese so gluten-free and carb-free.
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    We could go on and on, but the tip of the day is to go on a cracker hunt and find some new and exciting varieties. Look for Daelia’s, Effie’s and 34 Degrees, among others.

    Then, enjoy them with a bowl of soup, a plate of cheese or a craft beer, with or without an accompanying spread.

    *Uneeda Biscuits and Royal Lunch crackers were Nabisco products that were discontinued after Kraft Foods acquired Nabisco.

     
      

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    VALENTINE GIFT: Mini Cupcakes From Baked By Melissa

    These itty bitty cupcakes (about half the size of the photo) will delight kids and adults equally.

    The Valentine Collection from Baked By Melissa—a pioneer in tiny cupcakes—includes three varieties. Packaged in a gift box with a pink ribbon, the Valentine Collection includes:

  • White Chocolate Pretzel Cupcakes: white vanilla cake, Bavarian cream stuffing, vanilla icing, white chocolate covered pretzel and chocolate drizzle topping.
  • Red Velvet Pretzel Cupcakes: Red velvet cake, cream cheese icing, milk chocolate covered pretzel and chocolate drizzle topping.
  • Peanut Butter Pretzel Cupcakes: chocolate cake, peanut butter stuffing, chocolate icing, dark chocolate pretzel and chocolate drizzle topping.
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    The round ball at the top is a chocolate-covered pretzel, adding crunch and a hint of salt to the sweet cupcakes. The cupcakes are bite-size: slightly larger than the diameter of a quarter, one or two bites.

    In the words of Melissa, a little cupcake equals a lot of love.

    The cupcakes, which are kosher-certified by OK, can be shipped nationwide and can be pre-ordered starting today. A 25-piece gift box is $25, plus shipping.

       

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    Shown here about twice the actual size, the cupcakes have the diameter of a quarter. Photo courtesy Baked By Melissa.

     
    To place an order, head to BakeByMelissa.com. For Valentine’s Day delivery, shipping orders must be placed by 3 p.m. on Friday, February 13th.

     

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    The Valentine gift box, tied with a pink ribbon. Photo courtesy Baked By Melissa.

     

    CUPCAKE HISTORY

    Before the advent of muffin tins, cupcakes were baked in individual tea cups or ramekins. The first reference to the miniature cakes dates to 1796, when a recipe for “cake to be baked in small cups” appeared in the cookbook, “American Cookery.” The earliest documentation of the term “cupcake” was in “Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook” in 1828. [Source]

    Cupcakes were convenient because they cooked much faster than larger cakes. It took a long time to bake a cake in a hearth oven; cupcakes baked in a fraction of the time.

    Muffin tins became widely available around the turn of the 20th century, and offered new convenience to bakers. Paper and foil liners were created for easier removal of the cupcakes from the pan.

     

    They evolved into children’s party fare, but in the last decade have taken a more sophisticated turn. First, some younger couples began to choose “cupcake trees” instead of conventional wedding cakes. This prompted a flurry of cupcake articles and recipes, and ultimately the opening of boutique cupcake bakeries nationwide, offering everyday treats.

    Each Baked By Melissa cupcake has 70-90 calories, but that’s a workable daily treat. An average-size cupcake from Crumbs, Magnolia, Sprinkles and the like will run you 450 calories or so (here’s a calorie comparison).

      

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