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Archive for July 22, 2017

RECIPE: Penuche, A Brown Sugar Confection Like Fudge

Penuche
[1] Penuche, an old-fashioned brown sugar treat. Here’s the recipe from Endlessly Inspired.

Nut Free Penuche
[2] Nut-free penuche. Here’s the recipe from Fearless Fresh.

Chocolate Sea Salt Penuche
[3] What could make it better? Some chocolate and sea salt. Here’s the recipe from Rook No.17.

Piloncillo

[4] Piloncillo, a cone of panocha. Here’s more about it from Sweet Potato Chronicles.

 

July 22nd is National Penuche Day. Penuche (pen NOO chee) is often called brown-sugar fudge, but it’s actually a brother or sister.

While it follows the same preparation method, what makes it different is the use of brown sugar rather instead of white, and plain milk instead of cream. (The other ingredients common to both are butter and vanilla).

For both penuche and fudge:

  • A fat-sugar solution is heated to the soft ball stage, 236°F.
  • The solution is set aside to cool to lukewarm, about 110°F.
  • Flavorings are added and the solution is beaten until thick. Mix-ins (nuts, M&Ms, etc.) are added.
  • The mixture is poured into a pan, allowed to cool until semi-hard, and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  •  
    Using milk instead of cream gives the confection a lighter body. Over time, some cooks substituted evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk in their preparation.

    In recent years, a version with maple syrup has surfaced in New England. With the popularity of salted caramels, versions have appeared topped with a layer of chocolate fudge and sea salt (a great idea, by the way).

    Penuche has a tannish color, a result of the caramelization. Caramelization also engenders a more complex sugar flavor, with notes of butterscotch or caramel.

    You may encounter penuche with different spellings: panocha, penocha, penochi, panucci, pinuche and penuchi, among others.

    In the Southern United States, it is called creamy praline fudge, and brown sugar fudge candy.

  • Penuche is very similar to a Québec confection called sucre à la crème (cream sugar), a holiday season tradition.
  • A cousin is the southern praline, which is made by boiling brown sugar, butter and cream and cooked to a soft-ball stage like penuche, but filled with pecans and spooned onto wax paper to form patties.
  • An ancestor is Scottish tablet.
  • An adaption is penuche frosting, a brown sugar boiled icing flavor. It is popular with spice cakes and versions with prunes and other dried fruits (photo #5).
  •  
    Ready to make some penuche?
     
     
    RECIPE: CLASSIC PENUCHE

    Nuts add another flavor dimension, and can be larger pieces or chopped to your desired consistency.

    You may note that some recipes add corn syrup to prevent crystallization. But if you’re planning to scarf these within a few days, it’s not an issue.

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter plus more to grease the pan
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (substitute walnuts)
  • Candy thermometer
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY BUTTER an 8×8-inch pan and set aside.

    2. COMBINE the sugar and milk in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, let the temperature rise to the soft-ball stage, 236°F.

    3. REMOVE the pan from heat. Add butter but do not stir. Set aside to cool to lukewarm, 110°F.

    4. ADD the vanilla and beat until the mixture is smooth, thick and creamy. Add the nuts and pour into the prepared pan. When set, cut into squares.

    Variation

    For comparison, here’s a recipe for penuche made with condensed milk.

     

    PENUCHE HISTORY

    While brown sugar-based fudge existed previously, penuche appears to have originated in New England. Brown sugar, light or dark, provides a hint of molasses that yields a spicier, richer flavor than regular white sugar.

    The difference between a lighter and darker tan color is light versus dark brown sugar. A dark brown sugar recipe has more of a molasses taste.

    While the origin of penuche isn’t known for certain, it looks like a descendant of a Scottishconfection called tablet.

    We’ve pieced together some background.

  • Some sources claim the idea for penuche fudge originated in 1924, made by or for a Boston Bruins player named Mark Penuche. However, we could find no record of a Mark Penuche online [source].
  • Penuche is a Mexican Spanish word for raw sugar. According to MexGrocer.com, panela or penuche, raw brown sugar, can be purchased in panocha (chunks) or piloncillo (a tall cone shape—photo #4), and is “a delicious ingredient to prepare Mexican desserts.”
  • Another historical link is to Scottish tablet, a fudge-like treat with a caramel flavor, made from boiling butter, condensed milk and sugar. Boiled sweets are a Scotch tradition dating to the 1600s when sugar was first imported from the West Indies.
  • Scottish tablet was first mentioned in a household account book in the 18th century owned by Lady Grisell Baillie and it’s caramel buttery taste is still loved above all other confections in Scotland, to this day [source]. Here’s a recipe for Scottish tablet.
     
    Wherever the origin of penuche may lie, it became a New England favorite in the 1920s, and subsequently migrated to fudge counters across the country.

    Now that you have the recipe, try some!
     
     
    FOOD TRIVIA: FUDGE

    Fudge was an accident, the result of an attempt to make caramels. And what a happy accident!

    Here’s the history of fudge.

  •  

    Penuche Frosting
    [5] Brown sugar frosting, popular with spice cakes, is called penuche frosting. Here’s the recipe from Cafe Johnsonia.

    Scottish Tablet

    [6] Scottish tablet seems to be the closest relative to penche. Here’s the recipe from London Eats.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: BLT Variations

    Crab Salad BLT
    [1] This BLT has a layer of spicy crab salad. Here’s the recipe from Olive Magazine.

    Grilled Pineapple BLT
    [2] Grill pineapple and add siracha mayo. Here’s the recipe from Half Baked Harvest.

    Lobster BLT
    [3] A lobster club on a toasted roll. Here’s the recipe from Fish The Dish.

    Fried Green Tomato BLT
    [4] Fried green tomato BLT with arugula. Here’s the recipe from Food & Wine.

    Fried Egg BLT

    5] Add a fried egg: It’s trending! Here’s the recipe from Food & Wine.

     

    The BLT is one of America’s favorite sandwiches. It has engendered many variations, from the BLAT with avocado, to the BLAST with avocado and smoked salmon.

    The sandwich has its own month of celebration—April is National BLT Month—and a single-day celebration, July 22nd, National BLT day.

    Here’s the history of the BLT. It was stripped down from the club sandwich, which includes chicken or turkey.

    So the taxonomy gets tricky: a chicken BLT is a club sandwich; a lobster BLT is a lobster club sandwich, etc. Is a California BLT (with avocado) actually an avocado club sandwich?

    Don’t muddle: just eat!

     
    WAYS TO VARY YOUR BLT

    While the classic BLT is simple perfection, think of different ways you might enjoy it. Vary the basic ingredients and you can enjoy a different BLT every day of the yar!
     
    Vary The Bacon

  • Bacon jam (buy or make)
  • Black pepper bacon (buy or make from plain bacon)
  • Maple bacon (brush with maple syrup while cooking)
  • Pancetta, guanciale or other type of bacon
  • Pork belly
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    Vary The Lettuce

    We love crunchy romaine, but also:

  • Arugula
  • Bibb or butter lettuce
  • Iceberg (slice it from the head)
  • Red cabbage* (slice it from the head)
  • Watercress
  •  
    …and garnish with some alfalfa sprouts or microgreens.
    ________________

    *Cabbage is not a lettuce, but it provides the crunch of iceberg with more flavor and—if red cabbage—color.
    ________________

    Vary The Tomato

  • Diced tomatoes or chunky fresh salsa
  • Fried green tomatoes
  • Marinated cherry tomatoes or sundried tomatoes
  • Multicolor heirloom tomatoes
  • Tomato tapenade
  •  
    Vary The Mayonnaise

  • Baconaise
  • Dijon mayo
  • Garlic mayo (aïoli)
  • Herb mayo with dried or fresh herbs
  • Honey mayo
  • Pesto mayo
  • Russian/Thousand Island dressing
  • Sriracha mayo
  • Other flavors: curry, harissa, etc.
  •  
    Vary The Bread

    Beyond the white toast, consider:

  • Baguette
  • Brioche
  • Ciabatta
  • Brioche
  • Croissant
  • French toast
  • Multigrain
  • Pita
  • Sourdough
  • Walnut or olive bread
  • Wrap
  •  
    Vary The Format

  • BLT appetizer bites (recipe below)
  • BLT crostata (rustic tart)
  • BLT pasta or pizza
  • BLT salad
  • BLT spring rolls
  • BLT Tea sandwiches
  • BLT Skewers
  •  
    Did we leave anything out?

     
    Add Another Element

  • Avocado/guacamole
  • Caramelized onion, chives, grilled/roasted onion or scallion
  • Cheese (our favorites: crumbled blue, horseradish cheddar, pepperjack, sliced brie or gruyère)
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Fried or sliced egg
  • Grilled pineapple, salmon, shishito peppers, other grilled vegetables
  • Shellfish (crab, lobster, sautéed or fried softshell crab, shrimp)
  • Sliced radish
  •  
    Make A Fusion

  • BLT burger
  • BLT steak sandwich
  • BLT wedge salad
  • Buffalo chicken BLT
  • Chicken salad BLT
  • Grilled cheese BLT
  •  

    RECIPE: MINI BLT BITES

    We adapted this recipe from one by Kristen Stevens of The Endless Meal. She made her own chipotle mayo from scratch. Here’s her original sandwich recipe, including the chipotle mayonnaise.

    We happened to have a jar of wasabi mayonnaise from Ojai Cook, which you can also find private labeled at Trader Joe’s.

    Or, you can stir any seasoning you like into plain mayonnaise, from lemon zest to maple syrup. For heat, stir in cayenne, chile powder, chipotle or any hot sauce:

    Start with 1/2 cup mayo and 1 teaspoon dried spice. Blend, let sit so the flavors meld, taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. On to the recipe:

    These BLT bites are fun for cocktails or snacks. Prep time is 20 minutes, and you can do part of it the day before.
     
    You can serve these as an hors d’oeuvre with Martinis and other savory drinks, with a beer, as an amuse-bouche†, or as part of a first course of different hors d’oeuvre.

    As with the sandwich, you can change the recipe every time you make it, with different lettuces, different flavors of mayo and croutons made from different types of breads.

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

  • 24 grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
  • 24 small pieces of lettuce, such as arugula or baby spinach, microgreens, red leaf lettuce
  • ¼ cup crumbled crisp cooked bacon (about 3 pieces)
  • 24 small pieces of bacon for garnish (we cut grilled bacon into 2 or 3 pieces with a scissors)
  • 24 croutons (buy them or make them*)
  •  
    Preparation

    You can complete steps #1 and #2 a day in advance.

    1. CUT a small slice from the bottoms of the tomatoes so they can stand up.

    2. GENTLY squeeze and roll the tomatoes between your fingers to loosen the pulp. Remove with whatever implement works best for you. We found a strawberry corer to work for us.

    3. ASSEMBLE: Add some mayonnaise to each tomato (we put the mayo in a piping bag and piped it in). Then add the pieces of lettuce and bacon bacon. Top with a crouton.
    ________________
    †Amuse-bouche (pronounced ah-MEEZ boosh) is French for “amusing the mouth.” It is an hors d’oeuvre-size portion plated on a tiny dish, sent as a gift from the chef after the order has been placed, but before the food arrives. It is just one bite: a larger portion would constitute an appetizer. Sophisticated home cooks have taken to serving them at the beginning of dinner. Amuses-bouches tend to be complex in both flavors and garniture Here are the differences among amuse-bouche, appetizer, canapé and hors d’oeuvre.

    †You can use this recipe, but cut the bread into a size that will fit into the tomatoes.

    MORE NON-SANDWICH BLT RECIPES

    Cocktails

  • BLT Bloody Mary with bacon vodka
  • BLT Cocktail
  •  
    Not A Sandwich

  • BLT Gazpacho
  • BLT Guacamole Crostini
  • BLT Pancakes
  • BLT Pasta Salad
  • BLT Slaw
  •  

    BLT Bites
    [6] The original mini BLT cups. We added a crunchy crouton to the center (photo courtesy The Endless Meal.

    Wasabi Lemonaise The Ojai Cook
    [7] We used wasabi mayonnaise instead of chipotle mayo (photo courtesy Ojai Cook).

    Lemonaise Flavors The Ojai Cook
    [8] The different flavors of Lemonnaise (photos #2 and #3 courtesy The Ojai Cook)

    Baconaise

    [9] Baconnaise: It’s vegan and kosher, but it really tastes like bacon (photo courtesy J & D’s Foods).

     

      

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