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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
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    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
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    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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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Fix Runny Fruit Pies

    Fruit pies are one of the joys of summer. But once you cut into your beautiful pie, the juice and fruit can spill out of the crust and into the space of the piece of pie you’ve just removed.

    Unhappily called a lava flow, pan puddle or slump—or simply runny pie—you can eliminate it through experimentation with types and amounts of thickeners.

    You want your pie filling to hold its shape. Where do you begin? Here’s a detailed matrix from P.J. Hamel of King Arthur Flour, who advises that every recipe needs testing until it meets your satisfaction. There is no one perfect solution.

    Why? Each fruit has a different amount of pectin, a natural thickener. Each type of added thickener has a different thickening power, based on the percentage of starch it contains.

    For this reason, recipes from reliable sources use a specific type and amount of thickener for a specific type of fruit. Don’t substitute either the fruit or the thickener and expect optimal results.

    For example:

  • Apples contain a lot of pectin, a natural thickener. Although they release juice when cooked, they are not nearly as juicy as stone fruit or berries.
  • Stone fruits have less pectin than apples, but more than berries. They need an in-between amount of thickener.
  • Berries are the juiciest, and need the most thickener. Frozen berries release even more liquid, and require more thickener.
  • Blueberries have the most pectin of the berry group. They need a bit little less thickener than other berries.
  • Fresh cherries need less thickener than canned or frozen cherries.
  •  
    That being said, we’re just talking runniness. Even a runny pie will still taste good.

    FRUIT PIE THICKENERS

    Pie thickeners prevent the valuable juices from running out when the pie is sliced.

    The following thickeners are listed in order from least thickening agent, with the least amount of starch, to the strongest, starchiest thickener. (The thickening power is known as gel strength among professionals.)

  • All-purpose flour. The standby for generations past, flour produces a somewhat cloudy filling. Plus, you need to use more of it than you would higher-starch thickeners.
  • Quick-cooking/instant tapioca. makes filling bright and clear, but also gives it a stippled (and for some, “gluey”) texture. Filling mixed with tapioca needs to rest 15 to 30 minutes before baking, for the tapioca to soften.
  • Instant ClearJel is a product available from King Arthur Flour, that keeps fillings thick through a broad range of temperatures. This makes it ideal for pies that will be frozen, either before or after baking.
  • Pie Filling Enhancer, another product available from King Arthur Flour, thickens fruit pie fillings the same way Instant ClearJel does. Its advantage is added ascorbic acid (a flavor enhancer), and superfine sugar, which prevents it from clumping. Pie Filling Enhancer is about half sugar; so you’ll want to reduce the sugar in your recipe as directed below. It’s OU kosher.
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    Blackberry Pie

    ClearJel Pie Thickener

    Pie Gate - Pie Sealer

    [1] A blackberry pie, properly thickened, holds its shape. Here’s the recipe from The Baker Chick. [2] A great thickener for frozen pies: Instant ClearJel (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [3] Another solution: a pie sealer or pie gate (photo courtesy Progressive International).

  • Cornstarch, like flour, gives a cloudy, semi-transparent look to filling. It can also give filling a chalky or floury taste. When using cornstarch, make sure the pie filling is bubbling up through the crust before removing your pie from the oven.
  •  
    A note: Our mom used cornstarch in her renowned apple and blueberry pies. No one ever noticed any cloudiness, and her pies were always in demand.

    MORE TIPS TO THICKEN THE JUICES

  • Reduce the juice. After you sugar the berries, let them sit for 20 minutes or so, until juice starts to collect in the bottom of the bowl. Drain the juice into a pan, reduce it, and add it back to the berries.
  • Use a top crust with openings, such as lattice (photo #1) or cut-outs (photo #3). These allow some of the moisture in the juice to evaporate, thickening the filling. When baking a lattice or open-top pie, reduce the thickener by 1/4 teaspoon per cup of filling.
  • Golden crust and bubbling fruit does not mean the pie is finished. It may still need another 5 to 10 minutes to fully activate the thickener. This is especially true if flour or cornstarch are used.
  • Some fruit fillings will continue to thicken for 24 hours after baking. Instant ClearJel will increase the thickeners by about 15% from day 1 to day 2; quick-cooking tapioca and Pie Filling Enhancer, about 30%. Fillings thickened with flour or cornstarch will not thicken further.
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    RECIPE: Strawberry Balsamic Pie

    Strawberry Balsamic Pie

    Balsamic Vinegar

    [1] Strawberry balamic pie. [2] Balsamic vinegar (photo Pompeian | Facebook).

     

    In Italy, strawberries are often served for dessert with balsamic vinegar. Some of the most expensive, aged balsamics are served this way, with a few precious droplets bringing more excitement between the two ingredients (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts).

    Fine balsamic is also served with aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, so sophisticated foodies should consider some crumbles as a plate garnish (crumble your own from a wedge-don’t buy crumbled parmesan).

    One of our favorite bakers, Audra, The Baker Chick, sent us this recipe for If you like to bake, or simply look at beautiful cakes and pies, sign up for her emails.

    “The original recipe for this beauty comes from Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a wonderful pie shop in Brooklyn that I used to get to enjoy back in the day. I didn’t follow it exactly, partly because of what I had on hand and partly because of my own pie-making experience; but it was pretty darn amazing either way.

    “When it comes to thickening berry pies, I’m an instant tapioca girl. I really believe nothing works better. I love a juicy pie, but not a soupy one and tapioca really is the best. Happy Spring—now go make this lovely pie!”

    It’s lovely for Mother’s Day, and all through the summer.
     
    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY BALSAMIC PIE

    Ingredients

  • 2 layers pie crust
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 lb fresh strawberries, quartered
  • 1 small baking apple, peeled and grated
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant tapioca
  • 2 grinds fresh black pepper
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 1 tsp water and a pinch of salt)
  • Coarse sugar for sprinkling (it gives a nice crunch.)
  • Optional for serving: vanilla or strawberry ice cream…or a bit of each
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the crust with your favorite recipe. Audra added ¼ cup cider vinegar to the ice water and thinks it made the crust extra flaky. While the crust is chilling, prepare the filling.

    2. PLACE the strawberries in a large bowl, sprinkle with the sugar and toss gently. Let sit for about 20 minutes; then stir in the apple, balsamic, brown sugar, tapioca, pepper and salt. Toss to combine and allow flavors to sit and get juicy.

    3. ROLL out one of the chilled pie crusts and drape it over the bottom of the pie pan. Pop it into the freezer for a few minutes while you roll out the second crust. If you want to try a lattice crust, use a straight edge to cut the strips.

    4. POUR the filling into the chilled crust and add the top crust. Trim and crimp the edges of the crust and pop it into the fridge or freezer while you preheat the oven to 425°F, with a rack positioned in the middle. When oven is ready…

    5. BRUSH the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle it with sugar. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place the pie on top. Place the cookie sheet on the middle rack.

    6. BAKE for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is beginning to turn golden. Then, reduce the heat to 375°F and bake for another 35 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the pie is juicy and bubbly.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Rosewater Raspberry Meringues

    Raspberry Rosewater Meringues

    Bowl Of Raspberries

    Nielsen Massey Rosewater

    [1] Raspberries combine with rosewater in these pretty-in-pink meringues from Chef Ingrid Hoffmann. [2] Fresh raspberries from Driscoll’s Berries. [3] There are many uses for rosewater, in both food and beverages, and toiletries. Here’s a recipe for iced chai latte with rosemary from All Day I Dream Of Food.

     

    We so enjoyed the red wine meringue cookies we made for Valentine’s Day that we decided to make another pink, flavored meringue for Mother’s Day.

    This recipe, from Chef Ingrid Hoffmann, combines fresh raspberries with rosewater (also spelled rose water).

    WHAT IS ROSEWATER?

    Since ancient times, roses have been used nutritionally, medicinally, for religious purposes, and to make cosmetics, and as a source of perfume. The ancient Greeks, Romans and Phoenicians considered their large public rose gardens to be as important as as orchards and wheat fields [source].

    Culinary rose water is believed to have been first created in Persia during the Sasanian dynasty (224 to 651 C.E.). It was a by-product of producing rose oil (attar of roses) for perfume.

    It can be made at home, simply by steeping rose petals in water; and is available commercially. Here’s a recipe to make your own. If you’re making it to consume (as opposed to a skin refreshener), use organic roses.

    You can buy a bottle in any Middle Eastern or Indian grocery, or online.

    In the Middle East and eastward to India and Pakistan, rosewater is used in, among other preparations:

  • Beverages: jallab (a fruit syrup mixed with still or sparkling water), lassi (a yogurt-based drink from India), lemonade, milk, tea, and also added directly into a glass of water.
  • Desserts: baklava, cookies and other baked goods; ice cream and sorbet; rice pudding.
  • Sweets: gumdrops, marzipan, nougat, Turkish delight.
  • Wine substitute: in Halal cooking.
  •  
    Rosewater was used extensively by both American and European bakers until the 19th century, when vanilla extract became more readily available became.

    Rosewater is an ingredient in Waverly Jumbles, baked doughnut said to be a favorite of James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States (1817 to 1825).

    Today it is used by cooks around the world. For example, in Mexico it is used to flavor shave ice; in Yorkshire, England, it is still used in one of the area’s best-loved dishes, Yorkshire Curd Tart.

    You can add it to iced tea, iced coffee, smoothies and soft drinks; or make a Rose Martini.

    Needless to say, if you buy a bottle to make these meringues, you won’t have any trouble finishing the bottle.
     
    RECIPE: ROSEWATER RASPBERRY MERINGUES

    Ingredients For 5 Dozen Meringues

  • Cooking spray
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons raspberry-flavored gelatin powder (e.g., Jell-O)
  • ½ teaspoon rosewater
  • ¼ teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. POSITION the racks in the upper third and center of the oven and preheat to 250°F. Spray 2 large baking sheets with cooking spray (to help secure the parchment) and line the sheets with parchment paper.

    2. WHIP the egg whites and salt together in a large, grease-free bowl with an electric hand mixer set on high speed, until they form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the sugar and raspberry gelatin powder and beat until the mixture forms stiff, shiny peaks. Fold in the rosewater and vinegar.

    3. TRANSFER the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch-wide star tip. Spacing them about 1 inch apart, pipe 1-inch-wide meringues onto the lined baking sheets. Bake until the meringues look set, about 1 hour.

    4. TURN off the oven and let the meringues completely cool and dry in the oven. Carefully lift the meringues off the parchment and store them in an airtight container. These are fragile cookies, so don’t pack them tightly. We protect each layer with wax paper or parchment.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF MERINGUES

    Some sources say that that meringue was invented in the Swiss village of Meiringen in the 18th century, and subsequently improved by an Italian chef named Gasparini.
     
    Not all experts agree: The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, states that the French word is of unknown* origin.

    The one fact we can hang on to is that the name of the confection called meringue first appeared in print in Chef François Massialot’s seminal 1691 cookbook, available in translation as The court and country cook….

    The word meringue first appeared in English in 1706 in an English translation of Massialot’s book.

    Two considerably earlier 17th-century English manuscript books of recipes give instructions for confections that are recognizable as meringue. One is called “white biskit bread,” found in a book of recipes started in 1604 by Lady Elinor Poole Fettiplace (1570-c.1647) of Gloucestershire.

    The other recipe, called “pets,” is in the manuscript of collected recipes written by Lady Rachel Fane (c. 1612–1680) of Knole, Kent. Slowly-baked meringues are still referred to as pets in the Loire region of France (the reference appears to be their light fluffiness, perhaps like a kitten?).

    Meringues were traditionally shaped between two large spoons, as is often still done at home today. Meringue piped through a pastry bag was introduced by the great French chef Marie-Antoine Carême (1784-1833—he preferred to be called Antonin), the founder of the concept of haute cuisine.

    He also invented modern mayonnaise, éclairs, Strawberries Romanov, and other icons of French cuisine. Even though he wasn’t in on the beginning, he perfected the end.

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    *Contenders from include 1700 on include, from the Walloon dialect, maringue, shepherd’s loaf; marinde, food for the town of Meiringen (Bern canton, Switzerland), is completely lacking. None of the others sounds right, either. By default, we like the Latin merenda, the feminine gerund of merere to merit, since who doesn’t merit a delicious confection? But as our mother often said: “Who cares; let’s eat!”
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: DIY Éclair Party

    Decorated Eclairs

    Decorated Eclairs

    Cake Decoratijg Pen

    [1] Eclairs decorated by pastry great Johnny Iuzzini for Le Meridien hotels. [2] Decorated eclairs by Master Pastry Chef Michel Richard at Pomme Palais in New York Palace Hotel. [3] The Dsmile decorating pen makes it easy to decorate with designs or writing.

     

    Éclairs are a special-occasion pastry. Only sugar-avoiders would turn down the opportunity to enjoy them.

    Yet, the elongated pastry with the shiny chocolate or caramel top can be even more exciting. Just look at the photos, to see what great pastry chefs do with them.

    While it takes some skill to make attractive éclairs, its pretty easy to decorate ones you purchase. You’ll find the classic chocolate and caramel toppings, but may also find a rainbow of colors and flavors: coffee, currant (pink), dulce de leche, lemon, mango, matcha, pistachio, raspberry

    You can make a DIY party of it. You can make it a Mother’s Day (or other celebration) event.

    The history of the éclair is below.

    DECORATIONS

  • Chocolate batons, curls, disks, lentils, broken bar pieces (check out the selection at Paris Gourmet)
  • Chocolate Crispearls
  • Coconut
  • Gold, silver or multicolor dragées
  • Edible flowers
  • Mini icing flowers
  • Nuts of choice (we like pistachios and sliced almonds) or candied pecans
  • Piping bags of frosting (very thin tips)
  • Raspberries, blueberries or other small fruits
  • Sprinkles, especially gold sprinkles
  • Sugar diamonds
  • Sugar pearls
  • Wild card ingredients, like candied peel, chile flakes, curry powder, maple bacon, toffee bits, pieces of meringues or other cookies
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    FIXATIVES

    Since the glaze (shiny icing) on top of the éclair will be set, you need a bit of something to adhere the decorations, plus utensils or squeeze bottles to dab them on.

  • Caramel sauce or dulce de leche
  • Chocolate spread
  • Fudge sauce
  • Hazelnut spread (like Nutella)
  • Icing
  •  
    You can give everyone the gift of a cake decorating pen (under $10), which makes it easy to write and decorate with icing. The icing also serves to affix other decorations.
     
    ÉCLAIR HISTORY

    An elongated, finger-shaped pastry made of pâte à choux (puff pastry), filled with whipped cream or custard and topped with a glacé icing (glaze), the éclair originated in France around the turn of the 19th century.

     
    Éclair is the French word for lightning. Food historians believe that the pastry received its name because it glistens when coated with the glaze. We might suggest that it is because they are so popular that they disappear as quickly as lightning.

    The Oxford English Dictionary traces the word “éclair” in the English language to the second half of the 19th century: 1861. In the U.S., the first printed recipe for éclairs appears even later, in the 1884 edition of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, edited by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln (later editions were under the auspices of Fanny Farmer).

    Many food historians speculate that éclairs were first made by Marie-Antoine Carême (1874-1833).

    This brilliant man, cast out to make his own way at the age of 10 by his impoverished family, became the first “celebrity chef,” working for luminaries: Charles, Prince Talleyrand, the French ambassador to Britain; the future George IV of England; Emperor Alexander I of Russia and Baron James de Rothschild.

    The elite clamored for invitations to dinners cooked by Carême.

    He is considered to be the founder and architect of French haute cuisine; an innovator of cuisine, both visually (he studied architectural to create amazing presentations) and functionally (modern mayonnaise, for example). He also was an enormously popular cookbook author—an big achievement for a boy who had no education, yet taught himself to read and write.

    We can only dream…and live vicariously by reading his biography.

      

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