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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 TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Cookies/Cake/Pastry

TIP OF THE DAY DAY: Cook With Beer For St. Patrick’s Day

Beer lovers know the fun of cooking with beer.

A quick look at TasteOfHome.com revealed 30 recipes with beer, including beer battered fish, bread, dip, braised ribs, cheese soup, chili, glazed steaks, green beans, fondue, mac and cheese, mustard, potato wedges, pot roast, roast chicken and beef stew. Whew!

Our suggestion is for a breakfast treat, Irish soda muffins and jam, both made with Irish Red ale.

Boston beer king Samuel Adams asked two local artisan food producers, both members of their Brewing the American Dream Program, to make St. Patrick’s Day recipes with its beer. The result is yummy. We could start every day with the Irish soda muffins!

If today is a good baking day for you, whip up a batch of muffins. Enjoy some warm out of the oven, and stick the rest in the freezer for St. Patrick’s Day breakfast.

The muffin recipe is by Sandy Russo of LuLu’s Sweet Shoppe in Boston’s North End. They taste just like Irish soda bread, but with the denser texture of muffins.

RECIPE: IRISH SODA MUFFINS

Ingredients

  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons barley malt* (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup Samuel Adams Irish Red†
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 cup raisins
  • Garnish: sanding sugar (substitute table sugar)
  •    

    irish-soda-muffins-kingarthur-230

    Bites of heaven: Irish soda muffins. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.

     

    *Look for barley malt powder, also called diastatic malt powder or barley flour, at health food or brewing supplies shops; or buy it online. It keeps well in the freezer in a tightly sealed container, and can be used to make bagels and other bread doughs.

    †If you can’t find Irish Red, substitute Boston Lager.
     
    Preparation

    1. POSITION the rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray the top of a muffin pan with non-stick coating and line with paper liners.

    2. CREAM together in a large bowl the butter, sugar and barley malt until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla.

    3. MIX in the flour, salt and baking powder with the paddle attachment on low speed, just until incorporated. Add the beer until incorporated. Next add the sour cream, caraway seeds and raisins. Scrape down the sides of bowl and beat until smooth, about 25 seconds.

    4. SCOOP into the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops lightly with sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and spring back when lightly tapped.

     

    irish-red-bottle-230

    Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a bottle of Irish Red. Photo courtesy Samuel Adams.

     

    RECIPE: ST. PADDY’S DAY JAM

    This recipe is by Allen Chrisholm of Al’s Backwoods Berrie Co. in Plymouth, Massachusetts. For a festive touch, add four drops of green food coloring to create a green jam—perfect for spreading on Irish soda bread muffins on St. Patrick’s Day!

    Ingredients For 7 Eight-Ounce Jars

  • 2 bottles Samuel Adams Irish Red* or Boston Lager
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Pinch of orange zest
  • 2/3 cup of dry, store bought pectin (2 full packages)
  • 5 cups sugar
  • Optional: 4 drops green food color
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the beer in a saucepan along with the honey and orange zest. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the pectin very slowly. Once the pectin is added, return the mixture to a boil for 1 minute, constantly stirring the mixture so it does not burn.

    2. ADD the sugar very slowly and bring the mixture back to a boil.

    3. BOIL the jars and the lids in a separate pan so that when you fill them, they are as hot as the jam. Fill and seal the jars and turn them upside down for 3 to 5 minutes; then return them upright. Let cool.

     

    WHAT IS IRISH RED ALE?

    Originally brewed in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1710, Irish red ales are known for their rich and smooth flavor plus balance, making them ideal for warmer days yet pleasant during the chilly ones.

    Deep russet in color, Samuel Adams Irish Red is inspired by the red ales of Ireland (just about every brewer there makes it).

    Full of hearty, roasty character and a backbone of malty sweetness, Samuel Adams Irish Red is “brewed to suit the cool rainy days,” according to the brewer.

    Irish Reds are easy to drink: well-rounded, a bit sweet, with a lightly hopped tea-like flavor and a pleasant toasted malt character. If you have a source for imports, look for Killian’s, Murphy’s, Smithwick’s and other Irish brands. Perhaps you can celebrate the day with an Irish Red tasting!

      

    Comments

    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.

       

    pi-pie-day-greatmindsofscience.tumblr-230

    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
  •  

    lemon-cream-cheese-pie-norsknook-uwisconsinpress-230r

    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.

      

    Comments

    ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Green Velvet Cupcakes

    Easy-Green-Velvet-Cupcakes-mccormick-ps-230

    St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes. Photo courtesy
    McCormick.

     

    The popularity of red velvet cake has opened the doors for other brightly-colored cakes. Duncan Hines even has a seasonal line of “Velvet” mixes: Spring Velvets (pink and yellow layers), Summer Velvets (blue and red layers with white frosting for July 4th), Autumn Velvets (orange and brown layers) and Holiday Velvets (red and green layers).

    But in this easy recipe for Green Velvet Cupcakes, German chocolate cake mix is used, along with an entire bottle of green food color. You can leave the frosting vanilla-flavored or add mint extract. You can leave the frosting white or tint it green.

    Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes. Don’t forget that you’ll need two 12-well muffin tins and paper liners! These shamrock cupcake liners have free standard shipping.

    RECIPE: GREEN VELVET CUPCAKES

    A green twist on classic red velvet, these cupcakes are perfect for St. Patrick’s Day, with a delicious cream cheese frosting.

     
    Ingredients For 24 Servings

  • 1 package (2-layer size) German chocolate cake mix with pudding (e.g. Betty Crocker’s)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 bottle green food color
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  •  

    For The Frosting

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 box (16 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon green food color
  • Decorations: green sprinkles, sanding sugar or confetti shamrocks
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Beat the cake mix, sour cream, water, cocoa powder, oil, food color, eggs and vanilla in large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed, just until moistened, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

    2. POUR the batter into 24 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

     

    green-food-color_mccormick-230

    You’ll need one bottle for the cupcakes, plus more if you want to tint the frosting green. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
    3. COOL in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans; cool completely on wire rack.

    4. MAKE the cream cheese frosting. Beat the cream cheese, butter, sour cream and vanilla in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add optional mint extract and green food color. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Makes 2-1/2 cups.

    5. FROST the cooled cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles.

      

    Comments

    ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Irish Cream Swirl Brownies

    Irish-Cream-Swirl-Brownies-mccormick-230

    Irish Cream Swirl Brownies. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    The zebra brownie takes on a seasonal twist with a splash of Irish cream liqueur and green food coloring. Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 35 minutes.

    RECIPE: IRISH CREAM SWIRL BROWNIES

    Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 1 package fudge brownie mix (or adapt your own from-scratch recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon green food color
  • Optional: vanilla ice cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the brownie mix as directed on the package, adding the vanilla.

    2. RESERVE 1 cup of batter. Spread the remaining batter in greased 9-inch square baking pan. (Tip: For easy clean-up, line the pan with foil, with the ends of the foil extending over sides of pan. Use foil handles to remove brownie from pan.)

    3. BEAT the cream cheese, flour and sugar in medium bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the Irish cream liqueur, egg and food color; beat until well blended. Pour over the brownie layer in pan. Drop the reserved 1 cup of batter by spoonfuls over the cream cheese layer. Cut through batter with knife several times for the marble effect.

    4. BAKE as directed on package for 9-inch square baking pan. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares. Serve with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Green Macarons

    Paris may not be as festive as Dublin or New York when it comes to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day; but rest assured, there are celebrations! Both expats and locals head to the city’s numerous Irish pubs and yes, there is green beer. (Who knew that Paris had “numerous Irish pubs?” Source)

    We, however, would head to Ladurée or Pierre Hermé for pistachio macarons, a classic flavor where the meringue is colored green.

    You don’t have to head to Paris. If there are no macarons in your neck of the woods, you can order them from Dana’s Bakery, Macaron Café or Mad Mac. There are also Ladurée outposts in New York City and Miami, but we couldn’t find online ordering options for either.

    Dana’s Bakery, which doesn’t make classic flavors*, has two green options right now: Key Lime Pie and Thin Mint. So if pistachio nuts are not your thing, she’s your gal.

    While a classic pistachio macaron is filled with pistachio or vanilla ganache, or possibly chocolate ganache, we’ve found varieties from creative macaron artists that feature matcha ganache, peanut butter ganache, red bean jam and other fillings (like Dana’s chocolate mint and Key lime). Whatever your preference, include a bit of France in your St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

       

    pistachio-pierre_herme-230

    Plan in advance: green macarons (pistachio)
    for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo courtesy Pierre
    Hermé.

     

    *The current flavors at Dana’s Bakery include Birthday Cake, Cookie Dough, Cotton Candy, Fruity Cereal, Jelly Doughnut, Orange Creamsicle, Peanut Butter & Jelly, S’mores and Strawberry Shortcake, among others.

     

    AmarettiCookies-recchiuti-230

    Ameretti, the “original” macaroons. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy Michael Recchiuti.

     

    WHO INVENTED MACARONS?

    The ganache-filled meringue cookie sandwiches shown above are called Parisian macarons. The first macaroons, from Italy, were quite different: almond meringue cookies similar to today’s amaretti, with a crisp crust and a soft interior (see the photo at left).

    The name derived from the Italian maccarone or maccherone, itself derived from ammaccare, meaning to crush or to beat. (The reference is to the crushed almonds or almond paste, which is the principal ingredient.)

    These original macaroons arrived in France in 1533 with the pastry chefs of Catherine de Medici, who married France’s King Henri II. More than two centuries later, two Benedictine nuns, seeking asylum in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution (1789-1799), paid for their housing by baking and selling the cookies.

     
    According to Wikipedia, “[Pâtisserie] Ladurée’s rise to fame came in 1930 when his grandson, Pierre Desfontaines Ladurée, had the original idea of the double-decker, sticking two macaron shells together with a creamy ganache as filling.

    The first versions combined two plain almond meringues with a filling of chocolate ganache; but today, various varieties of ganache, buttercream or jam are sandwiched between meringues of seemingly limitless colors and flavors.

    Other stories variously give the invention date as “the beginning of the 20th century” and 1952. The latter date has credence if you believe the blog ParisPatisseries.com, that in 2012, Laduree hosted a 60th anniversary party for the macaron.

    Here’s the history of macarons.
     
    MACARONS VS. MACAROONS

    Italian Jews adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening, and thus can be enjoyed during the eight-day observation of Passover. It was introduced to other European Jews and became popular as a year-round sweet. Over time, coconut was added to the ground almonds and, in certain recipes, replaced them.

    When the coconut cookies arrived in England and the U.S., macaron became macaroon. Until the Parisian macaron craze began within the last ten years, coconut macaroons were far more prevalent in the U.S. and the U.K. They’re a lot easier to make and transport than the fragile Parisian variety.

    A tasting plate of amaretti, coconut macaroons and Parisian macarons would be an excellent “educational dessert.”

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Poppyseed Pockets

    Last night at sunset, the Jewish holiday of Purim began. As recounted in the Old Testament’s Book Of Esther, it commemorates the saving of the Jewish people in 5th century B.C.E. Persia from a plot by Hamen, advisor to the king, to annihilate them in a single day. (Here’s the whole story.)

    Traditional foods are part of the celebration, the most famous of which is hamentaschen.

    The name means “Hamen’s pockets” (the singular is hamentasch).

    A three-cornered filled cookie, named after the tricorner hat worn by Haman. It is created by folding in the sides of a circular piece of dough, with filling placed in the center. Traditional fillings are poppy seed, prune, date, apricot, and fruit preserves. Of course, modern bakers have increased the appeal by using chocolate, dulce de leche and sweetened cheese.

    You don’t have to celebrate Purim to bake a batch. You can make a traditional hamentashen recipe, or try the modern version below. The cookies are round instead of triangular, and cream cheese is added to the traditional poppyseed filling.

       

    poppyseed-pockets-goboldwithbutter-230

    Poppy pockets are a spin on traditional hamentaschen. Photo and recipe courtesy GoBoldWithButter.

     
    RECIPE: POPPYSEED POCKETS

    Ingredients For 3 Dozen Cookies

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2-3/4 cups flour
  • 1 12.5-ounce can poppy seed filling*
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  •  
    *You can find it online if your local supermarket doesn’t have it.

     

    poppyseed-filling-solo-230

    Buy poppyseed filling in the can. You can find
    it in supermarkets or online. Photo courtesy Solo.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer; mix until well combined. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and vanilla; mix to combine.

    2. SLOWLY ADD the flour and mix just until thoroughly incorporated. Remove the dough and divide it into four equal parts. Flatten each into a round disc and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour.

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. On a well-floured surface, roll out one packet of dough at a time, to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a 2-inch, round cookie cutter, cut circles from the dough and transfer half of the circles to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Reserve the remaining circles to use as tops for each cookie. Re-roll and cut any remaining dough scraps.

    4. PLACE 1 teaspoon of poppy seed filling in the center of each dough circle. Dip the tip of your finger or a small pastry brush in water and lightly brush water around the edge of each filled circle. Quickly cover each with a reserved dough circle top and use the tines of a fork to gently crimp the edges of the two circles together. Cut an “X” into the top of each cookie with tip of a sharp knife.

     
    5. BAKE 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies just start to turn golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and dust generously with confectioners’ sugar. Let the cookies cool on baking sheets for 3 to 4 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
     
    WHAT ELSE TO DO WITH POPPYSEED FILLING

    Solo Foods, producers of the most prominent brand in the U.S., has recipes for:

  • Bread: muffins, quick breads, yeast breads
  • Candy: fudge, truffles
  • Desserts: custards, mousse, puddings, trifles
  • Savory: barbecue sauce, chicken Kiev, chicken wings, kebab sauce
  • Sweet baked goods: bundts, brownies and bars, cake and cheesecake, cookies, cupcakes,
    frostings/icings, pie/pastry, tarts
  •  
    Check them out at SoloFoods.com. Our personal favorite: poppyseed yeast cake (coffee cake).

    UPDATE:

    Reader Cheryl Olenczak writes that it’s easy to make homemade poppyseed filling and avoid the additives in commercial brands. She uses a recipe submitted by Hepzibah to AllRecipes.com, substituting butter for the margarine.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes Ready In: 1 Hour

    RECIPE: HUNGARIAN POPPY SEED FILLING

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound poppy seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  •  
    Preparation

    1. GRIND the poppy seeds in a mill or coffee grinder.

    2. COMBINE the milk, butter/margarine and sugar in a saucepan. Cook on low heat, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves. Gradually pour about half of the hot milk mixture into the beaten eggs, whisking constantly.

    3. RETURN the egg and milk mixture to the saucepan. Continue to cook and stir until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a metal spoon. (Run your finger down the coated spoon: it should draw a clear line.) Add the poppy seeds and stir well to blend.

    4. REMOVE from the heat; cool before using. Store unused filling in the refrigerator for up to five days.
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Banana Bread

    banana-bread-chips-nuts-LuluDurand-230

    Banana bread with chocolate chips and nuts.
    We highly recommend the optional chocolate
    glaze in the recipe (not shown). Photo
    by Lulu Durand | IST.

     

    You’d think we could get a decent piece of banana bread in this town, but it’s surprisingly tough. Most of what we purchase at specialty food stores has only a nodding acquaintance with bananas. With no banana punch but a high level of spices, it could be zucchini bread.

    One does do better at bakeries; but alas, bakeries are fast becoming extinct here due to low margins and astounding rents. So since today is National Banana Bread Day, grab the bananas and a loaf pan and start baking.

    One reason that some recipes fall short on banana flavor is that the recipe requires overripe bananas. When they’re brown and splotchy and unappealing, that’s when you want to bake. The more brown/overripe, the sweeter the banana flavor.

    A trick for always having the perfect ripeness on hand: Buy the bananas before you need them. (If you’re lucky, you’ll find overripe ones that have been marked down.) Once they become overripe, peel them, wrap them tightly and freeze them. They thaw quickly at room temperature when you’re ready to bake.

    We always bake a double batch and put the second one in the freezer; although work colleagues, hairdressers, friends and neighbors would be grateful for a slice.

    This recipe was adapted from one by Charles Masters for the Food Network.

     
    Ingredients For the Bread

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup mashed banana (2-3 very ripe bananas)
  •  
    For The Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

    2. COMBINE the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add the chocolate chips.

    3. WHISK the eggs, melted butter, sour cream, vanilla and orange zest in a medium bowl. Stir in the mashed banana, then fold the mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.

    4. ADD the batter to the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes in the pan on a rack, then turn the bread out onto the rack to cool completely.

    5. MAKE the glaze: Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, milk, vanilla and salt in a bowl. Pour over the cooled banana bread and let set, 15 to 20 minutes.

     

    overripe-bananas-bakinglibrary.blogspot-230

    Make banana bread with overripe bananas. These are just beginning to get ripe enough. The splotchier, the better. Photo courtesy Baking Library | Blogspot.

     

    DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “BREAD” & CAKE

    There is a transition between sweet breads and lower-sugar cakes that are baked in loaf pans, such as carrot bread and banana bread.

    What’s the difference between a banana bread and a banana cake? The obvious difference is that the bread is baked in a loaf pan while the cake is baked in a round, square or rectangular cake pan.

    A less obvious distinction is that the bread style of cake, as a quickbread*, is leavened with baking soda instead of yeast, which makes them quicker to rise.

    In general, loaf cakes or “breads” also have a denser crumb, a rougher texture and often less sugar than their cake counterparts.

    While the origin of the “bread” style of cake is unknown, food historians believe that it was originated in the 18th century with housewives experimenting with pearl ash. Banana bread became common in American cookbooks in the 1930s, with the popularization of baking soda and baking powder, and very popular in the 1960s, when variations with simple inclusions (nuts, chocolate morsels) created simple but delicious snack cakes.

     
    *Other quickbread examples include biscuits, cornbread, muffins, scones and soda bread.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cherry Cheesecake With Chocolate Glaze

    chocolate-cherry-cheesecake-bettycrocker-230

    Cherry cheesecake with chocolate accents.
    Photo and recipe courtesy Betty Crocker.

     

    Next in our choice of cherry recipes for Washington’s Birthday (February 22nd) is a cherry cheesecake with a twist: a chocolate crust and chocolate glaze.

    Prep time for this Betty Crocker recipe is just 35 minutes, plus another 5 hours and 50 minutes for baking and chilling.

    You can make this recipe ahead of time and freeze it. To do so, first bake the cheesecake; cool and glaze. Freeze it until the glaze is set. Then wrap it tightly and freeze it for up to 1 month. Before serving, unwrap and thaw the cheesecake in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours.

    Make it again on April 23rd, National Cherry Cheesecake Day.

    RECIPE: CHERRY CHEESECAKE WITH CHOCOLATE

    Ingredients For 16 Servings

    Ingredients For The Crust

  • 2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  •  
    For The Filling

  • 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 can or jar (21 ounces) cherry pie filling—or make your own with the recipe below
  •  
    For The Glaze

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. In medium bowl, combine the crust ingredients; mix well. Press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of an ungreased 10-inch springform pan.

    2. BEAT the cream cheese in large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sugar and almond extract until smooth. Add 1/2 cup whipping cream; blend well.

    3. SPOON 3-1/2 cups of the cream cheese mixture into crust-lined pan, spreading evenly. Carefully spoon 1 cup of the pie filling evenly overthe cream cheese layer (reserve remaining pie filling for the topping). Spoon the remaining cream cheese mixture evenly over the pie filling.

    4. BAKE for 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes or until the center is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour.

    5. MAKE the glaze: In 1-quart saucepan, heat 1/2 cup whipping cream to boiling over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Stir in the chocolate chips until melted.

    6. LINE a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Remove the side of the springform pan. Place the cheesecake on the paper-lined cookie sheet. Spread the glaze over the cooled cheesecake, allowing some to flow down the side.

    7. REFRIGERATE at least 3 hours or overnight. Serve topped with the remaining pie filling.

     

    MAKE YOUR OWN CHERRY PIE FILLING

    Some brands of pie filling are distinctly better than others. A safe bet is to pick up an organic brand. The extra cost is worth it.

    For a luxury experience, we use a jar of sour cherry pie filling from Chukar Cherries (it’s $14.95).

    But if your discriminating palate doesn’t like any canned cherry filling, it’s easy to make your own with just 20 minutes of prep time, and 1 hour 10 minutes of cook time.

    RECIPE: CHERRY PIE FILLING

    Ingredients For An 8-Inch Pie

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen tart (Montmorency) cherries; or canned cherries in water (see photo at right)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 tablespoon almond extract (optional)
  •  

    oregon-specialty-fruit-red-tart-cherries-230

    Make your own cherry filling with fresh or frozen cherries, or canned cherries in water. Photo courtesy Oregon Specialty Fruit.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the cherries in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer. After the cherries lose considerable juice (several minutes—stir occasionally), remove from the heat.

    2. COMBINE in a small bowl the sugar and cornstarch. Pour into the hot cherries and combine thoroughly. Add the almond extract and stir. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently.

    3. REMOVE from the heat and let cool. If the filling is too thick, add a little water. It it’s too thin, add a bit more cornstarch.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Best Cherry Pie

    cherry-pie-lattice-cherrymktginst-230

    This cherry pie gets a fancy lattice top. Photo courtesy Cherry Marketing Institute.

     

    It’s National Cherry Pie Day, and we’re honoring both the holiday and Jean Van’t Hul by publishing her recipe for “the best cherry pie ever.”

    Like all good cooks, Jean has worked on this recipe for years, adapting recipes from prominent sources like Rose Levy Beranbaum and Cook’s Illustrated.

    Jean notes that her recipe uses cherries canned in water. “not that dreadful canned cherry pie filling.”

    RECIPE: THE BEST CHERRY PIE

    Ingredients

    For The Pie Crust

  • 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons ice water
  • For The Filling

  • 3 cans tart cherries in water (Jean likes Oregon Fruit Products Red Tart Cherries, which she often finds with the canned fruit instead of in the baking aisle)
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  •  
    Plus

  • Optional garnish: crème fraîche, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the pie crust. Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor (or use a pastry blender). Cut the butter into smaller pieces and add to food processor. Pulse a few times. Cut the shortening into smaller pieces and add to food processor. Pulse a few more times, until butter and shortening are the size of peas or smaller. Transfer to a large bowl.

    2. SPRINKLE 3-4 tablespoons of ice water over the dough mixture at a time, mixing and pressing with a sturdy rubber spatula until the dough comes together. Divide into two and wrap each half in plastic wrap. (Tip: Dump the semi-formed dough onto plastic, wrap it up, knead it bit until it forms a ball, then flatten it into a disk.) Refrigerate until ready to use.

    3. MIX the 3 cans of cherries plus the juice from 1-1/2 cans with sugar, cornstarch, salt and almond extract in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, or until the liquid is thick and bubbly (partially jelled). Set aside to cool.

     

    oregon-specialty-fruit-red-tart-cherries-230

    Look for pitted cherries in water, not “glop.” Photo courtesy Oregon Specialty Fruit.

     

    4. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and place on a lower rack, to catch any drips.

    5. SPRINKLE the counter with flour and roll out the bottom pie crust. Arrange in a pie pan. Pour the cooled pie filling into the crust.

    6. ROLL out the top crust. Use a sharp knife to cut the top crust into strips for a lattice crust or use a cookie cutter to make other designs. Either drape your top crust over the pie, if you used a cookie cutter design, or weave your traditional lattice crust (here’s a YouTube video).

    7. TRIM Tthe edges of the top and bottom crust to 1/2-1 inch beyond the pie pan and then fold them under. Either press around the perimeter with the tines of a fork or crimp it with your fingers.

    8. BRUSH the crust with a beaten egg white (or cream) and sprinkle sugar on top.

    9. BAKE for 20 minutes at 425°F, then lower the oven temperature to 375°F and add a pie crust shield (or a foil tent with the center cut out) to protect the outer edges of the crust from burning. Bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the crust looks nicely browned and the juices bubble up thickly.

    10. REMOVE the pie from the oven and let cool for 3 hours or so before eating, so the filling will gel properly. Garnish as desired and serve.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Green Tea Fortune Cookie Cake

    At last: an idea to repurpose the fortune cookies that so many of us acquire from Chinese food take-out.
    This Green Tea layer cake is made by Baked NYC, one of the most popular bakeries in New York City. The cake has three almond white cake layers, frosted and filled with green tea buttercream.

    You can call it a Green Tea Cake, Fortune Cookie Cake, or Chinese New Year Cake. It’s easy to whip up with a box of white cake mix and some dark or white chocolate, into which you dip the fortune cookies. Here’s how:

    RECIPE: GREEN TEA FORTUNE COOKIE CAKE

  • Add 1 teaspoon of almond extract to a white cake batter (use a boxed mix).
  • If you want an actual green tea cake, add 4 teaspoons of matcha (powdered green tea) to the cake batter/mix and omit the almond extract.
  • Make the green tea buttercream (recipe below).
  • Dip the fortune cookies into melted dark or white chocolate.
  • If you like crunch, crush extra fortune cookies with a rolling pin and add the pieces to the filling over the bottom layer.
  •    

    green-tea_layer-cake-230

    Green tea frosting on a layer cake. The fortune cookies were dipped in white chocolate. Photo courtesy BakedNYC.com.

     
    If you want to make your own fortune cookies from scratch, here’s the recipe.
     

    RECIPE: GREEN TEA BUTTERCREAM

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 sticks butter softened
  • 3 tablespoons matcha green tea powder
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the water and tea powder to make a paste.

    2. CREAM the butter and tea until completely combined. Gradually add powdered sugar until you reach the consistency you like for frosting.

     

    Matcha

    Matcha, powdered green tea, is whisked with
    water into a foamy beverage. Photo by Kelly
    Cline | IST.

     

    WHAT IS MATCHA?

    Matcha is powdered green tea the consistency of talc, that is used in the Japanese tea ceremony (cha no yu). Matcha has a wonderful aroma, a creamy, silky froth and a rich, mellow taste.

    Matcha is made from ten-cha leaves, which are gyokuro leaves that have been not been rolled into needles but are instead steamed and dried. They are top-grade Japanese green tea, produced by a special process in the Uji district, a region known for producing some of the finest green teas in Japan.

    The tea bushes are shaded from sunlight for three weeks before harvesting, producing amino acids that sweeten the taste. Unlike whole leaf tea, which is steeped, the leaves are then ground like flour, slowly and finely in a stone mill. The powder is whisked into water, creating a foamy drink. It is the only powdered tea.

    Powdered tea is the original way in which tea was prepared. Steeping dried leaves in boiling water didn’t arrive until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

    Matcha contains a higher amount of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, L-theanine amino acids, polyphenols, chlorophyll and fiber) than other teas.

     
    In recent years, matcha has become a popular cooking and baking ingredient, and now comes in different grades for different uses. Pastry chefs have incorporated it into everything from cakes and custards to ice cream.
     
    WHAT IS THE CHINESE NEW YEAR?

    The Chinese calendar consists of both Gregorian and lunar-solar calendar systems. Because the track of the new moon changes from year to year, Chinese New Year can begin anytime between late January and mid-February.

    This year, it begins today, and it’s the Year Of The Goat, one of the 12 zodiac animals. The Chinese zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle. Each year in the cycle has an animal sign: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat/ram/sheep, monkey, rooster, dog or pig.

    But what’s with the goat/sheep/ram? Which one is it?

    It’s what you want it to be. In Mandarin, the character “yang” refers to a horned animal, and covers all three of the contenders. But if you go for sheep, know that is one of the least desirable animals on the zodiac. A sheep is seen as a docile, weak follower, rather than a leader.

    So go for the goat: a feisty, independent-minded ruminant whose milk makes our favorite cheese!

    If This Is Your Lunar Year…

    In addition to those born this year, those under the goat/ram/sheep sign were born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991 and 2003. For them, 2015 is an auspicious year.

    People born in the Year Of The Goat are said to like to be in groups. They are honest, intimate, and can be easily moved by the misfortune of others.

    Every sign confers lucky numbers, lucky colors, lucky flowers, etc. So whether you’re a goat or one of the other zodiac animals, head on over to ChinaHighlights.com to find yours.

    CHINESE NEW YEAR TRIVIA: The tradition of spending the Lunar New Year holiday with family means that hundreds of millions of Chinese people are traveling home. It’s the world’s biggest annual migration.

      

    Comments

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