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Archive for October 23, 2015

HALLOWEEN: Best Chocolate Witch

Chocolate Witch

Bewitching in dark or milk chocolate. Photo
courtesy Li-Lac Chocolates.

 

We’ve been looking around, and think we’ve found the best chocolate witch for Halloween. Eight inches tall and weighing in at 14 ounces of solid chocolate, the Big Halloween Witch from Li-Lac Chocolates is our favorite this season.

There are many nifty chocolate molds around, but we like the garments and expression of this particular paranormal practitioner of magic. With her crooked smile, flowing robe and pointed hat, carrying her broomstick and jack-o’-lantern, she’s almost too cool to eat.

The chocolate witch is made fresh to order in milk or dark chocolate, and is certified kosher (dairy) by OU.

Get yours at Li-LacChocolates.com, or at the company’s retail stores in New York City.

The 90-year-old chocolatier has been delighting New Yorkers for generations. We love to sneak in for a bite; or, in the case of this witch, many bites.

 
THE HISTORY OF TRICK OR TREATNG

“Guising” traditions began as a Christian practice in the Middle Ages, when children and sometimes poor adults would dress up in the costumes and go around door to door during Hallowmas (All Saints Day, November 1st, the day after Halloween). They begged for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers for the dead (the latter called “souling”).

That tradition was ported to the U.S., with children going door to door for treats in exchange for reciting a poem or singing a song. Bonfires, a European tradition on All Hallows Eve (Halloween), were also held.
 
The night before Halloween came to be called Mischief Night, when the neighborhood youth would sow some wild oats. Front gates were removed, windows were soaped and outhouses were tipped over [source].

The term “trick or treat” didn’t emerge until the 1920s. The first printed reference is found in a newspaper from 1927 [source].

While today the “trick” portion of trick-or-treat is usually an idle threat, it began with youthful participants who insistently rang doorbells and promised worse (knocking over trash cans, sticking a pin in the bell so keep it ringing, papering the house) if they did not get a treat. The residents paid the price in candy or other treats, and the costumed visitors went on to the next house.

Individual trick-or-treating evolved in some locales in the 1960s and 1970s, into community events for the whole family, house parties for kids, and other activities that circumvented the need to send children to strange houses (and the reverse, to avoid having to opening one’s door to strangers).

 

THE HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN CANDY

For hundreds of years, Halloween came and went with no candy! Costumed children going door-to-door received everything from homemade cookies and cake to fruit, nuts, coins and toys.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that candy manufacturers began to promote their products for Halloween.

In the 1960s, following a hoax that miscreants had inserted pieces of glass into apples and other treats, factory-made, wrapped candy became the only acceptable treat to hand out. Producers of the most popular candies made miniatures, making a household’s candy giveaway more affordable.

Here’s some trivia about popular Halloween treats:

 

Chocolate Pumpkins

Chocolate pumpkins from Woodhouse Chocolate.

 

  • Candy corn: Candy corn was invented in the 1880s in Philadelphia by George Renninger of the Wunderle Candy Company. He didn’t trademark it, so other companies produced their own versions. The Goelitz Confectionery Company (now the Jelly Belly Candy Co.), has been making candy corn since 1898.
  • Hershey’s: The first Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar was produced in 1900; Hershey’s Kisses followed in 1907. Chocolate, which had previously had been a luxury item, became affordable for average Americans.
  • Reese’s: In 1917, Harry Burnett Reese joined the Hershey Company as a dairyman and later worked in the factory. He began making candies in his home basement, and ultimately left Hershey to built his own factory. He invented in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in 1928. Full circle: In 1963, Hershey acquired the H.B Reese Candy Company.
  • Mars: In 1923, a Minnesota candy maker, Frank Mars, launched the Milky Way Bar. It was followed by Snickers in 1930 (reportedly named for his favorite horse) and Three Musketeers in 1932. Frank’s son Forrest Mars joined the company, had a falling out with his father, relocated to England and created the Mars Bar.
  • Kit Kat: The Kit Kat Bar first appeared in England in 1935, known as Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp. In 1937 it was rechristened the Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp said to be named after a venerable London literary and political group, the Kit-Cat (or Kit Kat) Club. The brand was acquired by Switzerland-based Nestlé, which debuted the Nestlé Crunch Bar in the late 1930s.
  • M&Ms: In 1941, Forrest Mars launched M&Ms. He had anticipated that World War II would engender a cocoa shortage, so he partnered with Bruce Murrie, son of a Hershey executive, to get access to a sufficient supply. M&Ms stands for Mars & Murrie.
  •  
    [Source]

      

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    PRODUCT: Pumpkin Design Loaf Pan

    pumpkin-loaf-pan-nordicware-ws-230

    This Nordic Ware loaf pan makes plain cake look lovely. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

    With the disclosure that we love to eat cake, and can enjoy a slice a day, we actually prefer loaf cakes to elaborately iced and filled cakes. We can have our cake and eat it, too, because we convince ourself that a loaf cake is better for you.

    (In fact, because there’s no extra sugar- and butter-laden filling and frosting, it is a bit better. A bit.)

    That’s why we allowed ourself to buy another loaf pan. This intricately sculpted pan adds autumnal beauty to a banana bread, carrot cake, chocolate loaf, pound cake, pumpkin bread, spice bread, zucchini cake….

    Not to mention, cornbread soda bread and other homemade loaves.

    All you have to do is buy the pan and pour in the batter. The beautiful Nordic Ware pan—an exclusive to Williams-Sonoma—will take over.

     

    You can top the cake with a simple glaze or a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, but we think the plain relief of pumpkins and vines is lovelier.

    The pumpkin loaf pan is made of durable cast-aluminum, which ensures even baking. The nonstick finish guarantees your cake will release easily, and clean-up will be a breeze.

    Get yours at Williams-Sonoma stores or online.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Boston Cream Pie

    October 23rd is National Boston Cream Pie Day, but don’t let the name fool you. Boston Cream Pie is a cake: two layers of buttery sponge cake sandwiched with crème pâtissière (pastry cream or vanilla cream filling) or custard filling, and topped with a glaze of chocolate ganache.

    The modern Boston Cream Pie was created for the opening of the Parker House Hotel in Boston, in October 1856. An Armenian-French chef, M. Sanzian, sandwiched two layers of sponge cake with crème pâtissière, and topped the cake with a chocolate ganache glaze.

    His recipe was a re-working of the early American pudding-cake pie. The first reference, a recipe published in 1855, calls it a “pudding pie cake.” It had a powdered sugar topping.

    According to What’s Cooking America, the cake was originally served at the hotel with the name Chocolate Cream Pie or Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie. “Boston” came later.

    As a throwback to its origin, the ganache top of the cake is sometimes decorated with confectioners’ sugar, or icing designs can be made in the ganache, as in the second photo. For a more festive cake, the bare sides can be covered with pastry cream and toasted almonds (which is how the cake is currently prepared at the Parker House—here’s their recipe).

    According to Omni Parker House, what made the dessert so special was its chocolate icing. Back in 1856, chocolate was mainly consumed as a beverage or in puddings; the chocolate bar was yet to be perfected (here’s the history of chocolate timeline). So chocolate icing was an innovative use of chocolate at the time. [Source]

    So why is it called a pie?

       

    boston-cream-pie-wiki-230b

    Boston Cream Pie

    Boston Cream Pie. Top photo by Cara Fealy Choate | Wikimedia. Bottom photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd.

     
    The answer is most likely that, in the mid-19th century pie tins were more common than cake pans. The distinction between calling something pie or cake was more flexible than it is today. The cake might well have been baked in pie tins. (By the same token, cheesecake is not a cake, but a cream cheese-flavored custard pie.)

    Boston Cream Pie was declared the official dessert of Massachusetts in 1996. The pie beat out other iconic Massachusetts desserts, including Fig Newtons, Toll House Cookies and Indian Pudding.
     
    RECIPE: BOSTON CREAM PIE

    This recipe was sent to us by GoBoldWithButter.com. It was developed by Taylor Mathis of TaylorTakesATaste.com.

    Prep time is 30 minutes, cook time is 40 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For A 9-Inch Cake
     
    For The Sponge Cake

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus extra for the baking pans)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1-3/4 cup granulated sugar
  •  
    For The Vanilla Cream Filling

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  •  
    For The Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips*
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips*
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  •  
    *Substitute quality chopped chocolate in 70% cacao.

     

    boston-cream-pie-taylortakesataste-goboldwithbutter-230

    Boston Cream Pie

    Boston Cream Pie. Top photo by Taylor
    Mathis | Taylor Takes A Taste for Go Bold
    With Butter. Bottom photo courtesy Kraft

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

    2. SIFT together the flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

    3. BRING the milk to a boil in small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring until the butter melts. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, stir and set the pan aside.

    4. BEAT the eggs on medium high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer, for 7 minutes. Add the sugar and mix an additional 8 minutes.

    5. REDUCE the mixer speed to low. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture. After the flour has been mixed in, add 1/2 of the milk mixture and blend. Add the next 1/3 of flour and blend. Add the remaining milk mixture and blend. Add the remaining 1/3 of the flour and blend. Turn off the mixer and scrape the batter down from the sides of the mixing bowl.

    6. DIVIDE the batter equally between the two prepared pans. Bake for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and let the layers cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Invert the cakes and cool completely on a wire rack.

    7. PREPARE the vanilla cream filling: In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, flour, sugar and salt. Stir with a fork until the flour and sugar are well mixed with the egg yolks. Set aside.

    8. BRING the milk to just boil in large heavy bottomed saucepan. Remove the pan from stove. Add 1/3 of the hot milk to the egg mixture; stir to blend. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining 2/3 of the milk; stir to blend. Return the saucepan to medium high heat, stirring constantly. When custard begins to boil…

     
    9. REDUCE the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the pastry cream thickens. Remove the pastry cream from the heat and pour into a bowl. Add the butter and stir until well incorporated. Add the vanilla and almond extracts; stir to blend. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool.

    10. PREPARE the chocolate glaze: Place chocolate chips, milk and salt into a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir the chocolate until melted and well blended with milk. Remove from the heat. Add the butter to the chocolate, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add the vanilla and stir to blend. Set chocolate glaze aside.

    11. ASSEMBLE the cake: Place 1 sponge cake layer on a cake plate. Generously cover with chilled vanilla pastry cream. Top the cream with the second layer of cake. Cover with chocolate glaze. Some of glaze should run over the sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake until the glaze sets, about 30 minutes. Serve.
     
     
    CREAM PIE VS. CREME PIE

    What’s the deal with two different spellings, cream and creme?

    Cream is the appropriate spelling in the U.S. Crème, pronounced KREHM, is the French spelling.

    To make things appear more fancy or exclusive, some Americans began to use the French spelling without the accent, pronouncing creme as KREEM.

    It may be pervasive, but it isn’t correct.
     
    CHECK OUT THE OTHER TYPES OF CAKES IN OUR CAKE GLOSSARY.

    And for a different twist, here’s a Boston Cream Cheesecake recipe (actually a pie).

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Asian-Style Pasta (It’s Called Noodles)

    Pasta originated in China. Scholars credit the Chinese with making noodles from rice flour as early as 1700 B.C.E., the 17th century before the common era (or before Christ, if you still use the old system).

    The pasta-centric Italians believe pasta dates back to the ancient Etruscans, who inhabited the Etruria region of Italy (the central western portion of Italy, what now are Tuscany, Latium and Umbria). They occupied the area from the Iron Age into Roman times (the 11th century B.C.E. to the 1st century B.C.E.).

    Around 400 B.C.E., the Etruscans began to prepare a very wide, lasagna-type noodle made of spelt, an early version of wheat.

    The Romans who followed made what they called lagane, a kind of lasagna, from a dough of water and flour. However, both the Etruscans and the Romans baked their noodles in an oven; boiled pasta had yet to be born in Italy. Here’s more on the history of pasta.

    But let’s circle back to Asia. What happened to pasta in that large region?

    It’s called noodles, and it’s plentiful. Different Asian cuisines developed different types of noodles; not just from wheat, as in Italy, but from other starches that happen to be gluten-free, such as rice, sweet potato, arrowroot starch, bean curd skin, potato starch and tofu. You can feast on Asian noodle dishes in a splendid variety.

       

    asian_noodle_bowl_with_seared_tempeh_lightlife-230

    Asian rice noodle salad with pan-fried tofu. Cook the noodles and tofu, toss with vegetables of choice, rice vinegar, a bit of oil (we like sesame oil) and cilantro. Add an optional sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds or shichimi togarashi, a Japanese mixture of dried chiles and other spices. Photo courtesy Lightlife.

     

    ABOUT ASIAN NOODLES

    We’ve done our best to put together the list below. You may see some familiar names, but there are a lot of Asian noodle types to get to know. You can find them in Asian markets and of course, online.

    The one challenge is that there is no standardization. Spellings will vary by region, as will the width of the noodles. We’ve included analogous Italian pasta names to give you an approximate visual.
     
    The Differences Between Asian Noodles & Italian Pasta

    Although they may look similar, Asian noodles and Italian pasta have key differences. Most pasta is designed to be cooked to an al dente texture, but Asian noodles vary widely: Some are meant to be eaten soft; others have a firm bite. Some are chewy, others are springy.

    A second difference: Italian pasta is boiled in water or broth (even baked pasta is boiled first). Chinese noodles can be boiled in water, cooked in soup or stir-fried. And third, unlike Italian pasta, most Asian noodle dishes do not have a sauce on top. If there’s a sauce, they are tossed in it. Asians also add noodles to salads, a treatment not typically found in the West.

    Unlike the short cuts developed in Italy (bowties, elbows, tube pasta, etc.), all Asian pasta is strand or ribbon pasta. Finally, some Chinese noodles contain eggs, but the majority of Asian noodles do not.
     
    Types Of Asian Noodles

  • Wheat Noodles: Chow Mein (Chinese, like spaghetti but often cut and stir-fried), La Mien (Chinese, hand-pulled, like spaghetti or spaghettini), Lo Mein (Chinese, flat like linguine), Mee Pok (yellow and flat like fettuccine, a Chinese-style noodle used in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand), Misua (salted Chinese noodles from Fujian, very thin like angel hair), Naengmyeon* (Korean long thin handmade noodles like spaghettini), Ramen (Japanese soup noodles, often the thickness of spaghetti**), Soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles), Udon (thick Japanese soup noodles, like spaghettoni), Wonton Mee (a Chinese soup noodle like spaghetti, not the same as wonton dumplings)
  • Rice Noodles: Chee Cheong Fun (a Cantonese rolled rice noodle), Chow Fun (wide, flat Chinese noodles like pappardelle), Mi Xian (a Yunnan rice noodle made from ordinary [non-glutinous rice], generally sold fresh), Kway Teow (rice cake strips from Malaysia and Singapore), Lai Fun (or bánh canh, long or short Vietnamese noodles the thickness of spaghettoni [there is also a wheat-based Chinese version]), Rice Paper Noodles (these are the thin rectangles used to roll Vietnamese spring rolls), Rice Sticks (thin, flat Thai noodles the thickness of linguine), Rice Vermicelli (thin, flat noodles the width of angel hair, used in almost all Asian cuisines), Silver Needle (like Lai Fun, but with a tapered end), Tteok (Korean rice cakes made with glutinous rice flour, like gnocchi)
  • Other Starches: Jap Chae (Korean sweet potato noodles the shape of spaghetti), Mung Bean Threads (cellophane noodles), Shirataki (spaghetti-like Japanese noodles made from the konjac yam)
  •   
    Hungry? How about a stellar version of the Americanized chicken chow mein? This recipe is from Melissa’s The Great Pepper Cookbook, now available in paperback.
     
    *They can be made from buckwheat, but also from potatoes and sweet potatoes.

    **We’re talking real ramen, not the instant fast food.

     

    Chicken Chow Mein

    Chicken Chow Mein, the way it should be. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    RECIPE: CHICKEN CHOW MEIN

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce, divided
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce, divided
  • 3 teaspoons oyster sauce, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 pound dried chow mein noodles
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil divided
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 (1 cup) pound button mushrooms, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 green onions, trimmed and sliced diagonally
  • 1/2 pound fresh cherry belle† chile peppers, stems and seeds removed,thinly sliced
  • 1/4 pound sugar snap peas, strings removed, halved crosswise
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  
    *†Substitute any cherry pepper or mild to medium chile.
     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE 1/4 cup soy sauce. 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, 1 teaspoon oyster sauce, and chile and sesame oils in a large bowl. Add the chicken and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge and let marinate, stirring often, for 1 hour.

    2. PREPARE the noodles according to package directions. Rinse with cold water; drain.

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil and the butter in a large wok or ovenproof skillet. Add the chicken and cook 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the oven and bake until the chicken is completely cooked through and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 165°F, about 15 minutes. Cool the chicken until it can be handled, then shred it.

    4. HEAT the remaining 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes.

    5. ADD the garlic and the remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, and the remaining hoisin and oyster sauces, the noodles, green onions, chiles and sugar snap peas. Cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

    6. ADD the shredded chicken to the pan and cook until heated through. Stir in the salt and black pepper to taste. Serve.
     
    HOW TO SHRED CHICKEN

    1. COOL the cooked chicken until you can handle it; it should still be warm. Remove any skin.

    2. USE one hand or a fork to steady the chicken. With the other hand, use a second fork to scrape and tear the flesh into shreds. When the fork gets clogged with chicken shreds, use your fingers or another fork to move them into a bowl.

      

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