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TIP OF THE DAY: Bake A Pie, It’s Pi Day Of The Century!

Mathematically, today is Pi Day: 3.14. As you learned in high school geometry, the Greek symbol is used in mathematics to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, a constant which begins with 3.14159.

Sorry we can’t show the Greek symbol in these paragraphs: WordPress keeps converting it to a question mark and we couldn’t make any of the help forum ideas work. So we’ve chosen the fetching “pi pie” in the photo at right to help out.

Today is actually an extra-special Pi Day, the Pi Day of the Century: 3.14.15. The first ten digits of pi, which extends to infinity beyond the decimal point (it has been calculated up to trillions of places), are 3.141592653. There’s more about pi below.

Thus, 9:26:53 a.m. is the Pi Moment of the Century.

Some people are obsessed with memorizing as many digits of pi as possible. The Guinness Book Of World Records names the record holder as a man named Lu Chao. He set the record in November 2005 at Northwest A & F University in the Shaanxi province of China. It took him 24 hours and 4 minutes to recite the 67,890th decimal place of pi without a mistake. [Source]

Congratulations, Mr. Lu, but we’d prefer to eat pie rather than memorize pi. Culinarily, we use Pi Day as an excuse to have a different type of pie each year.

   

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Since we couldn’t get the Greek symbol for pi to appear in WordPress, we found a photo of a real “pi pie” on GreatMindsOfScience. Tumblr.com. The pi symbol is in the center and the first 31 digits circle the rim. If you know who created this masterpiece, let us know.

 
Yes, Pi Day is celebrated by pastry fans around the world. How about a piece of the award-winning pie below? It won a blue ribbon at the 2014 National Pie Championships.

Norske Nook is a restaurant and bakery in western Wisconsin that has received 36 blue ribbons in the past 10 years at the National Pie Championship, competing in a field of more than 500 pies.

The restaurant announces its new cookbook today: The Norske Nook Book Of Pies & Other Recipes. It will be released next month, but you can pre-order it now.

In the interim, they provided this delicious pie recipe.

RECIPE: LEMON CREAM CHEESE PIE

Most icebox pie recipes require no cooking: You simply refrigerate or freeze the completed pie. Others, like the recipe below, need only a bit of time on the stove top or in the oven. This recipe requires a bit of both.

After you get the pie into the fridge, check out the different types of pies in our delicious Pie & Pastry Glossary.

Ingredients For An 11-Inch Pie

  • 1 single crust, baked
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 container (16 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed and divided
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 5 large egg yolk
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 cups hot water
  • Garnish: fresh whipped cream
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    An award winning pie for Pi Day. Photo courtesy University Of Wisconsin Press.

     

    Preparation

    1. MIX the cream cheese and powdered sugar in an electric stand mixer until smooth. Fold in half the whipped topping and mix to combine. With a rubber spatula, continue mixing by hand.

    2. SPREAD the filling into the bottom of the baked crust.

    3. MIX the sugar, salt and cornstarch in a saucepan over high heat. Whisk in the egg yolks, lemon juice and hot water. Cook until thickened and the center is boiling. Transfer to a plastic bowl and refrigerate until cool.

    4. MOUND the cooled mixture over the cream cheese layer. Top with the rest of the whipped topping or fresh whipped cream. Keep refrigerated.

    THE HISTORY OF PI

    Pi is a mathematical constant, a special number that is significantly interesting in some way to mathematicians.

    But why was the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet (it translates to “p” in the Roman alphabet), chosen as a mathematical symbol to represent the constant ratio of the circumference to the diameter of any circle?

     

    The credit for what turns about to be a great idea goes to a Welsh mathematician William Jones (1675-1749). In a 1706 work called Synopsis Palmariorum Matheseos (A New Introduction to the Mathematics), he abbreviated the Greek word root for periphery, meaning “circumference,” to pi.

    Before Jones used the pi symbol, the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle was referred to in this wordy phrase from medieval Latin: quantitas in quam cum multiflicetur diameter, proveniet circumferencia (the quantity which, when the diameter is multiplied by it, yields the circumference). Whew!

    Here’s more about pi.

      

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    BOOK: Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook

    It’s the best-selling flavor at New York’s Magnolia Bakery, L.A.’s Sprinkles Cupcakes, London’s Hummingbird Bakery and other cake emporia. Since 2005, its inclusion on restaurant menus has grown by more than 500%. It has been used to flavor coffee, tea, waffles, doughnuts, even fried chicken. It’s easy to find red velvet truffles, butter cookies, and even hot chocolate.

    Red Velvet is the flavor that came from—where, exactly?—to grab the spotlight.

    WHERE DID RED VELVET COME FROM?

    “The history of red velvet is not black and white,” says Deborah Harroun, author of the recently published Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook.

    Stories detail its discovery in the 1870s in Canada and in the 1950s in Pennsylvania. Some give credit to the Deep South, where red velvet cake is topped with cream cheese frosting.

       

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    A gift book for red velvet fans. Send it from Amazon.com. Photo courtesy Harvard Common Press.

     
    One claim is that the Waldorf-Astoria’s restaurant in New York City was the first to serve red velvet cake as we know it today. Harroun writes:

    “According to legend, a woman visited the Waldorf-Astoria, tried the cake, and fell in love. She wrote a letter to the hotel, asking if the chef would send her the recipe. The hotel did send her the recipe—along with a bill for $350. In retaliation, she made copies of the recipe and distributed them high and low.”

    That does sound like a legend; and the truth is, we don’t know where red velvet cake originated.

    SHOULD RED VELVET HAVE CHOCOLATE FLAVOR?

    Before we read the book, we were under the impression that red velvet cake should be a type of chocolate cake with red food coloring. Our mom has baked a recipe called Red Devil’s Food Cake since the 1950s.

    Think again, says Deborah: “The cocoa taste actually appears as just a hint when done correctly. I say that a red velvet cake or cupcakes taste like butter cake with just a hint of cocoa. It may be a hard flavor to describe, but once you’ve had it, you probably won’t forget it!”

    And while many committed bakers deride red velvet for its use of “fake” red food coloring, there are natural ingredients that can be used to achieve the same red hue: cranberries, other red berries, pomegranates. Mom used beets in her Red Devil’s Food Cake.

     

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    Red velvet cheesecake. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    A CORNUCOPIA OF RED VELVET RECIPES

    What initially appeared to us as a gimmick has become a bakery staple, like another arrival of the same time, the cake pop. (Their offspring: the red velvet cake pop.)

    In the book, Deborah presents the classics as well as a host of new, inventive uses for red velvet: red velvet biscuits, donuts, cheesecakes, icebox cakes, molten lava cakes, muffins, mug cakes, pancakes and even waffles.

    There are a dozen recipes for bars, brownies and cookies, plus red velvet rolls and breads. Don’t stop there: Make red velvet cannoli, churros, éclairs, snowballs and truffles.

    Even if your favorite red velvet lover doesn’t like to bake, he or she will be entertained just by the recipes and the photos.

    Order yours at Amazon.com.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pudding Toppers, Pudding Party

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    Butterscotch pudding with brittle. Photo ©
    Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    Here’s a fun dessert idea, whether for a weekday family dinner or a pudding bar at your next party.

    You can make pudding or buy it. Making it is better and lots more fun. We’ve been spending more and more time with Puddin’: Luscious and Unforgettable Puddings, Parfaits, Pudding Cakes, Pies, and Pops.

    The book, by the owner of a pudding store in New York City, has foolproof pudding recipes, from standards to modern twists. Get your copy here.

    PICK A PUDDING

    • Banana pudding
    • Butterscotch pudding
    • Chocolate pudding
    • Coffee pudding
    • Lemon pudding
    • Pistachio pudding
    • Tapioca pudding
    • Rice pudding
    • Vanilla pudding
    • Modern puddings: Dulce de Leche, Key Lime, Malted Milk, Nutella, Peanut Butter and many others
    • Seasonal favorites like Eggnog, Maple and Pumpkin Pie puddings
    PICK A TOPPING

    Cookie & Cake Toppings

    • Brownie crumbs
    • Cake cubes (from any type of cake)
    • Graham cracker crumbs
    • Vanilla wafer crumbs
    • Other cookie crumbs

     
    Sauce Toppings

    • Caramel sauce
    • Dulce de leche
    • Fudge sauce
    • Fruit sauce: berry, cherry, peach melba
    • Marshmallow creme
    • Whipped cream

     

    Candies & Nuts

    • Baking chips: chocolate, butterscotch, mint, peanut butter, vanilla
    • Candied nuts (any type, including honey roasted nuts)
    • Candied orange peel
    • Chopped brittle or toffee
    • Gummies
    • Mini candies (malt balls, M&Ms, marshmallows)
    • Mini pretzels, chopped chocolate covered pretzels
    • Reese’s Pieces
    • Sprinkles

     
    Wild Card

    • Candied bacon
    • Coconut
    • Dried berries: cherries, cranberries
     

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    Puddin-licious: an entire book of pudding recipes. Photo courtesy Spiegel & Grau.

     

    FOR A PARTY PUDDING BAR

    1. MAKE the pudding in large bowls. Consider adding dairy free (vegan) and sugar free options.

    2. KEEP each bowl on a bed of crushed ice.

    3. PLACE the toppings in smaller bowls, each with its own serving spoon. Refilling topping bowls as needed.

      

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    BOOK: 5-Minute Mug Cakes

    Trending in cakes these days: mug cake cookbooks. With a few ingredients, a microwave and a microwave-safe mug, you can have cake in five minutes.

  • First out of the gate is 5-Minute Mug Cakes, by Jennifer Lee.
  • Mug Cakes: Ready In 5 Minutes in the Microwave by Lene Knudsen will be published on October 7th, with 30 recipes.
  • 20 Microwave Mug Cake Recipes: Perfect for that sweet craving when you only have a few minutes! by Jenny Scott.
  •  
    These are books written for us. We often crave a piece of cake, but can’t keep it in the house (otherwise, a portion size becomes half a cake).

    So what better solution than mug cakes, microwaved in five minutes with standard ingredients?

    We have our hands on a copy of 5-Minute Mug Cakes. It has 3-5 times as many recipes as the other two—almost 100—and is a good place to start. You can treat yourself to a different cake every day for three months. Who needs a whole year with Julie And Julia?

     

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    Bake yourself a cake in a mug in five minutes. Photo courtesy Race Point Publishing.

     

    Every recipe is simple, fast and delicious. In minutes, you’ll be sinking your spoon into the cake you’ve been hankering for, such as:

  • Blueberry Muffin Streusel Cake
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
  • Flourless Nutella Cake
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Cake
  • Red Velvet Cake
  • Salted-Caramel Chocolate Cake
  • S’mores Cake
  • Strawberries & Cream Cake
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    There are the basics, of course—vanilla, chocolate and lemon—and the sophisticates, such as Matcha Green Tea Cakes and Chocolate Stout Cake.

    For special interests, there are Breakfast Mug Cakes, Brownie Mug Cakes, 21 And Over Mug Cakes (with alcohol), Holiday Mug Cakes, Savory Mug Cakes, Skinny Mug Cakes (under 200 calories) and Gluten-Free Mug Cakes (and more).

    And if you mix your ingredients right in your favorite mug, clean-up is a cinch!

    The biggest decision: which one to make today. The contenders: Dulce de Leche Brownie Cake or Cookies and Cream Blondie Cake.

    Or perhaps we’ll invest another five minutes and make both!
      

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    BOOK: Dumplings All Day Wong

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    A dumpling lover’s treasure. Photo courtesy
    Page Street Publishing.

     

    We loved chef Lee Anne Wong on the first season of Top Chef.

    She’s out with her first cookbook, Dumplings All Day Wong, focusing on Asian dumplings.

    Says Chef Lee Anne: “Biting into a hot, fresh, juicy dumpling can be a transcendent moment, the kind that makes your eyes roll to the back of your head, and one that can be repeated (often).”

    Yet unless you’re fortunate enough to live near an exceptional dim sum establishment, the dumplings you get at most Asian restaurants are purchased from outside suppliers, and often nowhere as flavorful as the ones you can making at home.

    That’s why this book is such a treasure. “The further you get into the book, the more you will begin to realize that your possibilities are truly endless. As with all styles of cooking, once you master the techniques and basic recipes, you’ll have the ability to build your own dumpling arsenal.”

    And what to do with this arsenal—which can be gluten free, traditional, modern, cutting edge, even technicolor (with colored dough)?

     
    Entertain! Become known for dumpling cocktail parties and brunches. Be the first one invited to parties (and bring some dumplings, of course).

    Do you have the patience to make dumplings? “While the idea of standing in one place all day making dumplings sounds intimidating or boring, I actually quite enjoy the repetitive motions of hand pleating dumplings. I consider it my ‘me time.’

    Our suggestion: Invite a friend to make dumplings with you. You’ll be able to make more varieties, and have “us time.”

    Then, thrill to your homemade gyozas, har gow, potstickers, shumai, wontons and more, with countless fillings and different cooking methods including baking, deep-frying, pan-frying and steaming.

    Get the book now, on Amazon.com; it’s available in paperback and Kindle versions.

     

    RECIPE: BRUSSELS SPOUTS & BACON DUMPLINGS

    Ingredients For 60 Dumplings

  • 1 pound bacon, diced into ¼ inch pieces
  • Oil for deep-frying
  • 2 pints (1½ pounds) fresh Brussels sprouts
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons black or balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat
  • 60 round dumpling wrappers
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    Preparation

    1. COOK the bacon in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until it is completely cooked and crispy. Strain the bacon and cool on a paper-towel lined plate. Reserve the bacon fat.

    2. PREHEAT a small pot of oil to 375°F. Trim the bottom and outer leaves of the Brussels sprouts and quarter them, leaving the root ends intact.

     

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    A contemporary dumpling recipe from Dumplings All Day Wong: Brussels sprouts and bacon! Photo courtesy Page Street Publishing.

     

    3. DIVIDE the Brussels sprouts in half and deep-fry half of them in small batches for about 2-3 minutes until the leaves are caramelized and brown. Drain on paper towels and season lightly with salt. Once cooled, chop into small pieces or use a food processor.

    4. BRING a pot of salted water to boil. Blanch the remaining Brussels sprouts until tender, abut 3 minutes. Place in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Dry the Brussels sprouts with paper towels and chop finely (or in the food processor).

    5. COMBINE the bacon, chopped Brussels sprouts and minced garlic in a large bowl. In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and cornstarch until well mixed. Sprinkle over the filling, add the fish sauce, vinegar and bacon fat and mix well until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

    6. FILL the dumplings with about 1 teaspoon of filling and fold in a pleat style. Heat a wok or large nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add ½ tablespoon of oil to the pan. Place the dumplings in a single layer and cook until the bottoms are gold brown, 1-2 minutes. Add ½ cup water and immediately cover the pan. Cook until all the water has been absorbed and the dumpling skins have cooked through about 4 to 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining dumplings. Serve with Fish Sauce Caramel.

    RECIPE: FISH SAUCE CARAMEL

    Ingredients

  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
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    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the rice vinegar, brown sugar, granulated sugar and soy sauce in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves.

    2. REMOVE the pan from the heat and add the fish sauce. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

      

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