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Archive for Candy & Confections

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: Go Beyond Your Brunch Comfort Zone

    Restaurant menus mostly offer brunch favorites: a bagel platter, corned beef hash, Eggs Benedict, eggs and omelets with your choice of bacon-ham-sausage, French toast, pancakes and waffles, steak and eggs (and if it’s a trendy place, avocado toast).

    At home, you can get more creative, from chilaquiles (here’s a gourmet version) and shakshouka to riffs on the standards, like peanut butter and jelly waffle sandwiches and an omelet roll.

    For home cooks, we’re devoting this weekend to getting out of the brunch comfort zone. Today we present two recipes, guaranteed to be appreciated.

    RECIPE: CHORIZO & EGG BREAKFAST BOWL

    This attractive bowl is loaded with a poached egg, fresh avocado, crispy hash brown potatoes, chorizo sausage, arugula salad and chipotle cream. The recipe is from Idaho Potato, which has many creative recipes for potatoes at every meal.

    You can buy chorizo crumbled, or in the casing (to crumble your own). You can also find turkey chorizo.

    If you don’t like things spicy, trade the chorizo for a sausage you prefer, omit the jalapeño and trade the adobo sauce for flavored olive oil or whatever else sounds good to you.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 russet Idaho potatoes, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 green pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon jalapeño, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 ounces chorizo, casings removed
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
  • Fresh cilantro and sliced avocado, for garnish
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • Avocado and minced cilantro for garnish
  •  
    For the Chipotle Cream

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise or sour cream
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the canned chipotle peppers)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the diced potatoes in a pot of cold salted water. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes and immediately strain. Set the potatoes on paper towels and carefully pat dry.

    2. HEAT the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the par-boiled potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring as needed.

       

    Poached Egg Chorizon Breakfast Bowl
    [1] The finished breakfast bowl (photo courtesy Idaho Potato).

    Chorizo Sausage
    Chorizo with no casing (photos 2 and 3 courtesy Good Eggs).

    Chorizo No Casing

    [3]Crumbled chorizo.

     
    3. ADD the onion, red and green pepper and jalapeño. Cook for another 15-20 minutes, stirring as needed, until the potatoes are golden and crispy. You may need to lower the heat to medium, so keep an eye on things. Then add the minced garlic and cook for one minute longer; remove from the heat.

    4. COOK the chorizo in skillet over medium-high heat, breaking into bite-sized crumbles, until cooked through, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon and rest them on a paper towel-lined plate.

    5. WHISK the mayonnaise or sour cream with the minced chipotle pepper and the desired amount of adobo sauce for your heat preference.

    6. TOSS the cooked hash in a clean bowl with the chipotle cream, to coat lightly. Fold in the arugula and cherry tomatoes.

    7. PREP the bowls with the hash and salad mix, dividing equally into each bowl. Add the chorizo on top.

    8. POACH the eggs by bringing a saucepan of water to a gentle boil; add the white wine vinegar. Crack each egg into a small bowl. Gently drop each egg into the water and cook for 3 minutes. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon, gingerly shaking off any excess water. Place a poached egg on top of each bowl and garnish with sliced avocado and freshly minced cilantro. Serve immediately.
     
     
    WHAT IS CHORIZO

    Chorizo is a highly-seasoned, spicy sausage. Its red color comes from spices such as paprika and chipotle.

    There are many varieties of chorizo. You’ll find them in different colors, shapes and with different seasonings.

  • Spanish chorizo is made from coarsely chopped pork and pork fat, seasoned with smoked paprika and salt. It is generally classed as either spicy or sweet, depending upon the type of smoked paprika used.
  • There are hundreds of regional varieties of Spanish chorizo, both smoked and unsmoked. They may contain garlic, herbs and other ingredients.
  • Mexican chorizo is based on the recipe for uncooked Spanish chorizo, but the meat is ground rather than chopped; and different seasonings are used.
  • Mexican-style chorizo is a deep reddish color and largely available in two varieties, fresh and dried (although fresh is more common). It is so popular that beef, venison, kosher and vegan versions can be found in the U.S.
  • Green chorizo is a style native to Toluca, Mexico, southwest of Mexico City. The color comes from green vegetables and herbs mixed into the meat: tomatillo, cilantro and chiles, plus garlic.
  • Portuguese chorizo is made with pork fat, wine, paprika and salt. It is stuffed into natural or artificial casings, and slowly dried over smoke.
  •  
    Chorizo fans should gather the different types of chorizo and invite guests for a sausage board, with cheese, beer, bread and mustard.

     

    Mushroom Pancakes
    [4] Have a stack of pancakes, or just one (photo courtesy Gordon Ramsay Group).

    Baby Bella Mushrooms

    [5] Baby Bella is a marketing name for crimini mushrooms. Criminis and younger portabellas. When the crimini is allowed to grow large and ripen after being picked, the gills are exposed and dark.

     

    SAVORY MUSHROOM PANCAKE & EGG STACK

    We’ve published a template for making savory pancakes, and here’s an addition to the collection.

    Pancakes, no sugar added (or in a box mix), are topped with a flavorful mushroom and herb blend, and a fried egg. If you like, you can have a creamy mushroom topping with a bit of marsala

    Ingredients

    For The Pancakes

    This recipe makes six four-inch pancakes, or a three-pancake stack for two people. Of use your favorite from-scratch recipe, omitting the sugar.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk*
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons oil or melted butter
  • Large pinch salt
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes or other savory spice
  •  
    For The Mushroom Filling, Per Two Pancakes

    Don’t worry if you make too much filling. You’ll like it so much, that you’ll use it up on everything else you cook.

  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 12 ounces baby bella or button mushrooms, wiped and patted dry, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon lemon zest or 1 tablespoon marsala or sherry, or 1 teaspoon or brandy
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or green onions (more as desired)
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream or half and half
  • ______________
    *When a recipe calls for buttermilk and you don’t have any , just add a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to a cup of milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes, until the milk begins to curdle.
    ______________

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the mushroom sauce. Heat olive oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the mushrooms, garlic and onions, and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly. Sprinkle the mushrooms with a bit of salt, cover with the lid and continue cooking the mushrooms for another 5-7 minutes, occasionally stirring.

    3. REMOVE the lid after the mushrooms have released their moisture and sauté for another 5 minutes or so minutes. If you’re using the cream of lemon zest, add it now. Stir the cream into the mushroom liquid. Total cooking time from the beginning to end should be 15 to 20 minutes.

    2. SEASON with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with chopped chives or scallions. Keep warm and set aside.

    3. MAKE the pancakes Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a large bowl. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, lightly whisk together the milk, egg and oil or butter.

    4. POUR the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. The batter will be lumpy, so don’t over-mix (it toughens the pancakes). Let the batter sit while heating up a griddle or skillet over medium heat.

    5. COOK the eggs and keep warm as you make the pancakes.

    6. GREASE the griddle or skillet and pour about 1/4 cup batter per pancake. Once bubbles are formed on top and along the edges, flip the once and finish cooking the other side.

    7. ASSEMBLE: Stack the pancakes with mushroom filling in-between and top with the egg. Spoon extra mushroom liquid on the plate, as shown in the photo.
     
     
    MORE BRUNCH RECIPES

  • Congee, China’s favorite breakfast
  • Caviar Eggs (with affordable caviar)
  • Eggs In A Nest (of hash browns)
  • Bone Broth Breakfast Soup
  • Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
  • Pho, Vietnam’s favorite breakfast
  • Smashed Pea Toast
  •   

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    PRODUCTS: 5 More Favorite Specialty Foods

    Another batch of favorites from THE NIBBLE.

    What makes it a favorite? We would buy it again…and again. In alphabetical order, we recommend:

    1. LOVE THE WILD: FROZEN FISH FILLET ENTRÉES

    Only one in five Americans meet the USDA recommendation for fish intake, a vital high protein dietary component that’s high in protein and healthy fats.

    LoveTheWild is on a mission to make it easy for you to enjoy delicious, traceable fish dinners—in fact, we can’t recall an easier preparation. Add the fillet to the piece of parchment paper, top with the cubes of sauce, fold and bake. It tastes like it was prepared at a [good] restaurant.

    Aside from a moist and tasty piece of fish, there’s no pan to clean: The parchment goes from pan to plate (or, you can remove it before plating).

    In the process, the company uses the greener technique of aquaculture, which they call “the least environmentally impactful form of animal protein production in the world.”

    The frozen entrées, nicely packaged, pair sustainably-sourced fish filets with regional, butter-based sauces that complement each species’ unique taste.

    The company hand-selects seafood from the most well-managed farms in the world, providing you with the highest quality sustainable seafood. There are currently four varieties, each of which was a hit with us:

  • Barramundi with Mango Sriracha Chutney
  • Catfish with Cajun Creme
  • Rainbow Trout with Salsa Verde
  • Striped Bass with Roasted Pepper Almond Sauce
  •  
    We received these as samples, but we’re headed out to load up!

    LoveTheWild products are sold at major retailers across the U.S., including Whole Foods Markets, Wegmans, Sprouts, and Mom’s. Find a store locator and more information at LoveTheWild.com.
     
     
    2. MEMBER’S MARK SEA SALT CARAMELS

    Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart Stores, is increasing its foothold in the specialty food space. It has revamped its private label Member’s Mark brand to include more premium products.

    Items span many categories, from sea salt caramels and honey sourced from a U.S. bee cooperative to all-natural pulled pork created with help from pit masters at the Kansas City Barbeque Society.

    The brand will add 300 new items this year and plans to add another 300 next year. In addition to food, the Maker’s Makrk merchandise includes health and wellness and apparel.

    We received samples of the sea salt caramels, honey, and olive mix. The honey and olives hit the spot; but there are good honeys and olives around.

    The hands-down winner were the delicious sea salt caramels, notable for their generous size (about 1-1/4 inches square by 7/8 inch high—a long, chewy mouthful.

    The centers are soft, handcrafted caramel, the exterior quality milk chocolate. There’s a light sprinkle of sea salt; even if you don’t see it, you’ll taste it.

    Caveat: We couldn’t stop eating them.

    If you’re not near a Sam’s Club, we also found them on Amazon, and are trying to restrain ourselves from ordering the six-pack.
     
     
    3. PEPPERIDGE FARM FARMHOUSE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

       
    Love The Wild Striped Bass

    Members Mark Sea Salt Caramels

    Sea Salt Caramels

    Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

    [1] Love The Wild has four terrific frozen fish entrées (photo courtesy Love The Wild). [2] Member’s Mark from Sam’s Club has great salted caramels (photo courtesy Sam’s Club). [3] The caramels look like this, with tiny grains of salt. You can make these at home with this recipe from Inspired Taste. [4] Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse is perhaps the best mass-market chocolate cookie (photo courtesy Pepperidge Farm).

     
    We wouldn’t have called these cookies “farmhouse.” They’re sophisticated, thin and crispy. We think they’re Pepperidge Farm’s best cookies yet.

    Made from classic ingredients—butter, flour, vanilla and chocolate chips—the cookies are made in three varieties:

    Choose a product:Pepperidge Farm FarmhouseTM Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies
  •  
    It’s hard to choose a favorite, but you don’t have to: Try them all.

    The’re available last retailers nationwide; SRP is $3.49. The line is certified kosher by OU.
    ________________

    *Traceability is the ability to verify the history, location aor application of an item by means of documented recorded identification. Consumers and retailers can follow if a product meets regulatory, environmental and ethical standards.Here’s more.

     

    Wholey Cheese Crackers

    Terra Plantain Chips

    [5] One of three flavors of gluten-free cheese crackers, from Snyder’s Of Hanover. [6] Plantain Chips from Terra Chips.

     

    4. SNYDER’S OF HANOVER: WHOLEY CHEESE! CRACKERS

    Does America need another cheese cracker?

    Yes, when they’re as light and tasty as Wholey Cheese, the new brand from Snyders Of Hanover. And gluten free, to boot.

    Potato starch is used instead of wheat flour, an advantage over Cheez-It and Goldfish:

  • Mild Cheddar
  • Smoked Gouda
  • Swiss & Black Pepper
  •  
    The only issue is the high proportion of broken crackers. But in the end, it didn’t affect us as we ate every crumb: from the bag and sprinkled onto salads, soups and potatoes.

    Find them at retailers nationwide.
     
     
    5. TERRA CHIPS: PLANTAIN CHIPS

    We have loved Terra Chips long before they were a store product. They began as a specialty of a Manhattan caterer, who sliced his way to famed and fortune (and we thank him for it).

    The company has just introduced two varieties of plantain chips:

  • Plantains, a savory chip
  • Sweet Plantains
  •  
    Plantains are members of the banana family, but are more dense and less sweet (and can’t be eaten raw). They grow in tropical climates, where they are treated as root vegetables (but they aren’t), and typically served in savory preparations.

    Plantains ripen, like bananas. The Sweet Plantains are made from the ripe fruit, at the point that natural browning occurs. There is no sugar added.

    We actually preferred the more savory chip.

    Discover more at TerraChips.com. The line is certified kosher by KOF-K.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Strawberry Pistachio Nougat + Nougat History

    If your Mother’s Day celebration includes nougat fans, whip up a batch of this Strawberry Pistachio Nougat from chef and cookbook author Samir Nosrat.

    Nougat (U.S. pronunciation: NOO-got, French pronounciation NOO-gah) is a family of chewy confections made with sugar or honey, roasted nuts, whipped egg whites, and sometimes, chopped candied fruit (photo #7, below).

    It can be cut into rectangles or squares, broken into irregular pieces like toffee or dipped in chocolate (nougat bars, or enrobed bonbons.

    We saw one recipe where the nougat was cut layered onto a brownies between the cake and the frosting; and a recipe for Snickers Brownies that adds a layer of caramel as well.

    Nougat is a regular ingredient in popular candy* bars and chocolates—including those you would never suspect, because the nougat blends into a very different consistency and appearance (follow the asterisk).

    TYPES OF NOUGAT

    There are three basic kinds of nougat.

  • The most common is white nougat, photo #6 below, is known in Italy as torrone and mandorlato in Italy, turrón in Spain, and nougat (the “t” is not pronounced) in France. It is a simple recipe: beaten egg whites, and honey and nuts. It first appeared in Cologna Veneta, Italy, in the early 15th century. The first published recipe in Spain appears in Alicante, in the 16th century. The first recipe found in France is from Montélimar, in the 18th century. White nougat is used as the base for modern flavored nougats.
  • Spanish turrón follows the traditional recipe, with toasted almonds (minimum 60% almond content!), sugar, honey, and egg whites.
  • Italian torrone (photo #6) includes these same basic ingredients, using different nuts (no legal minimum) plus vanilla or citrus flavoring. It is often sandwiched between two very thin sheets of rice paper (photo #4, cocoa-flavored).
  • Venetian nougat, made in the town of Cologna Veneta is well known for its nougat production, especially the type called mandorlato. It is made from honey, sugar, egg whites and almonds (mandorle in Italian). It has a different taste and a harder bite than torrone.
  • British nougat is traditionally made in the style of the Italian and Spanish varieties. The most common industrially-produced nougat, commonly found at fairgrounds and seaside resorts, is colored pink and white, with almonds and cherries. The pink nougat is often fruit-flavored. It is sometimes wrapped in edible rice paper, which keeps stickiness from the fingers.
  • U.S. candy artisans make conventional white nougat to modern flavors and colors: black cherry, café au lait, cranberry, matcha, pumpkin and so forth. There’s even an all-American chocolate-peanut nougat (photo #5).
  •  
    The Other Types Of Nougat

  • The second is type is brown nougat, called nougat noir (NOO-gah-NWAHR) in French (which literally means black nougat). It is made without egg whites and has a firmer, often crunchy texture. See photo #8 below, which (like most of the photos) links to the recipe.
  • The third type of nougat is known as German or Viennese nougat. It contains only sugar, cocoa butter, nuts (usually hazelnuts) and cocoa mass, and has a soft consistency, similar to gianduja (chocolate and ground hazelnuts, also known as hazelnut praliné. It is often sliced from a loaf. This is the style called “nougat” in Germany and Austria, as well as in Denmark and Sweden. In the latter two countries, the original white nougat is referred to as “French nougat.” In Germany, is simply called nougat [source]. See photo #10, below.
  • ________________

    *In the U .S. alone: Baby Ruth, Big Hunk, Charleston Chews, Mars Bar, Milky Way, Pay Day, Reese’s Fast Break, Snickers, Three Musketeers, Zero Bar. However, the nougat that appears in many modern candy bars in the U.S. and U.K. is different from traditional recipes, including in several cases, the original recipes of those candy bars.

    Modern candy bar nougat is often a mixture of sucrose and corn syrup, aerated with a whipping agent such as egg white or hydrolyzed soy protein or gelatin. It may also include vegetable fats and milk powder. This type of nougat is often used as a filler by large candy companies, since it’s inexpensive to make. Typically, it is used plain or chocolate-flavored, or combined with nuts, caramel and/or chocolate to make the body of the candy bar. But some American confections feature such nougat as the primary component, rather than one of several.
    ________________

    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY PISTACHIO NOUGAT

    These are shown in photo #1 (rectangle cut) and photo #2 (square cut). Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 10 minutes.

    For step-by-step photo, visit ACozyKitchen.com. While you’re there, sign up for the inspiring blog feed.

    Ingredients For 14 Pieces

  • 1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries
  • 2 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Optional: 2 drops red food coloring
  • 2/3 cup chopped pistachios
  •  
    Plus

  • Loaf pan
  • Parchment or wax paper
  • Spatula, pre-sprayed with cooking spray
  •    

    Strawberry Nougat

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    Rosewater Pistachio Nougat

    Chocolate Almond Nougat

    Chocolate Peanut Nougat

    White nougat (or its colored variations) can be cut into [1] fingers or [2] squares (recipe at left; photo courtesy A Cozy Kitchen). [3] Another pink nougat; East meets West in this rosewater, pistachio and cranberry nougat. Here’s the recipe from The Healthy Cook. [4] A variation of Italian torrone with cocoa (chocolate) flavoring and almonds, with edible rice paper on the top and bottom. Here’s the recipe from Butter Baking. [5] The All-American: chocolate peanut nougat. Here’s the recipe from Kitchen Sanctuary.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the freeze-dried strawberries in a food processor. Pulse until the strawberries turn into a powder (a clumpy texture is O.K.). Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

    2. LINE a 8 x 5-inch (a 9 x 5-inch will work too) loaf pan with wax paper or parchment, making sure there are a few inches of flaps on each side (this will make the removal of the nougat super easy). Spray a spatula with cooking spray.

    3. COMBINE the sugar, corn syrup, honey, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Give it a light stir until everything dissolves; then cook until a digital thermometer reads 260°F (the hardball stage).

    4. ADD the egg whites to the bowl of a stand-up mixer (or use a hand-mixer) and beat on low until they begin to get frothy and eventually turn into stiff peaks. While beating the stiff egg whites at low, slowly pour in the sugar syrup (step 3). Immediately add the powdered strawberries.

    5. TURN the speed of the mixer to high and beat until the candy starts to thicken and hold a bit of shape, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour in the pistachios and transfer the nougat to the loaf pan, using the pre-sprayed spatula—the nougat will be sticky.

    6. TOP with a sheet of wax paper. Press the top of the wax paper down to the surface so the top of the nougat will be smooth and even. Allow to set at room temperature for about 2 hours. When the nougat has set…

    7. LIFT up the sides the wax paper, remove the top sheet and spray a sharp knife with cooking spray. Cut up the nougat with a sharp knife into slices or 1 x 1-inch cubes.

    Nougat will stay fresh for a week when kept in an airtight container.

     

    Pistachio Nougat

    White Chocolate Nougat With Nuts & Candied Fruits

    Nougat Noir With Hazelnuts

    Brown Nougat

    German Nougat

    [6] Classic vanilla nougat with nuts (here, pistachios, although almonds are common and any nut can be used). Here’s the recipe from Aran Goyoaga, Canelle et Vanille. [7] White chocolate nougat with nuts and fruits. Photo © Elizabeth LaBau. Here’s the recipe from The Spruce. [8] Brown nougat, a.k.a. nougat noir, with hazelnuts. Here’s the recipe (in French) from Les Foodies, and [9] a loaf recipe recipe (in Italian) from Tavolarte Gusto). [10] German or Viennese nougat: hazelnut praline (photo courtesy Juergen Jeibmann | German Wikipedia).

     

    THE HISTORY OF NOUGAT

    The French word nougat, adopted by English speakers, comes from Occitan (dialect of Provence, France) pan nogat, likely derived from the Latin panis nucatus, nut bread. In late colloquial Latin, the adjective nucatum means nutted or nutty.

    The earliest known recipes for white nougat, which probably came from Central Asia, have been found in the Middle East.

    A 10th century book from Baghdad (in modern Iraq) calls the recipe natif. One of the recipes indicates that the it comes from Harran, a city located between Urfa, now in southeast Turkey. Another comes from Aleppo, in Syria.

    Mention of natif is found in works from the triangle between Urfa, Aleppo and Baghdad.

    At the end of the 10th century, the traveler and geographer Ibn Hawqal wrote that he ate some natif in Manbij (in modern Syria) and Bukhara (in modern Uzbekistan) [source].

    When it reached southern Europe, notably Italy and Spain, nougat (called, respectively, torrone and turrón) was a specialty associated with the Christmas season.

    Next Stop: Renaissance Italy

    Thanks to Flamingi, makers of fine Italian nougat, for helping us to continue the story.

    We start with a tale, likely apocryphal. It takes place in the city of Cremona, in the northern Italian region of Lombardy. On October 25, 1441: Bianca Maria Visconti was married to Francesco Sforza. The union allowed the Sforza family to dominate the Duchy of Milan for the next half century.

    According to the story, nougat (torrone) was first created for the wedding feast.

    It was made in it the shape of the Torrazzo, the bell tower of the Cremona cathedral. The claim is that torrone derives from “Torrazzo” (but wait….)

    Is the story too good to be true? Yes: It seems to have been cited for the first time in a monograph published by the Chamber of Commerce of Cremona in 1914.

    Earlier Claims From The Other End Of Italy

    Let’s head south, to Benevento, the main town of the ancient Sannio region (in Latin, Samnium) in the southern part of Italy in what is now Campania. The people there lay claim to have having invented torrone.

    As proof, they refer to the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius, 59 B.C.E. to 17 C.E.) and the Roman poet Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis, 40 C.E. to 104 C.E.), claiming that these ancients documented in their writings the existence of nougat in that area, called cupedia.

    However, in this digitized world, research cannot find a mention of cupedia. There is a similar Latin word, cuppedia, that does not appear in the writings of Livy and Martial.

    Cuppedia can be translated as the deadly sin of gluttony, or as a delicacy. But what type of delicacy?

    Italy As The Origin Gets Very Confusing

    In various Italian dialects there are similar words: cupeta, copeta, copata and coppetta, which identify sweets similar to nougat or croccante, a product made with almonds or hazelnuts bound with caramelized sugar.

    Cupeta and torrone are traditional products not only in Sannio, but also in Abruzzo, Calabria, Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Lombardy, Marche, Molise, Piedmont, Puglia, Sardinia, Tuscany, Valtellina, Veneto and finally, in Sicily, where croccante is called cubbaita.

    That’s a lot of territory, for one to claim to be “the first” to invent torrone, absent any documentation.

    By the 16th century, however, torrone is documented for sale in some apothecaries. Earlier, by the 15th century, turrón is documented in Spain.

    The Spanish word, turrón, is quite similar to the Italian word torrone, and its most reliable source can be found in the Latin verb torrere, which means to toast (the nuts).

    So take that, Torrazo bell tower of the Cremona cathedral! Take that, Benevento. We’re sticking with the Middle East, around the 10th century.

    Back To The Middle East

    References there to “roasted seeds kept together by a sweet paste” can equally refer to other products produced in many countries, starting with the Middle Eastern halva, made from ground sesame seeds and honey.

    Some scholars suggest it originated before the 12th century, in Byzantium, and is documented at least by the 13th century—so nougat/natif is older.

    Similar roasted seeds or nuts bound with a sweet paste can be found in other Middle Eastern Countries, as well as in the Slavic countries, and as far away as India.

    While the earliest residents of the Middle East ate dates and figs and honey† as their “candy,” their descendants combined ingredients into more complex sweets.

     
    Now, we just need someone to dig up documented information in Central Asia (from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east, from Afghanistan in the south to Russia in the north) to discover the first mention of nougat—whatever it was called there.

    Honey: The Oldest Candy

    Archaeologists have found beehive colonies in Israel, dating from the 10th to early 9th centuries B.C.E. [source].

    But honey is far older than mankind—very far.

    Honeybees first appeared during the Cretaceous Period, about 130 million years ago, in the area around what is now India.

    But it was during a Pleistocene warming about 2-3 million years ago, that the honeybee spread west into Europe and then Africa (still no mankind†), stopping in the Middle East en route [source].
     
     
    DO YOU LIKE FOOD HISTORY?

    THE NIBBLE has written some 200 histories of foods, beverages, and cooking techniques.

    Some are just a couple of paragraphs, some are as long as the history above, and most are in-between.

    You can find all the links on our food histories page.

    ________________

    †Species of early Homonids appeared in Africa about 2 million years ago and went extinct, as did all the other hominid lines before Homo sapiens. The modern species of Homo appeared about 600,000 years ago in Africa and migrated from there to Europe and Asia. The Neanderthals appeared in Europe about 130,000 years ago, distinguished by their manufacture of diverse tools and evidence of symbolic thinking. [source].

    Thus far, the earliest discovery of modern Homo sapiens skeletons come from Africa and date to nearly 200,000 years ago. They appear in Southwest Asia around 100,000 years ago and elsewhere in the Old World by 60,000-40,000 years ago [source].

      

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    PRODUCTS: 5 New Favorite Specialty Foods

    Four of this month’s roundup of favorite products will brighten your dinner table, and the last will satisfy your sweet tooth.

    In alphabetical order, they are:

    1. CRACKER BARREL Oven BAKED MACARONI & CHEESE

    Cracker Barrel Cheese’s premium mac & cheese line has launched Oven Baked Macaroni & Cheese (photo #1) in three flavors:

  • Sharp Cheddar, seasoned with paprika and ground mustard.
  • Sharp White Cheddar, seasoned with black pepper and ground mustard.
  • Cheddar Havarti, seasoned with garlic and chives.
  •  
    Fans of oven-baked mac and cheese prefer it for the crispy edges and the toasted bread crumbs. The bread crumbs are included, as well as flavorful seasonings; and the level of crispiness is up to you.

    Just boil the noodles and mix the seasoning packet with melted butter and milk. Add the cheese sauce and the flavor mix, spoon into a baking dish and top with the toasted breadcrumbs.

    Get yours at major retailers nationwide. Suggested Retail Price is $3.99 for a 12.34-ounce package.

    For more information visit the Cracker Barrel Cheese website.
     
     
    2. DELTA BLUES RICE GRITS

    Delta Blues Rice (that’s the Mississippi Delta) is a fourth-generation family business that grows artisan rice. If you think that all white rice tastes the same, you won’t believe how much more flavorful it is than supermarket brands.

    The company sells the rice in white and brown rice and rice grits, all made in small batches and milled for freshness.

    We’ve enjoyed cornmeal grits since we were small fry, but had never tasted rice grits until the folks at Delta Blues Rice sent us a sample (photos #2 and #3).

    We devoured the package and ordered more. For those who avoid corn-based foods, they’re a real find.

    If you come from a grits-loving family, load up on them as gifts or favors for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

    Get yours at DeltaBluesRice.com.
     
     
    3. ENTUBE FLAVOR PASTES

    Big flavors come from little tubes. Entube is a line of flavorful pastes in three international flavors: curry, harissa and umeboshi (photos #4 and #5).

    These are great to have on hand and are so easy to use. Instead of adding more salt when a dish needs some pizzazz, just add a bit of flavor paste—to anything from grains to cheese fondue to soups and stews.

    We tried two of the three flavors: Curry and Harissa. Here’s how we used them.

    3a. Entube Harissa Paste

  • Dip: Combine with yogurt to your desired spice level and use as dip for crudités or tortilla chips.
  • Sauce: Stir some paste into pasta sauce or the hollandaise sauce for Eggs Benedict (quite wonderful). With a mushroom sauce for roast chicken, add 1-1/2 teaspoons for 1 cup sauce.
  • Spread: Add to mayo for a great sandwich spread.
  •  
    Roast Chicken: About 15 minutes before the chicken is due to come out of the oven, combine harissa-flavored plain yogurt with the hot drippings. Baste the chicken twice, five minutes apart. For the second basting, add the juice of 1/2 lemon to the yogurt and drippings, along with a bit of kosher salt to taste. This will slightly caramelize and crisp the skin.

    Grilled Lamb: Morroccan lamb dishes are classically made with a harissa spice rub. We made a rack of lamb with the yogurt-Harissa Paste mix (4 tablespoons yogurt with 1 teaspoon paste) and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Brush it in on at the start of roasting and once more 5 minutes from the end. It perks up the slightly gamy flavor of lamb beautifully. (Cooking time for medium rare lamb is 22 minutes in a 425°F oven.)

       

    Cracker Barrel Baked Mac & Cheese

    Delta Blues Rice Grits

    Rice Grits

    Entube Flavor Pastes

    Paella With Harissa

    [1] We love baked mac & cheese with crispy edges (photo courtesy Cracker Barrel). [2] Calling all grits lovers for great rice grits (photo courtesy Delta Blues Rice). [3] Rice grits (photo courtesy Neniemi Food). [4] Entube flavor pastes and [5] Entube harissa spices up paella (photos courtesy Entube | Facebook).

     
    Moroccan Chicken Kabobs: Cube 1 pound of chicken breasts and marinate for 3-4 hours in 3 teaspoons Harissa Paste, juice of 1 lemon, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, with an optional teaspoon of smoked paprika. Skewer onto pre-soaked (30 minutes) wooden skewers or lightly oiled metal skewers. Broil or grill, turning often. Brush with the marinade halfway through and continue until browned and cooked through, 16 minutes total. Serve hot.

    3b. Entube Curry Paste

    Mushroom Sauce: Boost the umami flavor in creamy mushroom sauces. Add as much paste as you like, tasting as you go in 1/2 teaspoon increments. The curry flavor was not overpowering and added depth to the character of the mushrooms. This combination also works in mushroom tarts.

    Grilled Shrimp: Marinate 1 pound deveined shrimp in a yogurt marinade made with 1/2 cup yogurt and 2 teaspoons of curry paste, the juice of 1 lime, mustard oil or coconut oil, chili powder to taste and 2 teaspoons of grated, peeled ginger root. Marinate in the fridge for 2-4 hours. Just before grilling (on medium-high), remove shrimp and wipe off the excess marinade with paper towels. Grill until black spots begin to appear, about 3 minutes per side. Delicious!

    The one complaint we have with the pastes is that there is too much added ascorbic acid (vitamin C)—almost 20%. If you have a sophisticated palate, you may notice a slightly medicinal acidic tang that is not as clean and lively as would have been given by lemon or lime. You can mask it by adding some real lemon or lime juice.

    Find a store locator on the company website.

     

    Salt With Sea Vegetables

    Werther's Cocoa Creme Caramels

    Werther's Sugar Free Caramels

    [6] Sea salt meets seaweed in these tasty blends (photo courtesy Sea Veg). [7] Werther’s new Cocoa Crème Soft Caramels and [8] longtime favorites, the sugar-free caramels line (photos courtesy Werther’s Original).

     

    4. MAINE MADE SEA SEASONINGS

    This naturally iodized sea salt has a little something extra: sea vegetables, including dulse and kelp, seaweeds known for their high vitamin and mineral content.

    The entire line of seaweed-based products are harvested in Maine waters; and the line is targeted to people who want to get the most nutrition they can from their foods.

    Here are the nutritional values of both seaweeds.

    Not that we don’t want the best nutrition; but we like these sea salts for their flavor, especially with rice and other grains and starches. And, we’re big flavor fans of Japanese seaweed, dried or fresh [which is actually reconstituted dry seaweed].

    The company offers variations of the sea salt with added cayenne or garlic; and with other seaweeds. Another product of interest is the applewood-smoked nori sheets.

    Find out more at SeaVeg.com.
     
     
    5. WERTHER’S ORIGINAL NEW COCOA CREME SOFT CARAMELS

    Werther’s newest flavor can be attributed to American palates: a survey of more than 1,000 American adults found that 44% chose caramel as their favorite candy flavor to combine with chocolate. The next closest is mint, at 19%.

    Werther’s Original Cocoa Crème Soft Caramels pair their yummy soft caramel with a cocoa crème filling.

    They join Werther’s other dual-flavor caramels, including Caramel Apple and Coffee Caramel.

    We love soft caramels. Aside from the pricey ones from artisan chocolatiers, Werther’s is our favorite everyday brand.

    Another thing we love about the brand is the sugar-free options.

    The line includes hard, chewy, soft and filled caramels, as well as the sugar-free caramels in seven flavors (the chewy sugar-free caramels and chocolate caramels are a must-try) and caramel popcorn.

    As they say at the company, they’re a treat that’s truly “werth it.”

    For more information visit Werther’s Original USA.

     

      

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