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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
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Archive for Cookies/Cake/Pastry

TIP OF THE DAY: Angel Food Cake For Summer

One of our favorite summer cakes is angel food cake, a light, flourless cake made with sugar, cream of tartar, salt, extract (almond, lemon or vanilla). a dozen or so egg whites and a touch of salt. There is no leavening, no cholesterol, no gluten and just 72 calories for a slice equal to 1/12 of the cake.

Angel food cake is typically baked in a tube pan; a bundt pan doesn’t work (don’t try it!). The tube pan should have a removable bottom and “feet”, so you can invert the hot cake pan directly onto the counter to cool.

The tender, snowy white cake is popularly served with berries and whipped cream, although it can be served plain, with other fruits or with a dessert sauce (caramel, chocolate, custard, fruit curd, fresh fruit).

Fluffy, airy cake, berries and whipped cream: It was the summer cake baked by our mother, who whipped heavy cream with an electric beater until she purchased an iSi professional cream whipper with nitrous oxide cartridges. (We still have her 60-year-old whipper. It works great, and the whipped cream is so much more delicious than supermarket aerosols.)

A delicious hot weather cake. Whipped cream optional or imperative, depending on your point of view. Photo courtesy

Angel food cake is an American creation. Some historians think that the first angel food cakes were baked in the South by African-American slaves, due to the strength required to hand-whip the air into the whites with a whisk (the hand-cranked rotary beater didn’t appear until 1865-1870).

Others theorize that the cake originated in Pennsylvania Dutch country in the early 1800s, based on the quantity of old tube pan-like cake molds in the area. There is a National Angel Food Cake Day, October 10th. Whoever picked that date didn’t read the memo on best summer cakes.

Here’s a recipe sent to us by McCormick, contributed by Amanda of, who adapted it from the She used McCormick extracts and spices.

Read the entire recipe and see the tips at the end of this article before preparing the recipe.

For July 4th, instead of the roasted strawberry sauce, make Red, White & Blue Angel Food Cake with fresh berries.


Ingredients For The Angel Food Cake

  • 1-1/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups egg whites, at room temperature (from about 12 large eggs—but it’s better to purchase egg whites only if you have no uses for the yolks)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
    Ingredients For The Roasted Strawberry Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 10 ounces of strawberry spread (or jam, jelly preserves)
  • Whipped cream (make your own from scratch)

    For The Angel Food Cake

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. If you have not tested your oven recently, use an oven thermometer to verify that the temperature has been reached.

    2. SIFT together in a large bowl 3/4 cup of the sugar and the sifted cake flour (this is half of the sugar and all of the flour).

    3. FIT a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and beat the egg whites in the bowl until foamy, about 2 minutes. Add the cream of tartar, lemon juice, vanilla and almond extracts, balsamic and salt, and continue to beat until soft peaks form, roughly 2-3 minutes.

    4. GRADUALLY BEAT in the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until glossy stiff peaks form. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

    5. REMOVE the bowl from stand and sift the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, over the beaten egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold (do not stir) the flour into the egg whites.

    6. DO NOT butter or spray or grease the tube pan. Pour the batter into the ungreased pan and run a metal spatula or knife through the batter to eliminate air pockets. Smooth the top and bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. The cake is done when the cake springs back when gently pressed or there are cracks over the top.

    7. INVERT the pan immediately upon removing from the oven and allow the cake to cool for about 1-1/2 hours. If your pan does not have feet, invert on the neck of a full wine bottle. When completely cool…

    8. RUN an offset spatula or knife around the sides and center tube of the pan to loosen the cake, then remove the cake from the pan. Next, use the offest spatula (or knife) along the bottom and remove. Set the cake on a serving plate or cake stand.


    A slice of angel cake has just 72 calories (without the toppings). Photo courtesy


    Preparation For The Roasted Strawberry Sauce

    Why roast the strawberries instead of simply slicing them? It creates juice and a very soft texture. Strawberries are not a great baking berry, since they tend to lose their shape and texture. Roasted, their flavor becomes more intense.

    Note that you can’t roast the berries in advance. As they sit, some of the color will start to leach from the berries into the juice. So when the cake comes out of the oven, turn up the heat and roast the strawberries.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Place the sliced strawberries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle evenly with the maple syrup and sprinkle the cinnamon on top. Roast at 400°F for 10-12 minutes or until the berries are tender and have begun to release their juices.

    2. PLACE the strawberry spread into a medium bowl. Scoop the roasted strawberries on top of the spread and mix them together with a fork. If the mixture seems too thick, add up to 1/2 cup warm water, a bit at a time.

    3. TO SERVE: Pour some of the sauce (not all) over the cake. Cut the cake using an eight- or ten-inch serrated knife (bread knife) in a sawing motion. Try not to press the cake down as you cut. Place each piece on a plate and drop a dollop of whipped cream on top. Cover with more strawberry sauce.

    OPTIONAL: For a smooth strawberry sauce, use a blender or food processor. If you do this, you may not need to add the strawberry spread.

  • BRING all ingredients to room temperature.
  • MEASURE or weigh the egg whites. Eggs can vary greatly in size and weight, and there are lots of them in this recipe. If you are separating whole eggs instead of buying egg whites, the eggs must be very fresh. It makes separating them easier, as does separating them fresh from the fridge instead of at room temperature.
  • ENSURE that the mixing bowl and beaters are absolutely clean and cool (we place ours in the freezer—it helps with the volume). Even a speck of grease can limit the volume you get from the egg whites.
  • DON’T OVERBEAT! Follow these three words: stiff glossy peaks.


    FOOD FUN: Pie Crust Cutters

    Surrounded by luscious spring and summer fruits, it’s hard not to want to bake a pie—or to learn how to bake one, if you’ve never dipped a toe in the oven.

    Two pie gadgets from Williams-Sonoma make even a novice seem like a sophisticated pie baker.


    Like lattice crusts but lack the time or patience to make them?

    Williams-Sonoma offers this solution: a lattice pie crust cutter. It quickly and easily cuts a lattice-like crust from rolled-out dough.

    You simply place the lattice insert in the bottom of the gadget’s frame, then lay a sheet of rolled dough on top. To create the pattern, use a rolling pin to press the cutter into the dough. Lift off the insert and invert the latticed dough onto the pie.

    It’s not as dramatic as a hand-woven lattice, but it’s certainly more interesting than a solid top crust!



    Press a lattice-style pie crust in 1-2-3. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.


    Get yours at, $19.95.



    A patriotic pie, indeed! Photo courtesy



    What we really love is this American flag pie crust cutter, also from Williams-Sonoma and also $19.95.

    While we try to avoid bringing single-use gadgets into our small kitchen, we made an exception for this one. Now, a patriotic pie will be our annual contribution to July 4th festivities.

    Get yours at

    Both inserts are designed for use with a 12″ diameter pastry crust.




    RECIPE: Grilled Fruit Flatbread

    As long as the grill is fired up, grill your dessert!

    In this recipe from McCormick, naan flatbread, an Indian staple, serves as the base for fresh fruit.

    Both the bread and the fruit are grilled separately, then assembled with a yogurt sauce, chopped pistachios and a garam masala-spiced honey drizzle that continue the theme.

    Grill your favorite fruit: apricot, mango, nectarine, peach, pineapple, plum or strawberry work well.

    If you’re concerned about buying a bottle of spice for just one recipe, fear not:

    Garam masala, which adds warm, sweet flavor, is an all-purpose seasoning for chicken, fish, lamb, potatoes, rice pilaf, even breads. Read more about it below. You may even already have the spices to blend your own (see the end of this article).

    Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 10 minutes.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings



    A peach tart made on the grill. Photo courtesy McCormick.

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons garam masala, divided (we used McCormick Gourmet Garam Masala Blend)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey, divided
  • 1 package (8.8 ounces—2 pieces) plain naan
  • 2 ripe peaches, pitted and quartered
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (substitute vanilla yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons flaked coconut
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped pistachios (substitute sliced almonds, chopped walnuts or pecans)

    1. MIX the butter, 2 teaspoons of the garam masala and 1 teaspoon of the honey in small bowl. Brush the naan and peaches with honey mixture.

    2. GRILL the naan over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes per side or until toasted. Grill the peaches 2 to 3 minutes or until grill marks appear. Slice the peaches into 1/4-inch thick slices.

    3. MIX the yogurt and coconut; spread atop each naan. Top with the sliced peaches and sprinkle with the pistachios. Mix the remaining 1 tablespoon honey and 1/4 teaspoon garam masala and drizzle over the top of the peaches. Serve warm or at room temperature.



    Garam masala, a popular Indian spice blend. Photo courtesy McCormick.



    Garam masala is an aromatic spice blend originating in northern India, but used in both northern and southern cuisines. It is like other spice blends in that the ingredients and proportions will vary somewhat by cook or manufacturer.

    Garam means hot in Hindi, and masala is a mixture of spices. The ingredients generally include black, brown and green cardamom pods; black and white peppercorns; cinnamon; clove; coriander; cumin; nutmeg and/or mace*; and turmeric.

    Other ingredients can include bay leaf, fennel seeds, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, mace, malabar leaf, mustard seed, saffron, star anise and tamarind.

    In Northern Indian cuisine, garam masala is typically used in powder form, while in Southern India it is often made into a paste with coconut milk, vinegar or water.


    In fine cooking, the spices are toasted and ground before use, to maintain the intensity of the flavor. But you can buy preground blends, like McCormick’s garam masala.

    If you want to blend your own, here’s a very simple recipe. Start with these proportions and then adjust to your particular preferences:

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander (cilantro seed)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    Store unused spices in an airtight container away from heat and light.
    *Nutmeg is the seed of the nutmeg tree, while the more mild mace is the dried reddish covering of the seed.



    FOOD 101: Crisp, Crumble, Cobbler ~ The Difference


    Peach cobbler: The biscuit dough dropped
    on top resembles cobblestones. Photo
    courtesy Zulka Sugar.


    Do you know the difference between a cobbler, a crisp and a crumble? Have you ever had a betty, bird’s nest pudding (a.k.a. crow’s nest pudding), buckle, grunt, pandowdy or slump?

    There are many kinds of baked fruit desserts, from the simplest—cored fruits, baked or roasted—to pies and tarts, which cradle the baked fruit between one or two crusts.

    But one group of recipes gets confusing: deep dish baked fruit, made in pans or casseroles. There’s no crust, per se; but each variety is distinguished by its topping.

    These desserts can be made with any type of fruit, but are typically made with apples, berries or stone fruits—cherries, peaches, nectarines and plums.

    In observance of National Cherry Cobbler Day, May 17th, we explain the differences among the different baked fruit dishes.

    Baked in early American kitchens, these dishes were simple to make, using seasonal fruits, flour and sugar. According to What’s Cooking America, colonists often served them for breakfast, as a first course or even a main course. It was not until the late 19th century that they were served primarily as desserts.


  • BETTY, or brown betty, alternates layers of fruit with layers of buttered bread crumbs. Some modern recipes use graham cracker crumbs.
  • BIRD’S NEST PUDDING is a bit different: A pan of fruit is covered with a batter that bakes into an uneven top with the fruit poking through. It’s served in a bowl topped with heavy cream and spices.
  • BUCKLE, very similar to the French clafoutis (often spelled clafouti in the U.S.), adds fruit, usually berries, to a single layer of batter. When baked, it becomes a cake-like layer studded with berries. It is topped with a crumb layer (streusel), which gives it a buckled appearance. Alternatively, the cake, fruit and crumbs can be made as three separate layers.
  • COBBLER has a pastry top instead of a crumb top. Biscuit pastry is dropped from a spoon, the result resembling cobblestones.

  • CRISP is a deep-dish baked fruit dessert made with a crumb or streusel topping. The crumbs can be made with bread crumbs, breakfast cereal, cookie or graham cracker crumbs, flour or nuts.
  • CROW’S NEST PUDDING is another term for bird’s nest pudding. In some recipes, the fruit is cored, the hole filled with sugar, and the fruit wrapped in pastry.
  • CRUMBLE is the British term for crisp.
  • GRUNT is a spoon pie with biscuit dough on top of stewed fruit. Stewed fruit is steamed on top of the stove, not baked in the oven. The recipe was initially an attempt to adapt the English steamed pudding to the primitive cooking equipment available the Colonies. The term “grunt” was used in Massachusetts, while other New England states called the dish a slump.
  • PANDOWDY or pan dowdy is a spoon pie made with brown sugar or molasses. It has a rolled top biscuit crust that is broken up during baking and pushed down into the fruit to allow the juices to seep up. It is believed that the name refers to its “dowdy” appearance. Sometimes it is made “upside down” with the crust on the bottom, and inverted prior to serving.
  • SLUMP is another word for grunt.


    An apple crumble. Photo courtesy Spice Islands

    And don’t overlook:

  • SONKER or ZONKER, a North Carolina term for a deep-dish cobbler made of fruit or sweet potato.
    As Kim Severson, writing in The New York Times about sonkers and zonkers, notes: “These dishes are so regional that people within the same county will disagree on the proper form.”

    Your family may call it a particular dish by a particular name, correct or not. But the most correct thing is: Bake fruit in season, and bake it often!



    FOOD FUN: Brownie Mortarboards

    If you’d like to make a treat for a graduate, how about brownie mortarboards*?

    These, from Sugar Bowl Bakery in Hayward, California, show you how to do it.

    1. MAKE mini round brownies in a baba pan or cut circles with a cookie cutter from a regular pan of brownies.

    2. FIND a rectangular cookie covered in chocolate. We used these, but you can bake your own shortbread or sugar cookies and dip them.

    3. DECORATE with a jelly bean and a piece of licorice whip. Use a dab of chocolate frosting to afix the garnish to the cookie.



    Happy graduation! Photo courtesy Sugar Bowl Bakery.


    *A mortarboard is the square academic hat, or graduation cap, so named long ago because of its similarity in appearance to the plasterer’s tool used to hold mortar.



    TIP OF THE DAY: The Easiest Cupcake Garnishes


    Easy Mother’s Day cupcakes. Photo courtesy Sweet Street Desserts.


    If you still haven’t settled on a dessert for Mother’s Day, here’s the easy way out.

    You can make cupcakes like these, from, simply by purchasing plain cupcakes and topping them with a large piece of candy.

    Instead of sprinkles, the idea is to have one chocolate “centerpiece” to top the cupcake. Consider:

  • Baci
  • Bonbons
  • Chocolate-coverd cherries
  • Chocolate disks
  • Hershey Kisses (unwrapped)
  • Non-pareils
  • Toffee or brittle (large piece)

    Of course, you can bake your own cupcakes from scratch or a mix. But with this concept, the busiest dad or young child can “make cupcakes” for Mom.



    RECIPE: Decorated Macaron


    Almost too pretty to eat. Photo courtesy Culinary Vegetable Institute.


    Here’s something easy for Mother’s Day: a dessert or tea snack consisting of a single macaron, beautifully decorated.

    It’s from the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Ohio, where farmers grow the most glorious produce and chefs create wondrous dishes with it.

    You can create this macaron at home, either as a light dessert or as one of a number of dessert courses.

    Serve it with a cup of tea or a glass of sparkling wine. For birthdays, add a candle for the honoree.



  • Macarons
  • Edible flowers
  • Sanding sugar
  • Vanilla frosting

    1. PURCHASE or make macarons, ideally in a bright color for visual appeal.

    2. PLACE the macaron on its side, using a dab of frosting to affix it to the plate and keep it from rolling. While we don’t like canned frosting, in this case its thickness works to adhere the macaron.

    SPRINKLE the plate with sanding sugar in a complementary color. It’s typically available in pastels: blue, green, lavender, pink and yellow.

    3. PLACE the flower near the top.

    4. SCATTER the sanding sugar on the plate.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Carla Hall Petite Cookies

    Most fans of “Top Chef” Chef love Carla Hall, a finalist on her season and a subsequent Top Chef All Star, winning the “Fan Favorite” award.

    She went on to become a cohost on “The Chew” and to start Carla Hall Petite Cookies, an artisan cookie company that specializes in teeny cookies.

    A brilliant idea for people who need just a bite, the cookies are either half-inch cubes or one-inch drop cookies, depending on the nature of the dough.

    They’re meant to pair “boldly and beautifully,” according to Carla, with beer, wine, tea and coffee.

    For home, entertaining and gifting, we’ve been charmed by these little cookies. Made in small batches, every step from mixing the dough to packaging is done by hand.

    Of course, only the finest ingredients are used: European-style butter, unbleached sugar and flour, couverture chocolate, artisan cheeses, fresh nuts, premium spices and, says Carla of her most important ingredient: love.

    Focusing on familiar flavors with a twist, choices include:


    Harissa Spiced Nuts and Cookies

    Mexican Chocolate Chip Cookies, teeny bites of heaven. Carla Hall Petite Cookies.

    Petite Cookies

  • Almond Ginger Cherry Shortbread
  • Black Forest Crinkle (our favorite, a cherry-chocolate delight)
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Praline
  • Mexican Chocolate Chip
  • Lemon Black Pepper Shortbread
  • Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate
  • Pecan Shortbread with Vanilla Salt
    There’s one savory option:

  • Cheddar Pecan
    There are also cakes and regular-size cookies (including the best Magic bar we’ve ever had):

  • Cakes: Apple Walnut Bread, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cinnamon Tea Cake, Lemon-Glazed Five Flavor Pound Cake, Salted Caramel Banana Bread
  • Cookies: Magic Bar, Oatmeal Cookie Sandwich, Triple Layer Cookie Bar


    A gift box for any cookie lover. Photo courtesy Carla Hall Petite Cookies.



    Most definitely, the Sweet Collection Gift Box, which includes six of the seven varieties of sweet petites. It’s $25.00; there’s a smaller box with three varieties for $12.50.

    If you want to include a signed copy of Carla’s cookbook, Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World—you can add it to the Sweet Collection gift box for a total of $45.00.

    There are other gift options, other goodies, and of course, you can buy individual packages of whatever you like.

    Head to to get yours.

    Or, find a retailer near you.



    Fans of Top Chef may remember that Carla spent several years working as a model on the runways of Paris, Milan and London. It was in Paris that she fell in love with the art of food.

    But what most people don’t know is that before heading to Europe, Carla spent two years as a CPA at Price Waterhouse.

    When she returned from Europe, she attended L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland where she completed her culinary training and began her career as a professional chef.



    RECIPE: Coffee Shortbread Cookies


    Coffee shortbread with a chocolate glaze to pair with a fine cup of java. Photo courtesy Taste Of Home.


    As a gift for your favorite coffee-loving moms, bake coffee-flavored shortbread. These are made even more special with a double chocolate drizzle.

    The recipe, from Taste of Home, is easy to make. Prep time is 15 minutes, bake time is 20 minutes per batch plus cooling.


    Ingredients For 60 Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white baking chips, melted (substitute chopped white chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted (substitute chopped semisweet chocolate)
  • 2 teaspoons shortening, divided
  • Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 300°F. Cream the butter, sugars and coffee granules in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

    2. COMBINE the flour and salt in another bowl; gradually add to the creamed mixture.

    3. ROLL the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out the cookies with floured 2-inch to 3-inch cookie cutters.

    4. PLACE the cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 300°F for 20-22 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool.

    5. MAKE the chocolate drizzles. In a microwave, melt the white chocolate with 1 teaspoon shortening; stir until smooth. Repeat with the semisweet chocolate and remaining shortening. Drizzle over the cookies.

    6. REFRIGERATE until set. Store the cookies between pieces of waxed paper in an airtight container.


    GIFT: Cake In A Jar

    When you can’t be there to bake a cake, send a cake in a jar. Jar’d Cake from one of our favorite bakers, Cake Chicago, offers four delicious varieties to send as a Mother’s Day gift, or give as party favors.

    Everything at Cake Chicago is made from scratch, including the raspberry conserve a nd salted caramel.

    Choose from:

  • White Buttermilk Cake with raspberry conserve and italian meringue buttercream
  • Chocolate fudge cake with salted caramel filling
  • Carrot cake with cream cheese filling (spiced carrot cake, no raisins or nuts)
  • Banana cake with fudge filling
    Tied with grossgrain ribbon, the jars are $7.00 each, with a 2 jar minimum.



    Moist, delicious Jar’d Cake. Photo courtesy Cake Chicago.


    Get yours at



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