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Archive for April 1, 2015

FOOD HOLIDAY: National Sourdough Bread Day

April 1st is National Sourdough Bread Day. Sourdough is an ancient bread made by a long fermentation of dough, using naturally occurring lactobacilli bacteria and wild yeasts (other types of breads use cultivated yeasts, which became available only in the 19th century).

In comparison with breads made with cultivated yeast, sourdough usually has a mildly sour taste and aroma, the result of the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli.

The preparation of sourdough begins with pre-fermenting, using a “starter” made from flour and water (the starter is also known as levain, the chief, chef or head). It can be a fluid batter or a stiff dough, as the ratio of water to flour varies by baker.

The starter helps to develop the uniquely tart flavor of sourdough bread. Starters are maintained for years, even generations. The colony of bacteria and yeast inside the dough is kept alive by the baker, who needs only a piece of it to bake a new batch of bread.

If you bake bread in a bread machine, note that the rise time of most sourdough starters is longer than that of breads made with baker’s yeasts. Thus, sourdough typically doesn’t work in a bread machine; you need to use conventional baking techniques.

   

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Sourdough bread baked at Lafayette Restaurant | NYC.

ANCIENT BREAD

One of the oldest sourdough breads was found in a Swiss excavation; the site dates to 3700 B.C.E. But the origin of sourdough fermentation is likely thousands of years older than that, originating in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia.

Bread production has relied on the use of sourdough as a leavening agent for most of human history (the alternative to leavened bread was flatbread, such as lavosch and tortillas). The development and use of [cultivated] baker’s yeast as a leavening agent dates back only 150 years.

Sourdough starter from a prior batch is used to create the new batch. Sourdough remained the usual form of leavening in European into the Middle Ages. Then, it was replaced by barm, the yeast-laden foam that forms in the process of brewing alcohol (for bread, the barm typically came from beer brewing). Centuries later, scientists learned to culture yeast, so bakers no longer had to rely on barm.

 

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Sourdough starter. You can also purchase ready-made starter. Photo courtesy FoodForMyFamily.com.

 

SOURDOUGH COMES TO AMERICA

French bakers brought sourdough techniques to Northern California during the Gold Rush (1848–1855), and the bread remains part of the culture of San Francisco, where it has been in continuous production there since 1849. Some bakeries can trace their starters back to those days!

In English-speaking countries, where wheat-based breads predominate, sourdough is no longer the standard method for bread leavening. It was gradually replaced, first by the use of barm from beer making and then by cultured yeasts.

Thanks to the artisan food movement in the late 20th century in the U.S., it has undergone a revival [Source]. Now, most of us can enjoy it whenever we like—for toast, sandwiches and in the bread basket.

If you haven’t had sourdough bread recently, today’s the day!

 

Check out the different types of breads in our Bread Glossary.

  

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RECIPE: Grilled Cheese Benedict

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A yummy mash-up of Eggs Benedict and grilled cheese. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk
Marketing Board.

 

April is National Grilled Cheese Month. There are got lots of grilled cheese recipes on TheNibble.com, but here’s something new: a mash-up of a grilled cheese sandwich with Eggs Benedict.

The recipe is from the Grilled Cheese Academy, which has dozens of amazing grilled cheese sandwich recipes made with Wisconsin cheese.

RECIPE: GRILLED CHEESE BENEDICT

Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 slices Canadian bacon
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 English muffins, split
  • 4 tablespoons Sharp Cheddar cheese spread, at room
    temperature
  • 4 slices Gouda cheese
  • 4 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Optional garnish: minced chives
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT 3-4 quarts water to just below the boiling point. Add the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Gently stir the water and lower the heat so water is simmering.

    2. CRACK the eggs into the water one at a time and poach gently for 4-5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and season with salt and pepper to taste. As the eggs cook…

    3. HEAT a griddle or skillet over medium heat and fry the Canadian bacon until lightly browned. Remove from the griddle and set the bacon aside.

    4. ADD 1 tablespoon of butter to skillet. Spread the cut side of each English muffin’s bottom half with 1 tablespoon Sharp Cheddar cheese spread. Place in the heated skillet and top each half with 1 slice Gouda, about 1 ounce spinach, 2 slices Canadian bacon and 1 slice tomato.

    5. COOK over medium heat until the cheese is melted. Remove to a plate and top each with a poached egg. Serve open-faced with remaining muffin halves, toasted and buttered, on the side.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Dessert Pasta

    Most people think of pasta as a savory recipe. But the noodles themselves are very versatile. Made with flour, water and egg, they can be cooked for dessert as well as the main course.

    While not an April Fool joke, it seems like the right dessert for April Fool’s Day.

    The recipe was created by Michael Stambaugh of the El Conquistador Resort in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a recipe contest held by the National Pasta Association and the Culinary Institute of America. It won third place.

    After you master this recipe, you may develop your own ideas for variations on the theme of dessert lasagna.

    We’ve got 11 more recipes for dessert pasta. Take a look.

    RECIPE: DESSERT LASAGNA

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 4 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 8 kiwis, peeled
  •    

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    Fruit lasagna for dessert! Photo courtesy National Pasta Association.

  • 4 cups strawberries, washed and trimmed, 8 berries reserved for garnish
  • 4 cups blackberries, washed
  • 1/2 cup toasted, sliced almonds
  • Garnish: mint sprigs
  •  

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    If you don’t like one of the fruits in the recipe, pick another to purée. Photo courtesy
    Green Giant Fresh

     

    Preparation

    1. COOK the pasta according to package directions, substituting 2 tablespoons of sugar for the salt. Rinse, drain and set aside.

    2. STIR together the ricotta cheese and ½ cup sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside.

    3. PURÉE 4 kiwis with 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor. Transfer the purée to a bowl and set aside. Rinse the processor bowl.

    4. PURÉE half the strawberries with 2 tablespoons sugar in the food processor. Strain the purée into a bowl and set aside. Rinse the processor bowl.

    5. PURÉE half the blackberries with 2 tablespoons sugar in the food processor. Strain the purée and set aside.

    6. SLICE the remaining kiwis into ¼-inch thick rounds. Slice the strawberries into 1/8-inch thick pieces. Slice the blackberries in half.

     

    To Assemble The Lasagna

    1. RESERVE 1/4 cup of each of the purées to use as a garnish.

    2. COVER the bottom of a 9-inch-by-13-inch glass baking pan with 3 lasagna noodles. Spoon 1/3 of the ricotta on top and spread it evenly.

    3. POUR the kiwi purée over the cheese and arrange the kiwi slices on top of the purée. Lay 3 more lasagna noodles on top and cover with 1/2 the remaining cheese.

    4. POUR the strawberry purée over the cheese and sprinkle with sliced strawberries. Lay 3 more lasagna noodles on top and cover with the remaining cheese. Pour the blackberrys purée over the cheese and sprinkle with blackberries. Top with a final layer of pasta. Cover tightly with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

    5. TO SERVE: Sprinkle the lasagna with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and with the toasted almonds. Cut into 8 rectangles and use a spatula to set the pieces on dessert plates. Decorate the plates with dots of the reserved purées. Garnish each piece of lasagna with a strawberry and a sprig of mint.

      

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    APRIL FOOL’S DAY: Faux Cookie Dough Dip

    This is not a cookie dough dip, ready to be devoured.

    It has the texture of homemade cookie dough, and it does have chocolate chips. But it’s actually a better-for-you chickpea dip in disguise.

    April Fool!

    Thanks to our friends at Parents.com, who sent the recipe our way. Whip it up and see how many people you can fool.

    RECIPE: FAUX COOKIE DOUGH DIP

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups chickpeas (canned or cooked from scratch)
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (look for a natural, unsweetened variety)
  • 3 tablespoons oats
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • For dipping: apple slices
  •  

    bean-dip-like-cookie-dough-MarkMantegna-FamilyFun-230

    Not chocolate chip cookie dough! Photo courtesy Parents.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. BLEND in a food processor the chickpeas, brown sugar, peanut butter, oats, milk, vanilla, salt and baking soda.

    2. FOLD in the chocolate chips. Serve with apple slices or other fresh fruit. And don’t tell anyone until they’re finished eating. Then you can say: April Fool: It was bean dip!

    The recipe, developed by Katie Higgins of ChocoalteCoveredKatie.com was originally published in the April 2014 issue of FamilyFun.

    Here’s last year’s trompe-l’oeil April Fool recipe, “Grilled Cheese Sandwich & Tomato Soup.”
     
    APRIL FOOL’S DAY HISTORY

    The origin of April Fools’ Day, sometimes called All Fools’ Day, is obscure. The most accepted explanation traces it to 16th century France.

    Until 1564, the Julian calendar, which observed the beginning of the New Year in April, was in use. According to The Oxford Companion to the Year, King Charles IX then declared that France would begin using the Gregorian calendar, which shifted New Year’s Day to January first.

    Some people continued to use the Julian Calendar, and were mocked as fools. They were invited to bogus parties, sent on a fool’s errand (looking for things that don’t exist) and other pranks.

    The French call April first Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish. French children sometimes tape a picture of a fish on the back of their schoolmates, crying “Poisson d’Avril” when the prank is discovered.

    What a fish has to do with April Fool’s Day is not clear. But in the name of a kinder, gentler world, we propose eliminating this holiday. (Source: Wikipedia)
      

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